Revisiting Software Choices

May 24th, 2013

A number of years back, working in QuarkXPress 6.5, I created the cover and interior page design and laid out my first children’s book, Mishka: An Adoption Tale. In the process, of course, there were any number of back-and-forths between my client, the author-publisher, and myself. Once the final layout was approved, the PDFs would go to a printer in China.

I don’t remember at what point trouble developed, only that, at one point, the placed art—a full-color illustration on practically every page—no longer showed up in the Quark file after I placed it. Frantic, I called Quark—the company—explained my situation, and just hoped they would be of some help so I could meet the print date.

I wound up speaking to a young woman in Customer Service who apologized from the start that I was having any difficulty working with her product. This was before she even knew what the problem was. Somewhere along the way she discovered that XPress had somehow corrupted the artfiles and sent new XPress docs back to me that were clean.

She also enclosed a gift, a disk of “Extras” that normally went out with the newest version of Xpress. That would have been version 7 at the time; I was still using 6.5 and the “Extras” could not be used with that older version. So I again contacted my new friend in Customer Service and asked if, under the circumstances, she would like me to return the “Extras” disk. She said “no” and to watch my snail mail again.

A few days later I received a copy of version 7. For free. I was pretty amazed, called her, and thanked her. I still remember her answer, “That’s one of the great things about my job in Customer Service: I get to choose to do nice things like that now and again.”

Up to that point, I had been fighting the urge to switch to InDesign. I had never bought into InDy’s pre-release hype, that it would be the Quark-killer. In fact, the first version of InDesign that I worked with, 2, handled type—in my estimation—rather clumsily and I did not care for it. But I had knocked out a book on managing finances for members of the military on InDesign 2 as more of a learning project and saw its potential.

A month or two after receiving version 7, I tried to contact my friend in Customer Service to tell her how great the children’s book had turned out and to get an address to send her a copy. I found that she had left Quark (the company). At that point I decided that since Adobe always seemed to make it easier and less expensive than Quark to upgrade—I know, I know, except for the freebie—it was impossible to ignore how well Illustrator and Photoshop integrate with InDesign in Adobe’s Creative Studio. And so version 7, the gift, is the last version of QuarkXPress that I’ve installed.

I should interrupt here and veer off to say that I briefly investigated open-source possibilities TeX and LaTeX. The samples of such typesetting I saw, however, while I suppose they were technically adequate, didn’t look special. But things appear to have changed some. I’ve been looking at Scribus—essentially a flavor of TeX with a graphical interface over it—and it seems a lot more like the page layout software I’m used to. The other thing is that I seem to remember the TeX/LaTeX installations didn’t use the all the Postscript fonts I had. Now they quickly load into Scribus.

So Scribus is definitely going to get a try. And perhaps something like GIMP or GIMPshop is worth a look-see as perhaps a replacement for Photoshop. Acorn and Pixelmator, though not quite free, are other possible Photoshop replacements.

That all said, I would prefer to stick with Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop in Creative Studio, f I could only buy the package one time and upgrade when I feel like it. I’m rather angry that Adobe is trying to hold me up, trap me into paying up in perpetuity for the rental of their software. This infuriates me no end. And I’ll look good and hard for the right combination of replacements. I fully expect to find them and switch.

Entry Filed under: software,tools

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