QuarkXPress became the leading page-layout program through its combination of high-powered tools aimed at publishing professionals. But it also takes time to learn, exemplifying the principle that the most effective interface for experienced users isn’t necessarily easy for novices. QuarkImmedia, Quark’s attempt to become a dynamic-media player, follows a similar pattern. Immedia is stuffed with tools for producing a wide range of media, but its interface is not intuitive.
If you use QuarkXPress, you may be tempted to consider QuarkImmedia as your multimedia software because it works with the tools and documents you already have. If you create a print catalog, for example, you can use Immedia to make an interactive CD version, replacing static elements with QuickTime movies and sounds, animated buttons, hyperlinks, and other material.
However, Immedia has less value when you’re creating dynamic media from scratch. Combined with QuarkXPress, it costs (at $1,290) $300 more than Macromedia Director ($995). As a result, the program probably will not appeal to multimedia-only creators.
As you get the hang of Immedia, you’ll discover a host of features that let you create a wide range of projects, from slide shows to CD-based video players. While you can’t quite use Immedia to develop something as complicated as Myst, you can get close. The program lacks timeline-based video-editing controls, but provides any other tool a multimedia producer would need.
Lots of Action
Quark has blessed Immedia with many types of actionsfrom downloading Web files to selecting and copying text for online surveysthat you can control through a scripting language that works for both Mac and Windows. You can use AppleScripts in two ways: automating production work within Immedia or executing multimedia actions for Mac-based recipients. The package also includes a variety of neat sound, video, and transition clips to help you embellish your files.
To view Immedia presentations, your recipients need a copy of the Immedia player. The package includes Mac and Windows versions of the viewer that you can distribute or embed in the file (for example, for CD distribution). When exporting files for use on the Internet, Immedia can automatically create a link that lets users download the player from Quark’s Web site.
The Interface Issue
As a plug-in to QuarkXPress 4.02 or later, Immedia adopts the familiar QuarkXPress palettes and menus. However, an interface designed for print publishing doesn’t necessarily work as well for producing interactive media. Some aspects of the Immedia interface are downright awkward.
One example: to add an object to the Immedia palette, you select the item and then enter a name for it. There’s no Add button or equivalent as you would expect, although there is a Remove From List button that deletes the object from the palette. You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to add objects and never stumble across this nonexistent button.
Immedia’s use of multistate pop-up lists, rather than multiple check boxes, can be confusing at first. However, it’s apparent that Quark chose this course to keep the dialog box at a manageable size.
Given this lack of intuitive controls, few people will figure out how to use Immedia based on their experience with QuarkXPress or other programs (such as video editors, HTML editors, and presentation software). You will need to use the manual, which unfortunately doesn’t offer much explanation beyond reciting program features. However, the interactive primer on the CD does a solid job of describing the basic tools, plus it’s a great example of what Immedia can do (see “Practice What You Preach”). But you should still plan to spend considerable time figuring out how to use Immedia’s many features.
We also found some strange behavior, such as movies disappearing when there was more than one on a page, even though they were not set to be hidden. Cropped movies often obscured text that overlapped the cropped portion.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If you’re the rare QuarkXPress user who really needs to transform print documents into interactive electronic versions, QuarkImmedia is worth a lookbut be prepared to spend a lot of time learning how to use this package.