X-Ray Magazine Shows Its Fangs


The latest issue of the official magazine of QuarkXPress beats up on InDesign and berates XPress naysayers. Guest editorial by Jeremy Schultz X-Ray Magazine, Vol. 4, Issue 3, September 2005 The September issue of X-Ray Magazine, the magazine devoted to Quark and QuarkXPress, has an interesting article by Roger Black, “A Closer Look At 3 [...]

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The latest issue of the official magazine of QuarkXPress beats up on InDesign and berates XPress naysayers.

Guest editorial by Jeremy Schultz

Cover, X-Ray Magazine

X-Ray Magazine, Vol. 4, Issue 3, September 2005

The September issue of X-Ray Magazine, the magazine devoted to Quark and QuarkXPress, has an interesting article by Roger Black, “A Closer Look At 3 Documents.” In it Black, whom I admire quite a bit for his work with publication design, compares QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign side-by-side as they are used to design an advertisement, catalog, and magazine. But I was not struck so much by the positive portrayal of QuarkXPress but the negativity toward InDesign, which was brought up over and over again. The numerous, unfriendly mentions of InDesign plus a comment by editor Cyndie Shaffstall made this issue a diatribe against InDesign and those stupid enough to think QuarkXPress isn’t the better product.

I use XPress in my day job and InDesign for my freelance business. I’ve actually used XPress longer. If I had the authority to switch to InDesign at work I would, because my experience with both of them has convinced me that InDesign is superior (though I’m very interested to see what Quark brings in its coming upgrade). Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review InDesign Magazine, which I found to be a good resource with a positive vibe. I recall hardly a mention of the competitor. The writers were too busy playing with InDesign and showing you what you could do with it. It was a fun read.

Then I read the current issue of X-Ray Magazine and was bombarded by accusations against my favorite application: “…bewildering by comparison…” “…palettes really crowd the screen.” “Users who switch to InDesign must invest several weeks in training.” “[Quark] seems more stable.” “You can enter some metrics easily–but entering others is not so easy.” “It’s not always clear what is happening.” “…the [Quark to InDesign file] conversion stumbles.” “…professionals add shadows to silhouettes in Photoshop.” I also noticed in the “A Comparison of Features” on page 43, the InDesign features are in small print while the QuarkXPress features are in large print with better readability and presence on the page.

I don’t mind product comparisons; I actually think they’re some of the most useful articles in our trade publications. However, this one seems so biased and generalized that I couldn’t put much faith in it, especially when it went against my own real-world experiences with the two applications. I am thankful that InDesign will convert QuarkXPress files (Quark doesn’t grant InDesign the same courtesy) and the conversion is usually quite good. Moreover, my experience with Quark’s stability is not a good one at all.

My point is that X-Ray Magazine and its content is very different from InDesign Magazine and its content: X-Ray is more biased, more negative, and has real fangs sometimes. And that strikes me as being bad for the industry. I get tired of the us-versus-them anger surrounding these two applications.

Don’t talk to Cyndie if you don’t know Ready, Set, Go!

Cyndie Shaffstall wrote this to open her letter from the editor on page three:

The [rants] I enjoy the most are from other applications’ users wondering about why I would start a magazine dedicated to software that–in their opinion–has seen its heyday and is on its last legs. I think it is likely that they’re new enough to all of this that Ready, Set, Go! is the phrase used at the race starting line instead of a major contender for the desktop-publishing market.

Ready, Set, Go!, for those who don’t know it, was a desktop publishing application that was widely used in the late 1980s and early 1990s, competing with PageMaker (then owned by Aldus) and QuarkXPress in its early years. RSG was a pretty cool application and I used it on a friend’s Mac Plus.

I have a real problem with Shaffstall’s statement. It’s negative not to InDesign or some other desktop publishing application, but to the people who use them. Now I wouldn’t say myself that QuarkXPress is on its last legs and should be put down, but if others have that opinion then that’s their right. And if I was in Shaffstall’s position I wouldn’t joke about their perceived lack of background in desktop publishing, and I especially wouldn’t do it on page 3 of X-Ray Magazine. It just seems petty and angry.

Do cheerleaders at football games raise the home crowd’s spirits, or badmouth the opponent? Both X-Ray Magazine and InDesign Magazine are cheerleaders, each one promoting their teams. But while InDesign Magazine is positive and upbeat, X-Ray Magazine can sometimes be dour, negative and demeaning. Who does a better job of cheerleading?

