Page layout software for the Mac?
October 26, 2004 12:25 AM   Subscribe

I have to make a recommendation for my work to purchase some software for page layout on a Mac. I've only used Quark, but due to the ridiculous price, I would like to know how InDesign compares and what your preference would be out of the two. [MI]

I'm an ex graphic designer and I now work for a large company that is non design related. It has come to their attention of my previous life and want me to produce a brochure. They currently have a G5 sitting in a back office that they are happy for me to use but doesn't have the relevant software (I can't use any of the existing basic PC apps we have to design with 'cos they are diabolical).

As I have already recommended that they purchase Illustrator and Photoshop, I was wondering if it would be worthwhile getting the Adobe Creative Suite that includes InDesign. Because I have only ever used Quark 4.0 for page layout etc, how easy is it to use InDesign (similar functionality etc), is the integration between other Adobe products as good as it seems and what do you prefer?
posted by floanna to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
InDesign's integration with Photoshop & Illustrator files is near-transparent. There are a couple of things you need to get used to (for instance, you can't just copy and paste a picture -- you must PLACE it), but it is extremely powerful. You can place a picture on a page, then wrap text around the alpha channel, thus allowing true non-box wrapping. The type-on-path tool is a-mazing (but make sure you're using properly kerned fonts or it will look like dogshit).

Just about the only thing I don't like about InDesign is the page flow when working with large documents. I've laid out several books (400+ pages) with InDesign, and the idea of "Sections" to simplify the flow took me some getting used to. But for one-off brochures or the like, that won't matter, anyway.

I hope this helps somewhat.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:03 AM on October 26, 2004

My impression is that Quark is still easier to use for large documents.

Many people have reported problems with Quark licensing, esp. the dongles and the product activation and all that stuff. If you can afford to be down for weeks while you send bad dongles back and forth, I don't think Quark is a problem. Many printing houses are still standardized on Quark.

People who've finally gotten FedUp(tm) with quark are going to indesign in droves, mostly because of what Civil said. There are some major players, esp. newspapers, making the transition. I would personally say that the market share isn't there yet for the organizations I've worked with to switch (I work in the printing industry these days), but it's getting to the point where most of our facilities support both.
posted by SpecialK at 1:10 AM on October 26, 2004

As a Quark user of some 13 years & with 18 years design & print experience who has only been using ID for about a year, I'd say...


It is such a better program in so many ways. The only arguments for QX are based on legacy & integration with suppliers (repro, printers & the like).

If you're just starting out then you don't have any legacy worries.

Your best bet is to get the CS Suite which will include Acrobat enabling you to produce clean repro-ready PDFs. Find a printer that will work with you on this. Most decent ones will be able to supply you with an Acrobat joboptions file and list of settings to enable you to produce workable files. [Altho' ID & QX can both output PDFs directly they don't tend to be as error-free as you need for repro.]

Alternatively, if you don't want to get involved with PDFs, find a printer who can deal with ID.

Integration between Adobe apps is excellent and they have similar functionality which helps if you already know one app. I found the switch from QX very easy (a few hours with InDesign CS Classroom in a Book [Adobe Press] - there are also a number of 'InDesign for Quark users' about) and even tho' I still find it easier to use QX at the moment, I prefer to use ID. Nested style sheets, optical character alignment and loads more really useful stuff.

Re: What SpecialK said about large docs, IDs book making feature seems to work really well. I always prefer to make large documents from smaller sections no matter what I'm using anyhow.

One other thing. Quark deserve to get screwed. Thay had a dominant market position & are losing it down to high prices, poor development & generally treating their users like crap.
posted by i_cola at 3:16 AM on October 26, 2004

Go with InDesign. I work for a large-ish (500+) ad agency, and we use Quark. Our layout folks were trapped in OS 9 hell forever becuase Quark took their sweet sweet time with OS X, and the new QLA (Quark's new licensing server) is a huge pain in the ass. The only reasons we're sticking with Quark are (a) it's what are people are already familiar with, and (b) it currently has much better OPI support. I doubt either of those are issues for you, so I'd definitely recommend InDesign. It's a much better product from a better company. My money is on Quark getting crushed in the marketplace in a few years.
posted by mkultra at 3:19 AM on October 26, 2004

mkultra: OS9 hell?! I'm having to use QX4.1 on OS8.6 this week! And PS 5.5...
posted by i_cola at 3:35 AM on October 26, 2004

I'd just like to add something else I thought of.

The way InDesign handles paragraph and character styles is AWESOME. It can even import styles when you copy text from, say, a Word document. And if you choose to do your large documents in several small sections (BOOK files) you can select which smaller document should act as the parent for the styles, and all the other documents will follow its rules.

The paragraph styles are just incredibly thorough. You can adjust nearly every possible aspect of a paragraph imaginable. When laying out books, I usually have about 6 major styles (title, heading, subheading, normal text, list text and quote text). Then you can dump your text from wherever. Copy, paste. Copy, paste. Then just highlight the areas and apply the styles. BAM! It's all consistent. K-rad.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:11 AM on October 26, 2004

The hyphenation & justification engine in InDesign is the bee's knees. Since switching, I've done two large projects (~ 800 and 500 pages) with some very difficult composition problems due to the nature of the text. InDesign's "paragraph composer" handled these problems better than QuarkXPress or PageMaker's composition engines would have.

