Tuesday, 4 December 2007

I hate Quark

I really, really do. I just can't contain my rage any longer. I just downloaded the 7.3 update and it killed my copy of Quark, so I get to write this rant whilst reinstalling the whole thing AGAIN.

Remember Quark 4? The all conquering application that was the staple for publishing printed media? I learnt Quark on 4.0 with it's weird little world of backward short cuts ("Command - E" for I-mport? who's idea was that?!) but it was the standard. You didn't question it because it's all there was. Ok, so there was page maker and the "lesser" applications like publisher but quark was king. Got my first job in a studio and bang! Quark 4, Photoshop 6, Illustrator 8, get on with it! No problemo...

Then, my missus got a job at the BBC. They had recently switched to InDesign which came with the newly released Creative Suite. She came back from training raving about it. "It's just like Illustrator but with a multi page layout!" she cried as if she'd died, gone to heaven and been pulled back to earth to be told "Yes, Earth and Heaven is now the same place."

See, designers love Illustrator. Why? Because it's a free creative environment. It's vector based so it runs quickly, you copy-drag ideas around a vast artboard, grabbing bits, merging and splicing at will. Quark is practically the opposite of this. Want to place a picture? Well, how big is it? Where do you want it? There? Where's that then? Which font? Nope, wrong font type can't deal with that one. Now, you want a table of information? Why would you want to change the line weight? You'll have to find my sub menus. I give you a clue, it's in the preferences that I just lost. No, wrong tool! Double clicking won't help you there! You need to hold down 5 keys to do that. Which ones? You think I'd know, wouldn't you? Oh, and I just lost where all your pictures were kept too. You'll have to import them again.

I remember the great Kevin Cornell describing designing with Quark "like trying to draw Mount Rushmore with an Etch-a-sketch" on a message board.

You see Quark wasn't designed for designers. It was designed by technicians to do a job. "Put picture here, put text here, print." I used to design (still do actually) on paper or in Illustrator and remake in Quark as it's so anti-creative. I've had to developed a new mental workflow which requires imagining the entire layout before beginning. Super annoying for a guy who likes to push things around and see where they go.

I got Quark 7 at work about a year ago. I had hoped they would take on board the threat from InDesign and add in some more creative elements. Copy dragging, outlining fonts, additional image previews, multi image importing... nope. Drop Shadows. That's what they managed. Oh and a new properties bar made utterly useless if you know the shortcuts that Quark pretty much requires you to know to use it effectively.

In fact Quark is so reliant on it's users knowing shortcuts that I know of one recruitment firm that devised a test for it's DTP applicants involving a shortcut Q&A, i.e. "Centre text. A: Shift-Alt-M, B: Shift-Alt-C..." and handed you a print out and an unplugged keyboard to "help".

To add insult to injury with Quark 7 they even managed to screw up a load of things that previously worked fine. My version has never imported pdf's consistently and struggles with rendering CMYK .eps and .tiff files to the same colour. How basic is that? How can you not fix that stuff?

So why don't you switch to InDesign then Reeko? Well, I can't. My boss requires me to use Quark because he doesn't want to learn InDesign. I can see it in my Dock, taunting me. Crying out for me to switch! Oh well. Quark will die soon. People will have to switch. Hopefully.