Jeremy Schultz (www.jeremyschultz.com) specializes in graphic design, web design and illustration and has been active in the design profession for six years. He is the editor of Designorati:Photoshop, and his designs have been featured in national publications including Dynamic Graphics and SBS Digital Design, and he is the recipient of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals’ Guru Award, inclusion in the 2005 American Corporate Identity annual, and the First Place Winner in Quark VS InDesign.com‘s Celebrate InDesign Postcard Competition.

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16 Responses Discussing “X-Ray Magazine Shows Its Fangs”
  1. This site is full of crap for XPress, u guys are always keen to publish bad stuff about XPress. Let’s give them some time.

    04 Nov 2005
    08:09 PT
  2. Time? They’ve had over 15 years. How much more time do they need?

    04 Nov 2005
    09:36 PT
  3. Agreed. I gave them enough time — it’ll take a little more than flying the Quark banner to get me back. When I see Quark blow inDesign away, I’ll think about being their customer again — until then, it’s just hype.

    04 Nov 2005
    12:10 PT
  4. While I agree with Jeremy’s assessment of the Roger Black article, I personally felt Cyndie’s column was more of a gripe against complaints like Addy’s above. And I agree with her.

    If you watched the Quark user forums in the Spring of this year, Cyndie’s posts about the resurrection of X-Ray were met with some nasty flames. What should have been an excited conversation about breathing life into what has always been a very cool magazine for QuarkXPress users, was marred by nonsensical and moronic rants. They’ve popped up at other times, too, just like they do here or anywhere QuarkXPress and/or InDesign are discussed.

    By mentioning Ready, Set Go!, Cyndie was trying to establish that, for the younger creatives who don’t rememer a time before PostScript (Cyndie and I are from the same generation of wax and rubylithe), there is a history here. Before InDesign there was, for a while, only QuarkXPress (and minor competition with PageMaker). Before that, in the wild and frantic DTP Revolutoin of the 80s, there many choices (to begin with), including QuarkXPress, PageMaker, Ventura Publisher, Ready, Set, Go!, and so on.

    The point I got from the article, again, with which I agree, is that DTP software, like any group of software, has not always been about two top-tier applications, and it may not always be so. QuarkXPress and InDesign are a moment in time. Al though unlikely, it is possible that tomorrow a third contender will enter the arena. Who knows? Maybe Serif will suddenly position PagePlus (or Microsoft its Publisher app) as a professional grade layout application and vie for market share.

    04 Nov 2005
    13:06 PT
  5. The flames that met the resurrection of X-Ray were due to the same trivial content that Jeremy notes in the recent issue. Since its first resurrected issue, X-ray has been promoting version 7 as the competitor to InDesign. How is an unreleased application better than another one that has been on the market for 3 good years?

    The knuckleheads at X-ray don’t understand the design market. It is not about SWITCHING. Most competent designers are using both QuarkXPress and InDesign. Because of the foothold that Quark has in publishing, I doubt there will ever be a complete switch anytime soon. The challenge for today’s designer is to understand the unique features of each application and use those distinct features to the best advantage.

    The problem with Quark zealots is that they keep their blinders on and don’t realize what tools are available. We should not be blindly loyal to any one company, even to Adobe.

    If X-ray continues to publish the same trash (ie: ‘the other app takes too long to learn’ and ‘the other app has too many options’) issue after issue, their subscribers may go deaf from the whining and give up on the magazine.

    04 Nov 2005
    13:49 PT
  6. Well put (as always), Jim.

    Many people fail to recognize that InDesign is not QuarkXPress’s chief competitor. The main competition comes from previous versions of XPress. Look at any book publisher–better than 75% of them still use XPress 4.1 because it answers their needs.

    I would like to see X-Ray spend more time comparing 6.5 to 4, than 7 to InDesign. That would be the way to actual generate the sales Quark is desperate for.

    04 Nov 2005
    14:16 PT
  7. Addy:

    This site is full of crap for XPress, u guys are always keen to publish bad stuff about XPress. Let’s give them some time


    Oh, please. This is so tiresome.

    It’s not up to us to come up with positive press for QuarkXPress, it’s up to Quark to stand and deliver.

