Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Now With Multiple Undos!

Quark’s latest advertising campaign brings a harsh light on features they should have had years ago, and illuminates exactly why InDesign is steadily growing market share.

For years I designed countless layouts under the yoke of Quark’s primitive interface and function set, not only wondering why I couldn’t accomplish obvious things (like import a PSD) without an Xtension, but why no one stepped up with a competing project. (PageMaker doesn’t count and never did.)

When Adobe finally debuted InDesign, it was clear even from the buggy and clumsy Version 1 that Quark’s days were numbered. Since 1999, Adobe has released three more versions with a fourth launching as I write this. Like Photoshop, InDesign is a complete program, feature and function-rich out of the box and from here on out, new features are just bonus—an ever more creamier and delicious icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, Quark has been playing feature catch-up, and their latest advertising campaign brings a harsh light on just how behind Xpress 6.5 remains.

You’ve seen the ads. Two page spreads, bold colors, left side with full-size portrait of a “designer,” right side with an interesting quote and some copy that highlights the new version’s features. (The concept itself isn’t bad—certainly better than Adobe’s latest campaign that shows some dude lying on a bed with the tagline “It’s everything but the idea.” How wonderfully passive.)

Unfortunately, Quark is a victim of their own marketing. In their body copy, they highlight the following major features of 6.5:

  • Layers
  • PSD Import
  • QuarkVista (edit documents without leaving Quark)
  • Multiple Undos

Out of the four, three have been in InDesign since its inception. (The fourth is specific to Quark and having never tried it, have no idea if it’s just a set of crappy filters or something really revolutionary.) This is, in a nutshell, bad advertising.

Where I work, it’s a constant debate in choosing what to advertise when we release a new version of a product. It always boils down to one thing: is the new feature something the user wants or a feature the user expects? If it’s the latter, then don’t advertise it—let the customer assume it was always there.

If Quark followed this mantra, little wind would be left in their marketing sails. In this era of software, a “feature” like multiple undos is expected. Not having them would only confuse and anger customers—like me, five years ago, when shifting an object twice meant you better know where it was going. It would be like developing a text editor and advertising “Now with cut and paste technology!”

If Quark is trying to woo InDesign users back, they are going to incite little reaction beyond a derisive laugh. If they are trying to woo new designers, the young reader is not going to understand why layers warrant a bullet point. Doesn’t everything have layers? If they are trying to convince their existing customer base to upgrade … well, maybe the ads will work, because there is nothing quite so vehemently hated as Quark’s one level of undo.

commentary + criticism

The Co-worker

wrote the following on Thursday May 5, 2005

You are right. I’ve been an InDesign user ever since its inception (I’m not an old enough designer to even consider Quark, what with it’s ridiculous pricing scheme and limited features), but I thought the same thing when I saw the ads.

What struck me as odd was the mailing that I received, the one that had the picture of the baby on the front and claimed that Quark 6.5’s features would make Adobe cry like a baby…yeah…not so much, especially considering that out of the major “upgrades” or “advantages” to Quark’s new version, most of them were already present in InDesign. Talk about not knowing your competition!

Chris K

wrote the following on Thursday May 5, 2005

I’ve been increasingly becoming dissappointed in Quark for a couple of years now. I know a lot of designers that made the switch to InDesign. I’m planning to get a box Mac in the next 4-5 months and don’t plan to drop the grand to purchase 6.5.

With Adobe’s purchase of Macromedia, you wonder if not (at least publicly) going after Quark shows Adobe doesn’t view them as much of a threat.

Pariah S. Burke

wrote the following on Friday May 6, 2005

This new Quark marketing campaign started with even more audacious direct mail cards, which have come to be called Quark’s postcards from the edge

Juan Torneros

wrote the following on Saturday May 7, 2005

Hola estudio. Artículo Quark vs. InDesign.



wrote the following on Monday May 9, 2005

I actually received those cards—they are the original inspiration for these comments, but I thought I would target the magazine ads since I would think more people have seen them. Those cards were every bit annoying and pompous as your article suggests.

What’s annoying about this whole thing is that I used to really like Quark. I never paid too much attention to its limitations because it was still a robust program that could really do what 99% of designers wanted 99% of the time. I didn’t switch until InDesign 2.0 came out, and I never upgraded past Quark 4.1. They could have kept me (and thousands of others) as customers, but they really dropped the ball.

And the current campaign is doing nothing to move me back. In fact, its doing the opposite. I would probably go back to Quark if the company had a legitimately competitive product, because I hate having all my workflow eggs in the Adobe basket. But their current ads are just a reminder that they have the inferior product.

Samuel John Klein

wrote the following on Saturday May 14, 2005

I’m thinking the one feature Quark is advertisting that you don’t have any experience with is QuarkVista.

If you’re wondering if it’s either crappy filters or something innovative I’d say it’s somehwere in between. Maybe, right in between. It has a very complete set of filters as well as effects, has a way to save combinations as presets. The palette interface is well-designed, allowing for instant viewing of attributes, and the stack can be shuffled by dragging.

However. However.

The processing of some effects sucks a lot of processor time, more, of course, the more you use. The blurs (gaussian, et al) seem to come as close as anything to bringing the process to its knees. The beachball can spin 15-30 seconds, sometimes even longer than that.

The niftyest thing about it is that the changes are non-destructive…you can leave the original alone, change the original, or write out a different version. However, for those who have the Adobe suite, or those who have Pshop already, the value beyond “hey, this is neat” is debatable, I’d say.

Or, as someone more waggish than I once said, “For those who like this sort of thing, this should be just the sort of thing they like.”


wrote the following on Monday May 16, 2005

Sounds interesting. I have wanted non-destructive filters in Photoshop forever, and while it’s not a novel idea, I’m glad Quark is stepping out of the box to bring some interesting features. I hope the quality is good enough for production work and not some gimmicky circa-1997 drop shadow action.


wrote the following on Thursday January 12, 2006

Interestingly, the Google Ad that appeared at the end of your article, is ‘Quark to Indesign – Training and expert template conversion’

Really quite poetic…