Quark vs. InDesign: My InDesign soapbox.

December 24, 2008 / Updated: December 24, 2008 / Lena Shore

Yes. This is my soapbox. You’ve been warned. If I could just convince people to switch to Mac from Windows and from Quark to InDesign, my job would be done. Here is my soapbox on InDesign.

When I started working in graphic design doing layout, I used a ruler and a set of rapidographs. After I learned to use the computer, I discovered how much better PageMaker was to inky fingers. After PageMaker I was next introduced to Quark. I went in kicking and screaming and swore it was just a matter of preference. After I finally accepted the learning opportunity I realized the pro-Quarkers were right — it was SO much better for so many reasons. So, believe me when I tell you that InDesign is even better.

When InDesign came out with version 1.0 I gave it a try. It had some really neat things going for it, (Adobe being first among them) but it was never going to replace my industry standard layout program. Today InDesign is version 6.0 (CS4) and to quote a long gone ad campaign “you’ve come a long way baby”. Not only did it catch up, it is the superior product.

Let me give you a quick rundown of both common misconceptions and reasons to switch.

Why Switch?

  • InDesign has better customer service. Anyone that has had to deal with Quark knows that Quark has felt so secure in their seat as the only layout app of choice for so long, they act like their customers don’t have a choice and will put up with anything they dish out. 
  • InDesign is cheaper. Quark is $799 to purchase. $299 to upgrade. InDesign is $699 to purchase, $199 to upgrade. And this is after Quark’s prices took a steep dip — a copy of Quark used to run you $1000. If you are a designer, you are also probably using Adobe’s other products such as Photoshop, and Illustrator. Buying everything in a bundle (Creative Suite) saves you even more.
  • InDesign integrates well with the other Adobe products.
  • Fewer font problems. Quark is notorious for doing a bad job handling multiple fonts. Even if you aren’t using them in your document, fonts all have their own IDs an sometimes they conflict. In my experience, 99% of the time when Quark crashes, it is because of a font conflict.
  • Less crashing overall. It is very, very rare when I have an InDesign crash. And when it does happen, InDesign automatically saves a copy of what I was working on so I lose nothing or very little of my work. 
  • Plug-ins. Quark and InDesign come with plugins and you can buy even more to customize your experience. But every time Quark upgrades, you have to repurchase new versions of all of your plugins. I use very few plug-ins for InDesign because the product works so much better out of the box. And most of the plugins I have worked with an upgrade. Sure, there are some that won’t — but the transfer has been much less cumbersome.
  • Graphics. Graphics just look better with InDesign. You can actually see what you are looking at. Look at the example below. When looking at an 8.5″ x 11″ page in the preview mode, you can still see your page edges in InDesign. You can’t in Quark. So, your most logical choice in Quark is to work in the guides mode most of the time. Great for lining things up. Not so great for looking at design.
    InDesign Page Sample

    InDesign Page Sample

     

    Quark Page Sample

    Quark Page Sample

  • Object Styles. InDesign has some of the best tools for ojbect styles. One example would be making a style to create a box with a yellow background and a 5pt border with 12pt helvetica text. You save the style and then select 10 boxes at once and apply it. Boom. Done. Imagine the time that would save on a catalog. I did a very large catalog project for a client that. I probably saved $500 in time using InDesign instead of Quark just because of object styles.
  • More styles. There are also styles for tables and of course text. But there are even drop caps and nested styles. Nested styles are telling a paragraph you’d like the first sentence to be bold Caxton through the first colon and the rest of the paragraph to be Avant Garde Light. There are very robust styles dealing with bullets and numbering too.
  • If you are collaborating with editors they can use InCopy (a version of InDesign where you specify what’s editable) to update their copy without mucking up your design.
  • Easier interface. Just less headaches and you can customize your workspace and save it. As a matter-of-fact, you can save multiple work spaces and switch between them with ease. 
  • Press ready files. InDesign has an easy built in export feature to make press-ready PDF files for your printer. It also has built in flight-checking and packaging. The days of buying flight-check are over.
  • There are many more features – but the ones I’ve listed here are my favorites. Go to Adobe Indesign page for a more comprehensive list.

Alleviate your fear to switch

I hear a few things over and over from people who want to switch, but are scared to.

  1. I already bought Quark. I don’t want to spend the money again.
    Setting aside that the expense would be recouped in saved time over a matter of weeks – Adobe used to offer a special upgrade price to switch and still may. Check it out. 
  2. I don’t want to learn a new program.
    If you are familiar with Quark you will get used to InDesign pretty fast. One decent tri-fold project ought to do it. The concepts are the same. You just need to find the hotkeys or where your commands are in the menu. Feel free to drop me a line to ask a question, or post it on this blog. I’ll help you. 
  3. But, I already have tons of files in Quark.
    No problem. InDesign will convert them. 
  4. I have a question you haven’t addressed.
    Comment below or send me an email. I’ll respond! 
  5. What about sending my files to the press?
    No problems. All good printers support InDesign. And if yours doesn’t you can send them a press-ready PDF. 

When I used Quark full time, crashing was a way of life, as was bad customer service and inferior product. That was a couple of versions ago, and maybe things have changed. But why poke yourself in the eye over and over again? I’d rather go with guys that make my life easier — not harder.

Maybe my next soapbox will be on switching to a Mac.

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Lena Shore

Lena is a full-time freelancer and nerd that specializes in web development, graphic design, and illustration. She enjoys building things, learning new things, pursuing creative endeavors, and giving free advice.

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