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The QuarkXPress 9 Saga

by Graham Needham (BH) on 1st June 2013

Quark have been around for a long time and back in the 90s they were the king of Desktop Publishing (DTP) software albeit they were a nightmare company to deal with and they abused their users in so many ways. When Adobe finally killed PageMaker and introduced InDesign it was so bad it was painful but it was less pain then Quark so almost everyone jumped ship (as usual, Quark didn't help themselves by not having an OS X version of Quark available for ages). However, in the light of recent Adobe shenanigans with their move to subscription only software many people will be looking at alternative software products. One of the alternatives to InDesign is QuarkXPress. We have many clients using Adobe products and many of those will abandon Adobe. With the need to look at and test alternatives we attempted to buy, install and update QuarkXPress 9 for Mac taking advantage of a Quark offer to upgrade from any previous version. We dug out our legitimate copy of QuarkXPress 4 and started on our journey. This journey was so awful we just had to document it hence this blog post. This really happened - it's so bad we're not sure you'll believe us… 20 years ago Quark were bad. 10 years ago they were truly awful. And now they are atrocious…

The Quark Saga

  • Quark currently has a special offer on at the moment where you can upgrade from any previous version of QuarkXPress but it's only available online from the Quark store so we click on the offer link which redirects us to the Quark UK online store (as we're in the UK) -
  • To buy something you need to create a user account (#1) so we create this and make the purchase (this part, the part where the company takes your money, is unsurprisingly really easy)
  • At the successful purchase page we're given a link to download the QuarkXPress 9 installers (this is actually Quark, ~850MB in size)
  • We download the software which takes a while
  • We install QuarkXPress
  • A restart is required
  • We launch QuarkXPress
  • So far, so good. We should be using Quark in a minute or two now. We can't wait to take a look at it compared to InDesign.
  • The software informs us that an Activation code is required and provides a link to a web site for us
  • Sigh, the pain and misery starts…
  • We click on that link which takes us to a web site ( whereupon the web page informs us that not only do we need an Activation code but we also need a Validation code too. What are all these codes? (thankfully Quark provides a page explaining it all here
  • To get a Validation code you need to register your software so we try logging in to the site with user account #1 - that doesn't work, we need a new/different account so we create one (user account #2)
  • We then request a Validation code whereupon the web site asks us for our QuarkXPress 9 serial number. We enter it - it doesn't work (this is because we're currently on the Quark USA web site - remember the software took us here automatically and there's no indication that we're on a USA only web site and there's no information telling us that as we're in the UK/made our purchase in the UK we should actually be on the Quark European web site)
  • So, as we're used to 20+ years of Quark's idiosyncrasies, we try going to the Quark European web site (
  • Once again, to get a Validation code we need to register our software so we try logging in with user account #1 - doesn't work so we try user account #2 that we just created on the Quark USA web site - that doesn't work either, we need a new/different account so we create one (user account #3)
  • We then request a Validation code whereupon the web site asks us for our QuarkXPress 9 serial number. This is finally accepted!!! But then the web site tells us that it's an upgrade and we need to enter our original (older version) serial number. We try to enter that but it doesn't work. Hmmm…
  • At this point there's not a lot we can do but call Quark so we hunt around their multiple web sites for a European/UK customer service telephone number and come across one under a section "Customer Service" where it says "Use the contact information below for assistance with the following topics: Registering products in cases where immediate support is needed" ( there is a normal London telephone number and an 0808 number (it's confusing in the UK because that number might be free to call or it could cost us up to £2 a minute or something). So we opt to call the London number.
  • There's no answer and it goes straight to voicemail - WTF? We leave a voicemail message explaining our situation.
  • So we call the other number and go through the usual press 6 then 6 then 6 to sell your soul to the devil and speak to a human
  • We finally get a human on the other end of the telephone line (support guy #1) but they barely speak English and they have difficulty understanding us (are we actually in hell? Did we actually just sell our soul to the devil?). We ask to speak to someone who speaks and understands English and they say that's not possible. We try and get an activation code from them but take 20 minutes just trying to spell our name, company name and email address to them (maybe all this is deliberate? We may well be paying £2 a minute for the call afterall and Quark are pocketing the profit…)
  • 21 minutes into the call our mobile phone rings because the "Sales Director" of Quark Europe is on the telephone returning our call from the voicemail we left on the London telephone number (btw that number isn't actually for support or customer service or anything useful - we're told that number shouldn't be on the web site and it's a mistake). Anyway, we quickly ask support guy #1 on the other telephone to please hold while we speak to their Sales Director. After a few minutes speaking to the Sales Director support guy #1 just hangs up. Nice!
  • We have a long conversation with the Sales Director (which we won't go into here) and he promises that our problems will get resolved as soon as possible. We give him our contact details and state that the best way of contacting us is our mobile number or email address but best not to use the landline number we've given (because we're not sitting next to that phone at that time/on that day)
  • We sigh and decide to have some lunch
  • Amazingly when we get back a support ticket email appears in our inbox from support guy #1 that was originally on the telephone - he must have finally got our email address spelled right - the email contains an activation code but he's created yet another user account (#4 - on to obtain us that code (support guy #1 refers to me as "Brian" even though my name is "Graham" - I guess they sound similar if you don't speak good English - that's the name that is now registered on user account #4 but guess what? You can't edit those personal details on your own account so I'll be stuck being called Brian! - a life of Brian eh?)
  • But also there's an email from our voicemail system where another support person (support guy #2) has called our landline number (you know, the one we told the Sales Director not to call us on) and he's opened a second support ticket asking us to provide some more information about our problem (even though we explained it all to the Sales Director who promised this problem would get resolved - and now I'm called Graham Kneedham, you know, because if you don't speak proper English the first part of my surname could be construed as being spelt that way)
  • We activate the software using the activation code from support guy #1. Woohoo! Success!
  • But it's Quark v9.5.0 though and we know there's a Quark 9.5.2 so we run the built-in Quark updater software (from the QuarkXPress menu) and it says we need to download and install a "update" (~170MB)
  • We click through the necessary screens to download and install the update and after the download and at the start of the installation process the installer and updater just quit - no error message, nothing. Try a few more times - same problem. Hmmm…
  • So we decide to click on the support ticket link(s) in the emails so we can tell Quark the latest problem - the link takes us to a support web site ( requesting that we login so we try logging in with user account #1 - that doesn't work, so we try user account #2 - doesn't work, so we try user account #3 - doesn't work, so we try user account #4 - doesn't work, we need yet another new/different account so we try to create one (user account #5) but as we're security conscious the 20+ character password we use is not accepted (oh goody, we're informed by the web site that the password must be 16 characters or less!)
  • So we finally get user account #5 setup (with a poor password) and we update our support tickets with the requested, relevant information and also state we can't update our paid for, installed and activated software
  • Support guy #2 comes back to us via the support ticket stating "Since QuarkXPress 9.5.1 is an installer only, you'll need to uninstall QuarkXPress 9.5 first and then install 9.5.1 directly." - this is patently false as the built-in Quark updater has already shown us a "update" (~170MB). And… didn't we install v9.5.0 from the very installer that was downloaded from the link when we purchased the product from Quark themselves? Yes we did FFS! Grrrrr…
  • In addition Support guy #2 gives us instructions on how to manually uninstall QuarkXPress 9 - these are not right and have incorrect paths to files/folders that need deleting - as we know what we are doing (thankfully, but god help anyone that doesn't) we get all the necessary files deleted and click on the link to download the full Quark installer ( provided in the support ticket
  • We locate the Quark installer and click the download button - no go, not allowed, we need to login before we can download anything so we try logging in with user account #1 - that doesn't work, so we try user account #2 - doesn't work, so we try user account #3 - doesn't work, so we try user account #4 - doesn't work, so we try user account #5 - doesn't work, we need yet another new/different account so we create one (user account #6 at and download the software (another ~768MB download)
  • We install Quark and run the built-in Quark updater again which now tells us we need a Quark "update" (~9MB)
  • We click through the necessary screens to download and install the update and after the download and at the start of the installation process the installer and updater just quit - no error message, nothing. Try a few more times - same problem again. Hmmm…
  • This time there is no "installer" to download from the Quark web site but there is an "updater" available for so we download that and try installing the update manually. We open the downloaded disk image and double click the installer which results in an OS X warning message that "'QuarkXPress 9 Updater' can't be opened because it is from an unidentified developer" - WTF? Quark can't even sign their own updaters properly? Now that's probably why the built-in updater didn't work because the downloaded updates aren't signed properly and won't work
  • We install ourselves as we know how to bypass Gatekeeper, then discover there is a update from the built-in Quark updater, download that manually too and install that (also not signed properly)
  • Finally we have a working QuarkXPress software package on our computer and we can start testing it against inDesign


