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Looking for Inter Set’s Quoin

This is not a tip about InDesign. This is a plea for help. Once upon a time (very early 90s) there was a typesetting program called Quoin that gave users far more control over type than PageMaker or QuarkXPress. I never actually used it, but people raved to me about it. I have been searching for a copy ever since.

In fact, I remember talking to some folks on the InDesign 1.0 (K2) team about it back in 1998 or 1999 and they asked me what it did that QX didn’t, and perhaps InDesign should do. I didn’t know what to tell them. In fact, this mystery still bothers me to this day, as I still have never found this program, screen shots from it, feature lists, or the original manual (which I would assume has all of the above). I know it existed; I just found evidence at googlebooks.

So please forgive this atypical blog post. I just keep hoping that someone out there in indesignsecrets land can put this mystery to rest. Anyone? Hey, I’ll offer a signed book or video as a reward to anyone who can send me Quoin!

David Blatner

David Blatner

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
David Blatner

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17 Comments on “Looking for Inter Set’s Quoin

  1. Thanks, Eugene. I think that’s the page at google books I had found, too. Don’t worry, I have plenty of old computers around here I could run it on. But I’d be pretty happy even just going through the manual to mine it for details.

  2. That brings back memories. Back around 1990 or ’91, I went to a two-day graphics art event in San Diego. We visited several local companies (typesetters, art studios, color separators, etc.)

    At one of the locations, they showed a demo of Quoin. All the traditional typesetters in the group loved it. At that time, they were all worried that the desktop tools were going to put them out of business. After seeing Quoin, they started feeling like their jobs might be safe. Of course, that was short lived.

    I also remember seeing a Sitex machine that cost close to $1 million. It didn’t do half of what today’s Photoshop can do.

    Makes me think back to technical pens, waxers, and rub off type.

  3. @David: The links that Maciej just posted have addresses, I wonder if you can track it down that way somehow? They aren’t there anymore obviously, but it could possibly be a start, right?

  4. @GregB: Yes… I have a few real quoins around here, too, along with a huge drawer of metal type. But no printing press yet. ;) In the meantime, I’m still a software guy.

  5. @Maciej: Thank you for the links; that led me to many other links, but all dead ends. Frustrating! I will keep searching.

  6. I found two references in german language via Google.

    First is a google cache from the 1991 archives of Computerwoche. An Apple dealer announced a german version of Quoin. Features: kerning editor for upto 1024 pairs per font, automatic justification, vertical spacing, form and contour setting, true tables with automatically extended lines, vertical alignment of text fields. Supports postscript and other typesetters.

    The other is a U2U forum request in MacWelt magazine, 2002. The poster “Grufti” introduces Quoin as developed by two brothers together with their 3B2 (!) system, and he was searching for dongles in that post – apparently he already has an old installation running. He quotes estimates of about 70 installations in Germany. I just invited him to this thread via the private mail function of the forum.

    Maybe you follow the trail of 3B2 / Arbortext / PTC?

  7. Hi, I read you are looking for a typesetting program that controls type more accurately than the desktop publishing programs we use today.

    Quoin was only popular with MAC. Superior to that and any other hard-driven programs with finite kerning and tracking capabilities was the Magna system. In the very early 90s it came out with a desktop setup, but easily could switch to the key coded version if you, like I am, accustomed to coding it all yourself! I’m not sure if this company is still in business, Ventura CA. Probably extinct as a Dinasor.

    You might have some luck getting in contact with vendors by calling pre-press or off-set printing companies since they are pretty much the only companies who would use this type of equipment.

    Contact Linotype in Hauppauge, Long Island, NY They would know!

  8. Its been a while since I heard the name ‘Quoin’.
    We used it quite extensively for a short period of time in the early 90’s. It had nothing on today’s software obviously, basically it was code with a preview of what your page would look like, with limitations and slowness.
    If you were to try and set it up now I should point out that you will need a dongle, probably best to get the actual keyboard that went with it too!
    Funny how software/hardware we were so keen to bin all those years ago can be someone’s desire nearly 20 years later!
    Good luck!

  9. Hey David,

    If you are still looking for the keyboard, dongle and software with manuals, we are about to remove these from our storage room and recycle them. We have 2 keyboards, 2 dongles (one may not be working if I remember correctly), two sets of software packages, and manuals in boxed sets. Let me know if your interested.

    This was a very precise typesetting Software/Keyboard system for the Mac (in it’s day), but had a long and complex learning curve. Most desktop users today, that have had little or no experience with traditional systems will find it difficult at best to learn.


  10. Hi David, it was interesting to come across your request for information on Quoin. I was a programmer/ analyst with Interset Computers in Frome, England from 1986 to 1990. As such I helped develop the software along with a great team of engineers and programmers. All hardware was proprietary until it was moved over to the Apple platform. Key to its design were several very knowledgeable old time typesetters who applied their technical knowhow to the emerging desktop publishing market. Note that on the original hardware was a keyboard with about 200 keys. Operators hated using the slow mouse controls and could be far more productive using keyed commands or programmed command buttons.
    Sorry to say that I have no manuals – just lots of happy memories of the early development of what was a superior typesetting product. If I can be of any further help then you only need ask.


    • Hi David and Geoff. Quoin – an excellent typesetting program – we still use it. We are in the next town to Frome – Warminster, across the county border in Wiltshire. We had gone into computer typesetting back around 1984 with a very basic Macintosh (made in England!) system and a Composer machine that would show the layout. This we kept for a few years, then I saw Quoin at Ipex (also saw another program from a Swindon-based firm that ran on pre-Windows computers, but can’t remember what it was called). We went for Quoin, compared to today it was expensive, but these were development times and many printing unions were against the progress as it would make staff redundant; so sales were not massive. For our training we went over to Frome for several days to give us the basics – we were all hot-metal comps and settled into it quite well. Still that’s history; if you want to see something still produced by it then the Warminster Journal – one of the first fully computer set papers – is still being published. As is most of our jobbing work.

      • That other program would be Advent 3B2. That product still lives on as something called PTC Arbortext Layout Developer. Available as desktop or server. It is pricey but does have all the typesetting controls you could ever dream of. It is also fully automatable with Javascript, far in excess of InDesign or Typefi. Funnily enough one of my colleagues worked at Interset plc too.

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