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.qxd vs. .indd redux

Jul 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Following the recent release of QuarkXPress 7, graphic arts managers and other technology decisionmakers are asking two primary questions:

  1. Has Quark reversed its corporate policy of being its own worst enemy?
  2. How does the new XPress 7 compare to the current version of InDesign CS2?
Quark has emerged as a kinder and gentler business partner. The recent prerelease Beta program was a model of openness and accessibility. Quark has done away with its earlier draconian authorization policies. And, unimaginable just a few years ago, Quark now offers free, and even amenable, technical support.

Core strengths remain
Quark has not changed XPress’ core strength: a system of pages, text and picture boxes that is easy to understand, create and use. Long-time XPress users will be greeted with a largely familiar, if enhanced and somewhat more complicated, interface. You can use Quark 7 the same way you did previous versions. Minor cosmetic changes, such as the substitution of File > Import Picture for File > Get Picture, won’t slow you down a bit.

Color management
Quark has revamped its previously troubled color management system with some success. There are four fundamental changes:

  • Color management is always on.
  • The introduction of separate source and output settings.
  • The switch from Color Sync to LogoSync as its default CMM.
  • The introduction of nondestructive soft proofing.

Command central for QuarkXPress 7’s color management is the Color Manager, located in Preferences. Whether it is good to always have color management on can (and will be) argued both ways. For savvy production color users, it’s probably a good thing, as ultimately it forces us to make color decisions that we should be making anyway. For those with limited color experience, the quality and consequences of the QuarkXPress 7 default settings will determine the output results. Learn how to config-ure the source and output settings (Edit menu) and apply them through the Color Manager (Preferences) and/or the Job Jackets Manager (more on this later).

The source/output setting separation is a welcome change. Users can control specifically which color profiles and rendering intents will be used for viewing and converting the color in your images. For many this will involve using the same profiles and intents used elsewhere, such as in Adobe Photoshop. You also have access to the same color system-stored profiles as those accessed in Photoshop, as well as the Quark-specific profiles stored in Quark’s application folder. If you pay attention, you should be able to keep your color consistent as you move your images through QuarkXPress.

For those of you anxiously wondering about using your previous color settings that you know how to print, breathe easy. You can select QuarkXPress Emulate Legacy for your source and Output settings, and ColorSync or ICM for your color management module (CMM), if you want to just pass the old values through. The most obvious opening for color divergence is if you convert colors through QuarkXPress using a CMM different than one you use elsewhere.

The third major color management change is Quark’s adoption of LogoSync CMM. The CMM is the engine that actually handles the conversion of the color values from one color profile space to another color profile space. Using LogoSync is an overall improvement, but it has built-in limitations, as well. Switching from OS-based ColorSync or ICM to LogoSync (for the default CMM) is a good move for two reasons. First, using LogoSync provides more cross-platform compatibility not available when ColorSync was used on the Mac. Second, ICM is used in Windows. The limitations of both ColorSync and ICM are widely acknowledged, so other CMMs have been adopted widely. LogoSync (developed with GretagMacbeth) is an acknowledged high quality CMM. The inherent limitation of using LogoSync is that it currently is not widely used. In print production the most widely used CMM is the Adobe (ACE) CMM. There are those who argue LogoSync is a better CMM than Adobe (ACE) CMM. Even if this is true, it is largely irrelevant to the discussion of consistency. And there is little Quark can do about this, as it does not have access to the Adobe (ACE) CMM. So until either Adobe releases its Adobe (ACE) CMM for third-party use or another CMM (such as LogoSync) becomes the commonly used standard, this inconsistency in color conversion will exist. How visible the differences in the conversion results will be will depend upon the images, color profiles and rendering intents used.

Bypass color conversion problems by performing the conversions in another application (such as Adobe Photoshop) and assigning the same color profiles for Source and Output in QuarkXPress that you have in Photoshop.

The other major change—a good one𔃋is the ability to soft proof nondestructively using color profiles and rendering intents. Quark’s soft proofing is similar to InDesign’s soft proofing with a View menu Output Control. Also like InDesign, QuarkXPress now lets users view and change image-specific color profile and rendering intent via Window > Profile information.

