Useful but costly XTensions for QuarkXPress

Introduction

XTensions can be great for enhancing your use of QuarkXPress, but sometimes you have to wonder if they’re worth the hundreds of pounds you need to spend beyond the price of the original package. The five QuarkXTensions reviewed here are useful productivity aids but, with one exception, they may be too expensive for most print designers. Gluon’s Cloner – £99 – and Badia Software’s Duplica (the one reasonably priced product in this roundup) both make it easier to copy items within QuarkXPress. Cloner lets you copy items from one document to another existing document, a new document, or a different page range within the same document. Though it has a simple, self-explanatory interface, most QuarkXPress users will find £99 too much to pay for such a one-trick pony. Duplica, a more sophisticated product, lets you use Quark’s built-in Duplicate, Step and Repeat, Copy, and Paste functions to copy almost any text, box, or line attribute to another location. For example, if a text block has a 1.5-point keyline, 50 per cent blue background, and left text alignment, you can copy just those attributes to a different text block. As you copy items, you can rotate, reverse, or manipulate them in other ways. The intuitive design of this XTension, and its thorough and clear documentation, make it a worthwhile addition for many QuarkXPress users. If you want to bring your QuarkXPress documents into other programs, Gluon’s XPressImage – £129 – lets you convert a page or selection into TIFF, EPS, JPEG, GIF, or PDF files. However, we had problems with PDF export: when we used the default settings, the PDF document’s text was bitmapped, with jagged edges, and image quality was poor. Considering the £129 price tag, this QuarkXTension is useful only if you must frequently convert your QuarkXPress pages into graphics. It’s even harder to justify the price tag for Gluon’s QC. For £195, QC inspects your QuarkXPress documents for a wide range of common problems, including ones related to fonts, styles, and image formats. Unlike preflight programs, which check documents only after they’re ready for transmission to a service bureau, QC inspects your QuarkXPress files on the fly as you’re creating them. It’s practical and easy to use, but even after continual on-the-fly analysis, you may still want to run the document through a preflight program, because QC does not collect all the project elements together for output. For those who want to rescue bad QuarkXPress files, Markztools III is a utility suite that covers the most common corruption problems in the QuarkXPress program. Convert Document lets you open and convert higher-version documents – such as those created in QuarkXPress 4.0 – from within an older version of the software. Salvage does a good job of opening damaged QuarkXPress files, including those that generate “Bad File Format” or “Unexpected End of File” errors when you try to open them. Scavenge Text is a last resort for bad files, allowing you to extract text if you can’t open the file itself. The Verification module ensures the integrity of your document with each incremental save. Save to Temporary File, a handy backup utility, creates a temporary copy of your document in a designated folder each time you save the original. Grey Previews helps keep file sizes small by converting full-colour previews into greyscale images. Finally, Version Keeper adds two pieces of information to the title bar: the current document version number and the amount of memory available to QuarkXPress. Overall, Markztools III is simple and well conceived. It can be a godsend if you have damaged files, but like most of the other QuarkXTensions covered here, it’s costly, given its narrow range of functions.
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