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DENVER, CO – On August 9, 2011, Quark Inc., maker of QuarkXPress page layout software, has announced that the company has been acquired by Los Angeles-based private equity firm, Platinum Equity. This is huge news because QuarkXPress is a major software application for page layout, used by designers all over the world.

QuarkXPress was one of the first major page layout applications to be used by professional designers since the late 1980s. At that time, there were only a few page layout applications to choose from. Its competition mainly came from Aldus PageMaker, which was later in 1994 acquired by Adobe Systems and Xerox Ventura Publisher, which was later acquired by the Corel Corporation in 1993.

Quark, Inc. was founded in 1981 by Tim Gill. The Macintosh version of QuarkXPress was first released in 1987 and then later in 1992 was released for the Windows operating system. QuarkXPress dominated the page layout software market for several years. It’s closest rival at the time was PageMaker, which would continue to have its own following.

After acquiring PageMaker Adobe Systems made a decision to develop a new page layout publishing application, InDesign and released version 1.0 in 1999. After InDesign version 1.0 was released, I attended a seminar hosted by Adobe Systems where they explained their strategy and reasoning behind InDesign’s development. The main characteristic of InDesign’s code structure was that it relied heavily on plug-ins.

Plug-ins are specialized software add-ons which enhance the functionality of the main application or give it entirely new functionality. Generally, the main application was a large amount of code which formed the backbone of the application and plug-ins were smaller programs which did not alter the way the main application would work. QuarkXPress was like this and its functionality could be extended with “XTensions”. In essence, XTensions functioned the same as plug-ins. They added functionality to the main application without altering the way the main application would work

In the seminar that I attended, Adobe explained that with InDesign, they would take the concept of plug-ins to a whole new level. The InDesign application would be developed around a relatively small core application and everything else would be done by plugins. It was reasoned by Adobe that this would give them a tremendous advantage over QuarkXPress because it would significantly reduce development time to make small changes or even major upgrades. If the core application was very small, it would take less time to develop, and they could add or modify the supporting plug-ins.

At first, designers had complaints about InDesign version 1.0 so Adobe quickly responded and developed version 1.5. This was followed up with version 2.0 not long afterwards. It seemed that they were right about their strategy and the plug-in architecture of the program looked like it was paying off. Gradually, designers began to switch from QuarkXPress to InDesign.

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