QuarkXPpress: One of the greatest business failures in modern tech

“As the big dog of desktop publishing in the ’80s and ’90s, QuarkXPress was synonymous with professional publishing. In fact, it was publishing,” Dave Girard writes for Ars Technica. “But its hurried and steady decline is one of the greatest business failures in modern tech.”

“Quark’s demise is truly the stuff of legend,” Girard writes. “In fact, the story reads like the fall of any empire: failed battles, growing discontent among the overtaxed masses, hungry and energized foes, hubris, greed, and… uh, CMYK PDFs. What did QuarkXPress do—or fail to do—that saw its complete dominance of desktop publishing wither in less than a decade? In short, it didn’t listen.”

“Quark repeatedly failed to make OS X-native versions of XPress—spanning versions 4.1, 5, and 6—but the company still asked for plenty of loot for the upgrades,” Girard writes. “With user frustration high with 2002’s Quark 5, CEO Fred Ebrahimi salted the wounds by taunting users to switch to Windows if they didn’t like it, saying, ‘The Macintosh platform is shrinking.’ Ebrahimi suggested that anyone dissatisfied with Quark’s Mac commitment should ‘switch to something else.'”

“It’s advice people apparently took—just not the way he meant it. It was likely that Quark saw increasing growth in Windows sales as a sign that the Mac publishing market was dwindling. However, what they were probably seeing was new users, not migration to Windows,” Girard writes. “I’ve heard about Windows-based publishing environments, but I’ve never actually seen one in my 20+ years in design and publishing.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Quark got what Quark deserved.

Ignoring – or worse, dissing – the Mac, especially when you’re a maker of publishing software, no less, is suicide.

We are Mac users. We never forget and – call us crazy – when all is said and done, we will be the last ones standing. Take that to the bank.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

[Attribution: Daring Fireball. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Quark CEO Ebrahimi apologizes for ‘being late’ with QuarkXpress for Mac OS X – June 11, 2003
Dissatisfied with Quark’s Mac commitment? Quark CEO says ‘switch to something else’ – November 25, 2002


        1. I’ve had the gray starting to creep in for a few years now. And I remember Quark well. From before there even was a hill to be king of. 🙂

          Better to turn gray than turn loose!

    1. I remember when there were two camps who fought with each other: Aldus PageMaker and Quark!

      Then Adobe bought PageMaker (a FANTASTIC program!) and summarily executed it. That was a big loss to desktop publishing that I never understood.

      I also remember all of the amazement at Quark’s business decisions at the time, and just how blind and stubborn they were.

      1. Aldus essentially helped Pagemaker commit assisted suicide. The press-press community LOVED PAGEMAKER but kept telling Aldus that we needed to be able to open more than ONE document at a time. After a few version upgrades without that feature, folks who had to get serious work done, had NO CHOICE, they moved to QUARK the pricy, illogical software with a steep learning curve…but it could have more than one document open at a time. YEP! Not listening to what your core customers need will kill ya! Granted Adobe buys then kills competing software. The death of PAGEMAKER was an inside job. By the time Aldus caught on to what was happening, it was too late.

      2. I worked in PageMaker 1.0, back then, it was amazing. Quark was a pain in the ass in many ways, especially with all their freakin’ purple Keys! An IT nightmare! Department was more or less forced to switch to Quark by printers demands, but had no trouble leaving Quark a few years later for InDesign 2.0, and convinced printers to do so as well. And the Creative Suite integration with Photoshop, etc. just sewed things up for the final blow.

    2. A new definition for the OED.
      Quark Express.
      Pronunciation: (kwôrk, ik-spres),
      To haste ones own demise by not taking advise from ones product users or customers.

      Usage: To Quark Express, He quarked Expressed, The company quarked expressed, The government quark expressed, The pupil quark expressed, The extreme sportsman quark expressed.

      Does this contribution let me off the hook for the last gaff I endured?

    3. Apple inc. using one of their many aliases should buy the remnants of Quark Express and retool it for OSX as the professional product alongside Pages or even amalgamate it into Pages in the same way they did to Emagic’s Logic, turning it into Logic Express and Logic Pro X

    4. it’s a cautionary tale, one that every developer should heed. Hubris is not a good business practice. Quark was legendary for its arrogant customer service, likely a reflection of the company’s CEO. And companies that don’t stay agile and move with rapid changes in the market can be swept off the map quickly.

      There was once a time when Microsoft was preeminent. I read a tweet the other day from Om Malik that said essentially 10 years ago, he could not imagine doing business without Microsoft Office. Today, he added, he can easily imagine doing business without Microsoft.

      When you miss the tectonic shifts in the marketplace (from PCs to iPads, iPhones and cloud-based systems), when you lose contact with and the confidence of your customers, bad things happen. Microsoft is still very much in business, but not the all powerful company it once was. And smaller companies are now dimly remembered. PFS. WordStar. And on and on. (Insert other software and hardware companies RIP or dead-men-walking here.)

      Perhaps it could have ended differently for Quark. But the wretched treatment that Quark dished out to its customers, its CEO’s stubborn refusal to embrace change, not to mention his caustic attitude helped the company dig its own grave.

      Good riddance.

