Almost all QuarkXPress users know about XTensionsthose plug-ins that add functionality to XPressbut relatively few people go out of their way to use them. This is unfortunate, because although QuarkXPress is a good program, you won’t really see it shine until you start using it with XTensions.
There are two reasons people tend to shy away from XTensions: First, it’s often cost-prohibitive for small companies to buy more than one or two (so some don’t buy any at all). Second, people still feel the burn of the worst disaster in desktop publishing history: Pasteboard XT.
When Pasteboard XT first came out, it changed people’s documents so that you had to have this free XTension loaded to be able to open the document. People were so angry that the developer soon released a new version to fix the problem. But in the short time that lapsed, the old XTension made its way around the world. Even though every version of the XTension since then has removed the requirement, the old version still haunts us. (If you run into this problem, visit the Markzware Web site [
] to get a newer version of the XTension or PBFix; then just open the file and resave it. Also from Markzware, Pasteboard XTerminator batch-removes the requirement from all the XPress documents on your hard drive.)
If you suffer from XTension woes, the antidote is an abundance of other XTensions that are free or really inexpensive and that cure headaches rather than cause them. We can’t guarantee that the XTensions in this article are bug-free, but most of them are so simple that not much can go wrong. For all of you who have asked, “Why won’t XPress let me do this?” the answer is just a download away.
One of the most important rules of XTensions is: Be careful of the outdated ones. Some older XTensionssuch as the Bob and Son of Bob XTensions from Quarkcan cause major crashing problems with newer versions of XPress. Other older XTensions may cause subtle problems or simply won’t run. It’s best to avoid using an XTension on important documents until you know that it works for you.
Another potential pitfall is not having enough RAM allocated to QuarkXPress. The more XTensions you have loaded, and the more complex those XTensions are, the more RAM XPress needs.
While some users still balk at using XTensions, it’s clear that adding functionality to XPress will increase your productivity. Sure, there are expensive XTensions out thereand the people who need them are happy to pay for them. There are also low-cost bundles of XTensionssuch as QX-Tools, from Extensis (
); XPert Tools, from a lowly apprentice production (
); and Xdream, from Vision’s Edge Software (
)that offer a lot of punch for a little money. Nothing beats the joy of a freeware or shareware XTension that saves you an hour’s worth of time. Of course, not every XTension in the sidebar “Essential Shareware XTensions” will be a perfect fit for what you need, but you should be able to find at least a few jewels here.
DAVID BLATNER is the author of
The QuarkXPress 4 Book
(Peachpit Press, 1998) and
Real World Photoshop 5
(Peachpit Press, 1999). You can find him at
Essential Shareware XTensions
DOWNLOADS TO FINESSE QUARKXPRESS
QuarkXPress lets you do a lot with text, but there’s always room for improvement. These four XTensions help you manage your text better than ever.
) sorts every paragraph in a selection alphabetically or numerically (as long as the paragraphs are numbered).
(Durrant Software) lets you change the text-inset amount for each of the four sides of a text box.
Word Counter XT
) counts the number of characters, lines, and words in your selection, your text box, or even the entire page. If you’re an editor or a writer, this XTension is essential.
(Markzware) provides you with a palette that lists all overset text boxes (boxes that contain more text than they can hold). It even lets you automatically enlarge boxes until the text fits. Very nice.
Any way to speed up working with pictures in XPress will put a smile on a production artist’s face. Here are three XTensions that should do the trick.
) lets you import graphics or text without first having to make a picture or text box (it does so by creating a Place menu item you can choose from XPress’s File menu). What’s more, the XTension builds picture boxes on the fly that are exactly the size of the picture.
(Markzware) saves the scaling, rotation, skew, and offset of your graphics when you use Get Picture to replace an image in a picture box.
) lets you import pictures by simply dragging them from your desktop to your QuarkXPress page. If you’ve got a big monitor, you’ll love this convenience.
) replaces XPress’s murky screen previews of TIFF files with high-resolution images. It lets you see how your pages really look.
Why can’t you lock guides in XPress? Why is there no way to tell a spot color from a process color in the Colors palette? Fortunately, there are XTensions that let you control these and other preferences.
S&R Default Folder
(Durrant Software) fulfills one of the most common requests: the ability to change the default settings in the Step And Repeat dialog box. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s essential for any hard-core XPress user.
(Vision’s Edge Software;
) places a border around your page when you print your document. This is extremely useful when you’re printing a proof of any page that’s smaller than the paper you’re using.
Bold Spot XT
(Markzware) is the best at helping you determine which colors are spot colors and which are process in the Colors palette: when the XTension is loaded, all the spot colors appear in bold type.
Lock Guides XT
(Markzware) gives you two options: lock all the guides or unlock all the guides. It’s basic, but anyone who has ever accidentally moved a guide knows this could be a real lifesaver.