How to pick between InDesign, QuarkXPress and other publishing apps

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 14
Whether you've got to make a simple one-page poster or lay out a complex book, there are apps that are perfect for the job. If you're in the starting phases of figuring out which heavy-hitting desktop publishing application you want, we can help you out.

Icons for page design apps. Clockwise from top left: Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Apple Pages and Affinity Publisher
Icons for page design apps. Clockwise from top left: Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Apple Pages and Affinity Publisher


Blame Affinity Publisher. Before that was released, your choice for the right page design app was clearly Pages for basic work and either Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress for the complex jobs. You still had to figure out whether you were a Quark or InDesign person, but for the longest time, that was substantially less of a hard choice than it should have been.

That's because it's been decades since Quark ruled the world. And the reason Adobe InDesign replaced it is as much down to missteps by Quark as it is the correct steps by InDesign.

However, QuarkXPress is again a powerful app and now it's Adobe that has alienated users, first with its subscription-only model. We've covered how third-party alternatives are helping people whose needs make Adobe Creative Cloud uneconomic.

More recently, however, there have also been legal issues that are affecting users. While Adobe won't or can't explain the reasons, it appears that it's because of a legal dispute that the company has changed how users can stay on older versions of InDesign.

One of the selling points of subscriptions was that you would always have the latest version. However, the people who most benefit from a subscription, and for whom the cost of that is more than worthwhile, are the same ones who cannot risk upgrading in the middle of a job. So it's genuine problem that Adobe is forcing them to do it.

Which means there are practical reasons to choose something other than InDesign. We're also, however, now in a position where we have a great many options.

Each of your options, most definitely including InDesign, have strengths that the others do not. It's not as if those strengths are always in specific features, though. They are in the abilities of the software, but there's also pricing and the entire ecosystem that each app has created around itself.

That includes Apple's free Pages app, which is part of the iWork suite and offers surprisingly good page layout features.

Pages can lay out a document, but don't use it for a long one, and don't aim for absolute precision
Pages can lay out a document, but don't use it for a long one, and don't aim for absolute precision


It's definitely a case of word-processor-plus rather than design-app-minus, however. Rather than thinking of the page as a canvas upon which you place your text and images, you have to think of it as a document that you're inserting elements into.

Use Pages for short and occasional jobs, not for when you have to produce many pages or require precise control over the layout.

InDesign and Quark

For anything beyond the basics, the answer for years has been Adobe InDesign.

QuarkXPress is again a strong option, but with things like the, to us, over-sized toolbar icons, it isn't as appealing as InDesign
QuarkXPress is again a strong option in 2019, but it's got a long way to go to unseat InDesign


QuarkXPress is again a strong contender, but it has a tough job because InDesign is not the market leader just because it happens to have market dominance. It does now have that volume, and that does mean you're more likely to work in a publishing house that uses InDesign. However, Adobe InDesign is also exceptionally good.

That said, Quark has strengths and if you were the sort to just automatically buy the dominant platform, you wouldn't be a Mac user.

Quark told AppleInsider that it differentiates itself from Adobe and InDesign by how it sees page layout as just one of the tools designers can use it for. QuarkXPress 2019 is built to also design functioning web pages and even iOS apps. InDesign can also be used for both, but Quark is focusing on this.

To our eyes, the controls and toolbar icons in Quark don't seem as aesthetically pleasing as InDesign, but its ability to make responsive-design web pages and simplifying the development of certain types of iOS apps is impressive.

Plus, Quark has a significant advantage over InDesign because of its pricing.

Subscriptions

You actually can subscribe to Quark -- it costs approximately $325 per year compared to $252 per year for Adobe InDesign. However, you can still buy Quark outright for $849 and, while it doesn't immediately sound like it, this is actually its big advantage.

The benefit with Quark is not the specific amount of the fee, or that you can reduce that by moving from InDesign, it is the ability to just pay once.

We're not saying we're the best InDesign users, but we are saying InDesign itself is very good.
We're not saying we're the best InDesign users, but we are saying InDesign itself is very good.


One publisher told us that she didn't just prefer Quark's model, she was actually compelled to use it because of conditions attached to her funding.

Affinity Publisher

If she were starting up her business today, though, she might very well have gone for Affinity Publisher instead. It's a new app from Serif, the makers of Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.

Affinity Publisher claims to be full-featured page design software and in our few weeks' experience so far, it is a capable and powerful app. We don't doubt that designers deeply steeped in either InDesign or Quark would find it lacks some features they need, but so far we'd be surprised if there were many.

