While most changes in the QuarkXPress 6.5 update are too minor or specialized to have much impact, a new image-editing XTension, QuarkVista, may bring about a major change in your workflow. QuarkVista lets you alter images in your layouts without opening that behemoth, Adobe Photoshop.
You access QuarkVista through the Picture Effects palette. From there, you can adjust images and apply filters to achieve effects that rival Photoshop’s. The XTension features ten kinds of adjustments, including Brightness/ Contrast, Levels, Curves, Invert, and Posterize. You can also apply 12 effects filters, including Unsharp Mask, Gaussian Blur, and Despeckle. If you hit on the ideal combination of effects, you can save it as a preset to apply to other images (except EPS and PDF files).
Using Picture Effects is often simpler and faster than creating similar effects in Photoshop, but this may be a double-edged sword. Though you may get results more quickly with Picture Effects, you don’t have the fine control that Photoshop provides (see “Basic Curves”). For example, Picture Effects doesn’t recognize selections, layers, or alpha channels.
The Picture Effects adjustments and filters are nondestructive; that is, they don’t automatically change an image’s pixels. While Quark considers this an advantage over “destructive” image-editing applications such as Photoshop, that term can be deceptive. Many of the ways you apply adjustments and filters in Photoshop do alter pixels, but you can easily undo those effects, or you can apply the effects on separate layers that you turn on or off, leaving the original pixels intact. But if it’s one-step nondestructive edits you want, Picture Effects does beat Photoshop.
You can save edits to any image at any time. You can turn off adjustments and filters, change resolution, and set picture-box bleed.
Another element in the XPress 6.5 update is noteworthy: the PSD Import feature. Although its ability to import layered Photoshop files into XPress promises to be a workflow enhancer, the reality is less exciting. You won’t see those layers if your Photoshop file includes layer effects, and you can view but not tweak adjustment layers.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
QuarkXPress 6.5 is a valuable free upgrade to owners of version 6.1. While the QuarkVista XTension doesn’t replace Photoshop, it can give you quick results on-the-fly.
The Curves dialog box you reach from XPress 6.5’s Picture Effects palette is limited compared with Photoshop’s Curves.