For Designers, Will X Mark the Spot?

You would have had better success finding a thriving dot-com company than seeing much of a Mac OS X presence during last April's Seybold Seminars trade show in Boston. And for good reason--there just wasn't much happening with Apple's new operating system in the publishing world. Less than a month after OS X's March 21 release, developers attending the Boston Seybold could offer general commitments to creating OS X-native software, but few products. Incorporating the operating system into their daily workflow seemed to be the last thing on the minds of the print and Web designers attending the biannual publishing industry event.

Flash ahead to this week's Seybold Seminars in New York. OS X has been out nearly a year, even undergoing a major update last fall that improved performance and reliability. OS X-savvy programs have already hit the market, including major releases such as Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. Industry giants Adobe and Quark have indicated that native versions of their killer applications--Photoshop and QuarkXPress, respectively--are in development. And a significant number of Seybold attendees seem ready to join other Mac users in making the leap to become full-time OS X users.

"I'm 100 percent OS X at home. I switched a month after it came out," says Eric Nelson, an IT manager with Middleboro, Mass.-based Winthrop-Atkins. "I love using OS X. It's fun. It's new and fresh. Plus, I'm in charge of Mac networking, and I need to know what's coming up."

Sally Mayer, the proprietor of Jewel Graphics in Brighton, Massachusetts, has bought OS X but hasn't installed it. "I probably won't move until the end of this year because all the Adobe apps aren't native yet," she says. "And Adobe software has had issues with Apple's font management in OS X.... It's such a new system. 10.1 Sounds like an improvement, but it isn't quite there in terms of everyday productivity."

That's not an uncommon sentiment at this week at Seybold, where even print and Web professionals who've made OS X the default system for their personal computing are taking a more cautious approach toward integrating the new OS into their professional lives. Take Patrick Hannagan, an illustrator and textbook designer at HRS Interactive in Peekskill, New York, who says he experiments "like crazy" with OS X at home. But at work, "we have only two machines that can run it. And QuarkXPress isn't on X, and we need that to do page layout," Hannagan says. "We stay with Quark because we do complex math textbooks, and a certain math XTension is essential."

The attitudes designers, illustrators, and publishers toward OS X is a significant issue for Apple. With creative professionals comprising perhaps the most important segment of the Mac market, how quickly they adopt the new OS will have a tremendous impact on the overall transition to OS X as the default operating system for Macs.

So what's keeping OS X from being the operating system of choice for these publishing pros? In general, it boils down to one word--productivity.

"I'm a one-person graphics company, and I can't have things not working fully," Mayer says.

More specifically, print and Web designers cite software as a major reason holding them back from switching to the new OS. While a slew of OS X-native applications have come out in the past year--Apple says that more than 2,500 are available--several programs crucial to the publishing industry are still awaiting OS X updates.

Nelson thinks his company will switch "when Photoshop and Quark are OS X and don't run in Classic anymore." It's also up to the file formats that Winthrop-Atkins customers send. "We usually get files in new formats about six months after new applications come out," he adds. "Then we have to upgrade to keep up."

Training will also be a necessary part of the design industry's move to OS X. "People migrating to OS X need structured tutorials so they know where to put things, where to find things," says Mark Owen-Greene, whose New York-based Square Work Consulting firm specializes in technical training, support, and installation for magazine publishers. "When someone wants to add more memory to Photoshop, you have to be able to tell them what's possible."

Nelson agrees. "I've got people who do typesetting, and they're not quick to change," he says.

Despite the slow-but-sure adoption of OS X in the industry, graphics professionals and publishers are pleased by what OS X has to offer.

Owen-Greene calls OS X a "great computing experience," adding that he thinks it signals a coming Apple resurgence. "A lot of people are intrigued by the technology coming out of Apple, from OS X to the new iMac to iPhoto, iTunes, and so on. And you associate creativity with Apple. The only thing running Windows in a creative shop is a server," Owen-Greene says.

"I don't know any designers or prepress people running X at work," says textbook designer Hannagan. "But they should switch when they can do their work in X."

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