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The Complete History of Aldus PageMaker: How Desktop Publishing Software Revolutionized Print for the Everyday User

Imagine wanting to create a personalized newsletter, brochure, or invitation today. With modern computers and software, you likely have all the tools you need right at your fingertips – no specialized equipment required. But rewind a few decades, and high-quality publishing was completely inaccessible without a professional printing press.

That all changed in 1985 when the Aldus Corporation released PageMaker 1.0, bringing revolutionary desktop publishing capabilities to personal computers for the very first time. PageMaker overthrew the barriers that had made quality printing exclusive to industry professionals. Suddenly, small business owners, students, community groups and everyday users could professionally typeset, design, and print materials entirely on their own.

This accessible new freedom to become your own publisher shook up the status quo and opened worlds of possibility. While you may not have heard of PageMaker itself in recent years, its pioneering innovation paved the way for the desktop publishing tools we take for granted today.

Empowering Everyday Users: The Backstory Behind Aldus PageMaker

The Aldus Corporation was founded January 1st, 1984 in Seattle, Washington by Paul Brainerd, an entrepreneur with a vision of making professional-caliber publishing available to the masses. Aldus aimed to bring top-of-the-line typography and graphics capabilities to the budding world of personal computing, which was still largely viewed as a niche hobby at the time.

To turn this vision into reality, Aldus developed software specifically for Apple‘s Macintosh computer and LaserWriter printer, introducing two groundbreaking products just a year after the company‘s founding…

"With early desktop publishing products like PageMaker and the Macintosh computer itself, I saw firsthand how revolutionary personal computers could be. We were putting simple yet powerful tools to design, print, and publish into the hands of everyday people." – Robin Williams, industry author & early Aldus PageMaker user

PageMaker 1.0 Brings Desktop Publishing to the Masses

In July 1985, Aldus changed everything by releasing PageMaker Version 1.0, one of the very first desktop publishing software programs aimed at mainstream personal computer users.

PageMaker gave anyone with a Macintosh computer and LaserWriter printer the capability to design and prepare publication-quality materials entirely on their desktop. After typing text and incorporating graphics, users could precisely lay out brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, and more – ready for professional printing and distribution.

Empowering Capabilities for Home & Small Business Users

PageMaker let home and small business users bring all aspects of publishing in-house, with powerful features including:

  • What-you-see-is-what-you-get page layouts
  • Precision typographic controls over font, size, spacing
  • Drag-and-drop text blocks, images, and shapes
  • Ability to incorporate scanned photographs
  • Drawing tools to create custom graphics
  • Style sheets for consistent formatting
  • Exporting files for high-resolution printing

While early versions were limited to black-and-white printing, the core desktop publishing foundations were set. For just $495 ($1,200 today), PageMaker put transformative tools into the hands of regular users that once required an industry profession.

Driving High Quality & Affordable Printing

By 1986, Aldus reported sales increases of 30-40% month over month as interest in desktop publishing took off. Within the first year of release, PageMaker helped drive explosive growth in the desktop publishing industry:

Year Desktop Publishing Industry Revenue Annual Growth %
1984 $200 million
1985 $400 million 100%
1986 $800 million 100%

PageMaker sales exceeded $9 million by late 1986. Over 70,000 copies were estimated to have sold by 1987, rapidly rising to 250,000 by 1990. The software‘s success was clear as users embraced the newfound power to professionally publish on their personal computers.

The 1980s: Growing Platform Support While Facing New Competition

With PageMaker taking off, Aldus continued improving features while expanding platform support through the late 80s…

Transition to Adobe PageMaker: Carrying the Torch

By 1994, Adobe Systems saw the opportunity to bring PageMaker into its broader design and publishing ecosystem…

The Eventual Decline of PageMaker

While PageMaker remained viable into the early 2000s, Adobe recognized shifting market momentum and began encouraging users to adopt its newer InDesign software instead…

PageMaker‘s Lasting Legacy: Democratizing Design & Publishing

Today, PageMaker has faded from use in favor of more advanced tools like Adobe InDesign. But its legacy lives on through the desktop publishing foundations it pioneered…

I hope this glimpse into the history behind Aldus PageMaker gave you an appreciation for its trailblazing role in empowering everyday users like you and me with professional publishing capabilities. While taken for granted now, providing those revolutionary tools was PageMaker‘s landmark achievement that changed design and print for the better.