iPad Publishing Service full review

At the start of this year Quark announced an App Studio feature for its Quark Publishing System. Quite simply, App Studio lets you turn a document designed in QuarkXPress into an app destined for the App Store, thereby letting publishers take advantage of this new marketplace without the cost of bespoke app development.

Quark also recognised that this would be a pretty useful feature for the desktop version of QuarkXPress. It’s being developed for QuarkXPress 9, but it won’t be ready until later this summer as part of a free v9.1 upgrade. In the meantime, Quark is offering an iPad Publishing Service that anyone with QuarkXPress 8.5 can use. The service comes in two halves: first, you design the layout; then you send it to Quark where a team of developers will convert it into an app.

Designing the layout
To start, you’ll need to download the QPS App Studio, free from the Quark website. Once installed it will appear under the Window menu. This provides a set of six media types: picture, movie, slideshow, audio, button and HTML link. You have to go through your project and define what level of interactivity each asset should have. Choose pan and zoom across still images, set up slideshows of images, and set movies to play when a page is opened or a button clicked. You can also use buttons to direct readers to a particular spread, or a website, and, of course, you can incorporate HTML links, or even embed YouTube videos.

QuarkXPress was originally designed for print publishing, so some of its features have had to be stretched to accommodate app publishing. You’ll need to set up two separate layouts, one for vertical and one for horizontal orientation. You can duplicate one layer to the other, but will have to watch out for elements that slip off the pasteboard, which effectively means you’ll have to go through and tweak the design twice over.

You can embed movies or have them hosted elsewhere, and set up an alternative image to display if the viewer is offline

A little guesswork
The one big drawback is that you can’t see the impact of any of the effects that you set up. For that you have to wait until you get the finished app back from Quark, so there’s no chance to play around with it and test out different ideas. The App Studio isn’t very intuitive and there doesn’t appear to be any help, so there’s a certain amount of guesswork involved, though no doubt once you’ve been through the process a couple of times it’ll all seem pretty obvious.

Once you’re happy with the design and its interactivity for both layouts it’s time to send it off to Quark to have it converted into an app. Note that you’ll have to collect fonts and pictures for output for each layout separately and you’ll have to manually collect things like video, sound and HTML.

The iPad Publishing Service will be wound up once the App Studio has shipped for QuarkXPress 9. For now, it only supports Apple’s App Store but Quark is planning to add support for Google’s Android Market later in the year.

Using the App Studio XTension does feel a little idiosyncratic, some of the options are limited and it’s frustrating not to be able to see the effects as you work on the project. But there’s a good chance that most of these issues will be dealt with when the App Studio for QuarkXPress 9 comes out. 

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