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Cross-Media in QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign

Cross-Media in QuarkXpress and Adobe InDesign

McIlroy on new media, Printing Impressions, February 2004

Last Summer I wrote a column for Printing Impressions called “Whatever Happened to Cross-Media Publishing?” In it I explored the 10 year history of the concept of cross-media publishing (sometimes called “Media-Independent Publishing”). It sure sounded great in the early ‘90s: a single publishing system, a unified publishing workflow, encompassing both print and electronic (mostly online) media. But, I noted, “the majority of what we find in print today does not appear on the Web; and very little of what’s on the Web ever makes it to print.”

Trying to figure out why the cross-media had not been realized I noted that what works best on the Web is very different from what works in print. We’re slowly learning to appreciate what makes the Web unique as a communications medium.

It’s difficult to create similar designs that work equally well both in print and on the Web, and it’s equally difficult to write effectively for both media. I concluded that “we were wrong to think that the twain should meet.”

*Looking at the Big Boys*
In this column I want to look at how the two largest software vendors in our industry, Adobe Systems and Quark, Inc., tackle the challenge of cross-media publishing. Their approaches are very different.

First a confession. I have, in the past, consulted to both companies, and the discussion often turned to the subject of cross-media publishing. As I pointed out in my last column, in the mid- to late-1990s I was very much in favor of cross-media and advocated it not only to my clients, but also publicly via Seybold Seminars. I could say now that I was wrong. But I think that it’s a little more nuanced than that. We didn’t have all the information then that we have now. If we did, I think we would have seen the situation more clearly. But first a look at these two competing vendors.

Quark has long been committed to offering tools for electronic media, both directly through its flagship product, QuarkXPress, as well as through secondary products, such as QuarkImmedia (since discontinued). Most of the Web publishing software functionality offered by Quark is now made available directly through QuarkXpress.

The latest version, 6.0, has extensive tools for cross-media publishing. Users can convert print-based designs to Web-based designs or vice versa, within a single file. QuarkXpress 6.0 introduced the concept of “Project files” that contain multiple layout spaces, enabling users to design projects around “multiple media publishing possibilities.” Each design would ordinarily differ, but the text can be synchronized for both.

Bundled with XPress is avenue.quark software that allows users to export their content in XML format, “thereby maximizing the value of their editorial assets and facilitating re-use in multiple media.” (This software was initially sold as a $199 XTension.)

Late last fall Adobe offered a milestone update of its key software products by moving them into a unified, interoperable “Suite.” Products like InDesign, Adobe’s print page layout product, and GoLive, its Web publishing software, are linked to Photoshop and Illustrator via the Creative Suite (CS) designation and software functionality. Along the way, Adobe substantially changed its tune on cross-media publishing.

Here’s the hype: “InDesign CS and GoLive CS integrate tightly to deliver a dramatically new way to repurpose print assets for the Web. This new approach builds on the flexible layout tools and robust XML support in both programs to provide a more visually and creatively oriented way to repurpose print assets for the Web. By working with InDesign CS and GoLive CS together, you get the right tools for each job in your print-to-Web workflow.”

The way to parse that statement is thus: We decided that designers really don’t want to design Web pages and Websites in page layout software, though they often want to reuse some of the text and design elements created in print for a Web project.

This is a very different approach from Quark’s. Who’s right?

I have to say that although I wish that Quark was right, I actually agree more fully with Adobe’s approach. As I wrote last summer, “the dream of cross-media grew out of the print community’s sense of betrayal by the Web. After all our years of building a publishing craft, and even going to great lengths to digitize and automate that craft, here was the Web upstart quickly usurping our hold on graphic communication. We authors, designers, printers, and publishers knew how best how to communicate, how to assemble words and images into the most effective formats to inform and persuade. Who were these computer geeks who thought they knew better?”

We want to believe that print should dictate what appears on the Web. That’s Implicit in Quark’s approach – that print designers will also control Web pages. It sometimes happens, but more often, as Adobe’s approach suggests, each design team is separate, at best reusing some small portion of the other’s work.

There’s a third possible approach that no one has suggested yet: a solid Web publishing application with a print add-on, one that allows Web page designers to easily create some throw-away print brochures from their original electronic page designs. Now isn’t that a frightening thought?

-Thad McIlroy