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Quark Publishing System: A Review

Part 2 of 3 parts


QuarkCopyDesk is the primary editorial application in a Quark Publishing System. - QPS Manual

When an article created with QuarkCopyDesk is attached to a QuarkXPress layout, the system maintains a link between the two electronic files. When the text of the article is updated in QuarkCopyDesk, notification is sent to QuarkXPress, and the layout artist can easily replace the old text with the new revision. When the artist makes a layout change that affects an article, he or she can send updated page geometry to QuarkCopyDesk so that writers or editors can copyfit accordingly. -- QuarkCopyDesk Manual

QuarkCopyDesk (QCD) is used to write and edit articles. QCD files are called articles because they are usually attached to QXP layouts. Writers and editors can check article assignments, check in and check out articles, view layout pages that contain articles without using QXP, write articles to fit allotted space, embed editorial notes, monitor article length by words, lines, and column depth, and view and revert to past versions. Users can continue to edit articles with QCD even after an article has been attached to a QXP layout and while another user has the layout open.

While QCD has many unique features, it lacks many word processing basics such as page numbering, footnotes, headers and footers, outlining, graphics, and table of contents generation. If you cannot do it in a QXP text box, you cannot do it in QCD. You might also miss having certain writing tools such as outlining and AppleScript support.

QCD's value derives from its integration with QXP. While Microsoft WORD can be integrated into QPS, it will never match QCD's integration with QXP. The most obvious feature is viewing text in the context of its layout. Figure 9 shows an article -- the text in the oval -- in QCD's WYSIWYG view. The only editable text in this figure is "THE AREA'S FINEST DINING PLACES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS 20 TO WATCH IN 1998." The main article, page footer, and photo caption, while visible, come from other QCD files and cannot be touched from this view. QCD cannot alter the layout, only the article's text.

Figure 9 - QuarkCopyDesk WYSIWYG View

Figure 10 shows the same article as Figure 11 but in galley view. Galley view shows only the article's text, actual line breaks, and line numbering -- no distractions such as actual font information or pictures. In galley view, QCD displays line breaks exactly as they appear in the layout, even if the text follows an irregular shape.

Figure 10 - QuarkCopyDesk Galley View

One additional view is full screen, which is similar to galley view but does not show actual line breaks or numbering. It is another view intended for writing, independent of layout considerations.

Figure 11 - QuarkCopyDesk Full Screen View

Users define a standard font, size, and style for galley and full screen views. Most writers and editors prefer working with a readable screen font than with the actual font used in the publication. In figure 12, QCD is set to display all type in 18 point Times. The user could have selected 14 point Palatino without affecting the fonts used in WYSIWYG view.

Figure 12 - QuarkCopyDesk Application Preferences

Style sheets are shared by QCD and QXP. When an article is created, the writer is provided with only those style sheets associated with the layout. Sharing style sheets puts everyone on the same standard. While, in theory, a QCD user can create new style sheets, The Washingtonian does not allow users to create or modify style sheets in QCD. It is even possible to prevent any users from making any formatting changes --e.g. to bold a word -- with QCD. This is an important feature because some editors find the ability to twiddle with formatting impossible to resist.

QCD is similar to QXP in many ways. While formatting is limited to QXP text box options, QCD allows for QXP's fine degree of control over type. Many of the actual controls are similar. Figure 13 shows QCD's and QXP' measurement bars. While not identical, they are similar in function.

Figure 13 - QuarkCopyDesk (top) and QuarkXPress Floating Measurement Bars

QCD has special work group features. Editorial notes can be inserted into an article and always shows its author's name. A note appears as an insertion in galley and full screen views and as a floating sticky in WYSIWYG view. Notes can be hidden and revealed as needed. A user's ability to create, edit, and delete notes is controlled by the QPS administrator.

Figure 14 - A Note in WYSIWYG and Galley Views

In order to track files, they must be checked in and out using the QuarkDispatch menu. Checking files in and out is very different -- and easier -- than working with the standard Macintosh open and close dialogs. While QCD does have the traditional open and save commands, they are used on files accessible only to a single user. The QuarkDispatch menu goes beyond replacing the open and save commands. Figure 15 shows QCD's QuarkDispatch menu.

Figure 15 - QuarkCopyDesk QuarkDispatch Menu

Users select Check Out... and then select an article from the Check Out dialog box (see Figure 16). A user can view articles from a particular publication or section and can sort the articles by article name, date, routed to, or checked out by. The sort orders can be reversed. If someone else has checked out an article, the user can still check it out but as a read-only document.

