Quark talks open standards, InDesign competition

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Denver, CO-based Quark Inc. recently took the wraps off some of the new features in its upcoming desktop publishing application QuarkXPress 7. The new version will take Quark into the realm of open standards as the company works toward making workflows easier for their users. Company officials also addressed increasing competition from Adobe Systems Inc.’s InDesign page layout application.

“We are using lots of open standards because collaboration is what it’s all about,” Quark’s Glen Turpin, told MacCentral. “There are some who like to take their own path and there are some who like to work in collaboration with their customers and other companies.”

Quark’s goal is to make its application fit into the workflow in a more complementary manner than was previously possible. This means that QuarkXPress needs to be aware of what happens upstream and downstream in the workflow.

“We feel that in order to fit into a larger publishing workflow efficiently, we need to be flexible in how our product interoperates with machines downstream and workflow systems,” said Turpin. “We need to work in a standards-based environment because it gives our customers a lot more flexibility and a lot more freedom of choice.”

One of the biggest changes in QuarkXPress 7 will be with the file format itself. Quark will use an open file format by creating QuarkXPress Markup Language (QXML), a DOM schema for QuarkXPress projects. The structure of the QuarkXPress project is defined according to W3C DOM and XPath specifications. DOM makes all the content of a QuarkXPress project available as XML, which allows any application that understands the schema of a QuarkXPress project to access the QuarkXPress data and process it.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Turpin. “This is a great tool for us to be able to plug QuarkXPress into more publishing systems. Openness and the ability to plug QuarkXPress into more workflows, more easily, and at lower cost, is essential to our customers and essential to us.”

Quark will also add database publishing with the use of Personalized Print Markup Language (PPML). Using PPML all static content, multiple instances of same static content, synchronized content and master page elements will be recognized as reusable objects. Reusing content elements, users will now be able to create multiple document types, sizes and media for multiple print and Web layouts.

New transparency features, giving users control over the opacity of the elements that make up any items or content in QuarkXPress like text, pictures, blends, boxes, frames, lines and tables, will also make its way into the new version.

“It’s about getting more powerful content and more targeted content into your customers’ hands and that means putting more powerful tools in the content creators hands,” said Turpin.

Based on the JDF standard, Quark will use what it calls the Quark Job Jacket, which incorporates detailed workflow and prepress information directly into a QuarkXPress project. Specifically, the Quark Job Jacket will contain contact information, resources required, layout intent, rules, output specifications and other information. Using this information will prevent errors during the publication’s creation and output processes, according to the company.

“People have always said that QuarkXPress is a faster way to work – it’s got an uncluttered UI [user interface] and you can get stuff done quickly and efficiently. The Job Jackets continue to push that envelope,” said Turpin.

About the competition

Turpin said that Quark sales are doing very well in face of increased competition from InDesign-maker, Adobe Systems Inc. Analyzing the same data, Quark says they see market trends in a totally different way that Adobe does.

“Sales have been really good for us,” said Turpin. “Clearly there is a strong competitor, but I think they have been making a lot more noise than is completely warranted. As we look at the market data, we see a different picture than they are seeing and that they’re talking.”

In fact, Quark says that many of the much-publicized “wins” that Adobe touts in news releases may not be what they seem.

“We’ve seen that from time to time they [Adobe] make a lot of noise about a particular customer win – and then that same customers turns around and places an order for hundreds of copies of software with us,” Turpin said. “The world is not quite what the 800-pound gorilla would lead you to believe.”

While Adobe talks about large companies and contracts that either move to InDesign or buy the product for the first time, Quark stays relatively quiet about its market place wins. This said Quark is something that will change in the future.

“We are starting to learn how to do that,” said Turpin. “For years Quark didn’t do much marketing, we just made good software. But now we have a strong competitor that’s good at gaining mindshare with a lot of hype.”

Even with the mindshare that Adobe seems to be winning away from Quark, Turpin said he welcomes the competition, believing it will be good for consumers.

“I’m not concerned; I’m engaged by the challenge,” said Turpin. “We’re doing great stuff at Quark – we’re developing software that is going to completely change desktop publishing in a way that it hasn’t changed in quite some time.

“What you’ve seen from Quark in the past year is that it has reinvented itself and has completely rethought how it interacts with its customers and rethought its position in the market,” said Turpin. “What you are seeing now is extremely innovative technologies built on standards.”

This story, "Quark talks open standards, InDesign competition" was originally published by PCWorld.

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