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Poll Results: What was the first layout program you used?

Hey folks, it’s time once again to review the results of a poll and launch a new one.

This past month, we asked what was the first page layout program you used.

The results show that InDesignSecrets community has plenty of seasoned veterans who have been doing this kind of stuff for many years. The number one response was PageMaker, with just over 34% of the vote, followed by QuarkXPress at 22.5%. Less than one quarter of respondents started their page layout careers using InDesign. And less than 9% of respondents started with a Creative Cloud version of InDesign—about the same number who came from Microsoft Publisher.

Here’s a chart showing the results.

poll results for the question "what was the first page layout program you used"

New poll: Do you grid?

Now it’s time to vote in our new poll (on the right side of the window), which asks how often you use a grid-based approach to designing page layouts. Let us know if you’re a grid guru, gridophobic, or somewhere in between.

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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33 Comments on “Poll Results: What was the first layout program you used?

  1. I replied XPress (3.31!), but actually, I am wrong.

    The first ever layout design software I used was at my father’s work, late 80s, and it was the one installed with the Xerox Documenter computer. Does anyone recall the name of the software? There was a “Paint-like” software as well, and I design my first logo. I was about 12.

  2. Does anyone remember “displaywrite”? I used it in 1996, I think. It ran on a xt or AT from IBM.

    • Displaywrite was IBM’s word processor designed to look like the displaywrite typewriters.. Horrible program … Wouldn’t support most printers (apart from the … Displaywriter printer from IBM)… I converted a whole company from Displaywrite to Wordprefect by letting one person try Wordperfect….

  3. I’m surprised that the list didn’t include one of the oldest and, for long, and complex documents, still one of the best. That is Adobe’s Framemaker. It was my first page-layout program.

    The only distinction between it and the others actually tilts in FM’s favor. It does not force you to deal with pages as such. For instance, you don’t put a graphic on the upper-right of page 48 and be forced to move it should more text be added. You place the graphic in the flow of the text and tell FM to place that graphic on the upper-right of the next page, whatever that might be. For any document, that avoids a lot of niggling around. For long and constantly changing technical documents, that’s a dream.

    FM also illustrates how epub should be done. The constantly changing page/screen size of epub documents should deal with graphics as intelligently as FM does, giving the person doing layout control over pages/screens. FM is reflowable text down well. Epub is reflowable text done stupidly.

    I am not sure how old FM is, but I do know that it was around in late 1980s when I was doing tech docs for Boeing. Even then it was an impressive product. It deserves more respect and its features need to be copied more.

    • FrameMaker on the NeXT computer was what I settled on after a couple of years of wondering about investing in computers for newspaper production. It was a great choice, and in combination with some of the other NeXT software (to say nothing of the operating system) I was doing things in 1990-95 more quickly and beautifully than I can now. Adobe’s purchase of FrameMaker was apparently more for the purpose of neutralizing a major competitor that for taking over the further development and marketing of a great product. I could never figure out how a program that was design for the NeXT system would be unavailable for OSX, when Apple’s OSX was based on the NeXT OS!

  4. Has anyone heard of MagnaType? This was an MSDOS-based code-driven page layout program requiring a minimum of 512K of RAM (that’s K, not MB). It’s amazing that most of the features of the program, to this day, surpass those offered by InDesign. It’s true that over some five years of use it ended up costing me about $15,000 for the software and updates, but it was well worth the investment because at the time, it trounced all other competitors.

    Before that, I did typesetting on a Compugraphic phototypesetter. Although intended to be a paragraph-by-paragraph composer, using tricks such as xy coordinate shifts and connecting horizontal and vertical line segments made “page layout” typesetting possible.

  5. Being from Britain, we were slightly behind the US with most typesetting programs and systems but I trained as an Apprentice Hot Metal Compositor for a Book Printer, however, their first phototypesetting system was a Photon 713 model. I later went on to use a Compugraphic Universal II, Addressograph Multigraph and Linotronic systems before the advent of the Apple Mac.

  6. My first layout program was PageMaker 1 ( beta ) on Windows 1 in 1987. Followed by Ventura Publisher on DOS/GEM also in 1987.


    • I was just slightly behind you, Uwe. I don’t remember the versions, but I first used Pagemaker on an MS-DOS machine starting about 1990 or so. Everything on the computer ran in MS-DOS, except Pagemaker. When I would start Pagemaker up, a standalone Windows shell would boot up first. My experience on a (56K) Mac in college, and working in Pagemaker using that Windows shell made me the in-house expert when the entire company transitioned to a Windows environment in about 1992.