So what’s the bottom line? Here are my conclusions:

  • Quark has done an admirable job of updating and improving the flexibility of its color management system, and has reached parity with InDesign in at least two functions: nondestructive soft proofing and the ability to easily view and change image-specific color settings.
  • InDesign’s access to both the setup and the application of the color profiles and rendering intents through its single Color Setting Dialog is more convenient, if more visually intimidating.
  • As long as the Adobe (ACE) CMM remains the de facto standard and Adobe does not open its use, QuarkXPress always will be at a disadvantage in terms of providing color conversions that are consistent with Adobe-based conversions.
  • Another inherent weakness in Quark’s color management capabilities vs. InDesign is coordinating or synchronizing color management settings from one application to another. (Adobe Bridge, part of Creative Suite 2, does provide this capability.)
.psd import
There has been much buzz about the capabilities of XPress’ native Photoshop file (.psd) import and editing capabilities. As far as the ability to access and edit a .psd file’s basic image components, Quark has bested Adobe at working with the latter’s native file format. For instance, when you import a .psd file with basic layers and channels, you can access the information on the individual layers and control layer interactions through the application of blending choices and opacity. If that isn’t impressive enough, you also can use included alpha channel masks to affect the opacity of various layer areas. This all operates through the layers and PSD import palettes as well as the mask menu located on the measurements palette.

One caveat: This .psd import capability doesn’t seem to work well with layers modified by Photoshop CS2 Layer Styles. When I imported a CS2 .psd image containing layer styles, I consistently received an error message indicating that layer effects were not supported. But when this occurred, the .psd image still was imported and access and editing still was provided to those layers and channel components that were supported. (Perhaps the PSD Import feature was developed and tested with CS1 images.)

Picture effects
Picture effects provide for a variety of picture editing tools, including curves, sharpening, blurring and many more. Once applied, these effects adjustments can be stored and reused. I remain a staunch supporter of making these corrections directly in an image editing application such as Photoshop. Nonetheless, this could be a time-saving production tool when working with client files whose images all need the same amount of lightening or sharpening. You could apply the effect once, record that adjustment and then apply it to as many other images as are required.

You even can share picture effects files. InDesign does not offer a similaralry powerful image-editing tool. Picture Effects currently does not work with Photoshop images, a frustrating mismatch with the .psd import function.

Keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are a mixed bag. QuarkXPress historically has provided the more logical and elegant keyboard shortcut sets and sequences. Its use of the “M” series as well as its control of type size, tracking, kerning and leading still is the best around. But InDesign now offers a custom dialog (Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts) that allows you to assign your own keyboard shortcuts, reassign others, create sets of shortcuts and even use QuarkXPress and PageMaker shortcuts. Quark still has the fundamentally superior set of shortcuts, but it is resting on its laurels. InDesign offers an increasing number of shortcuts common to multiple CS applications, so it’s a tie in this category.

Measurements palette vs. control palette
The enhanced measurements palette is the most immediately obvious interface change in QuarkXPress 7. It has a new context-sensitive pop-up subpalette that offers many of the control features previously found only in other dialogs and palettes.

This is Quark’s answer to InDesign’s multifaceted control palettes.The new measurement palette is well designed and easier to decipher than InDesign’s implementation of a context-sensitive palette. If you just don’t like any of this context-sensitive sophistication, click on the Quark logo icon on the far left of the pop-up palette, and you will see your familiar old measurement palette.

Master pages, style sheets, text import and baselines
No important changes have been made to master pages or style sheets in version 7. InDesign remains master of those realms.

In addition, InDesign offers multiple baseline grids (through text frame baselines) and boasts a complete and sophisticated Word document import feature for controlling the import, autoformatting and appending of style sheets from Word and .rtf documents, which QuarkXPress still lacks.

Output styles vs. print presets
Quark has one-upped Adobe in the print styles category, where Quark’s print style was roughly equivalent to InDesign’s Print Presets. QuarkXPress’ new output style (Edit > Output Styles) is like print styles on steroids—it includes resolution-specific transparency flattening, metadata and JDF info, as well as standard print dialog settings.

Output styles have three initial default setups for PDF, Print and EPS (whose settings now include the ability to embed font files in EPS files). Output styles can be shared and are integrated into the powerful job jackets function, as well.

