The battle between Quark and Adobe for the destop publishing market continues, but the outcome isn't cut-and-dried, Macworld Online readers believe.

We asked readers to reveal if they planned to move to XPress 7 when it ships. 776 readers voted, the majority (63 per cent, 490 people) saying they'll stick with InDesign - for now.

Customers, customers, customers

Quark has been engaged in straightening out its public image and focusing resources on furnishing better customer support and becoming a more approachable firm.

Adobe meanwhile has been merging with Macromedia and working hard to consolidate its position as one of the world's leading software providers.

These two company strategies have been noted by designers, who take an interest in both products because they are applications that, in many cases, they use on a daily basis.

The poll results reveal that 16 per cent of readers (124 voters) will upgrade to XPress 7 from version 6 or an earlier version of the application. However, 6 per cent (47 voters) will stick with an earlier version of XPress, at least for now.

The results also reveal that 44 voters (6 per cent of voters who voted) will switch back to XPress from InDesign. A further 69 voters (9 per cent) will switch to XPress from another (unnamed) DTP application.

Readers welcome friendly Quark

Commenting on the poll, Macworld Online readers confirmed that they recognise how far Quark has come to make itself a more approachable company.

"Quark are nicer than Adobe these days - which is a big change," one reader wrote. "Quark support now destroys Adobe's. That is very scary indeed," said another.

Another reader observed: "Quark blew it, but it's now doing an amazingly good impression of a company that has learned some massive lessons, while Adobe seems to have gone downhill in a big way."

The Intel problem

Adobe's recent revelation that it won't ship versions of its creative applications that will work natively on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs until 2007 has frustrated some customers.

However, the decision may not be terminal, as pro users aren't yet ready for an Intel Mac: "I won't be considering a new Intel Mac for some time and I am more than happy with the Creative Suite but when I do upgrade - chances are I'll stay with Adobe," a reader wrote.

But the 2007 schedule annoys many: "It's ironic that as Quark gets its house in order, many see Adobe as becoming a little complacent," a reader remarked, adding, "however, at the moment most Mac professionals are not using Intel machines and by the time even a significant proportion are, Universal CS3 will be on the market."

Adobe has said that making its creative applications would require a rewrite of much of its application code. It's a rewrite many designers may welcome: " InDesign is so slow and it grabs all available memory thus slowing down all other applications. If I could do it cheaply, I'd move back to XPress, plus, it's Universal so will run like the wind on a Core Duo - unlike InDesign," one wrote.

In with InDesign

InDesign has its champions: "I'll be sticking with InDesign for now, at least. Quark has possibly still the largest slice of the pro DTP market, largely because of Industry inertia. It took a lot for some to switch to Adobe. The fact that so many did is testimony to how badly Quark dropped the ball a few years ago."

The reader added: "Quark must rise to the challenge just to maintain a holding pattern. Having recently made a huge commitment in order to shift over, few of the 'converts' are likely to swing back in Quark's direction without forcefully compelling reasons."

Readers observe that while there's a comparison between XPress and InDesign, when the sheer breadth of applications contained within Adobe CS are considered, there's little comparison, with CS clearly offering the most complete suite of integrated design solutions.

"I fail to see how Quark can offer the level of integration that Adobe can with its Creative Suite," a reader wrote.

Focus on customers

Designers seem keen for the competition between the two companies to continue. They hope that its intensity will spur both firms on to deliver better, stronger products.

"I still think Quark has a lot to offer and I certainly don't want to see Adobe grabbing a monopoly on the graphics industry," one reader observed.

Adobe does have an Achille's Heel, readers believe - its focus on shareholder value and its need to prove that value following its acquisition of Macromedia.

"The problem that I see is that Adobe was initially run by the founders, who just liked making good software," a reader wrote. "Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen wants to make Adobe massively profitable."

Quark hasn't revealed when it plans to ship XPress, but its second public beta software release times out this week.