And if Affinity Publisher feels as if it sits in the sweet spot between Pages and InDesign, that's really only because of its price. Just as with Quark, Affinity Publisher is a one-time purchase -- but unlike Quark, it's only $50.

It also has a world-beating feature called StudioLink. You'll never call it by that name, you'll never even remember the name, but once you've used it, you'll know this is how all page design apps ought to work.

You need more than page design

Page design apps might be the center of your work, but they can't easily be the sole tool you use. That's because every publisher and certainly every designer also needs the ability to manipulate images and graphics.

With this StudioLink feature, Affinity Publisher users get this facility in place, right in the page documents, but using tools from other apps. If you have Affinity Photo or Designer, you get the entire power of those apps directly within Publisher.

There's no round-tripping, when you send an image out from, say, InDesign, to Photoshop to make changes, and then save it back.

The ability, instead, to click one button and have your document be wrapped around with the entire feature-set of Affinity Photo or Designer, is more than convenient, it changes how you work.

With one click, you can be editing your document in Affinity Publisher, or making precision image adjustments in Affinity Photo
With one click, you can be editing your document in Affinity Publisher (left), or making precision image adjustments in Affinity Photo (right)


Rather than making an adjustment in a separate app and hoping that it looks right when you bring it back into the publishing one, you can see every change and how it will appear, right as you do it.

Adobe InDesign doesn't have this. Quark, though, has at least some in-place tools. QuarkXPress includes image editing features, filters and illustration tools. They're not as comprehensive as the ones in Adobe's Photoshop or Illustrator, and they're not as strong as the ones in Affinity Photo.

However, they may well be enough for most publishers to do most of the image work they need.

You have to try them

We can say what applies to most publishers and most of their needs, but that's little use if you happen to need more. While hopefully you can now see at least which couple of apps are worth trying for your specific situation, you need to go test them.

That's easy enough with InDesign and Quark as there are free trial versions available for both. There isn't a free trial for Affinity Publisher, though that may change as the company does offer trials for both Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.

Even though there isn't a free trial of Affinity Publisher, however, we still recommend buying it if you're new to page design. There is a strong chance that it will be able to do all you need, and if you find that it can't, you'll have also found what specific features you really require. And that will help you pick between InDesign and Quark.

If, instead, you are a long-time page designer, buy Affinity Publisher anyway. Do it from artistic curiosity, do it from professional interest. This app is new and it is cheap, compared to the alternatives, but it's also both powerful and actually absorbing to use.

When it's your job to design pages, it's of course worth your time and the money looking into what works best for you.

However, when this is what you do for a living, you also need to enjoy this tool that you spend your whole day using. Quark, InDesign and Affinity Publisher may overlap in terms of features and capability, but they also have a rather different feel and that's not to be ignored.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    When I checked Quark in App Store a few months ago, it was available for 350 or 400 or some such, at least I think it was a one-time purchase and not a subscription; now it's available in App Store with top in-app purchases as 29.99 a month or 299.99 a year. Interesting.
  • Reply 2 of 24
    Interesting! I’m a retired graphic designer and now contemporary artist. Fifteen years ago, I was doing heavy weight publishing in a medium size Canadian city using the Adobe suite. I did everything from CMYK offset printing of 400k runs to full page colour ads in weeklies, to brochures. It was fun but a bit soul sucking. And yes, I dumped Quark when they neglected customer service. At one time 9 out of ten service bureaus and printers were using it. A quick 2-3 years later 9 out of ten were using the Adobe suite.
    But that was then and a couple things happened. Many, many printers and most service bureaus went belly up with the decline of print publishing. As a result, printers bent over backwards to stay alive and took anything, even Word files (shudder). And then Adobe introduced the subscription model and became Quark. (BTW, I loved Photoshop and InDesign and to a lesser extent, Illustrator. I still have the entire work flow hardwired into my brain.)
    I have the luxury of leaving the industry just when Adobe turned arrogant. I’ve since managed to do all my photo editing using other software. But I feel sorry for any independent designers forced to pay the outrageous subscription fees. And yes, I’ve heard other commenters opine that if you’re a working designer, the monthly fee is an acceptable cost. They miss the point and I suspect they are not designers. We were an independent lot and back then jumped ship from Quark to Adobe in a minute. To have your files held hostage by one company on the subscription model is tempting the fate that befell Quark. 
    I’ve now bought into the Affinity suite and I wish them all the best. So far I love AP and will soon give AD a go. If I was still working in Adobe CS, I would immediately start doing small projects in Affinity with the long term goal of weaning myself off the Adobe crowd. To paraphrase Kramer, Adobe is for “suckers”. One last point, what has Adobe Photoshop been doing for the last ten years?? I can pretty much do 95% of all photo projects I see these days with CS3! 
    lollivergatorguyagilealtitudeSpamSandwichfotoformatSanctum1972king editor the grate
  • Reply 3 of 24
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,161member
    jmulchino said:
    To paraphrase Kramer, Adobe is for “suckers”. One last point, what has Adobe Photoshop been doing for the last ten years?? I can pretty much do 95% of all photo projects I see these days with CS3! 
    Says the retired guy. 

