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QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign

I've been using Quark for about 2 years now and have been quite happy with everything I can directly control on my page layouts. It is especially good on the Apple Cinema monitor, which shows the full double-page layout along with the Quark tools. And Quark has been stable. The management of typography is not very graceful, however.

Recently several of the typographers and designers I know have mentioned Adobe's In Design.

It might be useful for people at this forum to hear about Quark and InDesign from experienced users of both. Or to have some links that provide thoughtful comparisons.

-- Edward Tufte

I will say up front that I am an InDesign user and I have almost no experience with Quark. Here is a list of articles that present a fairly unbiased, I think, look at the two packages.

Some of these links are reviews of one product or the other, but they never fail to make a comparison between packages when discussing new features.

If typography is a concern (and it always should be) InDesign offers some very powerful tools. It supports OpenType fonts, and the expert extended character sets included in these fonts are readily accessible and easy to use. The paragraph based composer is an ingenious solution to setting optimal line breaks. This composer combined with optical kerning and optical margin alignment can create incrediblely well composed text.

I hope this is of some help.

-- Reynold Dodson (email)

I use InDesign on a daily basis, and love it. It is an extremely reliable program and lets me do my work with a minimum of fuss or frustration. I'm a software junkie and have 34 (I just counted) applications in my quick launch toolbar, which are the ones I use frequently. InDesign is the most elegant, although EditPlus is close.

I have no experience using Quark, Ventura, or the other dpt programs; but I have participated quite a lot on forums dedicated to InDesign, were the pros and cons of the various programs are discussed ad nauseum. My conclusion is that InDesign is the preferred choice unless you need features it lacks. Of course opinions vary, but that is a common point of view.

InDesign's exceptional strong points: typography, integration with other Adobe applications, and scripting (automation). Typography in particular is a breeze, especially if you get OpenType fonts.

InDesign's limitations: No automatic bullets or outline numbering; no automatic running heads; no automatic footnotes. It can be picky with printers -- I recommend only using true Adobe Postscript printers (Level 3), or go through Distiller, if you are a heavyweight user. There may be a few more limitations I've missed.

There is virtually nothing that *cannot* be done; most limitations are regarding automagic productivity aids.

In general, I give InDesign a wholehearted recommendation, as long as it has the features you need, and as long as your worklow supports it. (For example, make sure your service provider supports it directly, and isn't importing InDesign-created pdf's into Quark for pre-press work.) What InDesign does it does superbly.

-- David Person (email)

MacWorld has a comparison of both programs in its May 2002 issue at its website ( A table at the end of the article lists which features can be found in which application. Not sure if the exact same feature sets are implemented in the Windows versions of the programs.

-- Scott Zetlan (email)

Response to QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign

David Blatner's MacWorld piece is very helpful in making comparisons. This is the Blatner of the Quark books, but he pretty much comes down in favor of InDesign. However, the kerning tables in Quark are nice to have for my exotic purposes at least.

-- Edward Tufte

quark only has one undo, and short-cut keys like ctrl-option-command-shift-F5...umm, I think ill stick to Indesign

-- benjamin (email)

As a graphic artist, get to know QuarkXPress. It is the defacto software for the graphics industry. If you want to limit your sale-ability as a graphic artist, don't learn Quark. If you want to expand your choices, learn both programs!

If you have the luxury of choice, wonderful. I don't know Indesign, but would love to explore it and I don't want to be limited in my abilities to create good page layouts.

-- Pat D. (email)

Out of the two applications, in my opinion InDesign is the clear winner. I have been in the graphic design industry using Quark for about 9 years and have been using InDesign for the last 2.

InDesign offers far superior typographic controls. At least on Mac OS X, InDesign is more stable than the recent 'offering' from Quark. If you use other Adobe applications on a regular basis, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, the level of flexibility you have out of the box is amazing. To get the level of interoperability with Quark, you would then have to spend several hundred dollars more on third-party plug-ins. Another note, if you use the other Adobe apps, you will find the interface refreshingly familiar and your workflow may improve.

While it is true that Quark has a very dominant hold on the graphic arts community, they have rested on their laurels for a very long time. Quark's customer service and their attitude for their existing customers in notoriously sub-par. This combined with the instability of the latest version of Quark on the Mac, many people in the industry are starting to switch.

InDesign, in my opinion, is a far more capable application.

-- Marcus Cook (email)

I've used Quark for the last 6 years, mostly in magazine production, but also in some long form use on textbooks, cookbooks and other projects. Despite all the negative attention it's gotten from designers lately, it's a very powerful and capable application. It's user interface is very stripped down and I've always appreciated their willingness to stick with the dialog box method of object manipulation as opposed to InDesign's omnipresent palette approach. It handles color more robustly than InDesign and, in my opinion, more logically. Foremost, however, it has market saturation, although that's waning. If you're collaborating or looking for work as a publication designer, you MUST know Quark inside and out.

That said, the release of InDesign CS has prompted me to ADD it to my toolbox immediately and begin producing all new layouts in it. Superior typography is the tip of the iceberg, particularly for anyone typesetting foreign characters or longing for fancy tricks like old style figures, automatic fractions, and optical kerning. All godsends after years of hacked up Quark tricks to get those features. Although I still prefer the dialog box metaphor, the UI people at Adobe have managed to make decluttering a priority. I love having one click access to a clean preview (w/o guides, invisibles, bleeds and set on a nice grey background). Multiple undos are welcome. XML support is robust and very scalable for future data extraction. What I've heard of the collaborate workflow solutions (Version Cue and InCopy) impress me very much as well. PDF output is outstanding, even to PostScript 2 RIPs.

Downsides to InDesign CS: Selecting objects is clunky and confusing, especially to Quark users, and when manipulating overlapping objects on the same layer. Color management is mediocre. It's still slower than Quark was in Mac OS 9. Not sure who to blame on that one. There are stability issues (fortunately, it seems the document data structure is far more stable than Quark's frequent habit of obliterating entire projects). No WYSIWYG font menus. And my most painful efficency loss from Quark: no key command to focus on the font menu. I loved that!

Anyone typesetting a data intensive publications will be thrilled with full resolution EPS previews, PSD and AI native path manipulation, and the potential for XML output. The final Quark killing feature:

Quark: $950, no international support InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator: $1000, full international support

-- Seamus (email)

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