I Heart XTensions

I Heart XTensionsToday I finished writing a special two-page roundup of plug-ins for Sharon Steuer’s excellent Illustrator CS3 WOW! book. I’ve known and admired Sharon for many years, ever since she coined the term “the Zen of Pen” to describe her recommended approach to using the Bézier pen tool in Illustrator — or even in QuarkXPress.

(Which reminds me of a comment recently made by Sandee “Vector Babe” Cohen along the lines that she thinks the best Bézier pen tool in any application is the one in QuarkXPress. Sandee has written books and articles about FreeHand, Illustrator, InDesign and Fireworks, so she’s had plenty of time to think about the subject. But I digress…)

In rounding up the best plug-ins for Illustrator, I was impressed by the breadth and quality of the products. In the end, the book’s technical editor Jean-Claude Tremblay and I chose 25 plug-ins that we deemed worthy of bringing to the attention of professional users.

I think their success is a testament to the vision of Quark’s founder Tim Gill, who invented and personally nurtured the cottage industry that creates plug-ins for graphic design applications. In the early 1990s, he made QuarkXPress extensible. Then, he worked with small developers to help them write XTensions for QuarkXPress that filled the needs of particular vertical markets.

Today, there are hundreds of XTensions for QuarkXPress that I would personally endorse. I’ve been writing about XTensions since 1992, with a full page devoted to plug-ins in every issue of Design Tools Monthly. That’s how much I Heart XTensions.

Planet Quark will be posting stories every week about the best XTensions we encounter. If you’d like to have a look at just about everything the plug-in world has to offer, the best source in North America is The PowerXChange. For distributors in other areas of the world, please see the XTensions area at Planet Quark.

Some of the most useful XTensions are actually free: developers know that releasing a free XTension will attract interest to their commercial XTensions. It’s also an incredibly cool way to support the community. While there isn’t a one-stop source for free XTensions, several of the developers listed below have free XTensions on their website.

If you want to explore the XTension developers’ websites directly, here are some of the best:

Axaio Software
Badia Software
Durrant Software
Em Software
Layout Ltd.
Meadows Publishing Solutions
onOne Software
Quark Inc.
Techno Design
Vision’s Edge