    I pay for my subscription in about half an hour of billable work each month. I actively work in After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom, and a few others occasionally. You do the math. 

    There are a ton of amazing new features in Photoshop. You wouldn’t know because you’re using CS3, which came out 12 years ago!
    chasmmariowincoravnorodomfirelocknetrox
  • Reply 4 of 24
    mike54mike54 Posts: 347member
    Before forking hundreds in subscription fees or outright purchases, I suggest people first try Scribus, a capable alternative to Adobe Indesign.
    Other quality opensource software in this field are Inkscape, GIMP, Krita.

  • Reply 5 of 24
    I'm still pissed that Adobe killed FrameMaker (I'm old). If I had to try anything today, I'd give Affinity a shot. They've been doing a great job moving forward. 
    toysandmesportyguy209
  • Reply 6 of 24
    jmulchino said:
    To paraphrase Kramer, Adobe is for “suckers”. One last point, what has Adobe Photoshop been doing for the last ten years?? I can pretty much do 95% of all photo projects I see these days with CS3! 
    Says the retired guy. 

    I pay for my subscription in about half an hour of billable work each month. I actively work in After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom, and a few others occasionally. You do the math. 

    There are a ton of amazing new features in Photoshop. You wouldn’t know because you’re using CS3, which came out 12 years ago!
    Good for you! (I was more focused on successful design than wiz bang features)
    SpamSandwichking editor the grate
  • Reply 7 of 24
    While I don't see Adobe as arrogant, I can definitely see that their one-size fits all model may not suit everyone, and I feel like their software hasn't got any less buggy over time, for reference I have been using Adobe since the Aldus acquisition. When I have problems with Adobe software, it's not hard to get them to screen share and demonstrate the bugs for them directly: Note I am not a high-spend or enterprise user, they do this for everyone.

    In terms of affordability for people who use more than the DTP Adobe apps - the subscription represents good value. The master suite cost ~20x more than the adobe annual fee, which works well if you suddenly find yourself needing to pull together some video/sound editing or work up a UX/website. I actually wish Autodesk would do something similar, since their pricing is reminiscent of Adobe CS days.

    On the flip side, I personally have purchased the Affinity suite of apps both for desktop and iPad. Their iPad apps are great and full powered. I'm looking forward to Publisher joining the iPad versions of Designer and Photo. I do have concerns for their business model, as their apps are relatively cheap, and I'd like them to keep pace with industry developments which can yield some pricy R&D. What seems to be missed by most articles is that InDesign is now heavily tailored into automation, something which the other apps don't do well. (E.g. Liquid layouts, GREP-based stylesheets, linked data and so on.) If you're working big documents or the holy grail of annual reports, you can immediately begin to appreciate this. That said InDesign has a lot of work to go in this space and *still* doesn't manage references, the end note features are comically underpowered. 

    Depending on your own business model you may find yourself needing to share the artwork file/packages much in the same way as sharing Microsoft office files, thusyou may need to use Adobe's software simply for interoperability. Apple's iWork suite has addressed this very well by having excellent interoperability with Office. I think this is something that Serif need to address - however Serif's is cheap enough to convince other operators to buy the suite for compatibility reasons.

