Road to Expo: Graphics and Publishing

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With the Seybold publishing conference coming early this year (only three weeks after Macworld Expo) most print-related companies will be sitting on their major announcements until the publishing industry convenes in Boston in early February. But that doesn't mean Macworld Expo will be devoid of excitement. It'll be the first opportunity many print professionals have had to check out the latest releases and updates up close and personal. (Not to mention the year's supply of corporate-logo pens that magically accumulate at the bottom of your bag!)

Most showgoers will likely get their first look at Quark 's upcoming packaging tool -- code-named Wrapture. Wrapture will let designers preview their package designs in 3-D, zooming or rotating to see all sides instead of having to print out their QuarkXPress or drawing program files and paste them onto cardboard mock-ups. Designers will be able to export these 3-D models as a QuickTime VR movie to send clients for approval. Quark says it will announce a ship date and pricing for the software this spring.

The two heavy-weights of desktop publishing, Adobe and Quark, will also be showing their current contenders -- InDesign 1.0 and QuarkXPress 4.1. (For details on the war between Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, see " The Great Debate ").

QuarkXPress 4.1 began shipping this month. The free upgrade includes numerous bug fixes and better support for PDF and HTML import and export. But don't look for a sprawling banner-bedecked booth if you want to see either XPress 4.1 or Wrapture. Instead Quark will have an outpost at the Apple Digital Media Center. "We're not the type of company to say 'Hey, Adobe is going have a big booth, so we have to too,'" says Glen Turpin, head of corporate communications at Quark. "It's not our style." (the company formerly known as Extensis) will be showing an update to one of their remaining pieces of standard software. Suitcase 8.2, a free upgrade to the venerable font management tool, will now include Suitcase Server, a tool that lets you synchronize fonts across a workgroup. The program has also been updated for OS 9.

The biggest news in the print graphics department may be actually an absence: MetaCreations , makers of Painter and Bryce, as well as the popular KPT line of Photoshop plug-ins, announced on December 14 that the company "no longer sees the professional graphics business as offering growth." MetaCreations plans to sell all programs that don't fit in with its new focus on MetaStream technology. MetaStream, which will have a booth at Macworld Expo, delivers 3-D images over the Web to help sell products such as clothes and housewares. MetaCreations staffers aren't yet willing to talk about which programs will be sold, or to whom. But common sense tells us that if long-term tech support is important to you, you may want to hold off on a Painter 6 purchase for the time being.

Many of the professional graphics programs are currently in their development cycles and will thus have no major news announcements at Macworld Expo. Adobe released Photoshop 5.5 just five months ago. Photoshop product manager Kevin Connor says upcoming releases will fine-tune the color-management model that caused so much consternation when it debuted last year. "In version 5.0, we put in all the pipes you need for color management," Connor says, "but it's been tricky to set. We've now had over a year to see how people use it and the problems [they've had]."

Perhaps because it's not propelled by the frenetic pace of the Web, Adobe Illustrator's development cycle is moving more slowly. In the past, major revisions have come out about every 18 months. Based on that schedule, version 9 would be due in late spring or summer. The long-expected version 9 of competitor Macromedia FreeHand has also not yet been announced.

At press time, Corel wouldn't comment on any of its Expo-related announcements. However, if you use CorelDraw or Photo-Paint, you may be interested in the recent updates to version 8 of the illustration and image-editing applications. The free, downloadable updates make the programs compatible with Mac OS 9 and improve performance when you print to PostScript printers.

Synthetik Software 's Studio Artist debuted at July 1999's Macworld Expo, where it won a Best of Show award. Although there won't be a major upgrade at the January Expo, company president John Dalton says Synthetik will release small updates to the multifaceted paint/video effects/image-editing program approximately every two months. Dalton says future improvements may include "new organic looks for paint" and greater automation. "We're looking for ways to speed up drawing tasks that normally take a long time by hand," says Dalton. "We're also interested in expanding what you can do with animation and video effects. We want to give people a lot more control over what happens over time."

Where you may see more action is at the plug-in booths. Graphics professionals at Macworld Expo can count on seeing a host of new plug-ins and other add-ons for key software applications, such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia FreeHand, and QuarkXPress. These utilities extend the capabilities of graphics software by adding tools or other functions that you can access from within the host application.

Much of the plug-in action will be at The PowerXChange -- formerly The World-Wide Power Co. -- which distributes graphics extensions for other companies. While you can expect to see plenty of Photoshop plug-ins and QuarkXTensions, PowerXChange founder Cyndie Shaffstall says that Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat are also attracting plug-in developers. "Acrobat plug-ins are selling like hotcakes," she says. And, in a welcome departure, she says that most of these new Acrobat plug-ins work with the Mac as well as Windows.

Among the new QuarkXTensions, Shaffstall thinks users will be especially interested in ImagePort, a $99 add-on from A Lowly Apprentice Production that lets you import native Photoshop files into QuarkXPress; the utility also lets you adjust colors within individual channels.

Perhaps in a sign of what publishing will be like in the new century, at least two companies at the Expo will be showing tools you use online instead of buying in a box. will demonstrate Web-based tools it has released during the past few months--Preflight Online, Myportfolio, Intellihance Online, and PhotoFrame Online. Adobe Systems also offers plug-in applications that you can run from your Web site including features such as slimming down graphics files, converting to PDF and creating web banners. Impresse will show off its new service for people buying services from printers. Instead of having to fly around the country trying to get the best price for big print jobs, print buyers will be able to negotiate with printers and receive bids all on this password-protected site.

Which leads us to the question: will Macworld Expo 2001 consist entirely of .com company booths?

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