Quark Breaks The One-File = One-Page Layout Equation

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

When Louis A. Landa was designing page layouts at the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo., he dreaded one question, but he heard it constantly: Aren’t you done with that page yet?

“I’d be doing a caption or something, and somebody would say, ‘C’mon, c’mon, I need that page,'” he said. “When I was a newspaper designer, it would have been wonderful to take a piece of the page, and say, ‘Here, you work on this part, while I work on this.'”

That’s exactly what QuarkXPress 7 will let newspaper graphics people do, he says.

Landa, now manager of customer initiatives for Quark Inc., was part of a team from the Denver-based software company that came to Chicago to talk up QuarkXPress 7 at last week’s Print 05, the big equipment show for the commercial printing industry.

Almost nobody from newspapers attends the show, but this time Quark was one of several companies with news that should interest the industry. (Look for stories in the coming days on some of those others, such as newly re-branded software maker Apaogo in Alpharetta, Ga., and the Australian-based workflow management solutions developer Quickcut.)

QuarkXPress 7 isn’t a product yet, and is still in testing with some early-adopting newspapers. But if it works as described, it’s a big leap forward for the flagship QuarkXPress line introduced in 1987.

With a new feature called “composition zones,” QuarkXPress 7 lets graphic artists, editors, and designers work on the same page simultaneously. Each can view the others work automatically.

Any unit on the page can be its own independent zone, said Marc Horne, strategic marketing manager/desktop. “It can be as small as a line drawn with a QuarkXPress tool or as large as the whole layout,” he said. “The one-file-equals-one-page model has really been a bottleneck for the newspaper industry.”

Another feature of the new version is a sort of style book for pagemaking called a “Job Jacket.” The feature uses the JDF (Job Definition Format) standard to store specifications on color management and other parameters across workstations, and ensure that graphics and pages adhere to a newspaper’s specs throughout their creation. “It lets you evaluate at the workflow rather than at the end,” Landa said.

Quark arrived at Print 05 with a new look and, its executives say, a new attitude. The company unveiled a new logo at the show, a stylized Q, colored Pantone 368 — a color that Pantone Inc. promptly renamed “Quark Green.” At the corner of everyone’s business card is the word “hello” in the same shade of green.

Over the years, Quark acquired a reputation for arrogance in its dealings with partners and customers. For a company that pioneered movement away from propertiety technology, it could be pretty inflexible even in its technology.

Now, though, Quark finds itself in the battle of its lifetime with Adobe Systems Inc.?s rival product, Adobe InDesign. Earlier this spring, both came out with marketing messages that compared QuarkXPress 6.5 head-to-head against Adobe Indesign CS2.

One technology response has been to adopt more open standards, such as the Adobe-invented PDF (Portable Document Format) and embracing JDF.

The other response is the charm offensive on display with the new logo at Print 05.

“It sends a big signal out there that something is really different with Quark,” says Glen Turpin, director of corporate communications. “We’re more customer-focused, we’re easier to work with, and we’re a company that wants to work with you…And it’s not just about the software that we put out. It’s about how we pick up the phone, how we do support, how we get [customers] trained better.”

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