When items have to be just right

Never one to turn down a free lunch, I jumped at the chance to attend Quark’s mid-day pre-launch press briefing about QuarkXPress 7.2 a couple of months ago.

The bulk of the day, however, was employed working at a newspaper in London, where I was helping staff prepare new page templates in advance of a new content management system being introduced. To help me build up a healthy appetite, we spent the morning in heated argument about how to spread design and furniture items across the templates.

Dull topics make me hungry, what can I say?

Actually, everyone in page production needs to think about this at some point. Character and paragraph styles are no-brainers, but what do you do with everything else? Do you put all the design bits in one huge library (convenient but unwieldy) or split them into several library files (inconvenient but quick to use)? Or will you try to put lots of furniture on the master pages? Or do a bit of all three?

Now I hate to bring up the ‘I’ word so blatantly, but one of the team began talking whimsically about the Object Styles feature in Adobe InDesign as an alternative to libraries and master page furniture. Can you apply an Object Style to an InDesign picture box to make it a specific size, shape and page position, she wondered.

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is ‘no’, ‘no’ and ‘no’. In that order.

Buoyed by warm food and information, I returned from the QuarkXPress 7.2 briefing with better news. Forget Object Styles, you need Item Styles — one of Quark’s new XPert Tools Pro XTensions. With one click you can turn a rectangular text box into an oval picture box of a specific height, width, picture angle, box rotation, clipping path runaround outset, frame treatment and loads more that you can’t do with InDesign’s Object Styles.

Oh, and it’s free.

So we have another option for dealing with page furniture objects: libraries, master pages and now Item Styles. Of course, users might just consider this to be an extra layer of complication, but with the right demonstration and training, I think they’ll be sold on the idea.