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Looking for Inter Set’s Quoin

This is not a tip about InDesign. This is a plea for help. Once upon a time (very early 90s) there was a typesetting program called Quoin that gave users far more control over type than PageMaker or QuarkXPress. I never actually used it, but people raved to me about it. I have been searching for a copy ever since.

In fact, I remember talking to some folks on the InDesign 1.0 (K2) team about it back in 1998 or 1999 and they asked me what it did that QX didn’t, and perhaps InDesign should do. I didn’t know what to tell them. In fact, this mystery still bothers me to this day, as I still have never found this program, screen shots from it, feature lists, or the original manual (which I would assume has all of the above). I know it existed; I just found evidence at googlebooks.

So please forgive this atypical blog post. I just keep hoping that someone out there in indesignsecrets land can put this mystery to rest. Anyone? Hey, I’ll offer a signed book or video as a reward to anyone who can send me Quoin!

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world. You can find more about David at
  • Eugene says:

    Here’s a start David. I’ll keep looking for the actual App, although I think you’ll have to borrow a d’Lorean to use the app?

  • David Blatner says:

    Thanks, Eugene. I think that’s the page at google books I had found, too. Don’t worry, I have plenty of old computers around here I could run it on. But I’d be pretty happy even just going through the manual to mine it for details.

  • Eugene says:

    I’ll see if I can find any contact details for the authors of the book, perhaps?

  • Maciej Haudek says:

    Two articles about Quoin in MacWeek: first and second

  • Gary GOod says:

    That brings back memories. Back around 1990 or ’91, I went to a two-day graphics art event in San Diego. We visited several local companies (typesetters, art studios, color separators, etc.)

    At one of the locations, they showed a demo of Quoin. All the traditional typesetters in the group loved it. At that time, they were all worried that the desktop tools were going to put them out of business. After seeing Quoin, they started feeling like their jobs might be safe. Of course, that was short lived.

    I also remember seeing a Sitex machine that cost close to $1 million. It didn’t do half of what today’s Photoshop can do.

    Makes me think back to technical pens, waxers, and rub off type.

  • Lauren says:

    @David: The links that Maciej just posted have addresses, I wonder if you can track it down that way somehow? They aren’t there anymore obviously, but it could possibly be a start, right?

  • GregB says:

    Remember way back in the leterpress days when a quoin was something to lock-up a chase

  • David Blatner says:

    @GregB: Yes… I have a few real quoins around here, too, along with a huge drawer of metal type. But no printing press yet. ;) In the meantime, I’m still a software guy.

  • David Blatner says:

    @Maciej: Thank you for the links; that led me to many other links, but all dead ends. Frustrating! I will keep searching.

  • Dirk Becker says:

    I found two references in german language via Google.

    First is a google cache from the 1991 archives of Computerwoche. An Apple dealer announced a german version of Quoin. Features: kerning editor for upto 1024 pairs per font, automatic justification, vertical spacing, form and contour setting, true tables with automatically extended lines, vertical alignment of text fields. Supports postscript and other typesetters.

    The other is a U2U forum request in MacWelt magazine, 2002. The poster “Grufti” introduces Quoin as developed by two brothers together with their 3B2 (!) system, and he was searching for dongles in that post – apparently he already has an old installation running. He quotes estimates of about 70 installations in Germany. I just invited him to this thread via the private mail function of the forum.

    Maybe you follow the trail of 3B2 / Arbortext / PTC?

  • Cat Ketelsen says:

    Hi, I read you are looking for a typesetting program that controls type more accurately than the desktop publishing programs we use today.

    Quoin was only popular with MAC. Superior to that and any other hard-driven programs with finite kerning and tracking capabilities was the Magna system. In the very early 90s it came out with a desktop setup, but easily could switch to the key coded version if you, like I am, accustomed to coding it all yourself! I’m not sure if this company is still in business, Ventura CA. Probably extinct as a Dinasor.

    You might have some luck getting in contact with vendors by calling pre-press or off-set printing companies since they are pretty much the only companies who would use this type of equipment.

    Contact Linotype in Hauppauge, Long Island, NY They would know!

  • Geoff says:

    Its been a while since I heard the name ‘Quoin’.
    We used it quite extensively for a short period of time in the early 90’s. It had nothing on today’s software obviously, basically it was code with a preview of what your page would look like, with limitations and slowness.
    If you were to try and set it up now I should point out that you will need a dongle, probably best to get the actual keyboard that went with it too!
    Funny how software/hardware we were so keen to bin all those years ago can be someone’s desire nearly 20 years later!
    Good luck!

  • Jerry Hayes says:

    Hey David,

    If you are still looking for the keyboard, dongle and software with manuals, we are about to remove these from our storage room and recycle them. We have 2 keyboards, 2 dongles (one may not be working if I remember correctly), two sets of software packages, and manuals in boxed sets. Let me know if your interested.

    This was a very precise typesetting Software/Keyboard system for the Mac (in it’s day), but had a long and complex learning curve. Most desktop users today, that have had little or no experience with traditional systems will find it difficult at best to learn.


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