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ATPM 4.10
October 1998


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings from a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

Mr. Manutius, I Presume.

Ahhh, to be young and in college.

I remember my Sophomore year at the University of Maryland as if it were yesterday. Blowing off classes when the bar down the corner advertised 25¢ pitchers of cheap beer. Waiting in line for basketball tickets to titanic match-ups at Cole Field House. Staying awake until 4 AM to finish the term paper that was due in five hours. Tackling laundry once a semester whether it needed to be done or not.

Yeah, those were the days.

It was way back when, in 1988, that I had my first experience with the Macintosh. Since the most sophisticated computer I had sat in front of up to that time was my trusty Commodore 64, I was not prepared for what I was about to see. There was this mouse thingy, it took those smaller, non-floppy floppies, and I didn’t have to type cryptic commands in BASIC to fire up the word processor. Boy, oh boy, did that Black and White monitor perched atop the school’s Mac II look sharp.

Well, I puttered around with MacDraw, MacPaint, and MacWrite for a while, and soon, I fancied myself pretty Mac savvy. I came to this conclusion because (a) I knew how to direct people to the Mac lab, (b) I discovered the neat trick about double-clicking icons to get programs to open, and (c) I knew how to transfer files from one floppy to another. I was The Man.

Little did I realize that I was about to be humbled. A few years later, I applied to work as an intern at the English Department’s computer lab. Once I started, I was told that two of my duties (besides turning the computer on and putting the boot disks into the floppy drives—that’s how they did it then!) was to put together the lab’s newsletter in and instruct two classes a week on a strange new program, PageMaker.

I immediately became a fan. Even though PageMaker 3 didn’t have a text editor and you couldn’t rotate text worth a darn, I was struck by the program’s power. That just ruled. I could lay text into columns and see what the page was going to look like before I had to print it. I could put pictures into my documents—pictures, I tell you. This was real Buck Rogers stuff! I experienced emotions probably not experienced since man learned how to harness fire’s power.

I responded to offers from Aldus for free goodies. The lab subscribed to Aldus magazine, and I still have issues going back as far as Volume 1, Issue 3 in March of 1990. Just as a point of reference, I was flipping through that issue recently and saw a Mac IIcx advertised at $4,669. A complete set up with an external 80 MB hard drive, 2-page monochrome monitor, keyboard, and a second 800k floppy drive weighed in at a cool $9,874. To think I complained when my LC 580 cost me $800 in 1995.

Aldus was a friend to me. I was reassured at startup when the portrait of Aldus Manutius, Renaissance-era Italian inventor of italic type and the source for the company’s name, flashed on the screen when I launched PageMaker. There was no desktop publishing task too large for me now!

After graduation, while money was tight, my wife and I never got around to purchasing a computer. Our new jobs in Florida didn’t pay so well, so we did without a computer for quite a while. Also, my first job in Florida was with an advertising agency that was not computerized. The owner of the agency, a long-time advertising and public relations veteran, was a shrewd guy who loyally stood by his IBM selectric. I used to run to the local Junior College, give a false name and ID number, and work on the computer lab’s SE/30s. And, thank goodness, they had PageMaker.

So, when I was hired at my current job, inherited the office’s IIcx, and recommended new software in 1994, you bet I recommended Aldus software across the board. Aldus PageMaker. Aldus FreeHand. OK, that was all I could recommend from Aldus. I avoided Adobe products like the plague. After all, Aldus, the King of Desktop Publishing Software, was going to be here forever. All those Adobe folks had to offer was some ATM thing I couldn’t understand and a program I was sure I would never use called Photoshop. I knew what Aldus had to offer, and I was confident that Aldus would not steer me wrong.

Of course, we all know what happened next. Aldus was swallowed by Adobe. I felt as if my best friend had moved away. I vowed that I would never upgrade my PageMaker 5, the last version Aldus churned out. No one would ever touch my Freehand 4! Those scoundrels at Adobe!

It was at this point where my two favorite Aldus programs took different paths. PageMaker was taken into the Adobe fold. FreeHand was split off, however, due to the fact that Adobe already had a great vector artwork program in Illustrator. At first, I was afraid that FreeHand would just be killed off, but that was not to be. Adobe sold FreeHand to a software developer I had never heard of, called Macromedia.

