PageMaker and QuarkXPress Changes
It's been an interesting month for DTP software, Quark Inc. have released a sneak preview of their forthcoming QuarkXPress 4.0 and Adobe have announced the release of Illustrator 7.0 for Mac and Windows95 & NT - so it looks as if all the 'numbers' could change very soon!
In the last few years there have been several upgrades to PageMaker, seeing it change from version 4.0 to version 5 then onto today's version 6.5 It's also changed companies - from it's original Aldus (now defunct) to Adobe. During that same time QuarkXPress 3.2x has made a few 'maintenance' upgrades and bug fixes but nothing major, it's almost stood still. However, some might say that PageMaker needed all the updates just to keep up and that QuarkXPress didn't need any updates it was great already. With PageMaker 6.5 and QuarkXPress 3.32 their 'feature lists' almost match, however, with the forthcoming XPress 4.0, Quark may again be about to leap ahead.
Around a week ago, Quark have added a link on their web site (http://www.quark.com) which gives viewers a sneak preview of QuarkXPress 4.0 and is also a superb demonstration of their Immedia format for multimedia productions.
So what will XPress 4.0 offer?
One of the biggest changes is that it includes Bezier and freehand drawing tools, for creating line shapes and text boxes or picture boxes. An expanded customizable Tool Palette lets you select existing line or box shapes, or use new Bezier and freehand tools to create and edit custom shapes and paths. Options include customized Bezier text boxes, pictures boxes and text paths and freehand text boxes, pictures boxes and text paths.
The possibilities for drawing and shaping items also increases with the addition of eight different Merge and Split commands that allow you to combine and divide shapes to create more complex shapes. You can also cut out common areas of overlapping shapes, punch holes in shapes, delete or crop parts of Bezier illustrations etc.
Until now, if you needed text in XPress to flow along a curved line or path, it would have to be created in a drawing package such as Freehand or Illustrator then exported as a EPS then placed into XPress. If the text needed changing, the original drawing would have to be opened in the drawing package, the changes made, re-exported and then re-imported into XPress. Now XPress 4.0 offers text on paths built-in, so text can now be flowed along any line or box shape to suit - this will really reduce the need for creating the curved text elsewhere and having to import it as a EPS.
Text can also be flowed into shaped boxes, and can be converted into Bezier-curve shapes so you can fill it with pictures or text, or manipulate the Bezier points to create decorative characters. Convert any text into a picture box, then into a text box and type text inside the text shaped text box!
Clipping paths are also being upgraded - clipping paths can be created with the Bezier curve drawing tools, or use the alpha channels and masks embedded in imported graphics. The clipping paths can be used to silhouette pictures against backgrounds or used for text runarounds. Using alpha channels in images created in Photoshop will make silhouetting much easier and will allow soft-edge masking rather than the hard edge of clipping paths to date.
A great addition is character style sheets, until XPress 4.0, style sheets would affect an entire paragraph, so if only a few words within a paragraph needed to be bold, the formatting would have to be applied manually. This will make formatting certain types of document far easier, and now all text styles will be able to have their own style sheet.
In all past versions of XPress, tables, tables of contents or indexes had to be created manually or via the use of a third party XTension - not any more. XPress 4.0 can automatically generate tables of contents and other alphabetized, formatted, hierarchically organized lists. Nested or run-in indexes with automatic punctuation and formatting can also be created. Organizing of document files and sections will be made easier with the addition of new 'book' files that allow synchronize formatting across multiple documents. Rather than having one very large document of say 800 pages, it could now be broken down into more manageable sections of say 50 pages long - but the formatting of each section can be managed from one menu.
New printing technologies are also being catered for with the inclusion of Hexachrome colour separations. Six colour Hexachrome plates may be output for HiFi colour printing to take advantage of its increased colour range. Also, an expanded printing dialog box allows the printing of noncontinuous pages and page ranges, create reusable Print Styles, specify which plates to print etc.
Other new features include the doubling of the maximum zoom amount, to 800%, to allow more precise positioning of items on screen. Live Refresh allows you to see the actual appearance of each item as you drag one - including text flow and layers. Lines and frames are now customizable and scalable dash and line patterns can be created and applied to any frames or lines. Hyphenation is also improved by using a built-in hyphenation dictionary - when text flows and a word may be broken, XPress will consult a the hyphenation dictionary before resorting to a hyphenation algorithm.
With the inclusion of the freehand and Bezier drawing tools, the options for creating customs item shapes and increase clipping path options, the need for using a separate drawing application for certain items, and having to export those items as EPS files should reduce. The character style sheets, automatic TOC and indexes, and synchronized formatting of multiple documents using the new 'book' file should make the formatting and organizing of long documents and books far more manageable.
All in all, XPress 4.0 looks like a major upgrade rather than an incremental one, and with all the new features 4.0 might just leap ahead of PageMaker once again.
For further details on XPress 4.0 and to see Quarks Immedia format in action, have a look at the Quarks site at the Internet address mentioned earlier. To access the 4.0 preview, you need a copy of Quarks Immedia Viewer which can be downloaded from the same site. It's certainly worth downloading as web sites based around the Immedia format bring a whole new level of interactively and multimedia to web publishing -trying the 4.0 preview, it's just like trying a multimedia CD-ROM or in some cases trying 4.0 itself!
Great news for Windows95 or NT users is that Adobe have finally upgraded Illustrator for Windows and the new version 7.0 is being released for both the Mac and Windows platforms at the same time. Until now Illustrator had been at version 6 for the Mac, but was way behind at version 4 for the PC - however with the release of version 7.0 the PC and Mac versions are level.
Features include; Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 Logo Compliance, Custom Gradients, Character and Paragraph text palettes, Layers, Pathfinder Filters, Multiple Levels of Undo and Redo, Rasterizing of artwork, Photoshop filters can be applied to items in Illustrator, Built-in colour separations, Editable EPS's, Transform Palette, Tools Palette and Adobe Portable Document Format Support.
The Editable EPS's is very important - this means that a EPS image can be created from almost any application, then Illustrator can edit the resulting EPS. You could start a document in QuarkXPress, then save it as a EPS, which Illustrator could open. There it could be edited to suit, then exported as a Illustrator AI image that could be opened in Photoshop for further treatment. In all, being able to edit any EPS file, means that Illustrator can, in theory, open almost any file! This has been possible on the Mac for some time, with Illustrator 6.0 and a shareware program called 'EPSConverter', but until Illustrator 7.0 it's been very difficult to do on the PC.
For full details on Illustrator 7.0, including upgrade information, try the Adobe web site at http://www.adobe.com
One other point about Illustrator 7.0, is that it confirms Adobes support of the PC platform - with it's release it doesn't really matter which platform you use, whether Mac or PC, the software is available (and practically identical) on both. All the main DTP programs; QuarkXPress, Photoshop, Freehand and Illustrator are now available in both Mac and PC versions, and there is very little difference between them - with the release of Illustrator 7.0, the PC has finally caught up.If you have any questions or queries regarding DTP, please feel free to email me, and until next month happy DTP'ing. --Andy