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A Potted History Of Prepress & Desktop Publishing

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Conventional wisdom would suggest that Apple computers were effectively the creators of DTP or Desktop Publishing with the advent of the Apple Macintosh in the mid 80’s. In reality it goes much further back than that. Many of the innovations that power DTP were thought up at Xerox. Doug Engelbart invented the mouse whilst at Xerox. The Mouse was crucial in navigating the GUI.

Early Days
Most of the graphical user interface team left Xerox and went their own separate ways. Many went on to be founding members of Microsoft and Apple. Through the efforts of Apple, HP, Adobe and Aldus the building blocks for desktop publishing were laid down. With the exception of Aldus corporation which became defunct in 1994 the other 3 are still major players in the DTP industry.
For the first time, people without a technical background in computing were able to get to grips with the graphical user interface (GUI) offered by Apple in combination with the Aldus PageMaker and Adobe PostScript software.

The 90’s
Throughout the 90’s things began to hot up as technology advanced and software companies bought each other. Adobe consolidated its position by buying Aldus and offering other software packages that were complimentary to the sphere of DTP such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. QuakXpress knocked PageMaker from the top slot as preferred dtp development tool primarily due to the extensibility of its plugins known as ‘Xtensions’. In the last decade Adobe has fought back with the provision of InDesign. Like Quark Adobe makes use of extensions that also integrate very well with its suite of other products. Adobe Acquired Macromedia in 2005 and in doing so swallowed up Flash, Freehand, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, ColdFusion, Director and Authorware. While some of these programs were duplicates of existing Adobe software they were often superior in some ways.Adobe InDesign has been stealing ground from Quark in the last 10 years and in some areas replacing it completely.

The Future
Quark rested on its laurels for too long and while it did a lot in versions 6 and 7 to catch up the game has changed again. With the relentless onward march of the web, environmental considerations focusing on unnecessary printing and the advent of tablets, ebooks and smart phones, DTP as a term sounds archaic even if the design principles underpinning it are as relevant today as they ever were. Both Quark and Adobe are promoting hard the ability of their packages to publish across all platforms, wherever the customer may be. Adobe in Particular now offers its entire suite of software via the cloud for a monthly fee that is within the reach of most designers and developers. Many have come and gone but most of the original players in DTP are still at the vanguard of the industry today.

Jonathan Frazier gives us a summary of the history of desktop publishing, writing here for Finesse Group Ltd

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