Desktop Publishing Marks 25 Years

It is hard to believe that July 2010 will mark the 25th anniversary of PageMaker. Introduced in 1985 by Aldus, the page layout program brought typesetting and design to the desktop computer and revolutionized the way the graphic industry created type.

PageMaker drove the sales of Apple Macintosh computers and LaserWriter printers and brought typesetting services to quick and small commercial printers. While a small number of quick printers had expensive proprietary typesetting equipment such as Compugraphic, Mergenthaler, and AM Varityper, most quick printers relied on the customers’ camera ready art or on type created by expensive typesetting services and service bureaus from the original.

Desktop computers running PageMaker quickly made the cold type machines obsolete as the output resolution climbed. The price of entry dropped and quick printers adopted desktop publishing. At the same time, they created what became known as the “black hole” of quick printing. Quick printers never seemed to understand the cost relative to the value of DTP services, and complained that their DTP departments never made money. Since the equipment was cheaper than cold type machines they could sell it for less. Right? Even today, studies show most printers still don’t charge enough to cover the costs of their prepress departments.

In September 1994, Aldus merged with Adobe. In 1999, Adobe released InDesign 1.0 in an attempt to recoup market share that PageMaker had lost to QuarkXpress. The success of InDesign meant the death of PageMaker. The last version, PageMaker 7.0, was released on July 9, 2001. Although updates have been released for the Mac and PC platforms, Adobe no longer supports PageMaker and most new computers will not run the program.

Birth of a Revolution

Today’s digital print shop owes its start to PageMaker. Because of PageMaker, more customers began to create their own professional looking documents. The additional documents drove quick printing sales. PageMaker created a new market that generated competitors such as Quark, Ready-Set-Go, Ventura Publisher, Microsoft Publisher, and others. Word processing programs improved their capabilities to provide DTP-like output. The DTP revolution moved the power to create a document into the hands of the consumer and the print world changed. When the customers needed copies of their documents, they took them to quick printers.

In the beginning, many printers scoffed at the quality of PageMaker documents and the 300 dpi output. “Customers won’t pay for that,” said some print experts. Those experts quickly learned that faster turnaround and pleasing typesetting quality had a huge market. The output that customers “wouldn’t buy” became something that most businesses wanted.

PageMaker started the digital revolution and quick printers are still trying to keep up. What was once the typesetting department is now the prepress department, and the computer drives every output device in the shop. It isn’t just a department that creates an original for print. Almost every job that prints in today’s shop goes through a computer at some point, and most of them touch the prepress department.

The 25th anniversary of PageMaker helps us realize how much things have changed. But it also shows how much things remain the same. Printers are still trying to figure out how to charge for prepress services.

Print in the Mix

Most printers don’t sell printing. They take orders for printing. This model worked 25 years ago, but now that that most businesses can support their everyday copy needs in house, printers have to get out and compete for the business that is left. This means a printer will have to get into conversations with customers about their printing needs and overcome objections that come up. There is a good source to help printers get the facts they need.

A grant from The Print Council, an alliance dedicated to promoting the greater use of print media, created Print in the Mix. It gathers verifiable and factual data that printers can use to make a case for print with their customers. The Print in the Mix Clearinghouse is housed at Rochester Institute of Technology and is published by the Printing Industry Center at RIT.

Print In the Mix ( recently posted a Wall Street Journal article about why electronic media really isn’t the answer to small business’ problems. According to the article, Alicia Settle was looking to cut costs so she thought it would be a good idea to eliminate her company’s annual $20,000 direct mailing budget. The company sells city diaries, albums, and planners in the struggling corporate gift market. But after swapping snail mail for email last year, Settle saw a 25% drop in early orders compared with the same period the previous year.

“We realized we had made a huge mistake,” says Settle, president of the New York firm. At first she blamed the economy for the drop off, until she “started hearing from customers that they never got their ‘reminder’ in the mail.” Settle quickly sent a postcard mailing, which recouped the 25% loss.

Direct mail is an important part of many printing businesses and it is still important in any company’s marketing strategy. Print in the Mix found a number of examples that printers can use to overcome the urban myths about today’s communication strategies.

For instance, ExactTarget commissioned a 2009 Channel Preference Study to examine the success of traditional and online media channels in driving purchases. The study found both young and old are still directly influenced by direct mail for the purchase of an item or a service more than any other channel.

Three out of four Internet users surveyed said they were directly influenced to purchase an item or a service thanks to a direct mail piece (76%). TV came in second at 67% and email third at 58%. Other influencing variables were:

  • Infomercials on TV, 39%
  • Phone, 17%
  • Social media, 8%
  • Text messaging, 7%
  • Instant messaging, 5%

Are young people turned off by direct mail? The study found that 75% of 25-34 year olds have made a purchase resulting from direct mail. An almost identical number have been directly influenced by a TV commercial. Young adults, 18-24 years old, are also most likely to be influenced by direct mail (62%), with older consumers even more likely to have made a purchase as a result of this channel. The only exception is for teens, where direct mail influenced purchases (55%) are second to television commercials (62%).

Is email the best way to communicate with customers and prospects? The study found that across every age group, email is third on the list of channels evaluated. It ranks behind direct mail and television commercials. Teens are least likely to have made online purchases through email (36%).

When you are developing your sales scripts to overcome the objections that Web technology is the best way to reach an audience, you need to review the wealth of information at Print in the Mix.

QR Codes on the Rise

One reason printers have to talk to customers is to tell them the benefits of QR Codes. The Quick Response (QR) Code is a technology that could benefit printers by linking the physical printed world with the cyber world. Users scan the code that is printed on the document with a mobile smart phone and are immediately connected to information on the Internet. It is big in Japan and Europe and is starting to show up in marketing materials in North America.

Some QR Code users want more than just a black and white code, so Teacup Software has introduced an add-on named Barcoder that will allow users to create QR Codes with InDesign. The program will cost $169. The add-on gives the user the ability to alter the QR code into a vector format, allowing them to color or alter the code easily. This would let the printer add images, logos, pictures and such into a QR Code without altering the effectiveness of the code. For more information, visit

And while you are writing scripts to help sell to customers, you might want to source International Paper’s Down to Earth series. The series will provide you with good information about the printing industry and what is happening with paper as well as print’s role in sustainability. To find out more, visit

Topics in the series include: Where Does Paper Come From, Is Recycled Paper the Best You Can Do, How Big is Your Carbon Footprint, Pixels vs. Paper, The Benefit of Certification, How Does Using Paper Lead to More Trees, and Is It Worth Printing.