Quark first began offering users a way to create Flash content with Quark Interactive Designer as an XTension for QuarkXPress 7. With the introduction of QuarkXPress 8, however, Flash support is included right out of the box, and you can leave your programming skills at the door.
Flash support in QuarkXPress 8 feels like an integrated design component just as it should, and not like some bolted on module or poorly designed XTension. Quark even made sure that version 8’s new typographic features are supported, which goes a long way towards keeping the look of your print and Web layouts in sync. Thanks to its interactive features, animation support, and support for embedded media files, QuarkXPress 8 is a full fledged player in the Flash market, and not a hobbled content creation tool.
Converting an existing layout for Flash is a simple process: Just Control-click the Layout tab in your current project and choose Duplicate.
Give the duplicate layout a new name, and choose Interactive from the Layout Type pop-up menu.
The Interactive palette sits at the heart of QuarkXPress 8’s Flash controls, and it’s likely where you’ll spend a substantial amount of your time since the hard part — creating your layout — is already done. The palette lets you assign attributes, like button actions or displaying .flv videos, to the objects in your layout.
The Interactive palette handles all the heavy lifting that goes along with building interactive menus, animating objects on a page, linking to other pages in a layout, running scripts, and collecting information from forms.
It creates the necessary code on the fly so you don’t have to. Translation: Anyone that can layout a document and select options from a palette can create Flash-driven content from Web pages to presentations to banner ads, which means anyone that’s comfortable using QuarkXPress.
QuarkXPress is flexible with the output options for your interactive documents, too. The content you create can be embedded in HTML pages, exported as SWF, or as stand-alone Flash applications, which covers pretty much all of the environments where Flash content shows up.
Despite all of the power behind QuarkXPress 8’s interactive features, there are some limitations. These features are not intended to replace professional Web design applications like Adobe Dreamweaver, but to instead act as a supplement. Layout and content changes you make in Interactive layouts do not appear in the original document layout, and there isn’t an auto-upload option to push Flash content out to Web servers.
Those limitations don’t, however, mean that QuarkXPress 8 isn’t a viable option for Flash content creation. It’s a great tool for graphic designers that need to keep control over layout elements or want to create cross-media content quickly.
Web coders are often expected to be graphic designers, and graphic designers are usually expected to be Web coders, too. Yet more often than not, both are comfortable only with their part of the media spectrum. QuarkXPress 8 bridges the divide between the two and places a powerful set of Flash design tools squarely in the hands of graphic designers, potentially saving time and money while empowering creative pros with the tools they need to create interactive content without starting from scratch.
Jeff Gamet is a contributing editor for Design Tools Monthly, the executive summary of graphic design news. He is also the morning editor and reviews editor for The Mac Observer and iPodObserver.com, and contributing writer for Layers Magazine and Photoshop User. He writes the InBrief column for InDesign Magazine, and is the author of “The Designer’s Guide to Mac OS X,” from Peachpit Press
When Jeff isn’t writing about the graphic design world, he’s talking about it on the Design Tools Weekly podcast with co-host Jay Nelson. He also talks about Apple and the Mac world every week on The Mac Observer’s Apple Weekly Report.
Jeff studies, tests and reviews new software and technologies for the Macintosh community as well as the design and print industries. He is a former Pre-press specialist, and has nearly 25 years experience with computer technology. Jeff trains, lectures and consults on techniques for more efficiently using Mac OS X in creative environments throughout the country.
In the rare moments when he can get away from his MacBook Pro, Jeff spends his time climbing and biking in the Colorado mountains.