Today we came up against a long-running fundamental flaw in InDesign: backwards incompatibility. Adobe needs to be careful it doesn’t end up like Quark.

Quick history lesson: Quark released QuarkXPress 5, which was incompatible with OS 9. Many companies were initially reluctant to move over the OS X for one reason or another (usually server related, also cost related). So everyone stuck with Quark 4. When Quark 6 came out it was backwardly-incompatible with Quark 4.

Design companies were faced with spending a huge wad to upgrade the whole of its design department from Quark 4 to Quark 6 at once – rather than doing it piecemeal by department. Most of the larger companies simply switched to InDesign instead. But has Quark learned its lesson. Has it heck. Quark 7 can’t play along with anything below Quark 5.

Adobe seems to have taken a leaf out of Quark’s book and created InDesign CS3, which is only compatible with CS2. Sadly, most companies are still using CS1 (because of the Rosetta issue – everybody waited for CS3 and the Mac Pro to come out). So now companies are faced with having to upgrade the whole department to CS3 at once.

If Adobe and Quark could do one thing for design companies. It would be this: 'Sort out the backwards compatibility so a user of InDesign CS3 and Quark 7 can elect to create and work on documents that another user on CS1 or Quark 6'. Even if the users have to forgo a few features, they’ll be infinitely grateful. As will companies who get to migrate from CS1 to CS3 piecemeal – rather than all at once.

Here’s an open message to both Quark and Adobe. There’s no better way to get companies to spend ‘nothing’ by giving them the choice between spending either ‘a fortune’ or ‘nothing’.