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Publishing software timeline

Deutsche Version

This article is meant as an introduction for everyone who doesn't have the time to do some research, but still wants to take part in the discussion of which software company drove which other into bankcruptcy ... planned obsolescence ... etc. etc.

I have done some googling, clicked on any available link and here are the results: the timeline of DTP software and their developers.

1979: Foundation of GST Computer Systems (products: e.g. Timeworks Publisher)

1981: foundation of Quark (first product: text editing software for Apple II and III)

1982: foundation of Adobe (first product: PostScript)

1984: foundation of Altsys (developers of Fontographer, FreeHand)

1984: foundation of Aldus (products besides PageMaker: OPI; TIFF - in partnerhsip with Microsoft)

1984: foundation of MacroMind (first product: SoundVision/MusicWorks)

1985: PageMaker, the first DTP software package (Aldus)

1985: foundation of Corel

1986: Fontographer, the first font editor (Altsys)

1986: Ventura Publisher (for IBM PCs, distributed by Xerox)

1987: foundation of Authorware (first product: Authorware, authoring package for developing e-learning)

1987: Illustrator

1987: GST Timeworks Publisher (for Atari TOS)

1987: foundation of Serif (first product: DTP software PagePlus)

1987: Display (later named Photoshop) is developed and used by John Knoll in the creation of VXF effects for »The Abyss«

1988: FreeHand (licensed to Aldus by Altsys)

1988: Adobe licenses Photoshop from the Knoll brothers

1989: CorelDraw

1990: QuarkXPress 3 (the first commercially successful version after version 1 was launched in 1987)

1990: Adobe releases Photoshop 1.0

1992: MacroMind and Authorware merger to form Macromedia

1992: Foundation of FutureWave (developer of what later became Flash)

1993: PDF 1.0 and Acrobat Reader (initially the Reader cost 50 US $)

1993: Aldus buys CoSA (developer of After Effects)

1994: Virtuoso (FreeHand port on NeXT)

1994: Aldus and Adobe Merger; Altsys sues Adobe for the takeover of FreeHand. As a result of this the FTO orders Adobe to hand back FreeHand (and the customer database) to Altsys. Adobe is not allowed to buy any vector graphics package for 10 years. (FreeHand) clients doubt that Altsys is able to manage FreeHand development and marketing.

1994: Serif DrawPlus

1994: Acrobat Reader is made available for free. Adobe learnt the lesson the hard way, that a document generation software is not selling when the reader software is not free. US tax authorities had initially aquired a license that allowed them to distribute the Reader for free. Version 2.0 was officially free. The vast majority of PDF users was from the beginning authorities, insurance companies and other office users, not publishing/media people.

1995: Altsys, FreeHand and the FreeHand customer database (ca. 200,000 customers) get aquired by Macromedia. (FreeHand) clients doubt that Macromedia understands print media.

1995: Adobe aquires Photoshop

1996: Macromedia takes over FutureWave (developers of FutureSplash, predecessor of Flash) after Adobe declined to buy it

1998: Quark fails taking over Adobe. Adobe (the bigger of the two companies) didn't generate any profits during that quarter and had to lay off staff. PageMaker had lost the professional market almost entirely to QuarkXPress.

1999: InDesign is released and marketed as »Quark killer«. Its development started already at Aldus codenamed »K2« as PageMaker's successor. It's assumed that »K2« was the reason for Quark's failed takeover attempt.

2002: Adobe sues Macromedia for user interface concepts (tabbed panels) and wins. Macromedia is sentenced to pay 2.8 million US $. Macromedia sues Adobe as well and wins. Adobe is sentenced to pay 5 million US $. Both companies settle out of court later.

2003: Macromedia reduces the FreeHand team to the very basic number of core members, to get out the 11.0.2 update. The team tries to cram as many features as possible into version 11, »because they're not going to let us do another«. FreeHand customer base ca. 400,000; market share: Illustrator ca. 85%, FreeHand ca 15% (estimates by Macromedia CEO Rob Burgess).

2003: Inkscape (open source vector app)

2005: Macromedia Studio 8 doesn't contain FreeHand anymore, just the web development tools

2005: Adobe takes over Macromedia, with a huge portion of the payment being for Flash

2007: FreeHand development is officially terminated

2010: Steve Jobs writes his »open letter« to Adobe and terminates Flash Player support on iOS devices. Additionally apps that have been developed in Flash authoring system and exported to iOS are not allowed to the AppStore.

2011: Free FreeHand (about 6,000 members) raises an antitrust complain against Adobe. The parties agree on an out-of-court settlement.

2013: Adobe Creative Cloud: software can only be licensed as a subscription

2014: Serif Affinity Designer (Mac version) is released and marketed as »Illustrator killer«

2016: Serif terminates support for their »Plus« range of products and concentrates on »Affinity«.

2017: Adobe announces »end of life« for the Flash Player in 2020, from then on Flash Player won't be distributed nor updated.

2019: Corel Draw is back on Mac OS

2019: first release of Affinity Publisher

2022: CorelDRAW switches fully to subscription

In case you want to read on, these are some of the sources:



If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my other English tutorials:

How to set up a file: vector/raster, color mode, resolution, file format
Mysterious things Illustrator does - Saving files (Video on Vimeo)
EPS – the zombie of file formats
Saving safely
Saving legacy files
Long Shadows with Illustrator
Problems with align to pixel grid
Proposals for better better workflow in Illustrator
Freeform-artbrush with a gradient
Pathfinder doesn‘t react
Stylish guilloches with gradients
Outline object and outline stroke


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