magazine, newspaper, catalog, advertising, and all other global print publishing hills since the early-1990s, against the new challenger to all its titles, InDesign, Adobe’s original, from-the-ground-up layout application born of the minds of those who created PostScript, desktop computer fonts, PageMaker, PDF, and, indeed, the concept of desktop publishing itself.
A Brief History of the War
In 1984 Adobe brought the world PostScript, a revolutionary printer language that allowed crisp text and graphics to be output from a desktop computer to a desktop laser printer for an investment of less than US$7,000—a tenth of the industry standard at the time. Teamed up with Apple Computer, who provided the first Macintosh and, under license from Canon, the first desktop laser printer running PostScript, Adobe launched the Desktop Publishing Revolution. It was a launch that would forever alter the very nature of communication around the world.
Building on Adobe’s vision and bold first steps, in 1985 Aldus Corp. debuted PageMaker, the digital equivalent to—and ultimately replacement of—graph paper, X-Acto blade, rubylithe, and paper waxers used throughout the design and publishing world as the only means of assembling a printed page. Running on Apple’s Macintosh computers and AppleWriter printers and creating on screen and printing to paper with Adobe’s PostScript printer language, PageMaker rolled through the publishing and press industries, changing everything.
Released in 1987, QuarkXPress, from Denver, Colorado company Quark, Inc., was PageMaker’s first serious competition for dominance of the burgeoning digital publishing revolution.
PageMaker and QuarkXPress (typically referred to simply as “Quark) battled ceaselessly into the early-1990s. The struggle became known throughout not just the software world but even more so in design, publishing, and press circles as the Desktop Publishing War.
The battle between PageMaker and Quark, each releasing new versions rapidly to trump its competitor with better creative and production features, was fierce. And, the Desktop Publishing War claimed many casualties.
So critical was the role of the layout application in the digital publishing process that every ad agency, design house, book publisher, newspaper, magazine, print shop, and pre-press service bureau on Earth used either, or both, of PageMaker or Quark by 1992. At an average cost of US$800–$1,000 per licensed copy of the products, plus training and time costs involved in switching between them or upgrading versions, choosing PageMaker or Quark was a significant investment for businesses struggling to move out of the old world of X-Acto blades and proprietary typesetting stations into the new frontier of mice and digital soft fonts.
Often such companies spent months wrestling with the decision of which desktop publishing (”DTP”) application to adopt. Choose the wrong one, and compatibility with clients and vendors is sacrificed. For a small business, that would have been—and on occasion proved to be—a terminal mistake.
A Victor Emerges
As a direct result of sloppy coding early on its development, programming mistakes that later made the first desktop layout application nigh impossible to update and improve, PageMaker began losing its footing and Quark pulled ahead. By the mid-1990s Quark had become the industry standard for virtually every publishing-related industry. PageMaker was the all but forgotten loser of the Desktop Publishing War.