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ATPM 12.09
September 2006


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by Mark Tennent,

Power of the Press?

One of the fishermen I buy from has a 24-hour answerphone message service. Dial the number and his gruff voice says: “Fish. At about 10:30 AM. That’s fish. At 10:30 AM.” There’s no finesse about it, just stating the facts. But that’s the nature of a man who sets out to sea alone in an open boat, all year round. Then, hours later, returns and drags his boat above the high water line next to his stall where he sells the day’s catch. The fish are still flapping when he puts his knife in to cut off the fillets for the queue of customers always ready for him. Even in the depths of winter we have stood on the rainy, wind swept beach, alongside us another patient queue of sea gulls also waiting for dinner to arrive.

Other people are more natural with an answerphone. The market gardener we use is almost too friendly. His announcements start something along the lines of: “Gooood morning. It’s a lovely day here, the birds are singing, the sun is shining and, it’s about half past four in the morning.” How anyone can more than mumble at that time of day is beyond me, but he continues to list all the fresh stock he has in his usual style of jovial bonhomie.

When my telephone rang at 7:45 one morning recently, I was in the shower. A call at that time of day is either bad news or a wrong number. Both of our elderly parents are hanging on to get their telegram from the Queen on their 100th birthdays. It seemed prudent to finish dressing and then listen to my answerphone messages—bad news always seems worse if you take it naked.

However, this was not bad news. The message was from a nice-sounding lady calling from Quark in North America. She and her colleagues were to call me a further six times that day, all seeming desperate to help me. Perhaps this is due to VoIP making international communication virtually free? Although I decided VoIP wouldn’t save me anything because calling America only costs £0.15 per minute anyway, and that’s on my pay-as-you-go cell phone network. My landline is even cheaper.

The calls from Quark were to try to help me with two problems I’d been having. First, I couldn’t get the 7.0.1 upgrader to work. It crashed every time and just getting hold of the software meant completing an online form—with the same details I’ve been sending to Quark for more than a decade—before the upgrade could be downloaded. Then, the upgrader requires the 48-character, alphanumeric verification code printed in one long “word” in the original packaging. This is best done as a two-man job. After going through the process three or four times, downloading another copy of the upgrade (after another long form to complete), and having that to crash during the upgrade as well, I turned to the Net. It seemed I was not the only one with the problem. Various suggestions were tried, including entering the validation code from QuarkXPress 6, another 48 character “word.”

Finally, in the style of racing drivers who press the pedal to the metal, pressing fingers to the plastic, I put in a request to Quark for help and started to bleat about Quark at various Mac sites.

Recently a problem with Adobe’s Help System had needed their excellent support service, so it was easy to compare the two software companies. In the case of Adobe, reading through the crash report showed it was the inclusion of Opera 7 inside the Help System package that was the root of the problem. Adobe’s suggestion was to set up a new user account—not easy with all the special stuff in my Library folder. My solution was first to dump Opera out of the package as a get-up-and- running answer. Then to troubleshoot Opera 7 by erasing everything off the Mac that had anything to do with Opera before installing a fresh version of Adobe Help System. Problem one solved!

I told the forums where I was bleating about Quark that last week I designed two books, both similar in appearance and size, with extensive stylesheets controlling elaborate layouts and so on. The stuff of a jobbing designer and something I can do with my eyes closed. One book took two days, the other five hours, the first done in QuarkXPress 7 and the other in InDesign CS2. The reason for the difference was simply because one package is streets ahead of the other and doesn’t crash. Also, compare the difference in their upgrades. Adobe’s downloads discreetly in the background and then politely asks if it can have permission to upgrade itself. No 48 characters to type in or forms to complete.

This is also what was said to the nice Quark lady who had telephoned me. She listened, and later her colleague called to ask my address to send a completely new version of QuarkXPress 7. In the meantime, the nice lady asked for any problematic files I could send—an easy task. One recent poster job would not make a PDF correctly, so this was despatched to Quark. To complete that job I’d had to make a duplicate InDesign version to make the proofing low resolution and printer’s high resolution PDFs as well as a QuarkXPress version for compatibility with my client’s systems. The nice lady called again, with the solution—turn off the OPI XTension if jobs won’t make PDFs in QuarkXPress. Problem two solved!

Throughout the day, more Quark people called me, all offering advice with my bleatings until I asked one where he had got my name and number from in the first place. “A Web site” was the response. This is exactly what the Internet is for. Typing just about any manufacturer’s name into Google, followed by the word “sucks,” will reveal page after page of disgruntled customers. Obviously Quark now reads its bad publicity and takes steps to address it. I had written to Version Tracker and Macsimum News amongst others, and Quark had taken note, looked up my telephone number, and contacted me.

Excellent! It’s the power of the press, or in this case, rigid digits on the keyboard.


A few days later, DHL delivered a fresh, boxed version of QuarkXpress 7.01, boxed and with a manual. I installed this, but retained copies of QuarkXPress 6 and 7.0 on the hard disk in a moment of inspired forward thinking. The current work-in-hand, Top Dogs (a large format book destined for the US market), had been started in version 7.0, and there seemed no difference between it and the new copy Quark had sent. That is, other than one being a Universal Binary and more than double the size of the older PPC-ony version. At last Top Dogs was finished, made in 10 files because of the number of images it contained, then saved as QuarkXPress 6 for compatibility with the imaging bureau.


The files wouldn’t open in QuarkXPress 6. A call to Quark’s previously good help line and a broken promise to call me back in 20 minutes left me with that cold sinking feeling in the stomach. The files work fine in both my versions of QuarkXPress 7 but cannot be opened by QuarkXPress 6. After an agonizing wait for Quark’s call and as an act of desperation I re-saved the files from QuarkXPress 7.0 instead of QuarkXPress 7.0.1 and with a huge feeling of relief found these new ones could be opened by QuarkXPress 6.

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