    • I remember watching a demo of PageMaker beta and thinking, “OMG, this is Mickey Mouse publishing. Rulers and guides, but no option to enter a value for size or position.” At the time, I was teaching for Compugraphic (starting in 1984), with the MCS and then the PowerView. I did a short stint in the early 80’s with Compugraphic output on ticker tape (don’t recall the model).

    • Yep Pagemaker from Aldus… Helped beta ver 4.0. It included both windows286 & windows386 OS shell. I also looked at Ventura Publisher but found it “kludgy”…

  7. 1984…MacPublisher from Boston Software. It came on 12 floppies and if you didn’t have a 2 floppy drive setup you were going to be swapping disks for quite a while. What added to the fun was the fact that they apparently had quality control issues. I had to send back for replacement disks twice before getting a complete installation. It worked pretty well and had some interesting features like a see-through ruler but PageMaker came along soon after.

  8. Fishtank mac, larger b&w monitor, and it must have been 1985 or so. No manual, no idea how it really worked. I was an art director with no computer experience. It was fascinating. Learned to typeset my own text for manual paste-up and then started doing ads. Later taught PageMaker, QuarkXPress, Publisher, and InDesign from the start. What a wild ride.

  9. Actually, the first page layout program was made out of bits and pieces by Xerox Imaging Systems (was DataCopy before Xerox bought us). We made the first high resolution digital camera and display and demonstrated them by creating a printed newsletter with pictures and text overnight at a major publishing conference. It was not a product but it worked and we were negotiating with the Ventura folks when they announced that Xerox had worked out a licensing arrangement with them. So the first commercial DTP product I used was Ventura.
    Right after that, we introduced the first desktop scanner. B&W and only 200 dpi, it sold for $7,800 and they went like hotcakes.

  10. Quark Xpress. I have very fond memories of learning it while I was nursing my daughter! I loved that program. However if you ever had to deal with their customer service, you know they were rude and arrogant, kind of a “We know we’re the best so we don’t need to bother with common courtesies” approach. Then Apple changed the Mac from the inside out (was that OSX?)…and at a certain point Quark wouldn’t run on the newer computers. At all. FOR TWO YEARS. And Adobe cleverly was 1) ready with InDesign and 2) offered it, if I remember correctly, free for the new Macs. (It does frequently seem as though Adobe is following in the arrogance footsteps though…)

  11. Professional Page for Amiga in the 1980-ies was a program way, way ahead of it’s time – and costeffective (both the computer and the program) compared to the ridiculous prices of anything with an apple on it (some things never change). I remember we bought a used Apple laser printer for 5 x the cost of an Amiga computer.

  12. I used a combination of PageMaker and Freehand — oh how I loved Freehand! I was SOOOOO sorry when it was eventually phased out and entirely replaced with Illustrator. It was so much easier to use and did so much more. (sigh)

    • At the time of freehand I think Corel was coming on real strong I thought CorelDraw “was the bees knees”.

      • I worked for a manufacturing firm, and used Pagemaker to create user manuals and project sheets for their projects. Any time we had a non-photographic element (like an exploded diagram of one of our products), I would use exacto knife and a glue stick to add that graphic into an updated version of our documentation, which would be sent out for printing. If arrows needed to be added, they were hand-drawn with a fine tip marker. If arrows were removed, White-Out was my best friend.

        My boss had a subscription to PC Magazine, and I remember the first time I read about Corel Draw. I knew it had the potential to completely overhaul the graphic part of my workflow. I wrote up a proposal including a detailed business case for purchasing the program (I was a 22 year old overachiever, what can I say). I was SO excited to get the program and start recreating our line drawings digitally–some of those pasted images were getting pretty beat up looking.

  13. I missed the poll, but I started with Ready, Set, Go! And I think I used it on my Mac Plus with 20MB external hard drive… but I could be wrong about that.

  14. Wow! For me, it was Compugraphic Systems 3th (no wysiwyg) & 4th generation, just before triyng in 89… FleetStreet on Atari?! Xpress and FreeHand during 3 years in early 90’s, XPress untill Y2K and so on… still on the wave.

  15. LOL. You could have asked how old are you all? Looks like more than half of us are pretty darn old! Ah, the smell of hot wax in the morning. Beats Bestine fumes in the afternoon.

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