Note: This post was ready to go last night, but I (to be blunt) forgot to post it. Oops! Still getting back into the blogging habit.
After last week’s post, you must be wondering what I’m going to talk about here. (Well, maybe not, but _I_ sure was wondering what I’d be doing for this blog this week). I’m certainly not going to talk politics, or wade in on whatever the latest outrage is in the publishing industry. (I do think there have been some less controversial newsworthy stories in the publishing industry over the past couple months, but I don’t think I’d cover the one that comes to mind the most better than the articles I learned the story from) However, this week an offer came to my attention that actually gives me something to talk about.
For years, I’ve used Adobe InDesign CS6 to build my print books with. InDesign is professional-grade design software used for the creation of PDF files that meet the best standards of most printers and print shops. It is possible to create professional-looking print book without such software, but this kind of software provides specialty tools that can improve on that.
CS6 was the last non-cloud version of their software, which is the “industry standard” for book design, but it’s now several versions out-of-date, and the only updates for it require paying a monthly subscription fee. I far, FAR prefer paying one-time fees, I hate working on the Cloud (especially when it comes to software I am likely to use when I’m away from home and internet access is uncertain), and Adobe software and for as long as I typically use this kind of software, paying that subscription fee can be more expensive in the long run.
CS6 isn’t very instinctive to use, however, and can be difficult to work with. From what I’ve seen of it, the cloud-based updates are just as difficult to manage and more (because they need to add in the new features, many of which I’d never use). It also is showing signs of age; most of Adobe’s technical support for the product ended in 2014, and even the last bits of legacy support for the product ended in May of 2017. Worse, while I am still using Windows 7, I understand that CS6 is only partially compatible with Windows 10, so if I ever upgrade my operating system it will probably break my InDesign.
This has had me thinking about alternatives for a while, now. Much like Coke has major competitors in Pepsi (and smaller competitors in Royal Crown, Hansen’s, and other smaller soda companies), InDesign does have a couple major Industry-accepted competitors: Scribus (a freeware program I tried out for one project; it works, but the six year old version of InDesign I use felt more modern), Microsoft Publisher (sometimes bundled with Office; it’s considered something of an entry-level version of the software, and I believe more recent versions are also cloud-based subscription model-only software), and QuarkXPress.
QuarkXPress is the big one. Back when I was studying computer-aided design in college (this was more years ago than I care to admit), QuarkXPress WAS the industry standard, and while InDesign was gaining ground it was still number two. The courses I took in college were centered around… whichever version of QuarkXPress was the latest at the time (or Microsoft Publisher, depending on which class and which year). It was only when InDesign was bundled with Photoshop in the “Creative Suite” (2003…ish) that InDesign overtook them. At least, from what I remember of them both in 2003, when I last had access to the latest versions of each piece of software, QuarkXPress was a far more intuitive design. Since then, QuarkXPress has been a bit under-the-radar (and arguably they had a few years where their updates underperformed the competition, though I understand they’ve turned things around and have been producing an excellent product, again, for the last five years), but they still have a good product, and they are continuing to update it without tethering you to some cloud-based monthly rate model.
And I recently learned that QuarkXPress is offering a significant sale to anyone using one of their competitors’ products, and I think that’s too good an offer to pass up. I’ll still have InDesign CS6 around (at least until I switch computers) in case I want to update the old files, but I will be doing most of my work, going forward, using QuarkXPress.
So, when I get ready to prepare the print version of my next Law of Swords book (which is 90% written, based on word count estimates; I couldn’t possibly say based on outline, as I’ve thrown out the outline on this book, but that seems about right story-wise as well), it will be my first using the new software. I’ll let you know what I think of the experience as it happens.