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Any DTP professional worth a damn will be forever striving to fine-tune their workflow, seeking both to automate the process as far as possible, and employing any short-cut able to shave even seconds off a given task. After all, if you look after the seconds, the minutes look after themselves.
Extensis has long been a key player in DTP workflow-management
and improvement, and QX-Tools Pro is the company’s latest impressive offering.
Pro offers far more control over item-editability than is possible in XPress. Its Find/Change feature allows global changes to be made to every property of picture boxes, text boxes, and lines. And by
using Adobe-style floating tabbed-palettes, Pro enables XPress users to make real-time incremental changes to both items and text – so obviating the need to navigate through XPress’ labyrinthine dialog boxes.
The Scaling tool is also a boon, meaning that items can be scaled intelligently. This allows a picture box to be scaled without changing the value of the keyline, for example. That’s something about XPress that has bugged me for ages. In Pro, styles can also be applied to objects, adding real value to XPress’ template-creation tools.
Tools Pro, like Tools 4.0, also offers layers – which are especially useful for those who author single documents to be distributed to many countries (product instruction-manuals, for example). Its Viewer displays multi-page documents as thumbnails that can be navigated via a movable marquee, making life much easier.
Of the features new to Pro, the most significant is Collect&Send. With one click, a job’s fonts and images can be collected, preflighted on the Web using Extensis’ Preflight Online, and uploaded onto a
pre-selected FTP server. There’s also Import, which improves 4.0’s VectorEdit feature, meaning PowerPoint and Excel documents can be imported into XPress as EPS files. Finally, there’s a 200-strong list of XPress shortcuts from which the user can create bespoke sets, so enabling familiarity with shortcuts – important in any workflow.
What makes QX-Tools Pro (and Tools 4.0) particularly apposite products at the moment is the recent release of QuarkXPress 5.0. One complaint about XPress 5.0 has been that, for those who’ve no use for its Web tools, it amounts to a very expensive (£328 excluding VAT) incremental upgrade. Tools Pro may not offer Xpress’ Tables tool, but it adds layer functionality to XPress, plus an impressive list of other productivity-enhancing tools – for around one quarter of the cost of XPress 5.0. Its Shortcuts apart, Pro’s other new features are likely to appeal mostly to specialist users, meaning the upgrade isn’t a must-have for Tools 4.0 users.