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Preliminary Practical Primer to QuickDraw GX, Part II

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What a week! The more I learn about GX, the less it turns out that I (or other people) know. I had hoped to explain GX fonts this week, but I'm holding off for next week in hopes of presenting more complete information. This week I'm going to talk about a number of the utilities that come with QuickDraw GX and explain how they work and why (if you use GX) you'd care. Note that if you didn't read Part I in TidBITS-243, some of Part II won't make sense.

Turning GX Off -- From the behind-the-scenes software standpoint, QuickDraw GX prints so differently from previous methods that you cannot mix and match GX and non-GX methods. As a result, once you install QuickDraw GX, you have two main printing options:

  • Use a QuickDraw GX printer driver and print with QuickDraw GX turned on. If you print with GX on, you get to take advantage of the new GX Page Setup and Print dialog boxes, the desktop printers, and so on, which I explained in Part I of this article. On the other hand, you cannot then take advantage of special features offered by the PPDs that go with the PostScript 8.x non-GX printer drivers (such as the PSPrinter, LaserJet, and LaserWriter drivers). In the future, the PPD features should be built into or provided with the GX drivers, but for now, if you need those PPD features, you probably need to turn GX off.

  • If you don't have a GX driver for a printer (or fax modem) that you want to print to, turn GX off. There are a number of gotcha's here, so pay attention if you think you might install GX, but also might need to turn it off some of the time.

QuickDraw GX Helper -- There are two ways to turn off QuickDraw GX. The complete way involves restarting and using an extension manager to disable the QuickDraw GX extension. If you reboot with GX off, the Chooser shows non-GX drivers, you can use Print Monitor, and printing goes exactly as it did before you installed GX. Alternately, if you're lucky, you can use the QuickDraw GX Helper utility, a System extension that adds a command called Turn Desktop Printing Off to the Apple menu. Using QuickDraw GX Helper can either be an elegant solution or a complete waste of time.

To turn off GX using QuickDraw GX Helper, you go to the Apple menu and choose Turn Desktop Printing Off. The command then conveniently metamorphoses into a Turn Desktop Printing On command, and you get a message proposing an alternate, non-GX printer driver. For as-of-yet unknown reasons, on my Mac, Turn Desktop Printing Off does not appear in the Apple menu unless I am in a non-GX-savvy application (such as WriteNow 3.0, Excel 4.0, Nisus 3.4, and so on). I don't know if QuickDraw GX Helper only works in non-GX-savvy programs or if this problem is peculiar to my setup (System 7.1.2 on a Power Mac 7100).

In any event, everyone should run into the oddball problem that you only get one choice for that proposed alternate printer driver, and that choice is based on your current default desktop printer icon. For example, just for fun, I installed every ImageWriter driver that I have. With GX on, I made a serial ImageWriter correspond to the default printer icon, launched Nisus 3.4, and turned off desktop printing. The Mac offered to make ImageWriter 2.7 the default driver, so I accepted the option and checked out what changed. Here's what I found:

  • In Nisus, I could print using the ImageWriter driver version 2.7.

  • I was still signed up to use the ImageWriter GX driver in all other applications.

  • My Chooser still only gave me access to GX drivers.

  • The reason QuickDraw GX Helper offered me the 2.7 printer driver was that the driver's icon name (IW 2.7) fell earlier in the alphabet than the other Image Writer drivers that I installed (IW 6.0, IW 7.0, and IW 7.1). This seems a strange way to determine which driver you get when you turn GX off, since chances are you'd want to use the latest installed version, not the earliest. On the other hand, once you know that QuickDraw GX Helper picks the first driver it encounters alphabetically, you can rename your drivers so it picks the one you want to use. For example, when I tried this same procedure, but with LaserWriter GX as driver that goes with the default printer, the Turn Desktop Printing Off command could have chosen from drivers named LaserWriter, LaserWriter 6.0, LaserWriter 7.2, or LaserWriter 8.1.1. It chose LaserWriter, which happened to be the icon name of LaserWriter version 7.0.

Although the GX Helper seems like a reasonable idea, it doesn't let you access printer drivers that do not have matching GX drivers (such as the DeskWriter, whose GX driver is expected in a few weeks, and which is reportedly not the recently-released version 6.0). Since one of the main reasons you'd want to turn GX off is to print with a non-GX driver, it seems that Apple missed the boat with QuickDraw GX Helper. Nice try, poor execution. Let's now look briefly at the other QuickDraw GX utilities.

Portable Digital Document Maker -- This item works much like a printer driver (you choose the PDD Maker GX driver in the Chooser and turn it into a desktop printer in exactly the same way), except that when you print to it, you create a document on disk, which Apple calls a "portable digital document" (PDD). When you create a PDD, you indicate to what extent the fonts should be preserved in the document, with choices for all fonts, non-standard fonts (all fonts except Times, Helvetica, Courier, Symbol, Palatino, Geneva, New York, Monaco, and Chicago), or no fonts. The document can be viewed and printed from any Macintosh running QuickDraw GX, and (assuming the fonts work out properly) it looks fine. You can't do anything with a PDD except print or view it. On my Mac, PDDs opened in SimpleText. Although I could read and print a PDD, the lack of a Find or Copy feature makes PDDs of limited utility. In random testing using "standard" fonts but saving with All Fonts chosen, the PDD Maker turned a 9K SimpleText document into a 54K PDD, and a 23K Word 6 document turned into a 117K document. Neither Nisus 3.4 nor WriteNow 3.0 could print to it at all - they aren't sufficiently GX-savvy.

Especially since options for printing to an EPS or PostScript file have disappeared, it seems that an important use of PDDs will be for bringing files to service bureaus - if you preserve the fonts in the PDD, the bureau won't require the fonts in order to output the job. It will be interesting to see how the PDDs will affect or compete with Adobe Acrobat, Common Ground, and Replica, all of which do much the same thing.

PaperType Editor -- This program enables you to create custom paper sizes, which then show up as options in your Page Setup dialog box, right along with Letter and Legal.

LaserWriter Utility -- QuickDraw GX comes with LaserWriter Utility 7.7 for downloading fonts and PostScript documents and the like, and you must use that version if you have QuickDraw GX turned on.

New color controls -- QuickDraw GX completely changes the interface used to pick a desktop or highlight color. The old method involves a color wheel - you've probably seen it at one time or another - one way to see it is to open the General (or General Controls) control panel, and then double-click one of the eight desktop pattern color squares. The new method lets you select different color picking methods. The Apple HSL method resembles the old color wheel, but the Apple RGB makes it easier to see and anticipate how red, green, and blue will work together to form different colors.

QuickDraw GX Extensions -- A GX Extension is a third-party add-on of some sort, and it enables you to take advantage of one or more cool printing capabilities, such as making a watermark or printing thumbnails. At this time, the main examples of GX Extensions appears to be Peirce Print Tools, which I've reviewed later in this issue.

Now that you know how to turn GX off and about a few of the related utilities, stay tuned for next week, when I'll write about GX fonts.

Information from:
Pierce Guide to GX Printing, a free paper from Peirce Software.
Contact Peirce Software (see above) to request a copy.
Getting Started with QuickDraw GX (an installation guide in the
Peirce Print Tools software package)
"Inside QuickDraw GX Fonts," by Erfert Fenton, Macworld (Oct-94,
pg. 122). (An excellent article!)
Apple propaganda


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