The typography controls, especially in combination with a full-featured OpenType font (e.g. Adobe's "Pro" fonts), are very good. The CS packages come with a bunch of fonts, including some of their Pro text faces. Caslon, Garamond, Jenson, Chaparral, Minion, Myriad, and Warnock were included. The full Brioso package was downloadable upon registration.

The support for native, layered Photoshop files (including transparency) is nice. I doubt I'll ever have to make a clipping path around a bitmap again.

There's room for improvement in InDesign, but it's matured into great product. I wouldn't use QuarkXPress now even if they sent me the current version for free.
posted by D.C. at 4:18 AM on October 26, 2004

Thanks all, I did have a look at the demo for InDesign and I was quite impressed. The transparency and test editor features seem cool (especially as I'll be updating the brochure every so often). I also don't want to hit my bosses with the price tag that Quark comes with, especially as it is likely I will be the only one using it.

Civil and SpecialK, the brochure I will be producing will only be about 30 pages max so it shouldn't be a problem using InDesign (I hope).

i_cola - I'm with you on the OS 8.6 at home etc, god I feel so left behind with the times. I'm updating to OS X next week but I'm having to get OS 9 as well so I can run the classic mode for all my outdated apps.

I shall definitely be recommending InDesign then :D
posted by floanna at 4:28 AM on October 26, 2004

I second the InDesign recommendations. Quark definitely has a lot of staying power since it was so dominant but with the CS version of InDesign I've witnessed an enthusiastic shift (though of course what I witness and what is happening industry wide could be completely different.)

I've been using InDesign to create long documents (it has taken some of Frame's book features), brochures, magazines, stationary, etc. In the print company I freelance for all the PC jockeys switched immediately to InDesign. Now the Mac jockeys are switching over as well (the new systems having the power to drive InDesign's display, which can be more robust than Quark's - ie. there were complaints about it being slower!) The cross platform compatibility and integration with Photoshop and Illustrator is spectacular.
posted by juiceCake at 8:16 AM on October 26, 2004

I also throw my hat firmly into the InDesign ring. I've been a designer for about 15 years and InDesign is very easy to use--especially if you have experience with Illustrator (and even PageMaker.) Of course, I've always hated the inelegance and clunkiness of Quark, so my decision was already half-made when Adobe announced InDesign, but along with the points everyone else has made, InDesign is simply a more modern, compatible (in terms of Adobe workflow) and capable page layout system. DO IT!
posted by robbie01 at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2004

Oh bloomin 'ell! I made my recommendation early this afternoon after receiving such wonderful comments about InDesign and my boss has just discovered that he has managed to get Quark! Damn Him!!! :)

On a personal level tho, I'm seriously interested in obtaining InDesign for home for that moment when I actually have a bit of spare cash (looks like it will probably be on version 8 by that time).

Thanks for the link neustile, it was very useful and makes me want to convert even more. This paragraph made me smile and will now have to go home and have a creative delete because I haven't seen the alien in a while:

It pains me to say that there is no command-shift-option-k delete alien in InDesign. Potential converts will have to consider the significant loss of never seeing a little man zap the hell out of something when wanting to get rid of an object in style. If Adobe truly wants to gain mindshare in the professional layout arena, they will have to find an adequate replacement for our beloved space friend
posted by floanna at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2004

I think the educational price for Indesign is $80/seat. Much better than quark, which was hell to install in our labs with all of that Quark Licensed Server Shit. I hate that company.
posted by mecran01 at 2:08 PM on October 26, 2004

Of course, those people who use Corel Ventura have had 99% of InDesign's "great, great" features for going on for a decade or so. Honestly. And Ventura still has a lot that InDesign still lacks.

The only truly important thing InDesign has over Ventura is mindshare. I've always been wholly stunned that so many graphics professionals overlooked such a stellar program. I can't fathom why, other than sheer blind prejudice of the sort that has them cutting off their nose in spite of their face.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:45 PM on October 26, 2004

FFF, Ventura is a far better tool for doing corporate reports & documentation than MS Word, but to imply that it is as good or better than InDesign for quality publishing is laughable. It's a different market with different needs. Just because you "can't fathom why" doesn't mean that people with more knowledge than you are filled with "sheer blind prejudice."

Ventura cannot do (or does poorly) things which I need for my work. InDesign does them well. It would be impossible for me to get the same output from Ventura that I can from InDesign. Ventura does not have "99% of InDesign's 'great, great' features." Ventura is, perhaps, a good replacement for FrameMaker, but that's only one kind of publishing.

I have no particular love for Adobe and I really don't like the idea of a company having a near monopoly on the entire digital publishing workflow, but Adobe knows what real typographers want and has done a better job than anyone else at incorporating these features into their software.
posted by D.C. at 1:21 AM on October 27, 2004

My bad: I should have specified for long-document/structured text layout. Ventura is meant for textbooks, technical manuals, annual reports, databases, and all that sort of thing where there's a lot of consistency in headers, text styles, graphics placement, and so on.

As for 99%, I believe you are wrong, but let's leave it at that. It's all moot anyway, as the question was Mac-oriented.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2004

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