    Additionally, I’d like to see some actual Quark fans wanting to actually talk instead of toss ad hominem and threats. Not necessarily debate, mind, just user talk. To be brutally honest, I have more faith in Quark to deliver on its promises than I have in a Quark fan to create a reasonable comment.

    I have both InD and QXP. I use both. I find more demand these days for InD than Quark though. Now, is that my fault? Moreover, if I post an article with the bare fact that I hear more about InD than QXP, if its the truth, why is that biased?

    04 Nov 2005
    16:28 PT
  8. No I have to agree with addy.

    While Quark may have it’s issues, Adobe definitely does too, and nearly every article I see on this website about InDesign is in a positive light, and nearly every article that is about Quark is in a negative light.

    I have to say it really is biased, and quite juvenile. I use both, and find positives and negatives about BOTH. But this site just seems laden with bitterness.

    I’m not an avid user of either one of them, my job requires that I use both. But, I am getting a little sick of the childish name calling and he said she said games that are being played. And, as an unbiased (I mean that!) observer, I have to say that most of these childish actions are coming from the InDesign side of the table.

    Let’s all grow up and just do our jobs. There’s enough bitterness in the world without having to add it to something as trivial as a piece of software.

    I really think both QuarkXPress and InDesign have alot to offer, and I look forward to what the competition between them will produce in future versions of both. The last thing we need is either one of them taking over the market.

    Competition is good for US, the users.


    07 Nov 2005
    09:17 PT
  9. The conclusions emerging from this thread are really interesting: (1.) Free-lance designers use both QuarkXPress and InDesign. (2.) Competition is good for both.

    I was happy to haul off and try to compare the two, and of course my effort was paid for by Quark. Sorry if I appeared heavy-handed, but I was attempting to counter the common assumption that the race was over, and that Quark was toast.

    There is always the feeling that the new drives out the old. Web sites kill magazines. Toyota kills Ford. But it is seldom absolute. The cassette Walkman is gone, but Sony is likely to still be around for another 20 years. And have you ever noticed how many people under 30 go to bookstores?

    I’ve always loved Adobe as a company, and first started working with them when they had a couple of dozen employes. Same with Quark. Both have picked up a lot of annoying features and a just a bit of hubris along the way.

    Quark is trying to reform. You can see it. They are really listening at last. QXP 6.5 is a useful tool. And I am looking forward to the next version.

    Bottom line, I still prefer Adobe for pixel- or vector-level design. And QuarkXPress for pushing out the pages.

    07 Nov 2005
    18:17 PT
  10. These are all interesting comments, I’m glad my piece has generated some honest discussion.

    Re: Pariah’s comment, if Cyndie would like to gripe against complaints she feels are stupid and moronic, I think she should focus on the complaints themselves and not simply say, “Oh, well, those who said these are obviously cretins who wouldn’t know Ready, Set, Go! if it came up and bit them.” I don’t think that’s the way to make a point. Pariah’s general point, that DTP is not just a two-pony show and that there will always be contenders, frontrunners and also-rans, is well-taken.

    Jim’s comments are great, and I think it is at the heart of my article: X-Ray’s thrust is fundamentally different than that of, say, InDesign Magazine, and it may not be casting QuarkXPress in the best light, and I’d even say it’s not as positive as X-Ray’s first incarnation. I hope to write a piece soon about this shift. I would love to see X-Ray return to its roots and celebrate the great software that Quark has, because it really does have some great products that are important to us designers, and can do better.

    Re: James’ comments, for what it’s worth I try to stay away from discussing the corporations themselves, mostly because I don’t have the inside knowledge that others like Pariah and Roger Black have. I only respond to the publications and the applications, things I can get my hands on and work with and offer my perspective on. I will say that I very much agree that competition is good, it pushes us all to innovate and do better, and if Adobe were to ever let InDesign stagnate (should it truly “kill” Quark, which I highly doubt) then I’d be the first guy to look for the next better program. At this point, however, I like InDesign.

    And now re: Roger’s comment (thanks for writing in, BTW, it’s great to get some discussion from the author himself! Thank you!) the two conclusions he draws really distill the discussion. But the comment in the second paragraph about the assumption that Quark is toast and the game is over, I’m not sure about this. I think it depends on who you listen do, and I think the game is still very much on. Adobe cannot rest, and neither can Quark. And neither one should. I think the discussions generated by this Web site and others is enough proof that the game is not over and probably will not be in the foreseeable future, unless Quark 7 turns out to be a repackaged Quark 4 (God forbid) or InDesign CS3 falls down flat like version 1 and 1.5 did.