    5. Two things I like a lot:

      – The downhill course of Quark, they deserve it. I used it until I switched to InDesign 1.5.2 as a very early adopter and never looked back. I still tested every version of Quark, always with a huge smile in my face as every version officially certifies that the move to InDesign was right. Get your own free test copy of XPress 10, and laugh!

      – The evolvement of InDesign up to version CS6. Even it is far from perfect (no Mac standard shortcuts, and more), it is by far the best layout app. And even better: It is that great that I don’t need CC. So I save a lot of money 🙂 Adobe should better listen to its customers who made InDesign such a success.

  1. Yeah, I remember all that and the nightmares caused by trying to get actual production work done in Quark running in classic mode or later in OS X with v6. Quark support was helpless. It caused a mass exodus to InDesign amongst my clients, not a migration to Windows.

    Later versions of Quark weren’t as awful, but it still has problems. The preview resolution for placed art in Q10 is now automatically controlled by their “Xenon Engine,” as opposed to being able to manually set a low res preview. Placing multiple large ads in a multi-page document brings it lurching to a halt.

    Sorry Quark, but you blew it big time.

    1. Very true, something about this Flash thing I think. haha

      Now I recommend many non-Adobe’s products. Unfortunately there are some things you can’t do without in a certain fields.

      Some day they will bow or beg.

  2. I used to use quark for many years. It was overpriced, buggy and customer support sucked.

    Then adobe bought out I design version 1 (which you couldn’t print from btw) and the writing was on the wall for quark.

    Within 3 years I said goodbye to quark and adobe stole the crown.

    Now everyone’s uses the creative suite – until adobes successor takes the market from them :))

  3. Say what you will about Quark, but it’s still my go to for page layout. I hated PageMaker, and InDesign is basically PageMaker with the Illustrator interface.

    As a typographer, typography is still better and easier in Quark. I hate the double bounding boxes in InDesign. Quark doesn’t need a second bounding box for a runaround. Try doing a hanging indent in InDesign, then do it in Quark, you’ll see what I mean.

    Yea, Quark has pissed me off more than once, but I still prefer it over InDesign. InDesign is too busy and is nowhere as intuitive as Quark.

    1. The bounding boxes are not THAT difficult and I rather like them. So sure, InDesign has some oddities but it’s not the sh*tstorm that happens every time I try to get something done in Quark.

    2. I wonder how much Adobe paid for this article. Quark is the better program and closer to real typesetting. There are rumblings of InDesign users going back to Quark because of the “membership” you now have to fork up to Adobe.
      All the comments are more like hearsay. The smart folks in Europe are major Quark users. PageMaker was great??? Serious?? Was more like an amateurish attempt at typesetting.

  4. I was working at a catalog company and was spending $15k for Quadra900 workstations and $3k for 9gb drives in pre-osx times, but we were doing poster-sized stuff that bsod’d any Windows machines then. Quark was stupid, plain and simple.

  5. I’m a little tadpole in a big ocean. Years ago I used Page Maker for the publications of a small non-profit. I enjoyed learning and using it because it did all I ever needed. These are the faint memories of my youth.

  6. “As the big dog of desktop publishing in the ’80s and ’90s, QuarkXPress was synonymous with professional publishing. In fact, it was publishing…”

    Not quite. In the 80s it was a vast horse race (anyone remember RagTime among many others?) with Aldus Pagemaker taking the lead for single documents/layouts and Framemaker taking the lead for multi volume implementations (think many books linked together, e.g., like an encyclopedia).

    Express didn’t really *take over* until the 90s. What Express did much, much better than Pagemaker back then (even after Adobe bought it) was handle color. Even as late as ’92 or ’93 Pagemaker was equal to, or even superior to, Express for black and white or grayscale documents.

    But even back in the late 80s and early 90s, Quark’s customer support was extremely well know as the worst in the industry. I knew many users who were all but told, “RTFM”, or when actually helped were actively belittled by the support people.

    1. I remember having to pay extra to do spot colors in PageMaker. It was an add-on you had to purchase. I owned an imaging bureau, we cringed every time someone came in with PageMaker files. What a POS. InDesign isn’t much better if you ask me.

  7. Quark makes me mad. I work in prepress and I occasionally run across old Quark docs, and I almost always rebuild them in InDesign. Quark, even version 9.3, just makes everything much more difficult than InDesign. The thinking behind it is so very Windows – if you can do something in 2 steps, why not do the same thing in 5? I hope Quark employees read this, your product sux.

  8. Hated quark and still shiver when I have to start it up. Even now producing PDFs is a lottery though far better than when you could spend hours trying to produce one. As for scaling well you just couldn’t without a plugin that usually crashed the machine if it worked at all. And import quality was terrible. It is much improved now and has a interface that could be good if they actually had designers who knew what they are doing, it’s too little far too late. A friend still uses it and Hates Indesign but it took me less than a week to learn Indesign and I generally find it much more intuitive not to mention flexible and its interaction with illustrator is such a boon.

  9. Wow, I haven’t thought about Quark Express for years. I have worked prepress in in the print industry for the past 15 years and remember the battle between Quark and PageMaker. By the time 2002 rolled around I was getting about 1 in 10 files that were Quark Express. I can’t remember the last Quark file I’ve gotten, it’s been a few years.

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