capsule review

Quark Interactive Designer 1.0

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If you’re a print designer using QuarkXPress 7 (   ) and you need to design interactive Flash projects for Web sites derived from your Quark layouts, Quark Interactive Designer (QuID), a plug-in or XTension to Quark 7.02, is the tool for you. It is easy to learn and use and gives you the ability to convert and build on your existing print designs.

This program has a simple and straightforward interface and concept, and it works very well for creating presentations, interactive tours, online ads and banners, or for converting your pages into a Web site complete with multimedia content. You can also use QuID to create familiar elements such as rollover navigation bars, disjointed rollovers, and animations without any coding, programming, or scripting knowledge.

While the vast majority of designers will be satisfied with the basic actions that QuID supplies (and you’ll need to consult the manual or video to understand how to use them—they are not self-explanatory) some designers will need additional complex effects that are more technically difficult to produce. Nonetheless, compared to Flash, QuID is still much easier to learn and use.

Quark’s synchronize feature lets you sync print, Web, and interactive content—a great time saver, because changes to synchronized elements are updated automatically in all documents within a project.

Interactive history

Quark has long tried to make its layout software more than just a tool for print designers. In version 5 (   ), released in 2002, it introduced the ability to create static HTML pages for the Web. The release of Quark QuID takes the concept further by adding Flash-authoring capabilities to Quark 7.

With QuID you can start a new project from scratch or convert an existing print layout. After opening the Interactive Palette dialog from the Window menu, five tabs--labeled Object, Event, Script, Page, and Keys--are all that you need to turn your static design into animated and interactive Flash movies. But unlike Flash, there’s no complicated timeline or key frames—with QuID you simply name a selected object and determine an event or action that will be associated with it. It can be a user event, like clicking the mouse on a particular area, or an automatic trigger such as entering or exiting a page. You use the Script tab to designate such actions. If you want to play an animation, for example, you must create a script that includes a Play action in order to see it.

The program ships with over 100 different actions—prebuilt objects that you can use in your project. If you want to create more advanced functionality for a Web site, an Expression Editor lets you build functions based on values such as the position of the mouse cursor or the current date. You can even create some advanced Flash applications, such as interactive quizzes.

Working in Quark

QuID is well-integrated with QuarkXPress, including the new features of version 7 such as job jackets and composition zones. For example, QuID lets you create an interactive composition zone in a Web document, which gives you a much more intuitive workflow. Quickly switch between the Web and the interactive page and make adjustments when designing, or another designer can work on the Flash design simultaneously. By the time you are ready to export, the complete page is ready to post with a single click.

Flash alternative?

QuID works so well, that for certain types of Flash (   ) projects, it may be worth it even for Flash experts who also use Quark to consider it. Designing a table, creating a multi-column layout, or cropping a picture can be a time consuming challenge in Flash, but not in QuID. Best of all, you can place these elements in a QuarkXPress layout on the master page to have them appear on each document page.

Unfortunately, you can’t save a project in the native Flash (FLA) format, so you won’t be able to start a project in QuID and finish it in Adobe Flash. You can export only stand-alone projectors (small apps that run when you double-click their icon) and SWF format documents. Stand-alone projectors are useful if you want to publish your presentation on a CD, rather than a Web page, because they don’t require a browser or Flash plug-in.

Byte size

Whereas Adobe Flash does a superb job of keeping the file sizes small, QuID does not achieve the same results. That’s because Flash uses instances (aliases) of symbols, single elements that are stored in a library, which can be reused over and over again without adding to the overall file size. QuID does not use instances of symbols when duplicating elements like Flash does, but rather makes copies. Thus, file sizes are larger.

For example, I created a two-frame animation that I saved as an Image Sequence in QuID and as a symbol in Flash. I placed this image sequence in the document 100 times and then exported the file. The SWF file was less than 1KB in Flash, compared to over 110KB when exported from QuID.

Another problem is that QuID automatically saves all placed images as JPEGs and allows you to set only a general compression value for all the images in the preferences. That is disappointing. An experienced Web Designer can optimize an image way better than any automatic algorithm. It is not too much to expect from a Web-design authoring tool to leave previously optimized GIFs and JPEGs untouched. Quark should implement a Don’t Modify option in the Modify dialog or improve the image export capabilities if it wants to appeal to professional Web designers. There is a workaround that requires you to create a script that links to an external URL, but that is time consuming.

As with many new releases, QuID 1.0 has its share of bugs and quirks—nothing that would impede using it, but things that could be quite annoying if you are creating a larger project. For example, if you change a Script Step and want to undo it, you can’t; The Undo Change Script Step command in the Edit menu has no effect.

Macworld’s buying advice

Quark Interactive Designer 1.0 is a great tool for any QuarkXPress 7 designer who wants to create interactive content with Flash or who has existing content to convert for Web use. Even if you own Adobe Flash, there is no easier and faster way to convert your existing design into a SWF movie. For a very reasonable price, this plug-in will return its investment with the first job. If Quark can reduce the file size of the SWF files and allow better image control, it would greatly enhance an already fine debut.

[ Michael Baumgardt is the author of more than 20 books on desktop publishing and Web design, including Quark 6 for Print and Web (Peachpit Press, 2003) and Web Design with Photoshop (Adobe Press, 2002). ]

QuID’s Interactive Palette lets you manage and control your animated elements.QuID’s Expression Editor lets you calculate values based on various factors. You could display different pictures depending on the day of the week or the position of the cursor.
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