    In total it's a good time to be in this space, however if you don't have a full suite, you're already irrelevant: e.g. Quark.
    edited July 18 sportyguy209pscooter63
  • Reply 8 of 24
    Just imagine if you were working in a large printing company, to whom clients would send some advertising-work for editing and finishing and finally printing. Now imagine that these clients could use just about any version of any software they saw fit and those which were unfit (Microsoft Publisher.. I'm looking at you). So in a former life, I'm responsible as Pre-press IT manager for ensuring a pro-active response to any, usually large clients like high-street supermarket chains (with deep pockets), at any time, with any software, with any fonts (all necessarily legally licensed if not saved as PDF subset). So there was always a need for liaison, and an ongoing need for a pro-active ability to have software that could open the clients' files, and have the correct font-versions, so as not to have kerning and layout issues. I would have running battles with the Financial Department in order to get Quark upgrades. I would request 20, but he would only allow 10, usually. So there would be piecemeal disparities in software versions, making future upgrades more tricky, with only part of the Pre-press able to do certain tasks. I would also request that we get a copy or 2 of say, InDesign for evaluation and training, because, sure as hell, a client would be sending us InDesign files, and we had better be ready and able to work with them. Font licences, when clients don't embed them. So there is a necessity to have a range of software available, and staff trained to use it, when the clients could use anything, and could be able to fund new hardware platforms better than your own accounts department gave a damn about. In the UK, Quark prices were pound for dollar plus, and we hated them with a vengeance. Plus we needed Quark add-ons, which were also version-dependent and expensive. Needless to say, the Accounts department seemed to think it was just my department's or just my, wish-lists to justify retaining them, and the Accounts Department and the company  would be much better off without Pre-press. They just lived in a bubble, using numbers with pound-signs in the front, and that was their existence. On-topic, this is still a nightmare. Big printing houses with big clients need to be au fait with all available software: the Adobe Suite, Quark Xpress, and just about anything and everything. If you can liaise with your client ahead of time to 'suggest' that they should use software you 'strongly recommend' that is fine. 
    EsquireCatsgregoriusm
  • Reply 9 of 24
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 722editor
    mike54 said:
    Before forking hundreds in subscription fees or outright purchases, I suggest people first try Scribus, a capable alternative to Adobe Indesign.
    Other quality opensource software in this field are Inkscape, GIMP, Krita.

    Except that doing so defeats any purpose of using the Mac. Invariably, you have to install Java (security vulnerability, deprecated by Apple), have to install xQuartz, have to adjust to interfaces that don't do anything to adhere to Mac interface guidelines, and generally have to expect them to run slower because they're using non-native frameworks.

    This isn't necessarily true for every one of the options you named, but I'll happily choose Affinity Publisher over Scribus anytime. I'll use Pixelmator before GIMP. I'll use Affinity Designer before Inkscape. Krita looks pretty promising.

    Of course, if I were trying to replace my Mac with a Linux system, I'd end up using all of the applications you named.

    macpluspluspscooter63
  • Reply 10 of 24
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 722editor

    In total it's a good time to be in this space, however if you don't have a full suite, you're already irrelevant: e.g. Quark.
    Quark continues to exist because they have customers with deep histories of using Quark. Eventually old Macs break, and get replaced with newer Macs. Newer Macs don't run older macOS, so you have to run newer macOS, which requires newer versions of Quark. Sometimes, you'll have a conversation with them, and they'll say things like, "I'm thinking about making a clean break, and using InDesign... but then I'd have to keep buying Quark if I needed to work with things in the archives..." and they never make that leap.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 11 of 24
    vmarks said:

    In total it's a good time to be in this space, however if you don't have a full suite, you're already irrelevant: e.g. Quark.
    Quark continues to exist because they have customers with deep histories of using Quark. Eventually old Macs break, and get replaced with newer Macs. Newer Macs don't run older macOS, so you have to run newer macOS, which requires newer versions of Quark. Sometimes, you'll have a conversation with them, and they'll say things like, "I'm thinking about making a clean break, and using InDesign... but then I'd have to keep buying Quark if I needed to work with things in the archives..." and they never make that leap.
    I appreciate that - keep in mind there was a time when Quark was dominant and yet now most professionals use InDesign, so clearly a phased conversion and the use of the built-in converter have functional merit.

    But speaking more generally, if we're talking about pain points: Not being able to use InDesign packages from other agencies is going to be a more frequent problem than those that come about from phased conversion. The only circumstance where this doesn't apply is your old design shops which are completely isolated (e.g. catalogue factories.)

    As the market for single-app DTP continues to shrink, that rate is accelerated by out sourcing and the gig economy, leading to a new scenario: a common interchange format is going to be required (much in the way that Office was forced open.)
  • Reply 12 of 24
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 146member
    Quark is still a thing? I can still remember some of the keyboard shortcuts. Terrible, terrible customer service.

    I won a copy of InDesign in a drawing at an Adobe conference around 20 years ago. It was kinda pre-release. The white box had a sticker on it that said, "Adobe InDesign." Started working with it right away, and rarely used Quark after that.

    A few years later, I used the InDesign serial number to get a nice discount on the first Creative Suite.
  • Reply 13 of 24
    ravnorodomravnorodom Posts: 231member
    jmulchino said:
    To paraphrase Kramer, Adobe is for “suckers”. One last point, what has Adobe Photoshop been doing for the last ten years?? I can pretty much do 95% of all photo projects I see these days with CS3! 
    Says the retired guy. 

