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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Quark Xpress Is Still Alive and Kicking

I just read an article about Quark in the 12/26/12 online issue of “Catching Up with Quark” by Jay J. Nelson. I was pleased to see that Quark is still alive and kicking.

History: From PageMaker to Quark

In 1987 I started my automated design work with Aldus PageMaker, pleased by the coming end of cutting, waxing, and pasting up galleys of type that had been coded line by line. From 1987 to about 1996 I used PageMaker exclusively. It was fast and easy.

In 1996 a designer who worked for me left her position, and I had to learn QuarkXPress to complete her design jobs. I hated how complex and counter-intuitive it was, but through baptism by fire I gradually learned to operate the software. Over time I actually grew to appreciate its precision. I could manipulate type with a flexibility and accuracy that went far beyond PageMaker’s capabilities. The learning curve was painful, but eventually I knew what I was doing.

I used QuarkXPress until 2011, long after all my friends had switched to Adobe InDesign. It did what I needed it to do, particularly since I was focused exclusively on design for commercial printing.

Magazine Printing with Quark

From 1998 through 2007, as I consulted for a magazine printing organization, I noticed that the entirety of the editorial and design staff worked with a program called QPS (Quark Publishing System). A subset of this electronic publishing environment, Quark Copy Desk allowed all writers and editors to compose and alter the content of the magazine, which would then flow into the predefined magazine layouts, all in real time. Everything was connected. It was, as Nelson’s article says, “a collaborative publishing environment.”

Quark’s Current Suite of Products

So I was pleased to read in Nelson’s article that Quark has continued to expand its capabilities. It still has merit, even though it no longer holds the position it once had, when, according to the article, “Quark was used for 90% of all professional publishing and design.”

As “Catching Up with Quark” notes, Quark creates all software based on the conviction that “content needs to be generated for multiple media and devices simultaneously, so that the readers may consume the same information in print, on websites, smart phones, and tablets.” In contrast to the early days I described above, today’s design software must go beyond static images and embrace variable data and rich media.

Here are some of the capabilities offered in Quark’s current suite of products:

  1. Quark Xpress 9 can be used for print design as well as interactive graphics, e-books, and Web pages. In conjunction with App Studio, it will also create apps for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android products.
  2. App Studio (a cloud-based application) allows designers to use QuarkXPress, InDesign, and (XML-coded) Microsoft Word documents to create apps for the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android products. App Studio is based on open-source HTML5, which will support current and future digital appliances.
  3. Newspaper and magazine printing organizations can use Quark Publishing System (which includes QuarkXPress, QuarkCopyDesk, and QuarkXPress Server) to write, edit, design, lay out, and track their publications from concept to offset printed–or digitally printed–copies.
  4. QuarkCopyDesk can edit Quark documents within a collaborative publishing group without using QuarkXPress. It is for those who need editorial, but not design, capabilities.
  5. Quark DesignPad allows users to do simple layout tasks and then save files as PNG graphics or QuarkXPress documents for later refinement.
  6. Quark Brand Manager and Quark Web-to-Print System allow companies to control the look of their graphic products by providing branded design templates, which sales reps and other employees can modify for their own needs (such as brochures, booklets, or sell sheets) while maintaining a consistent, corporate appearance.

Quark’s Overall Capabilities

This seems to be the gist of Quark’s capabilities, as I understand them from “Catching Up with Quark”:

  1. Quark allows designers to produce layouts in whatever program they choose, be it InDesign or QuarkXPress.
  2. Quark allows writers to draft articles in Microsoft Word using Quark XML Author to apply style sheets to the text.
  3. Quark then combines the layout and editorial elements of the job, delivering multiple print, Web, XML, PDF, HTML5, tablet, and mobile products and apps as needed.
  4. During this process editors can preview and adjust the text and design in real time as the documents are being created.

Particularly for the kind of large work groups involved in corporate or professional publishing, Quark seems to be a viable alternative to Adobe’s Creative Suite.

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