Case Study: QuarkXPress

QuarkXPress is one of the best desktop publishing solutions around thanks to its impressive capabilities and features. A few...

QuarkXPress is one of the best desktop publishing solutions around thanks to its impressive capabilities and features. A few print production agencies explain why this is so

When you're working at a company that has three Akiyama presses; a Heidelberg press; a full bindery with a saddle-stitcher; a prepress room with four Macs; a Rainbow system; an Agfa SelectSet 5000 imagesetter; and a Dainippon Screen drum scanner, you want your software to be just as professional as your equipment.

For Jim Mowreader, that means QuarkXPress. "I called in my order for version 4.0 the day Quark announced that it was for sale," said Mowreader, the electronic prepress manager at The Highland Press. "I installed it and started using it as soon as it arrived. While I saw a few problems at first, QuarkXPress 4.03 is extremely stable, it's fast, and it does what you tell it to."

A $3 million commercial print facility in Fayetteville, NC, Highland handles jobs ranging from camera-ready to those requiring prepress work and design services. QuarkXPress 4.03 gives Mowreader the power and versatility he needs to keep the presses running 24 hours a day ( and keep customers happy. Clipping paths, print styles, character style sheets, the tabbed panels and added apply buttons in the dialog boxes are a just a few of the new features he depends on.

The multi-ink feature is one that Mowreader feels he's only begun to master. It lets him create new colours based on percentages ( or a combination ( of several existing process or spot colours that print to more than one plate. "I've found out the multi-ink feature is great for varnishing," he added. "I've also used it to mix black ink with Pantone colours and to mix two Pantone colours together."

Mowreader also sings the praises of embedded path clipping. "Customers generally line up a number of small objects on a camera table, shoot them on one sheet of film, then clip them out," he said. "With this feature, instead of having to create nine or 10 files each containing one item, I can have one large file, save nine or 10 paths into it, and use embedded path clipping to select an item in the file. It saves disk space and definitely saves file management headaches."

During his stint in the US Army, Mowreader tried other publishing software. But his first experience with QuarkXPress was a revelation. "I got version 2.11 in on a Wednesday and had my first job out the next day," he noted. "I spent all of four hours learning enough of the program to get it to work and have since spent my entire life learning more about it. QuarkXPress never fails to have one more neat little thing hidden somewhere in there, just waiting to be found."

Similarly, Ira Ratner, Promotions Director for Plants Sites & Parks (PS&P), relies on QuarkXPress 4.0. When your magazine targets over 45,000 top corporate executives, you want to make sure advertising and promotions are top notch. But that's only natural since he has a long history with QuarkXPress that stretches back more than 10 years ago, to his days at a New York ad agency.

"Companies should release software upgrades when there's a real advance," said Ratner. "QuarkXPress 4.0 is a real advance. It prints much faster than before. Plus, everything is co-ordinated into one window. So when I use a keyboard shortcut, it brings me to the highlighted field in that window. And all of my old shortcuts work. I also love the new text paths you can draw and the ability to convert text to picture boxes ( I can even take a headline, bring in an EPS file, and be able to kern that type as opposed to going into PhotoShop."

Layouts for PS&P are created in QuarkXPress, as are a number of ads for states and communities that are trying to attract relocating and expanding businesses to their area. "Some of our advertisers don't have advertising materials or an ad agency," explained Ratner. "So we function like an in-house agency. By using version 4.0 to design ads for them, I can give the ad a unique look. For example, with the new merging and splitting shapes feature, I can take four picture boxes, rotate them into diamonds, overlap them slightly and merge them into one graphic element that's unlike the typical rectangular or silhouette shape you see."

In addition to his other responsibilities, Ratner writes, designs and produces promotions for upcoming issues. "If we're doing a special section on the automotive industry in the next issue, we'll send a promotion out to the communities that want to attract and that would be interested in advertising," he noted. "These promotions are done in-house and are output to a 1200-dpi laser or colour printer."

Working at Westat, a government subcontracting research institution located in Rockville, MD, keeps Mike Walker very busy. So it's no wonder he's a productivity fiend. Like others, he depends on QuarkXPress to keep him on top of his workload. "I started working with page layout programs in 1987," Walker said. "I switched to QuarkXPress in 1990, and I was immediately more productive. It did everything I needed it to do, fast, with a learning curve of only about a week. I was much more functional after switching."

Westat creates books, instruction manuals and CD-ROMs, journals and publications, posters, brochures and other projects for such government agencies as the National Education Goals Panel, National Science Foundation, and the Centre for Disease Control. "One of my projects involved creating an annual document from a number of combined studies," Walker noted. "This year, the document was being published twice, so I had to do things very quickly. The way we created the job previously was not very efficient. We had separate studies that had to be combined with certain chapters that ended up being lumped together. With the new Book feature in version 4.0, I just started making individual chapters. I can synchronise style sheets, then print them out one by one. I can even print the entire book without opening it up. This feature is, hands down, the best thing QuarkXPress has ever done."

( Quark 1999

Compiled by Scott Snowden

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