Quark Beats InDesign, A Review of the New PSD Import Xtension

Quark Beats InDesign, A Review of the New PSD Import Xtension


Quark now works with PSD files better than Adobe’s own InDesign. The gauntlet has been thrown down. I can’t wait to see how Adobe picks it up.

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With the newly released PSD Import xtension, QuarkXPress 6.5 does far more with placed native Photoshop files than InDesign.

Last week Quark released the PSD Import xtension for QuarkXPress 6.5. Authored by A Lowly Apprentice, Inc. (ALAP), one of the most respected and detailed developers of Quark xtensions and InDesign plug-ins, the PSD Import xtension brings into Quark not only native Photoshop PSD files, but also a near mirror image of Photoshop’s own Layers, Channels, and Paths palettes.

Every InDesign users knows InDesign has long been able to place and use native Photoshop PSD files, complete with transparency and any transparency and blending effects set in Photoshop. But, when InDesign places PSDs, they come in flattened; InDesign cannot directly access the layers in the PSD.

Quark can.

The Good

PSD files now appear in Quark’s Get Picture dialog—complete with preview. Once placed, the new PSD Import palette grants access to the image’s layers, paths, and channels.

Layers, as well as paths and channels, may be turned on or off, all within Quark and all without affecting the original PSD file. By selectively deactivating the PSD file’s channels, separation previews are simple. When hardcopy separations are needed, the The PSD Import xtension allows printing of color separations regardless of the placed PSD file’s color mode—RGB, CMYK, Indexed, or Multichannel

Just as within Photoshop, individual layers’ opacity can be adjusted, and any of 22 different blending modes applied.

Alpha and spot channels in the PSD may be assigned to colors from Quark’s Colors palette, and even used to create varnish, emboss, or other special plates. Index colors may also be replaced with colors from Quark’s Colors palette.

Clipping paths can be selected from the PSD Import Paths palette, allowing different areas of the image to be displayed or hidden.

Of course, like any other placed image, PSD files can be scaled, skewed, rotated, and flipped.

The Bad

What the PSD Import xtension does not support, depending on the individual workflow, could be trivial or show-stopping.

Layered PSDs containing layer effects are not recognized by the new xtension, so the PSD is flattened and the ability to work with the file’s constituent layers is lost.

Type and vector path layers are similarly unsupported, though Quark will rasterize those layers without flattening the entire image. Layer groups are also not supported.

Layers, paths, and channels may be turned on or off, but they cannot be rearranged. Neither can they be deleted or duplicated. Changes of that nature require a trip back to Photoshop.

The Ugly

While InDesign cannot manipulate the layers of placed PSD files like Quark, InDesign still beats Quark on transparency. The PSD Import xtension holds the transparency of the file’s constituent layers, but the xtension forces a white background to appear beneath all layers. The background color is impossible to change, so when placing images on non-white backgrounds the old standy-by clipping path is necesary.

The Final Score

Of greatest significance to Quark users is the time and storage space savings to be gained in using the PSD Import xtension simply for its ability to import PSD files. Whether Quark can work with the layers of the file or flattens it, gone is the need to save a flattened TIFF from the Photoshop working PSD just for placement into Quark. This advantage translates into saved time—perhaps hours worth over the course of working with not-yet-finalized images and layouts—and the need for less storage space simply to archive both the original PSD file and the flattened copies used in the Quark layout.

The PSD Import xtension is a major step forward for a Quark that intends to compete for its challenged throne.

Quark now works with PSD files better than Adobe’s own InDesign. The gauntlet has been thrown down. I can’t wait to see how Adobe picks it up.

The PSD Import xtension is available for immediate download from Quark’s website, and is free to all registered users of QuarkXPress 6.5 or Quark Passport 6.5 for Macintosh or Windows.

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