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XTensions, as plug-ins for QuarkXPress are called,add tools for greater creativity and efficiency to the page-layout program. Before QuarkXPress 6 ($945; ), there were dozens of XTension developers and hundreds of plug-ins -- of varying quality. Now there are only a handful of developers, but their XTensions are refined and powerful. These are some of our favorites, all of which are also available for QuarkXPress 4 and 5.

Import Photoshop Files

Two XTensions let you import any Adobe Photoshop document into an XPress picture box without first flattening it or saving it in TIFF or EPS format:

Techno Design's Photoshop Import XT (   ; $69; ) and a lowly apprentice production's (ALAP) ImagePort 1.3 (   ; $100; ). Photoshop Import XT is the less expensive of the two and performs one function: it allows you to import layered, native Photoshop documents via XPress's standard Get Picture dialog box.

ImagePort offers the same functionality and adds a palette, very similar to Photoshop's Layers palette, that's a real time-saver. You'll jump between programs less frequently when you can enable and disable layers, channels, and paths inside the Photoshop file without leaving XPress. You can easily create a spot varnish, emboss, and foil -- just save the special effect as a channel in Photoshop and then turn the channel on or off in XPress. The easy-to-use interface also lets you control the blend mode and opacity for any layer, and choose paths as clipping paths or for text runaround.

Both XTensions include a free viewer XTension so people who don't have the full XTension can print your document.

Add Drop Shadows and Transparency

ALAP's ShadowCaster 3.2 (   ; $100) brings remarkable power to XPress. Its transparency and shadow features are similar to those in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, so it's very easy to learn. You can add bevels, glows, embosses, inner shadows, and drop shadows to an item or group, and apply varying levels of transparency to items that overlap other items, using blending modes like Photoshop's. You can group items onto layers and adjust opacity for an entire layer. The program lets you easily remove effects from layers, and copy and apply effects from one layer to another. You can save frequently used effects as styles and share those styles with other XPress users.

Be warned that while its features are powerful and its results are striking, ShadowCaster's implementation is clunky. It displays the added effects in a high-resolution preview window, not on the XPress page. You must export the image, which ShadowCaster places behind items on the XPress document page. You then delete the original items manually.

Also, many XPress documents contain vector EPS files, and ShadowCaster previews these in low resolution only. The company recommends converting vector EPS graphics to raster EPS or TIFF format before using ShadowCaster.

Export Pages as Pictures

When you want to use a page or a portion of a page created in XPress as a graphic element in another XPress document, it's much easier to use a picture of the page than it is to include the entire XPress page with all its components. Gluon's got you covered with XPressImage 6 (   ; $199; Pro version, $349; ). No other product comes close to its functionality.

XPressImage 6 lets you convert a selection, page, spread, or document to any of 16 file formats (including EPS, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PDF picture, PNG, Scitex, Targa, BMP, and PCX) at any size and resolution, with or without a black border, as well as bleed and crop marks. It can also create Java or HTML pages from any or all of your document's pages, with a table of contents that links to each page. When exporting to GIF, JPEG, or PNG format, you have control over color indexing, compression, and interlacing.

In addition, you can export to the Clipboard, so you can instantly paste your image into another document or application. XPressImage also lets you save settings as presets, and it converts any document you put in a hot folder to one of your preset formats.

The program includes a Photoshop plug-in that automatically tells Photoshop to rasterize vector EPS files imported into XPress. The Pro version ($349) can save XPress boxes as layers in Photoshop, apply a Photoshop Action before saving, and send documents directly to e-mail. It's also AppleScript-able.

Resize Entire Documents

The good news: the clients love your 8-by-10 ad. The bad news: they want "exactly the same ad” in 2.5 by 5, 5 by 4, and 8.5 by 11. That's when it's time for Gluon's ProScaleEV 7 (   ; $139).

While the interface is uninspired, it's certainly efficient. You can resize entire multipage documents, or just selected items, with complete control over what gets scaled and how. It scales pages nonproportionally while maintaining the proportions of page items. A Fit To pop-up menu lets you choose common sizes, such as A4, A5, 1/3 page, 1/2 page, letter, and tabloid. Alternatively, you can enter new dimensions, or just click and drag selected items to a new size. Whichever method you choose, the process is extremely fast. And if you botch a scaling, you can undo it with 1-Z.

Extreme Picture Management

Badia Software's BigPicture 2.0 (   ; $90; http://www ) is remarkably helpful when your document contains many pictures. It treats images the way I wish XPress would: namely, listing everything about all of them, showing you where they are, and helping you link and unlink them.

BigPicture 2.0's giant window displays a thumbnail of all pictures, as well as vital information about each one, including color model, format, file size, resolution, effective resolution, scaling, angle, compression, application, date modified, fonts, and colors. Or you can select all pictures in a document that match a chosen criterion (for example, all RGB images). It shows where you used each picture and gives its directory path. Click on the path to reveal the linked picture file in the Finder. You can edit a picture with any appropriate application, and BigPicture updates it in the XPress document when you resave the picture.

And BigPicture has other significant productivity enhancers: BigPicture can search for missing or modified pictures and automatically relink the files, unlink all pictures, relink pictures to a different folder (great for swapping high-resolution and low-resolution pictures), and replace any picture with another while maintaining the original transformations you applied in XPress, such as scaling and cropping. And you can change a picture's actual file name inside BigPicture.

Don't Stop Here

I've highlighted a few XTensions here, but there are plenty of others that are worth investing in. To find and compare XTensions (as well as plug-ins for other professional creative applications), try ThePowerXChange ( ).

Version Conversion

Markzware's $199 MarkzTools 5 (   ; August 2003) consisted of seven modules for salvaging corrupted files, switching between QuarkXPress 4 and 5, and reducing file size. Version 5.5 ($199; upgrade from version 5, $99) adds a Convert menu item to XPress 4.1 or 5; this lets you open an XPress 6 document. If the XPress 6 document was created using features not available in versions 4.1 or 5, then the XTension ignores those features. For example, you can import only XPress 6 documents that have one layout, and documents with multiple layers may not convert into XPress 4.1.

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