    But I think a lot of these comments steer away from my general point, which was X-Ray and how it seems to be “on the defensive”. Given the conclusions Roger and the rest of us have drawn, my next questions would be:

    (1) Does X-Ray promote a SWITCH back to Quark, as Jim said, or should it ignore the competition? Or should it learn to live with InDesign (since we seem to agree both are worthwhile)? Roger’s article seemed to promote a switch away from InDesign, though his comments here show no particular loyalty to one company or the other.

    (2) Is Quark trying to reform? Or trying to reform just enough to beat InDesign? My own take is that they seem like Microsoft, always talking about “innovation” but never actually doing it (or doing just enough to destroy the next threat). Is their recent conversion to a customer-centered company just a temporary gambit, or a new philosophy?

    (3) Is X-Ray a publication devoted to celebrating and exploring QuarkXPress, or devoted to marketing it?

    08 Nov 2005
    07:45 PT
  11. (1) I don’t think X-ray is trying to cause anyone to switch back from InDesign. X-ray’s assumption is that its readers have never used InDesign. This is why there are so many calls to keep the Quark blinders on. Anyone that has tried InDesign is capable of assessing its capabilities without the need for a magazine to compare features.

    In contrast, the InDesign magazine does not need to do much comparison to QuarkXPress because it uses the assumption that everyone is already well-experienced in XPress.

    We need design magazines that address both Quark and Adobe. They need to speak to designers, not customers of a given product. The How-To articles on this site (like ‘How-To Fill Type with Artwork’) are great examples of writing for the designer, not the customer. I hope to see more of these types of articles here. I also hope designers learn how design apps can coexist instead of warring.

    08 Nov 2005
    12:31 PT
  12. My point is not that Quark was over, but that many designers have overreacted to the growth of InDesign, and that if I was Quark-biased in the comparison, it was to underscore my feeling that the app still has advantages over the competition.

    08 Nov 2005
    15:37 PT
  13. I understand, and I’m in agreement with you. And I think the comments that emerged from this discussion show that we’re not the only ones who feel Quark has life and still puts out a fine product that many of us use.

    What I began to wonder was, are there really that many designers who think Quark is kaput and QuarkXPress has nothing going for it? Is the assumption that many think “Quark is toast” accurate? So much so that it’s necessary to trump up the product? I think those who are vocal about these things like to take sides and vent and beat the drums of war, and Quark has probably exacerbated it to some extent by letting development lag behind in the years before and even after InDesign came out. And it’s this noise that makes it seem like an over-reaction. But most of us are still happily cranking out layouts with QuarkXPress and don’t need X-Ray Magazine to remind them that the program they’re using works and works well for what they need to do.

    09 Nov 2005
    08:47 PT
  14. James S wrote:

    While Quark may have it’s issues, Adobe definitely does too.

    Such as…?

    Nearly every article I see on this website about InDesign is in a positive light, and nearly every article that is about Quark is in a negative light.

    When you look at our coverage of InDesign and QuarkXPress, both types of articles favorably portray the application in question. We don’t disparage QuarkXPress–it’s a great product that we’ve each (on QuarkVSInDesign.com staff) used on the job in design and production for decades. We think InDesign is a stronger, better product with more features requried by modern creatives and workflows–and we’re certainly not alone in this belief–but that doesn’t equate to XPress being a bad product.

    Now, when you compare Adobe to Quark, Inc. in the context of the coverage on this site, that’s a horse of a different color. Yes, there is a lot of news and editorial that paints Quark in an unflattering light. Unfortunately for Quark, it’s all true.

    Quark sent out the postcards. Quark’s CEO Fred Ebrahimi made those ridiculously inflammatory statements to the press. Quark shut down its user forums (we praised the company when they re-opened). Quark linked to that laughable Arlov article from its homepage. Quark did everything we said it did–if we made something up, Quark, Inc. would take us to task for it, have no doubt about that. They read every word written on this site daily.

    Look at what we’ve written, how we’ve written it. Look at the postcard design contests we ran and how carefully we crafted the copy and the rules prevent disparagement of either application. Look at how carefully we worked to balance the list of prizes between the two contests–I turned away quite a few offers for prizes for one side of the contest just to maintain balance. Hell! Look at the way this site is designed: It’s all about being balanced and standing evenly on both sides of the war.

