Quark 7.0: Latest Peek Unsexy, But Strong

2005
May
24

Newest peeks at QuarkXPress 7.0 features are unsexy, but powerful OpenType. Tell me more, big Quark. Customizeable user interface. Mmm. Transparency. Ooh, baby! JDF and XML. Oh. Well. Uh. Look at the time! I should probably get going. Peeling off more bulky layers of secrecy, first with a peek here then with a flourish of […]

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Newest peeks at QuarkXPress 7.0 features are unsexy, but powerful

OpenType. Tell me more, big Quark. Customizeable user interface. Mmm. Transparency. Ooh, baby! JDF and XML. Oh. Well. Uh. Look at the time! I should probably get going.

Peeling off more bulky layers of secrecy, first with a peek here then with a flourish of silk veils whispering to the ground in X-Ray’s second issue, Quark reveals a little more of XPress 7’s skin.

Unlike last month’s preview of XPress’s new user interface and support for transparent objects and native opacity adjustments, these new features aren’t the sexiest of curves, but they intimate that, when the full package is revealed, it won’t be the same old body that’s been dancing around the room for fifteen years.

JDF, or Job Definition Format, is a proposed industry standard widely-used in the pre-press, press, and post-press industries for information and tracking technology. With everything else in the for-press workflow gone or going digital–even film is on its way out–JDF replaces the time-honored paper job ticket that follows a print job from the client’s hands to preflight, then RIP to film, proofing to press, through cutting and bindery, and finally to delivery. With a JDF job ticket and systems capable of utilizing it, the risks of paper—loss or destruction of the ticket even from a simple coffee or emulsion spill, misconstrued handwriting—are eliminated, and with some information, such as the definitions of special color mixes or screen angles, the human mistake factor can be completely removed from the process. Some of today’s newest plateless printers can read instructions embedded in a JDF and make automatic adjustments without the need for operator’s to get involved.

Since JDF is XML-based, it’s compatible with all of today’s database and spreadsheet systems (even desktop level products like FileMaker Pro and Microsoft Excel), enabling personnel with access to the system to locate the job and discover its status at any point in the workflow—jobs can’t get lost. In the case of multiple, related jobs—for example, mini-catalogs printed with variable data on a digital press, DVD amarays and booklets running on offset, and boxes printing on a stamper—the jobs can be easily tracked and reunited for cutting, bindery, and stuffing. Assembly personnel can be alerted electronically when each phase of the production process has completed, and when it’s time for them to slip the amarays and booklets into the client-provided DVD cases, insert the DVD disks, then pack the DVD cases and customized catalogs into the stamped boxes for a full-service print, package, and ship workflow. Accounts receivable can be alerted as well, billing the client at stages in the production process—without the need to hunt down the production manager for a status report—and instantaneously marry all the different jobs for unified invoicing.

Third-party and largely proprietary systems have enabled JDF creation at the pre-press house for several years now. More savvy creative houses—often those with established and predictable workflows and strong ties to the pre-press, press, and post-press services they employ—have also taken advantage of JDF. For the average small to mid-sized agency, however, JDF has been too disparate a technology; many prefer to leave any job ticketing to the production staff, losing out on the advantages and securities it affords the creative. If XPress 7 creates well-formed, pure XML job tickets natively, in a user-friendly interface as the fleshy peek in X-Ray implies, the barrier to widespread adoption of JDF on the production and creative ends will be reduced.

But will Quark do it right? Will the XPress 7 JDF implementation follow in the steps of Quark’s “optimized PostScript,” straying just far enough from the standard to make it tough on purist applications? XPress no longer wields the industry supremacy it did during the 1990s; with such fierce competition on the desktop from InDesign, and the global locomotion toward homogenous standards, Quark can’t command the compliance of pre/press industry developers should the XPress 7 job ticket code be less than strictly adherent to the JDF 1.2 specification.

XPress 7 has some sexy curves, but we have yet to see her whole body. More importantly, once revealed, can she dance?

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