    I pay for my subscription in about half an hour of billable work each month. I actively work in After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom, and a few others occasionally. You do the math. 

    There are a ton of amazing new features in Photoshop. You wouldn’t know because you’re using CS3, which came out 12 years ago!
    Same here. I use Premiere, After Effects, Audition, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Acrobat as a graphic designer! Graphic designer these days does more than just print. I do anywhere from print to HTML to video presentation for tradeshow to tradeshow booth design (using Cinema 4D). $50 per month on these software is a bargain (for now). If I hit 70s and retired, then, yes, I'm f**ked. But then who wants to work when you're retired anyway? I probably will paint (the old fashion way or iPad Pro way) for the rest of my life.
    edited July 19 fastasleep
  • Reply 14 of 24
    nubusnubus Posts: 68member
    Users will stay on InDesign for one reason: Total cost of tools. Photoshop and Illustrator are must-haves, and with those paid then InDesign is free. It is hard to compete with free. Not sure it is even legal (at least in the EU) to use a dominant market position in one area (photo editing, vector graphics) to take other markets (page layout, video editing). However... Quark is not a company that is easy to love. They kept on raising the price and spent years on nothing but web features while forcing users to have dongles. Quark killed QXP.

    InDesign is bad. Single-threaded, the few GPU features are buggy, and Adobe doesn't provide a stable version. Fixes and security updates are only delivered to the latest version. The interface got really bad in CC 2018. It now looks and behaves more non-Mac than even Word 6, and that was so terrible that Microsoft sent the product manager on a world trip to apologize. These days Adobe applications fail with each system update from Apple. The list of Adobe issues with Mojave is long - and that 12 months after first beta.
  • Reply 15 of 24
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,161member
    jmulchino said:
    jmulchino said:
    To paraphrase Kramer, Adobe is for “suckers”. One last point, what has Adobe Photoshop been doing for the last ten years?? I can pretty much do 95% of all photo projects I see these days with CS3! 
    Says the retired guy. 

    I pay for my subscription in about half an hour of billable work each month. I actively work in After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Lightroom, and a few others occasionally. You do the math. 

    There are a ton of amazing new features in Photoshop. You wouldn’t know because you’re using CS3, which came out 12 years ago!
    Good for you! (I was more focused on successful design than wiz bang features)
    Cool. Meanwhile, those "wiz bang features" save me hours of time doing things that previously had to be done manually in older versions, and I can spend more time on focusing on design. 
  • Reply 16 of 24
    I am wondering when Adobe is going to take care of the 5 (32 bit) Sub-Apps that my CC 2018 Installation shows.. I Tried to use the 2019 CC APPS But they run Much Slower on my 2012 MacBook Pro and Some CC 2019 Apps requires newer graphics cards. Mac Users Need 64 Bit versions of these Sub-Apps for "Catalina" this fall. Adobe is the the Only developer left WHO HAS NOT pushed 64 bit versions of those System related Apps... I can only conclude That Adobe Has Intentionally done this in order to force us to upgrade to CC 2020 in order to use the New Mac OS this Fall 2019. My 2018 CC Apps will not Load if these Sub-Apps are not 64 bit. As a Disabled Veteran I cannot afford a new $2K Macbook Pro just to be able to continue with what I have installed now. So I am ready to "Go With Throttle Up" this fall with Affinity Publisher + Designer & Photo. When I first tried the "StudioLink" feature in Publisher I was BLOWN AWAY! It lets you Bring up the other 2 Apps ToolSets right in Publisher! ... and the Ultra-Smooth Panning And Zooming was delightful. Now I gotta hurry up and learn Affinity before Adobe gets any more Obnoxious & Buggy this Fall.
    edited July 19 MacPro
  • Reply 17 of 24
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,450member
    Use LaTeX.
  • Reply 18 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    On the low end of things Pages is a very nice wee application, however, there were many really useful features in iWeb that should have made it into Pages.  It's a shame the iWeb team wasn't absorbed into the Pages team to bring them along.  Heck it's a shame iWeb was simply taken to the next level but that's another story.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,367member
    Appleish said:
    Quark is still a thing? I can still remember some of the keyboard shortcuts. Terrible, terrible customer service.


    What customer service?  ;)

    I remember talking to (ok ... trying to talk to ...) Fred Ebrahimi at a trade show in ... I think 1990, it only took a short discussion to why the customer services sucked.
    edited July 20 nubus
  • Reply 20 of 24
    cmka~+cmka~+ Posts: 33member
    Lack of ePub export in affinity publisher sadly is a deal breaker for me. 
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