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QuarkXPress Comes to OS X

by David Weiss

Though Mac OS X continues to evolve, many art departments have been sticking to OS 9, and it probably wasn't because they were nonplussed at the powers offered by the new OS. In all likelihood it was because QuarkXPress hadn't yet made the transition.

QuarkXPress has long been the de facto tool for designers and service bureaus, offering extremely precise control over the arrangement of objects on the screen and the eventual placement of dots on the printed page. Even after Adobe released InDesign, a similar professional page-layout application that ran on Mac OS X, many designers chose to wait rather than invest in a new program and migrate to a new file format.

Now there's no reason to wait: QuarkXPress 6, the latest version, runs on Mac OS X. But how, you might ask, does QuarkXPress compare with InDesign? This is a big question, and I'm not going to try to answer it here. But what I will do is take you on a spin with QuarkXPress 6, and this will give you one part of the puzzle as you make your decision. I have to say, right off the bat, that I'm not a professional designer or printer; but I've used QuarkXPress for years to create posters, invitations, and other amateur projects. So I created a dummy newsletter, and I'll use it to take you on a personal tour of the program.

The New XPress

But first let's examine the new features. One of the most obvious changes in QuarkXPress is that there are no more "Documents". Instead the program refers to files as "Projects". (But QuarkXPress 6 can still open up any QuarkXPress "Document", from previous versions of the program).

QuarkXPress 5 allows you to mix pages of various sizes, but the Project files in version 6 are even more flexible; they contain multiple "layout spaces", which can be either of the print or web variety, and you can switch between them just by making a change in a Layout Properties panel.

The new version has a few other web enhancements as well. It lets you create "cascading menus"--menus which allow users to roll over a menu item and have it branch into additional menu options. It lets you add specific fonts to cascading style sheets and to control how the viewers see your page if they don't have the optimal font. And it lets you create "two-position" rollovers so that one part of your page changes when users roll their mouse over another part. In addition, the new version has beefed up the program's PDF exporting abilities.

One of my favorite new features is the ability to view images in their full resolution. For years, images placed in QuarkXPress appeared in low resolution, as a way to save resources, keep file sizes low, and allow files to scroll fairly easily. But now QuarkXPress comes with an XTension (an add-on format designed by Quark but open to third-party developers) that allows you to view images in full resolution, without any loss in performance. For a complete list of all of the program's new features and enhancements, see the Quark Web site.

A Look Around

Here's that dummy newsletter that I told you about, which I created in QuarkXPress 6.

click for larger view

As you can see, it looks pretty much like the same old QuarkXPress, and I found that all of the tried-and-true features work in the same dependable way. Click on any object, and you can position it using precise increments using the Measurements palette (shown at the bottom of the screen), or you can use the arrow keys (on their own, they move objects .014 inches; with the Option key, .001 inches). You can click between any letter pairs and specify the kerning using equally precise increments with the Measurements palette, as I did to the title in "The Dispatch". Below, you can see that I've zoomed in on the picture, and that it appears in full resolution.

click for larger view

In this example, which is a very simple document, the full resolution just allows me to get a better sense of the colors in the picture. For more complex documents, such as advertisements, high-resolution previews allow for much more precise designs, when text is placed on top of an image.

First we'll see what happens when we take this file into PDF, then we'll move it onto the Web by converting it into HTML.

PDF Country

Although you can print any file to PDF using the Print Dialog Box of OS X, QuarkXPress has its own PDF Export feature, which offers a greater variety of options. But QuarkXPress 6 has a few quirky differences as compared to OS X's Print Dialog Box, so let's take a look at that first. When you issue the Print command in QuarkXPress, you don't get the standard OS X Print Dialog Box. Instead, you get QuarkXPress's own Print Dialog Box, which looks like this:

As you can see, there is no Save AS PDF feature listed here, since the program has its own PDF Export feature. Also, there's no way to choose your printer here. Instead, you click the Printers button, and that will bring you to the OS X Print Dialog box, after you get the following message:

That's a little confusing and awkward. If you choose a different printer and hit Print in the Print Dialog Box, it will merely close and return you to the QuarkXPress Print Dialog box, from which you must hit Print again. The same goes with PDFs; first you hit Save As PDF, you choose a file name and a place for it to go, you hit Save; then from the QuarkXPress dialog, you hit Print, and it saves the file. Using this method, I created a slick-looking PDF of the file, but it weighed in at 1.2MB.

When you export a file to PDF, you get a variety of additional options. Choose Export -> Layout as PDF from the file menu, and you'll get a panel from which you can save the file. Hit the Options button, and you'll get five panels of options:

  • Layout Info lets you designate the title, the subject, the author, and keywords.
  • Hyperlinks lets you choose whether or not to export hyperlinks, and lets you choose the style of framing around hyperlinked images.
  • Job Options lets you choose whether or not to embed fonts, and lets you select the type of image compression you want to use.
  • Output gives you the option of printing in composite color or separate plates for printing. In the case of composite color, you can choose a variety of color models: Black and White, Grayscale, CMYK, RGB, As is, and DeviceN. "As is" is best for creating PDFs to be viewed on screen, and DeviceN is designed for creating complex blends using spot colors (spot colors are produced using a single ink, as opposed to blending cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to create a color. Spot color is therefore much stronger, and much more expensive.)
  • OPI (Open prepress Interface) lets you choose whether to include TIFF images, EPS images, or neither, and lets you print TIFFs in low resolution.

In my first pass at exporting a PDF, the file was slightly less than a megabyte, but the image had no color, and the sidebar on the left came out solid black. I found this odd, since the defaults are Composite color and CMYK. I changed it to As Is, and everything looked fine, except that the file size had expanded to 2.3MB.

Next, I tried selecting Low Resolution under OPI; under Job Options, I turned compression on for color images, text, and line art. I was making some progress: The file was now 192k. However, although the colors and text came through OK, the two images were unrecognizable. I did some more experimenting: I unchecked Low Resolution and kept everything else the same; the resulting file looked fine, but weighed 1.3MB, just a tad larger than the file I created using OS X's Save As PDF command.

Selecting Low Resolution but turning off the compression under Job Options, the file went down to 196k but still looked pixellated. Finally, I resorted to brute force: I created a new version of the Quark Project file that contained smaller, lower-resolution graphics files that would look fine on screen. I exported the file again leaving Low Resolution unchecked and used no compression for graphics, but kept compression on for text. The PDF looked fine, and weighed just 420k, a respectable size.

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