Figure 16 - QuarkCopyDesk Check Out Dialog

When a user checks out an article, the file is copied from the file server to the local hard disk. When an article is checked in, it is copied to the file server and deleted from the local hard disk. Users get the benefits of storing files in a central location and the performance benefits of doing actual editing on a local copy. This approach minimizes network traffic.

A security system determines who can check out an article. Security is based on the user's class, the section the article is in, and the article's status. For example, once an article reaches an editor, it can be locked out for all writers. An article inside an open layout can still be edited, minimizing conflicts between art and editorial staff.

Another advantage of the check in and check out system is that files are less likely to be misplaced, misnamed, or edited by two people simultaneously. No more problems with people saving files inside their system folder. And because users cannot see the actual files, they are unable to delete them (file deletion is restricted to the QPS administrator).

On check in, the user can edit the article's header. In Figure 17, the user is changing the article status and will probably change the route to field. The administrator can set status selection to further automate article routing.

Figure 17 - Checking in an Article

Users can search through articles. Queries are based on header information but never on article contents. Some fields are automatically included by QPS, such as article names, most of the fields and all sections shown in Figures 18 and 19 are specific to The Washingtonian. Note that you cannot search by an article's text, only by information about the article. The information is usually related to workflow.

Figure 18 - QuarkCopyDesk Header Information

Figure 19 - QuarkCopyDesk Edit Query Dialog

Search results are shown in the floating query window. The user can define which fields to display and sort. Queries can be remembered by QPS and recalled. An article can be checked out directly from this window. The query window in QCD and all other QPS applications is important for publication management.

Figure 20 - QuarkCopyDesk Floating Query Window

QuarkDispatch offers features beyond article check in and out. QPS automatically stores old versions of articles. The number of versions stored is determined by the QPS administrator. QPS users can call up old versions and even make an older version the current one. The query window provides additional information such as whether an article is attached to a QuarkXPress layout.

Figure 21 - QuarkCopyDesk Revisions Dialog

QCD offers additional protection with an autosave feature. You can set QCD to save a temporary version of a document every x minutes, protecting the user from computer crashes. If a user is working in QCD but does not want to check in an article, QCD can be set to save x number of revisions on the local hard disk.

QPS includes its own massaging system. While you have QCD or any other QPS application open, you can receive messages when you are assigned work. The drawback is that you can't receive messages unless you have a QPS application open. QPS version 2 promises to include an extension that will allow a user to receive a QPS message without having QCD open.

Just as QuarkXPress has spawned an XTensions industry, QCD can also be extended through its own XTensions. The Quark web site has a list of third party QCD XTensions. BeyondCompare compares different versions of the same article, DoubleleSpace prevents QuarkCopyDesk and QuarkXPress users from typing double spaces, and Custom XTension generates formatted QuickMail messages containing the text of an article when the article is checked in with a specified status. Unfortunately QCD cannot use QXP XTensions and vise versa.

QCD has a number of drawbacks. Not only does it fail as a general-purpose word processor, it lacks many writing tools. For example, there are no outlining functions, no automation tools, and no AppleScript support. It also violates a number of Apple human interface specifications. Drag and drop works within a document but not with data from outside QCD, just like Microsoft Office 4.2. The menus and dialogs are non-standard, sometimes confounding automation tools such as QuicKeys and OneClick. You cannot even drag an importable document over the QCD icon; you must open foreign files using the open file command.

QCD files seem to be rather fragile. We occasionally come across files that produce PostScript errors when printed. Sometimes checking the file in and out of QPS solves the problem. Other times we need to create a new file and copy the contents of the old to the new. This interrupts workflow because it breaks the link between an article and its previous versions.

Import/export capabilities are rather limited. Quark uses its own technology and translators. We often need to convert submitted articles into Word 5 format before importing into QCD.

Quark has been slow to fix a problem introduced with System 7.6. QCD is partially incompatible with recent LaserWriter drivers, prevent users from changing options. The only solution is to install an older print driver.

A more serious problem is one involving copy flow when working in galley view. Sometimes it will not update, forcing a user to switch to WYSIWYG view and back to force the window to update.

And the design can be improved. Version 2 promises to combine the check out dialog and query window into a single function. This will be useful because these two separate operations overlap each other to a great degree.


Revised March 15, 1998 pjc/lic
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