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A new age for Mac publishing

The new Quark won’t run on OS X. What’s up with that?

On Jan. 23, the long-awaited QuarkXPress 5 saw the light of day, fusing tools for print and Web design in a single application for media-independent publishing. Though the just-released XPress 5 isn’t Mac OS X-native yet, such a version is definitely coming, according to Quark.

With Mac OS X now positioned as the default Apple OS, however, there’s a chance that Adobe’s InDesign application can finally give XPress a run for its money. After all, Adobe is cranking out Mac OS X-native products while an OS X-native version of XPress is apparently still some ways off.

This fact is not lost on the thousands of prepress and publishing houses that use and plan to migrate to OS X. If Quark takes six months to a year to release a version of XPress 5–dubbed 5.x at MacWorld–the choice to migrate to a new prepress solution will become easier.

Mac OS X has been included, along with Mac OS 9, on all Apple systems shipped since May 2001. Mac OS 9 will continue to be shipped on all computers, so you can run Mac OS 9 applications in Classic mode from within Mac OS X, or reboot into Mac OS 9 if you wish.

“With respect to Carbon, we have been hard at work Carbonizing QuarkXPress for some time in parallel with the 5.0 development effort, and the next upgrade will be a Carbon-native application,” says Quark Communications Manager Glen Turpin. (Carbonized means an application has been fine-turned to take advantage of such Mac OS X features as protected memory, the Aqua interface, multiprocessor support, and more.) “A Mac OS X version of QuarkXPress is already in the works,” Turpin says.

XPress 5.x is expected to have some features specific to Mac OS X, though Quark isn’t talking about what they might be. Nor is there any info yet on the upgrade path and pricing for XPress 5 buyers who want to migrate to the OS X version when it’s released.

Turpin says that bringing XPress to Mac OS X is a big task. Plus, Quark didn’t receive the final Mac OS X software development kit (SDK) until after XPress 5.0 was “engineering complete,” he adds.

“For Quark, engineering complete is a point after which we make no functional changes before release,” Turpin explains. “From that point onward, our efforts are concentrated on identifying and fixing software defects. With hundreds of features and 18 operating systems as test environments across 12 language versions, we end up testing every feature in 216 environments.

“Stop for a moment and think about the scale of that effort,” he continues. “It’s massive. We have more than 2.5 million customers whose businesses rely on QuarkXPress. We take testing very seriously.”

Nevertheless, Quark assigned a small team to begin the Mac OS X port as soon as they received a preliminary SDK, so they’re not starting from square one, he says. The groundwork has already been laid, and work has been progressing for months.

Meanwhile, Adobe is forging ahead with Mac OS X applications. At MacWorld San Francisco, the company unveiled version 2 of LiveMotion, its Web graphics and Flash animation tool, and version 6 of GoLive, its Web site development app. Both programs can run natively in Mac OS X 10.1.

Even more important, since then Adobe has released InDesign 2, which may give QuarkXPress a serious run for its money. (Last November, Folio reported that 88.9 percent of U.S. magazine publishers use QuarkXPress.)

The latest version of InDesign not only runs natively in Mac OS X, but it also introduces editable transparency effects such as drop shadows, table creation, long document support, extensible markup language (XML), import/export support, and an enhanced printing interface.

InDesign 2 has also been developed to help creative professionals better create, manage, and deliver visually rich content to multiple channels, including print, Web, eBooks, and PDAs. Plus, the latest version supports Adobe’s XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform) technology–an XML-based framework for embedding, tracking, and exchanging metadata so that content can be deployed more efficiently across different media. And it offers tighter integration with other Adobe products including Acrobat, Illustrator, and Photoshop, another factor Adobe hopes will give the product some leverage against XPress.

“If Mac OS X wasn’t being released until 10 or 12 months from now, we’d still believe that InDesign 2 offers features that would make people consider switching from XPress,” says Mark Hilton, director of Adobe’s cross-media team. “However, Mac OS X does provide yet another reason for customers to make the change.”

Hilton says Adobe hopes those in the design and publishing industries will compare XPress 5 and InDesign 2 side by side. Adobe is confident that their product will come out on top, he adds.

Adobe InDesign 2 is available immediately to customers in North America through Adobe Authorized Resellers and the Adobe Store. The estimated street price is $699 for the full product.

However, Adobe hasn’t been immune from criticism in dragging its feet on some Mac OS X products. As this is written, the company still hadn’t released a Mac OS X-native version of Photoshop. One is in the works and is due this spring.

Although the folks at Quark had no comment on the XPress-vs.-InDesign scenario, they obviously don’t feel that their trailing Adobe in Mac OS X products will harm them significantly in the long run. As Turpin points out, Mac OS X users can use XPress 5.0 if they’re willing to run the software as a Classic application.

“Quark always takes the threat of competition seriously,” Turpin says. “However, we do not believe that the Carbonization of InDesign will augment its sales. Our most demanding customers have told us that they will move to Mac OS X when QuarkXPress and some other significant publishing software is available for OS X.”

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