Digital Original: Fallout from the Move to Subscription-based Software

It is getting a lot more expensive to be a graphic designer. This summer graphic designers and printers received a shock when Adobe forced all users to move to its cloud system and a monthly subscription charge. No longer will users be able to buy a boxed version and avoid upgrade costs. Quit paying the monthly fee, and users lose access to the programs.

Almost immediately, Quark announced it would only support upgrading from one previous version of QuarkXPress to the current version. With the new Quark 10 shipping this month, Quark will no longer provide a low-cost upgrade path for users of older versions. Only licensed users of QuarkXpress 9 will get a price incentive to upgrade. More importantly, Quark 10 will only support opening documents saved in QuarkXpress 7 and above.


The Fallout Zone

The new policies from the page layout giants are expected to have a major impact on causal users and independent graphic designers. Printers will be able to recoup the added expense of new software and monthly subscriptions with a slight price increase, but other users may find the costs too high.

Quick printers should prepare for an increase in low-cost page layout alternatives from small business customers and home users. Unable or unwilling to spend the higher dollars on a high-end professional software package, casual users will start creating their files in applications that aren’t normally supported by print shops.

Printers should see a jump in customers using Microsoft Publisher. Publisher 2013 is the latest version, and costs $110 as a standalone program. It is also bundled with Microsoft Office 2013. The much maligned program saw major updates in 2007 and 2010, and the 2013 version continued the improvements to the program. Microsoft has built in a number of features that make it easier for commercial printers to manage graphics, fonts, and color and to output the files.

Publisher fits the needs of most small business and home users who need layout assistance, and can easily be output as a PDF file for commercial printing. Like any program, the creator must set up the files correctly for them to convert properly into a print-ready PDF. Since most printers have tools to quickly correct basic PDF problems, taking PDF files created in Publisher shouldn’t be a problem. There are more Publisher users than InDesign and QuarkXpress combined, so any printer who refuses to support Publisher files will be making a major marketing mistake.


Options and Variety

Another page layout application that is expected to get a close look from price-conscience users is Scribus, a freeware desktop publishing application. According to online reviews, Scribus has a full complement of useful features that compare favorably to more expensive competitors, including a PDF export feature, and it has a detailed website for support and training.

As the page layout landscape changes in the coming months, one of the big winners should be Markzware. The company has products that will convert Quark files to InDesign files, InDesign files to Quark files, and Publisher files to InDesign files. Its PDF2DTP converts PDFs into either InDesign or Quark format. If printers require their customers to provide PDF files, PDF2DTP can convert the file into something that the printer can edit.

The jury is still out as to how the marketplace will react to the new Adobe Creative Cloud and limited upgrade options from Quark, but most are predicting the small user will be ignored by the page layout leaders. Printers must review their customer-created file procedures and make sure they train their customers in the proper way to submit a print-ready file.

Printers must either become proactive about enforcing standards when dealing with customers’ files, or prepress departments will continue to lose money and be unproductive.


John Giles is a consultant and technology director for CPrint International. He is the author of “12 Secrets for Digital Success” and “The DTP PriceList”. He can be reached at 954-224-1942 or