Anyone telling you that a PDF file exported from InDesign or saved from Illustrator has quality that isn't as good as an EPS file exported or saved from those programs clearly has no idea what they are talking about.
In fact, since EPS has no concept of live transparency or color management, by definition, it is likely to have lower quality and reliability than PDF for the same graphical content when the content has any transparency or color!
In terms of which program to use ...
Photoshop is primarily a raster image manipulation program. You can indeed include text and vector artwork in a Photoshop document as special text and vector layers and maintain their text and vector attributes as long as you don't flatten the layers or rastrize them. Ironically, the only way to preserve their quality for output is to save as PDF. EPS from Photoshop won't hack it!
Illustrator is primarily a vector artwork illustration program that really supports only one color space at a time. You are either CMYK or RGB with the exception of linked-to-placed artwork. There are a number of vector illustration tricks that Illustrator can do that InDesign cannot. Illustrator is not a general layout program, though. Once you start need to start linking text frames and doing serious text layout, InDesign is really the tool of preference.
Cheers mate, I'm going to make a few files that are identical but different formats and get them output so I can see, and prove that there's no way InDesign files are any worse and then so I can educate people about this, I can't believe so many people use Illustrator as a page layour program.
We create artwork in-house as well as accept artwork from our clients and source it out for printing by roughly a dozen different vendors with in-house print shops. We've been doing this for just over 10 years.
Almost all of our jobs are for portable or medium sized display booths.
We learned, over time, that despite their claims of being able to print from InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat or Photoshop files, the only application that resulted in dependable output was Photoshop.
Now whether is this is the result of shortcomings of specific versions of the other applications, incompatiiblities between the Adobe product and the RIP software used, or the expertise of lack there of, by any or all of the staff of the various print shops is not our concern. Delivering the job on time, within budget and at or above the level of quality the client expects is our only concern.
To that end, we require all artwork that contain any effects found in Photoshop (drop shadows, layer blends, etc.) to be submitted in Photoshop as layered files, vector text converted to outlines, native text converted to shapes. The resolution of the file varies, depending on the media being printed. But by using these requirements we are able to address poorly constructed file issues and allow the printer to make color corrections as necessary.
I don't doubt for one second that this is indeed your experience and that you have settled into what I can best describe as a very degenerate workflow in order to get your job done under the conditions you describe.
Having said that, I must say that your experience and the fact that you believe that this is the best workflow you can achieve given the conditions is an exceptionally sad commentary on the state of the graphic arts industry in general and the printing industry in particular. The workflow you describe is a “lowest common denominator” workflow that almost guarantees that in most cases in which you have anything other than pure raster imagery to print, you will get results that are not optimal.
You should be able to use PDF/X-4 files as the means of passing artwork from your clients to you and then subsequently from you to your printers. Source files (i.e., native Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop files as well as assets such as imagery and fonts) should not be the currency of the realm here.
When I need to go “outside” to print (for anything my fleet of laser printers and wide format printers can't handle including offset printing jobs), I typically go and interview the print service provider and provide a sample job to print using a PDF/X-4 job with live transparency and color managment. If they cannot handle it in their normal workflow or cannot adjust to the twenty first century very rapidly, I move on to another print service provider. For better or worse, there are plenty of very hungry printers out there and at least some of them realize that unless they learn to deal with modern workflows, they will be history like the many thousands of other such printers that have gone belly-up over the last half dozen years!
Dov... I learned ages ago that the minute the word "should" appears in a sentence, the author is not dealing with the reality of the topic, but their own personal vision of a perfect world.
While I agree that it would be nice to live in that world, the fact is I live in this one and here, we have to deal with files cobbled together by people with a wide range of skills or none at all. The companies doing the printing are the manufacturers of the display products so we have no control over the abilities of their printing staff or for that matter the equipment or software they use. These companies are some of the largest and successful in the trade show display industry and don't appear to fall into your "hungry printer" category.
So the "degenerate" workflow, as you put it, of reducing the artwork requirements to the lowest common denominator, is what we use because in this real world I live in, where the level of compentcy on both ends of the workflow is beyond my sphere of influence, that is what is working.