Tales from the Road

Quark Tool Preferences work for you, not against you

As I travel the country teaching both QuarkXPress and InDesign, I pick up on the little intricacies of Quark that people have taken for granted over the years. While teaching InDesign classes I often get the response “Wow Quark can’t do that!” which I promptly respond “Yes it can!” There are many little feature improvements inside QuarkXPress, as well as huge feature upgrades that have happened over the years, that people don’t know about. Most often, people are so comfortable in their job that they know which tools accomplish that job, and more often than not, they just don’t have the time to learn a new and easier way.

Most of my work at Aquent Graphics Institute concerns Quark upgrades, Photoshop and Illustrator classes, and yes, InDesign conversions. In some cases InDesign is a great fit for the companies I visit. I find that since InDesign is more like Illustrator than any other program, if the client has Illustrator experience, the conversion is much smoother for them. However, since my background is in newspapers, and a lot of the training I do is for printed material, I find that InDesign is not always the right direction for some publications.

Just recently I was in New York to “SWAT” a Newspaper that was going from Quark to InDesign on a Sunday night since Monday is their lightest paper. (SWAT is a term we use in the world of training that simply means, we hang around a wait for something to go wrong and fix it) From the second I walked in at 6:30 p.m. I did not stop putting out little fires till the paper was finally put to bed at 11:30 and the last page was sent. There are actually a lot of different issues I could cover in this segment, but I am going to try and stay focused on one in particular. I don’t even want to get into the fact that some people think you can just buy Q2ID and open your Quark documents in InDesign and start working. You can’t. You can try, but that’s why people get paid thousands to redesign templates.

Okay back on track: Tool Preferences is my latest pet peeve in InDesign. This is definitely a feature that Quark just does right, and it was one of the biggest stumbling blocks the publication I was at was facing. They expected things to work seamlessly like Quark, and they don’t — they work like InDesign. When I was done explaining how InDesign treats Tool Preferences, the lead artist looked at me and asked, “Is there any way we can turn that off?” Which I explained with a sigh, “No, that’s just how InDesign works.” The underlying challenge is that the lead designer knows his or her stuff, and when I explain how things work, they don’t always like it but they get it — and now they have to somehow convey that to the thirty something people that work below them who are at varying skill levels. Let’s take a look at just how tool Preferences work in each program.

PreferencesLet’s say that I’m a paginator at a newspaper that uses QuarkXPress. Suddenly I realize that every time I make a new picture box on the front page I am crawling up to Item > Frame and typing in .5” to put a frame on the picture box. Being a smart fellow, I look for a way to change the tool preference so that when I make new picture boxes, they automatically have a .5” frame. So, I double-click the tool to open its Preferences dialog box, set a .5” border, and maybe even throw on a runaround while I’m at it! And that’s it! Every time I draw a picture box it comes in the same way on that document.

Now let’s say that instead of using QuarkXPress I’m using InDesign. I am constantly going to the Stroke panel and changing the stroke width, and also aligning the stroke to the inside. InDesign’s tool preferences do not exist in the Preference window. Instead, every time I Place an image in InDesign it comes in with “None” which means it is just a frame with no attributes. What I could do is set the tool preference for the rectangle tool and then always draw a frame first with the Rectangle tool. Here is where the plot thickens…

I decide I will always draw a rectangle first, so I am going to set the preference for this tool. With nothing selected I choose the Rectangle tool and set the stroke to .5 in. This seems to work for a while, till the one time I think I have something selected and I don’t. Instead, I have nothing selected, I activate the Rectangle tool and I choose blue for a stroke color. Nothing happens, so I select the frame again and apply blue to the stroke. Little did I know that I just set the preference for the Rectangle tool to make all future boxes with blue strokes. Not only that, I just simultaneously changed the Preferences for the line tool, the pen tool, the ellipse tool and the polygon tool without even realizing it!

There are ways in InDesign to make object styles, and even edit your Basic Graphics Frame and Basic Text Frame in Object Styles, but both of them allow local overrides when just the tool is selected. Only Quark lets you hand pick just how each tool behaves. And if you grab a tool in Quark when nothing is selected, you can’t accidentally change the preferences of the tool. You can only do this in the Preferences window. And that’s why Quark’s tool Preferences work for you and not against you.

To be Continued, “Style sheets: what is normal?”