    When Kamar Auhlakh was running Quark, he did great things for the company’s image and for QuarkXPress users–we reported on every one of them.

    The unflattering things we report about Quark, Inc’s actions or words, are what Quark, Inc. actually does and says. Show us Adobe claiming that the Mac platform is dead and we’ll scream about it in a story that will be the featured article on this for months. Show us Adobe censoring its user forums and we’ll tell the world. Show us Adobe mounting a direct-mail smear campaign against QuarkXPress, and you can bet QuarkVSInDesign.com will be all over it with news, editorial, and public reactions.

    We WANT to write more and more positively about Quark. We all agree that competition in this arena is good for us, the consumers. Beyond this site, I make my living with both QuarkXPress and InDesign. And, as Brad Frey noted elsewhere on this site, this contest between the two is fun to watch; it’s even more fun to write about! We–least of all I–don’t want Quark, Inc. or XPress to go away.

    Don’t villify QuarkVSInDesign.com because you’re upset there’s no positive Quark news from media not controlled by Quark, Inc. That’s acting emotionally and irrationally.

    If you want to prove us unfair–if you want the world to say “that’s the guy who finally shut up Pariah Burke and QuarkVSInDesign.com“–then go get some URLs. That’s all you have to do. Go out on Google, Yahoo, or Ice Rocket, and find some positive QuarkXPress or Quark, Inc. press from times when we haven’t had any, and from news sources not affiliated with Quark, Inc..

    The same with Adobe’s “issues”. Find URLs and post them here so everyone–pro-InDesign, pro-Quark, and pro-Truth–alike may read for themselves how biased QuarkVSInDesign.com is.

    I mean no offense by this, but it communicates the concept succinctly: Put up or shut up.

    10 Nov 2005
    18:30 PT
  15. Hi, Roger. I’m very glad you had the opportunity to join the discussion about your X-Ray article.

    There is always the feeling that the new drives out the old.

    Agreed. And when the dynamic is the subject of passion, as is just about anything to do with professional creativity, opinions polarize rapidly.

    One point I’ve always tried to make, and which is at the heart of my dislike for Quark’s recent anti-InDesign editorial and ad copy, is that InDesign is not XPress’s main sales competitor. XPress sales are largely flat not because InDesign is taking away all the dollars that would have been spent on XPress. That’s true in a few cases, but the for the most part, those dollars aren’t being spent on either XPress or InDesign.

    Quark is in the same boat as Microsoft: Older versions of a product are doing the job, and there’s no incentive to upgrade. Microsoft is battling it’s own older Office versions for users, and Quark is battling XPress 4.1.

    6.5 is a great piece of software. In my creative work, multiple layouts, synchronized text, Vista, PSD Import–all of it–was needed. But for many others’ work, none of those features are required; 4.1 does just fine.

    That’s what Quark needs to be battling, not InDesign. They have a good start with X-Ray’s inside peeks at 7, building up anticipation among existing XPress users. Quark needs to keep that up, focussing on how 7 meets needs, how it can improve workflows, and how it’s a worthy competitor to even entrenched copies of 4.1.

    They need to layoff the InDesign smear campaign. It will only drive away more customers. The InDesign market will not switch back en masse no matter how good 7 is. Agencies, production houses, and publishers just can’t flip-flop that fast. It’s economics and productivity. And freelancers are smart enough to know that, even if 7 beats InDesign, they’ll need to stay current in both to remain marketable.

    Most importantly, no one has forgotten how shabbily they were treated by Quark for ten years. That, more than anything, will take a long time to undo, and right now, Quark’s only making it worse.

    Quark is trying to reform. You can see it. They are really listening at last.

    Making English-language tech support free, re-opening the forums, showing up at conventions, giving the user guides away, giving away the 6.5 upgrade (superb!), these were all giant steps toward proving that Quark had changed, that it cared about customers again–the first time it demonstrated that since the early 90s. But every yard of goodwill they gained in the market in 2004 and early-2005 they lost in the last six months.

    They’ve focussed so much on trying to keep existing XPress users from switching to InDesign by disparaging the latter, that they’ve proven, despite the strides forward, despite the new branding, it’s the same old Quark of the 1990s. Regrettably, your article is part of that proof.

    10 Nov 2005
    18:57 PT
  16. Nice…

    19 Jul 2007
    04:54 PT

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