QuarkVista Brings Image Editing Home To XPress

Illustration han­dling in QuarkXPress has, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, been a chal­lenge requir­ing deft coor­di­na­tion. Images, as often as not, don’t come in a com­plete­ly ade­quate form; some require the effects that only an image-editor, such as the ubiq­ui­tous Photoshop, can pro­vide.

Historically, the XPress user has had lit­tle choice but to exit or sus­pend work in XPress, load the image file into their image-editor, make the changes, save the file as an appro­pri­ate for­mat, and re-import the image into Quark. Quark looked to change that, respond­ing to the insur­gency that Adobe’s InDesign and Creative Suite rep­re­sent­ed.

QuarkVista Picture Effects Palette In Use
The QuarkVista Picture Effects palette, the XTension’s avatar

Announced in May 2004, the QuarkVista XTension promised image-manipulation and edit­ing from with­in XPress. After months of wait­ing, QuarkVista shipped with the XPress 6.5 update. In large part, it was worth the wait.

QuarkVista’s appear­ance blends in with the rest of the inter­face. The Picture Effects palette (avail­able through the Windows pull­down as Show Picture Effects), QuarkVista’s man­i­fes­ta­tion with­in the XPress inter­face, is unex­pect­ed­ly sim­ple, works very well, and dis­plays a great deal with con­cise pre­ci­sion. A sim­ple six-button tool­bar lives at the top, over a win­dow pane, fin­ished at the bot­tom with an “info” sec­tion that pro­vides CMYK and RGB val­ues for the point at which the cur­sor is at any time.

The tool­bar pro­vides access to adjust­ments and fil­ters which are famil­iar to any long time Photoshop user. Amongst the adjust­ments are such as Levels, Curves, Color Balance, Selective Color, and Gamma Correction. Some of the famil­iar fil­ters pro­vid­ed are Gaussian blur, Unsharp Mask, Embossing, and Noise addi­tion. This is not a com­plete list.

Any com­bi­na­tion of effects and fil­ters can be used. The win­dow pane, which claims the main part of the Picture Effects palette, dis­plays all fil­ters and effects used, and allows the user to not only turn on and off indi­vid­ual effects and edit their para­me­ters, but also to rearrange the order in which they are applied by mere­ly drag­ging them up and down through the list. While there is a but­ton on the tool­bar that allows the user to edit ind­vid­ual effects/adjustments, it need­n’t be used; all that is real­ly nec­es­sary is to double-click on the item in the win­dow. Also, any com­bi­na­tion of items can be saved as a pre­set for lat­er use, and exist­ing pre­sets can be import­ed.

Perhaps the most remark­able fea­ture of QuarkVista is that the effects and adjus­ments are non-destructive. Unless the image is saved or export­ed (the Save Picture com­mand under the File pull­down pro­vides sav­ing changes to graph­ics or export­ing them as new files as well as relink­ing to the new graph­ic or keep­ing the link to the old) the orig­i­nal graph­ic isn’t changed in any way. Changes to the appear­ance of the graph­ic are saved with­in the XPress project/layout file.

QuarkVista reads and saves/exports in a vari­ety of for­mats: TIFF, PNG, JPEG, ScitexCT, GIF, PICT and BMP. It does not work for EPSs and PDFs

There are down­sides worth eval­u­at­ing, of course. QuarkVista does quite a lot very well, but (my explo­rations were done on a PowerMac G4, 1.24 GHz 2-processor machine) changes some­times required a great deal of pro­cess­ing pow­er, espe­cial­ly the more advanced effects such as Gaussian blur, of which a quick and dirty wrist­watch bench­mark proved out to between five and eight sec­onds. Similarly, turn­ing effects on and off typ­i­cal­ly caused a pause. Furthermore these paus­es can cause slug­gish­ness in response in the dia­logue box­es and slid­ers; with Preview turned on, the effect is redis­played when slid­ers are moved, with the atten­dant hes­i­ta­tion when the pro­gram works it all out. Working with QuarkVista requires a bit of patience as one adjusts para­me­ters and waits for the appli­ca­tion to catch up.

The vet­er­an XPress user may find the delays frus­trat­ing, but as some­one who has used XPress, XPress in com­bi­na­tion with Photoshop, and has some idea of the effort and time involved, the time spent wait­ing for QuarkVista to catch up is still less than sus­pend­ing lay­out to edit a file and update it with­in the lay­out, mak­ing it worth learn­ing a some­what dif­fer­ent tem­po.

And, final­ly, while Quark lay­outs done with QuarkVista can be loaded and print­ed out by users who don’t have the XTension, but will only print images in low-resolution. This can be worked around by export­ing the changes and link­ing to the new ver­sion, which is a lit­tle indi­rect but not oner­ous or impos­si­ble to do.

Quark esti­mates that lay­out design­ers who require image edit­ing only use about 10% of the capa­bil­i­ties of any image-editor they have. It’s not clear how they arrived at that con­clu­sion but, based on my expe­ri­ences as some­one who start­ed out in Quark, it does­n’t seem a whol­ly unrea­son­able assump­tion. QuarkVista serves that need very well, bring­ing basic image-adjustment capa­bil­i­ties with­in the pro­gram, an addi­tion that is long over­due in view of Adobe’s inno­v­a­tive accom­plish­ments with the Creative Suite. Though there are per­for­mance draw­backs, they are accept­able with respect to the pow­er and flex­i­bil­i­ty that QuarkVista brings to XPress.

At the bot­tom line, QuarkVista is a pow­er­ful and valu­able addi­tion to XPress which promis­es to slow, in some way, the loss of Quark’s user base to Adobe, as vet­er­an users will appre­ci­ate the need of not hav­ing to also have an image-editor on hand, and ought to put the indus­try at large on notice that, regard­less of the progress of this bat­tle of pub­lish­ing big-guns, Quark is tak­ing the chal­lenge from Adobe seri­ous­ly.

About the author: Samuel John Klein is a freel­nce graph­ic and web design­er in the process of being unleashed on an unsus­pect­ing world. Email con­tact and exam­ples of work can be found at The SunDial Earth Station.

Pariah Burke

Author, consultant, trainer, guru: Digital Publishing, ePub, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Quark. Empowering, Informing, Connecting Creative Professionals™

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2 Responses

  1. chandrasekar says:

    i want to work from home for image edit­ing work

  2. gs says:

    do you mean to ask - how to launch your work licensed QXP appli­ca­tion at home? If yes - then it depends upon how is your office copy licensed (license serv­er based or acti­va­tion based)? in either ways - it is pos­si­ble to launch and run.