Quark Responds to Adobe

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During a well attended keynote session today at Seybold Boston, Quark founder Tim Gill offered his company's response to Adobe Systems' InDesign announcement by previewing several forthcoming products, including an upgrade to QuarkXPress.

Gill said that Quark ( http://www.quark.com ) hopes to release QuarkXPress 5 by the end of the year–a far cry from the four years that elapsed between versions 3.0 and 4.0, the latter of which shipped in 1998.

Although he did not demonstrate any new QuarkXPress features, Gill discussed four broad functions that you can expect in the upgrade: a built-in table editor, document layers, HTML export, and PDF import.

Gill said the table editor would offer table-generation features similar to those in Microsoft Word, "but hopefully with a lot more elegance." Quark representatives told Macworld that the table editor will let you import graphics into cells as well as text. You'll also be able to apply blends to the table background.

The layers function will let you place text and graphic elements on separate layers that can be hidden, merged, and modified in other ways. For example, you'll be able to specify how different layers interact with each other when wrapping text: if you have text on one layer, a circular graphic on a second layer, and a rectangular image on the third, you'll be able to see how the text would look when wrapped around either graphic.

The HTML export function will use a new Articles palette that lets you identify elements within a document that should be included in a Web page. You can then export those elements in HTML format, with the option of using Cascading Style Sheets, or mapping the document's style sheet to specific HTML tags.

The PDF import option will let you drag and drop a PDF file into QuarkXPress, where it will appear as a graphic object. You will also be able to export PDF files, either directly or through Adobe's Acrobat Distiller software.

Gill also offered a look at the Quark Digital Media System (QuarkDMS), a digital-asset management system scheduled to ship in the next three or four months. The client-server system, based on an Oracle database, is aimed at companies that need to manage large volumes of text, graphics, and other design elements for deployment in print or online.

Gill noted that poorly conceived digital-asset management schemes are adding to the cost of building and maintaining Web sites. "Your assets are [like] money," he said. With many production systems in use today, "it's almost like taking your assets and putting them under the mattress."

In a demonstration of QuarkDMS, a company representative brought up an image in Adobe Photoshop, then used a plug-in to enter keywords and other information about the image. Switching to QuarkXPress, he performed a search that brought up all images that included "texture" as a keyword. In another scenario, he showed how a salesperson on the road could use a Web browser to locate and download an image for use in a PowerPoint presentation.

Gill said that one of Quark's goals is to develop software for specialized segments of the publishing business, such as book publishing, package design, and direct marketing. The company has set up business units to serve these segments, each with dedicated software engineering teams.

For package designers, Quark is developing a program, code-named Wrapture, that combines page-layout and 3-D prototyping functions. Demonstrating the software, a Quark representative opened an EPS file–created in a CAD program for packaging–that showed the folds and die cuts for a six-pack carrier. She then imported a series of panels, which were automatically mapped to the appropriate sides of the carrier. Finally, the software displayed a 3-D simulation that showed how the package would look in its final form. The simulation, which lets you view the package from any side or rotate it in real time, can be exported as a QuickTime VR movie. Gill said that the program will even allow you to simulate cellophane windows. He noted that packaging is a $100-billion business in the U.S. alone,

For direct marketers, Quark plans to release a database publishing program, code-named Cypress, that lets you import data from multiple sources and place it in catalog layouts. Product information in the catalog will be linked back to the database, permitting instant updates of prices and descriptions. Once you've set up a catalog template, you'll be able to build pages simply by dragging items from a product list. Future versions of the software will include features for building catalogs on Web sites.

Along with Cypress, Quark plans to offer a Windows-only financial-analysis program, code-named Mirim, for direct marketers.

Another forthcoming program, code-named Troika, is targeted at publishers who want to deploy print documents on the Web. Designed to decouple content creation from document formatting, it has three components. The first is a QuarkXTension that makes it easy to apply XML tags to Quark documents. The second component is a Web template design tool with features similar to those in QuarkXPress. The third component uses a Web browser interface to pour the XML content into the Web template, creating a unique Web page. The first release of the software will let you export images in Macromedia Flash format; a future version will also support the proposed Scalable Vector Format, a forthcoming Web standard endorsed by Quark and Adobe.

While making it clear that Quark is taking Adobe's challenge seriously, Gill also pointed out that InDesign is still an unreleased product. Playing on Adobe's new marketing campaign, he noted that InDesign is "in beta."

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