The big question is will the Quark European Sales Director get back to us regarding our problems and the saga above or consider passing a name and email address to support as "job done"?

At least QuarkXPress is not forced software "subscription" like Adobe Creative Cloud but it's a thankless task to get QuarkXPress running on your Mac computer especially if you don't know what you are doing. Quark clearly don't know what they are doing (the Sales Director and support staff have "no clue") and all the time they are missing a clear opportunity to take sales and users away from Adobe (InDesign). This debacle has left us sitting between a rock (Adobe subscription) and a hard place (Quark's ridiculous systems and useless tech support). Based on this experience we definitely won't be telling our clients to move from InDesign to QuarkXPress and that's many, many potential licenses Quark just lost. Now we need to start looking at other alternatives. Do you have any suggestions?

If Quark want Adobe InDesign users to come back to them they are really going to need to step up their game and change the way they have treated customers for the last 20+ years and still clearly currently do. Unfortunately in our long experience of Quark and after all this time I don't believe Quark will change. They'll keep taking the money and screwing the customers. So, hopefully, another software company will step up to the plate and do something about this and create a new professional DTP application - the time is ripe, the situation is perfect and there are a lot of companies/people out there that would rather spend their money with a new company that cares as opposed to keep on giving their money to Adobe or Quark who clearly, don't care…

Based on the above experience if you're thinking of buying/trying QuarkXPress we've written a nice article to help you buy, install and update QuarkXPress 9

Blog Post Author = Graham Needham (BH)
Blog Post Created On = 1st June 2013
Blog Post Last Revised = 23rd February 2018 14:33
Blog Post URL =

This blog post is representative of the blog author's individual opinions and as such any opinions that may be expressed here may not necessarily reflect the views of everyone at MacStrategy or the holding company Burning Helix.

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