What software is used in publishing houses (e.g. Conde Nast) to produce printed magazines?
In regard to magazine layout software that is used by magazine publishing houses like Conde Nast, etc., there are basically two heavy weights that are the industry standards: Quark Xpress and Adobe Indesign. Invariably, the question that usually comes next is: which one is better? Well, while this may seem like a straight forward question, that should lend itself to an equally lucid answer, this is not necessarily the case. I won't go into all the details but for the last 20 years or so Quark (the first version came out around 1987 or 1988) had been the undisputed leader in the field. In fact, you can still find versions of Quark 5.0 (released around 2002, if I'm not mistaken), on the computers of many graphic artists. Now, with that said, around the same time that Quark released version 5.0, Adobe came out with Indesign 2.0 and, needless to say, it put Quark on the ropes, so to speak.
Adobe Indesign and Quark Xpress function in a very similar way. However, when individuals ask me which one they should buy, my answer is usually predicated upon one salient piece of information; if you are a novice to graphic design, then I highly recommend that you get Adobe Indesign. Why? Well, for the simple reason that Adobe not only produces Indesign, which is primarily for magazine/catalog layouts, but also Acrobat X Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, GoLive, etc.. Adobe Acrobat X Pro is for the creation and manipulation of PDFs, Photoshop is utilized for photo manipulation and, especially for magazines, color space conversion, i.e from RGB to CMYK, Illustrator is used for advanced graphic creations and designs and GoLive, which has morphed into Dreamweaver, is used for website design, especially those containing flash content. The fact that all these software programs are created by the same company, although they each have distinct idiosyncrasies, means they possess similar interfaces and thus, once you learn one program, the learning curve for the others will be dramatically reduced.
In terms of magazine layout, there are two essential programs that you will need: Adobe Indesign and Photoshop. With these two, you can create roughly 90% of the layouts that you'll find in any given magazine stand around the world. The other 10% of magazine layouts, that are considerably more sophisticated, employ Illustrator which is more involved and a more difficult program to learn than Indesign or Photoshop.
The latest version for Indesign is CS6 and for Photoshop it's also CS6. Quark Xpress released its Quark 2016 version late last year and will release a 2017 version later this summer. Both Indesign and Quark are equally priced (very expensive!) and produce PC and Mac versions. However, there is a way to save a considerable amount of money on these programs. If you're interested, just let me know.