Adobe PageMaker struggles to draw its own audience
by Alan Zisman (c) 2001
First published in Business in
Issue #629 November 13-19, 2001, The High Tech Office column
Only a few software applications really deserve to be
known as "killer
apps": products that made customers want to rush out and buy a computer
in order to run them. Visicalc's spreadsheet in the late 1970s and Lotus
1-2-3 in the early 1980s drove sales to the original Apple II and IBM
Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator pushed computer sales in the
And with its original release in 1985, Aldus PageMaker
created the idea
of the computer as graphics and publishing tool and saved Apple's
Macintosh from its first near-death experience.
But even the purchase of Aldus by graphics powerhouse Adobe
has not kept PageMaker from falling from the cutting edge, as most
professionals adopted Quark
or Adobe's new InDesign and many Windows-using home and business users
turned to Microsoft Publisher. PageMaker has had only minor revisions
1997, with Adobe adding clip art and templates and targeting it at a
In a new attempt to bring the franchise back to life,
PageMaker 7 looks
on the surface like the last version, but offers several new features
to Adobe's vision of network publishing.
The company sees users adapting the same content to
print, the Web, handheld computers. Too often, content designed for one
medium doesn't work well when it's moved to another platform.
By allowing users to create tagged PDF files,
PageMaker tries to eliminate
that problem. These Adobe Acrobat-style documents are simultaneously
for print, online and handheld viewing; design once, view everywhere.
yes, PageMaker creates the PDF files itself. Users do not have to
a separate copy of Adobe Acrobat.
A new data-merge feature makes it easier to create
templates that can
be easily adapted to different versions for each customer. Text, such
addresses, can be brought in from standard spreadsheet and database
making it easier to create customized form letters or flyers.
Quark XPress documents (through version 4.1) can be
opened for work
in PageMaker and (not surprisingly) Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator
are supported. As well, the new version resolves issues that the older
versions had running under Windows 2000.
PageMaker's long history brings with it both benefits
It includes high-end printing capabilities, but comes with a steep
curve. Forget about wizards and animated assistants and be prepared to
spend time to learn to work with this one.
Adobe has included a little bit of handholding, but
only for its Windows
customers. They get a template browser to help manoeuvre through the
of business-oriented templates. Unfortunately, the thumbnail pictures
the documents are too small to be of much use. As well, there's a
palette for visually navigating the collection of professional clip art
(again, it's Windows-only).
Mac-using customers also miss out on the new Microsoft
toolbar included in the Windows product as well as the ability to work
with Microsoft Publisher files. With its higher-end products, Adobe has
done a good job of providing parity between its Windows and Mac
But PageMaker and Acrobat, both aimed at a mid-level business market,
left features out of the Mac packages.
Perhaps that's because a majority of high-end graphics
with Macs, while most business customers are PC-users. Or perhaps Adobe
feels that Windows users need more handholding.
At $800 ($120 upgrade), PageMaker 7 is an expensive
tool for its target
business market. It includes a lot of high-end features, but may be too
difficult to learn for many potential customers.
Next week, Microsoft Publisher 2002, also aimed at
who need to look good in print.