Gluon ProPack 8: The most valuable set of XTensions you can buy

The last time I wrote about Gluon’s ProPack set of XTensions in Design Tools Monthly, the headline said it all: “ProPack: Just Buy It”. And that’s truly what I think of this set of 16 XTensions for QuarkXPress 6, 7 or 8.

There are two reasons I feel comfortable writing a headline such as that:

  1. Because this is the best value I’ve ever seen in a group of XTensions.
  2. Because Gluon has consistently updated their XTensions for each new version of QuarkXPress, very soon after each version is released.

This second point will not be wasted on anyone who has had the heartbreak of wanting to upgrade QuarkXPress, but couldn’t because an XTension hadn’t been updated yet. When it comes to timely updates, Gluon has always been at the front of the game.

But enough of this kind of gushing — on to gushing about the product itself. I’ll put it bluntly: every professional user should own it. Why? Because over the course of its lifetime, just one of these 16 XTensions will save you more than the entire cost of the set. It makes smart business sense to buy it.

What’s included in the ProPack depends on which version of QuarkXPress you’re using. With each release, Quark has absorbed some of Gluon’s ideas into QuarkXPress — but Gluon keeps coming up with new winners to add. Here’s what’s included in the newly-released ProPack 8:

  • ProScale goes far beyond scaling items and groups — it intelligently scales entire multi-page layouts, even non-proportionally. You can control how every kind of item is (or isn’t) scaled, save presets, undo scaling, and much, much more.
  • ImageGrid 8 generates contact sheets and catalogs from a folder full of pictures.
  • TableMaker 8 adds several features to Quark’s table feature, including reusable presets, vertical alignment of text within cells, setting up a table’s appearance before importing data, advanced options to fit text, and more.
  • QC 8 looks for typographic, layout, alignment, and picture problems that a designer can easily fix. It can then either fix the problem for you or take you to the problem and present the appropriate dialog box to fix it. QC even has a “proofreader” module, and can be set to run automatically during Saves or picture import. Its options are immense, and its value enormous.
  • Navizoom provides a thumbnail of your page for easy navigation (just drag the red box in the thumbnail to move to a new area). It can also make a slide show from your pages.
  • Cropster automatically sets up complex, one- or two-sided folding and trimming mechanicals, with crop marks, guides, and dimension arrows. If later you change the measurements, Cropster rearranges the marks and arrows. You can add crop marks to page items, crop an entire multi-page layout to a new size, save frequently-used presets, and much more.
  • iDropper lets you copy and apply item attributes, including an entire series of Paragraph Style Sheets. It can also copy and paste colors onto page items and create harmonious sets of colors from one color.
  • Cloner lets you “clone” page items from one page to another, either within the same document or to another document, in the same page position as the original. In addition, you can clone pages (contiguous or not) from one document to another, and export combinations of pages into separate new documents. Uniquely, you can clone an item, a group, or page(s) to all open documents at once, and assign a new Section to cloned pages.
  • Reporter generates a complete, formatted report on the content and structure of a QuarkXPress document, and opens it into a new document. The report includes style sheet definitions, colors, pictures, fonts, story length, and much more.
  • SpotCheck converts spot colors to process colors, removes unused colors and finds items that use a particular color.
  • ProBullets & Numbers lets you add and adjust bullets, numbered lists and indents.
  • Pro Grids & Guides provides complete control to create custom grids and sets of guides, which can begin and end anywhere and apply to any range of pages. You can add measurements and line counts in the margins, save presets, and much more.
  • Linkster can unlink one box, many boxes or all boxes in a document, while keeping the text in them. It can also link or relink text boxes that already contain text, with many options.
  • Greeker converts text into nonsense, and back again, maintaining font styles, sizes, line breaks, capitalization, etc.
  • Strata can move items, based on their type or location, to an existing or new layer; also, it can flatten all layers to one layer.
  • ShapeMaker can create an infinite variety of complex shapes such as waves, polygons and spirals.

ProPack 8 costs $219; upgrades from ProPack 7 cost $129. ProPack 8 is currently only available for Mac OS X. The Windows version goes up to version 7. A fully functional, time-limited demo version is available as well.

If you’re still using QuarkXPress 7, here are some additional features that ProPack 7 provides:

  • DragIn lets you drag picture files and text files from the Finder onto a page. If you drag multiple pictures, it can create a catalog with or without labels. If you drag a picture from a Web page, it downloads the picture to the folder containing the document, then imports the picture.
  • Outlines converts multiple lines of text to outline shapes (Bézier curves), maintaining location, color and shade.
  • QC Collect can collect multiple documents for output at one time, gathering all the fonts and pictures without gathering multiple copies of common fonts or pictures, and it re-links the pictures to the documents. It also has a Hot Folder for automatic collection of any files placed into it.

Are you convinced yet? If not, look back over the thick list of features added by each of the 16 XTensions. It only takes one to justify the price of the entire set. The rest is just icing on the cake. Over the years I’ve thoroughly enjoyed exploring the poweful new features that ProPack brings to QuarkXPress. They’ve given me new ideas for projects, shaved time off of many, and made it possible to do things that I just couldn’t otherwise do in QuarkXPress. Go have a look — you’ll be glad you did.