Complete History of Aldus Pagemaker

The History of Aldus PageMaker: A Complete Guide

The world of desktop publishing was forever changed with the release of Aldus PageMaker in 1985. Developed by software pioneer Paul Brainerd and his startup Aldus Corporation, PageMaker brought professional-quality page layout and design capabilities to personal computers for the first time.

Over its nearly 20 year lifespan, spanning its initial launch to the final release by Adobe Systems in 2001, PageMaker pioneered the concepts of on-screen publication design and empowered generations of users across various industries to become their own publishers.

The Origins of Desktop Publishing
In the early 1980s, the tools used for publication design and production remained expensive and inaccessible for most. Layout, typesetting, and high-resolution printing often required special equipment costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. This meant small businesses, students, churches, community groups, and even smaller publishers needing shorter print runs had to rely on typesetting shops and printing companies for their publication needs.

Paul Brainerd, a former manager at Xerox‘s fabled Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), saw an opportunity to bring the power of publishing and design to personal computers. After incorporating Aldus in Seattle in 1984, Brainerd assembled a team to create software that would let the average user have precise control over page layout, typography, graphic elements, and other aspects key to professional publishing.

The result was Aldus PageMaker, unveiled in 1985 as one of the very first desktop publishing solutions for personal computers. It was released exclusively for the Apple Macintosh platform and specifically targeted toward the laser printing capabilities of Apple‘s new LaserWriter.

Revolutionary Features of PageMaker
PageMaker revolutionized desktop publishing through both its features and approachability. For $495, a fraction of the cost of high-end solutions, individuals gained a comprehensive toolset on their home computer screens.

The graphical user interface allowed users to drag, drop, and arrange text boxes, graphics, and drawn shapes by hand on digital pages. Various typefaces, sizes, and formatting options let anyone achieve fine typographic control for body text and headlines. Pages could be mastered into multi-page documents with global formatting, margins, headers/footers, and automatic page numbering applied throughout.

Combined with the LaserWriter‘s 300 dpi output, PageMaker publications approached professional offset-printed quality at substantial cost savings. Users could now promote their own small businesses through flyers, newsletters, brochures, menus, and more without needing outside services.

Rapid Adoption Across Industries
PageMaker quickly found users across diverse industries and professions. Small newspapers and niche publications embraced it for affordable short-run printing. Churches created customized bulletins each week, students made posters and research presentations, and self-publishers crafted books with glossy covered bindings.

By 1986, PageMaker was estimated to account for upwards of 20% of all Mac software sales – an unprecedented figure. With interest surging, Aldus hastily ported PageMaker to Windows PCs within a year of its initial release. The shift to IBM compatibles proved judicious shortly thereafter as Windows 3.0 arrived in 1990 and Windows 95 ignited the mainstream PC revolution by the mid-90s.

Evolution of PageMaker
PageMaker continued evolving new capabilities in step with advancing personal computing power over its lifespan. Version 2.0 added color separation for creating CMYK plates for full-color prepress. Later upgrades incorporated enhanced typographic controls, multi-layered master pages, automatic text flows between pages, built-in drawing tools, and other features.

Facing mounting competition in the 1990s, notably from QuarkXPress which captured much market share, Aldus focused efforts on an ambitious ground-up rewrite. Code-named "Blackbird," this new generation of publishing software was well underway when Adobe Systems acquired Aldus in 1994.

Now under Adobe‘s stewardship, Blackbird continued development and ultimately emerged as InDesign 1.0 in 1999. Adobe concurrently issued one final iterative update for PageMaker alongside it, culminating in PageMaker 7.0 in 2001 before ending sales and support around 2004.

The Legacy of PageMaker
While superseded in its later years and now functionally obsolete, PageMaker‘s legacy perseveres. It sparked the desktop publishing revolution and forever changed who could participate in creating and disseminating publications.

By pioneering simple yet powerful tools for combining text, graphics, and typographic design on personal computers, PageMaker transformed once-centralized publishing capabilities into accessible technology now ubiquitous across modern society.

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