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People tend to think of QuarkXPress as a finished application, but in fact it's more akin to a computer operating system: what really makes it great is the software you can add to it. There are hundreds of QuarkXPress plug-ins, called XTensions. Not all of them are relevant to everyone, but I can guarantee you'll find at least a few so useful that they pay for themselves in no time at all.

The All-in-Ones

Most QuarkXPress users can benefit from a bundle of utility XTensions. In this category are XPert Tools volumes 1 and 2, from A Lowly Apprentice Production (ALAP); each is $100 (888/818-5790, ). Xdream, from Vision's Edge ($99; 800/983-6337, ), is another contender. Each bundle has different features--for example, XPert Tools volume 2 offers a palette that enhances XPress's text-linking feature, and Xdream can list the definitions of a document's style sheets. These XTensions (and the others I mention) should work with QuarkXPress 5.0; check with the developers to be sure.

Text Handling

Who says that the folks at Quark know best? Some third-party developers have found great ways to improve upon QuarkXPress's typographic features.

FingerType Designers who love typography go gaga for ALAP's $50 FingerType, with which you can perform kerning, baseline shifts, and other typographic functions simply by clicking on a letter or word and moving it around--instead of hassling with numbers and keyboard shortcuts.

Redefine Style Sheet The wonderfully simple, $50 Redefine Style Sheet, from Xpedient (781/647-1050, ), lets you redefine a style sheet by altering text on a page instead of using cumbersome dialog boxes.

HX PowerSelect One of the most requested features I hear about is the ability to select unconnected text (a word here, a sentence there) and then apply text formatting to all of it at once. The solution: HanMac Software's $79 HX PowerSelect ( ).

Interface Improvements

Many XTensions enhance the XPress interface. They can help make your mundane tasks both easier and faster.

FullMeasure XT While Quark-XPress's Measurements palette is serviceable, Badia Software's $59 FullMeasure XT (866/223-4298, ) makes the palette much better, extending it to include dozens of other controls. Every XPress user can benefit from this tool. Badia also makes FullColor XT, which replaces the Colors palette and is well worth its $59 price.

XPert Align Some of the best XTensions come from ALAP. This great little company makes the world's best replacement for XPress's lame Space/Align dialog box: XPert Align ($30).

ex Grids & Guides Quark has developed a free XTension called Guide Manager, which can help you add and remove guides. But it's so cumbersome and confusing that I refuse to use it. Several commercial XTensions are better, including CoDesCo's $69 ex Grids & Guides ([49] 40 71 30 01 30, ) and Gluon's $59 ProGuides (888/458-6698, ). These let you alter guide colors, create grids, and specify exact guide positions.

ProScale Scaling a group of objects is possible but a real hassle without an XTension. Gluon's $95 ProScale takes the tears away.

The Ins and Outs

QuarkXPress doesn't live in a vacuum; you often need to import content from other sources or export content for use elsewhere. These XTensions can help.

XPressImage Do you need a TIFF or JPEG of your XPress page to put on the Web or send to a client? Gluon's $169 XPressImage ( Reviews, May 1999 ) turns pages to graphics effortlessly, at any resolution.

PDF Filter Quark's free PDF Filter is the best way to get PDF files out of QuarkXPress.

Xdata Anyone who regularly publishes information from a database or spreadsheet should have Em Software's $300 Xdata (877/984-1010, ).

There are more-expensive XTensions that offer greater database connectivity, but Xdata is brilliantly simple and powerful enough for most database-publishing tasks.

GetImages Handy if you import lots of images, the $128 GetImages XTension, from ThePowerXChange (877/940-0600, ), creates picture boxes and captions for a whole folder of images.

ImagePort ALAP's $100 ImagePort is a favorite of mine because it does the seemingly impossible: it not only lets you import Adobe Photoshop documents into QuarkXPress, but also actually adds Layers, Channels, and Paths palettes to the XPress interface. (They're not exactly the same as Photoshop's, but they're close.) ImagePort is perhaps best used when you have images with spot colors ( Reviews, June 2000 ).

Making Book

QuarkXPress has long been the primary tool used in laying out books, but that doesn't mean it can't use a little help from some friendly XTensions.

Autopage Many book publishers depend on KyTek's powerful Autopage ($7,500, network version; $945, single-machine version; 603/529-2512, ) to automate laying out pages, footnotes, figure references, and so on. It ain't cheap, but if you produce a lot of books, it's worth the money.

fXT Maybe you lay out a lot of footnotes but can't afford the Autopage XTension. KyTek pulled the footnote feature into a stand-alone XTension, a $300 plug-in called fXT. Its interface isn't as convenient as Autopage's, but using fXT is faster than setting footnotes by hand.

Imposer QuarkXPress has no built-in method for making a booklet (in which the first page and the last page print side-by-side, the second page and the penultimate page go together, and so on). Commercial printers probably need a high-end (and high-cost) page-imposition solution. But ALAP's $200 Imposer is enough for most small shops.

A Bit of This and a Bit of That

Some XTensions defy categorization. Nevertheless, they fill designers' needs nicely.

ItemMaster Style sheets group a bunch of typographic choices into a single name so you can apply all the formatting with one click. ALAP's $100 ItemMaster XTension takes the style-sheet metaphor even further, letting you make item style sheets that you can apply to lines and boxes. For example, you can make a style that describes the color, the border, and even the size of your sidebars.

XState Markzware's $99 XState (800/300-3532, ) can track groups of documents, including how much time you've worked on each document (for cost accounting). It even remembers where you were in a document when you last worked on it.

Add One On Today

QuarkXPress without XTensions is like a car without a stereo system: you can get where you want to go, but the going won't be as much fun. XTensions not only make you more efficient, but also allow you to accomplish things you simply couldn't do otherwise.

Many people complain that all these features should have been built into QuarkXPress to begin with. However, third-party developers often have the ability to create these XTensions faster and cheaper than Quark can. You can wait five or ten years to get the tool you want, or you can pay a little extra and get what you need today.

Painlessly Position Guides and Grids: An XTension such as ex Grids & Guides allows you to place guides and change their color. You can double-click and drag a guide to reposition it precisely.
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