PageMaker, still the premier page layout software package in my mind, seemed to anchor its spot at the head of the class when Adobe purchased FrameMaker and eliminated more of the competition. Little did I realize that another program, QuarkXPress, was making huge inroads into PageMaker’s domain. In fact, I believe that Adobe was asleep at the switch when it came to updating PageMaker to version 6. While Quark offered designers a powerful suite of tools to fill the needs of Desktop Publishing professionals, Adobe stayed with the initial elements which Aldus had developed almost a decade before. Designers were clamoring for more from Adobe, but the release to 6.5 seemed to be geared towards giving PageMaker a more unified feel with the other Adobe Products. QuarkXPress had eclipsed Adobe’s PageMaker in the hearts of designers, and now firmly holds that place of honor.

Meanwhile, FreeHand landed squarely in the lap of Macromedia. It was already a decent program which was very comparable to the features offered by Illustrator. Macromedia could have just stayed the course, offering incremental upgrades when certain features were asked for, and still they would have presented users with a decent choice for illustration.

But, that was not the plan at Macromedia.

When version 5 was released, I was able to get an upgrade. The program had made a metamorphosis. Controls were easier to use. New features made the program a real winner for graphics professionals. Suddenly, an adequate program became the industry leader, with Adobe and others playing catch up.

Recently, the developer of PageMaker’s nemesis, Quark, made an offer to purchase Adobe outright. Granted, the offer didn’t come with a set price, and some of the wording was a tad ambiguous , but the message was clear—Quark wanted Adobe’s products in the fold.

The plan, as spelled out by Quark, was to purchase Adobe, bring programs such as Illustrator and Director under the Quark umbrella, and spin off PageMaker just as Adobe had done with FreeHand. This way, Quark would avoid questions about a monopoly on page layout software.

A poll of recent Seybold attendees (See the MacWEEK Article at showed that not one of the 500 designers questioned believed that a successful takeover bid would be a good thing. They cited a potential lack of competition between software developers as an impediment to good software development.


Think about it—when Adobe bought out Aldus and spun off FreeHand, I’m sure the Adobe leadership was thinking that FreeHand would languish while Adobe pushed Illustrator to the limits.

Instead, FreeHand is very much alive and well, thank you. FreeHand is beating up on Illustrator in some head-to-head reviews, and holding its own in others. In fact, from FreeHand, Macromedia has gone ahead to develop other outstanding products, with the recently released Fireworks for Internet graphics design garnering impressive reviews in Macworld.

If PageMaker were spun off to another aggressive developer—such as Macromedia—I would envision that it would get a new breath of life. The developer could take the loyal base of PageMaker users, ask them what features they wanted to see, and make PageMaker 7 something to contend with.

Well, a great many details would have needed to be worked out if Quark’s bid to purchase Adobe were to come to pass. Adobe has made it perfectly clear that they intend to hold their ground and not accept any offers made by Quark, and Quark has relented in its bid to purchase Adobe. To help bolster confidence, Adobe has also pushed up the date they demonstrated K2, their next-generation page layout software, in direct response to the offer made by Quark. Initial response to the new software has been encouraging. But, one has to wonder what took Adobe so long to respond to Quark’s push?

Adobe has been under the gun recently, posting lower-than-expected earnings. Stock prices have been plummeting. With the recent release of QuarkXpress 4.0, designers have been swayed even further away from the PageMaker camp. FreeHand still holds a lead over Illustrator. Photoshop, Director, and Premier stand as good examples of where Adobe is still king, but it still must be disheartening to see other companies taking the lead in the domain that Adobe has claimed as their own.

As far as I can see, if Quark had purchased Adobe, there could have been opportunities for other software developers to take Macromedia’s lead and crack the market wide open.

Then, maybe I could sit back at the loud, smoke filled bars of College Park and drink to the health of the graphics software market and to the memory of my old friend, Aldus Manutius.

[apple graphic] “Apple Cider” is © 1998 by Tom Iovino,

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