PDF generation
QuarkXPress 7 has stuck with JAWS as its PDF Export function. While Quark has done extensive testing with the new and improved version of JAWS, I remain unconvinced of the consistent usability of JAWS-generated PDFs in prepress. (Besides, it is slower than molasses flowing in January.) I still recommend printing PostScript from QuarkXPress to Distiller-watched folders for generating prepress-bound PDFs. Again Adobe has an inherent advantage, because it owns PDF and Distiller. Quark does provide an easy and Preference-selectable avenue to PostScript and Distiller.

Job jackets
One of Quark’s most comprehensive and sophisticated new production tools is the implementation of job jackets, including the Job Jackets Manager (Utilities > Job Jackets Manager). Job jackets are complete descriptions of all—and I mean ALL—the characteristics of a job. Jobs can be defined at three levels:

  • Job Jackets, which define characteristics for larger categories of jobs, such as catalog jobs.
  • Job Ticket Templates, which can be applied to multiple jobs of very similar types, such as monthly catalogs.
  • Individual Job Tickets, which describe a specific document file, such as, “March catalog.”
All three levels let users define fundamental characteristics, such as document dimension and orientation, or those as detailed as the range of allowed opacity.

Once defined, job jackets can be used in multiple ways. A job jacket can be used to create a new job using all the predefined characteristics of that job jacket (File > New > Project From Ticket). Job jackets also can be used to evaluate an existing job (File > Job Jacket > Evaluate Layout). This job evaluation amounts to a sophisticated preflighting tool that allows you to look for a wide range of intimate project and component characteristics, such as image resolution, file format, image color space and attached color profiles. QuarkXPress documents also can be output using job jackets or tickets. Instead of selecting File > Print, you can choose to define and control your output via the job jacket by selecting File > Output Job, selecting a specific set of output specifications defined in a ticket template, including previously created output styles. InDesign doesn’t offer this powerful production tool.

Now for a reality check: The good news is that the job jacket function is robust, full-featured and highly integrated into QuarkXPress 7; the bad news is that the job jacket function has a complex and somewhat quirky (non-QuarkXPress-like) interface that is difficult to learn. I see this function initially being configured by print shop techies who will then train larger clients to use them.

The bottom line
If you are a QuarkXPress user, I think you will be delighted with version 7 and I recommend upgrading. Keep a copy of 6.5 available, too. I also recommend installing QuarkXPress 7 first on a test system partition or drive identical to your working system, as a precaution, to ensure the installation process does not cause any unexpected system problems. The bottom line: QuarkXPress 7 is a welcome update with some very powerful new tools and features.

Talk to the hand
Whenever I am working in QuarkXPress, I love that I don’t have to remember which of the two keyboard shortcuts I am supposed to use (depending upon whether I am working with an active text tool or not) for accessing the hand tool.

If I were king of Adobe, that is the first thing I would fix: One keyboard shortcut for accessing the hand tool! Then, while I was at it, I would change the names of the two selection tools to “object” and “content” tools.

So long to PostScript?
By Julie Shaffer

The Adobe PDF Print Engine is a new printing platform (a.k.a. RIP) that directly renders PDF files. Many print/prepress workflow solutions on the market today are based on Adobe CPSI RIP technology, which is built on PostScript. Even solutions that use PDF as an internal working file format, such as Kodak Prinergy, Agfa Apogee and Heidelberg PrintReady, still convert those PDF files to PostScript prior to actual imaging.

But PostScript 3 was introduced in 1997. It can’t natively render some newer effects, like transparency, which have become design mainstays. Transparency has to be flattened prior to introducing it to PostScript and, depending on how and where this flattening is done, the results can look terrible. Adobe’s PDF Print Engine eliminates all such problems because it renders those PDF files natively.

The technology also incorporates JDF information for job control, so it will fit nicely into the “end-to-end” workflow solutions.

Adobe still will support PostScript—it won’t suddenly vanish. But the next evolution is here.

Julie Shaffer is director of the PIA/GATF Center for Imaging Excellence (

For further reading
Jay Nelson offers an excellent comprehensive review of QuarkXPress 7’s new features at: www.creative

Taz Tally is a digital imaging author, speaker and photographer. Contact him at