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Additions to Aldus

by Adam C. Engst

Quark XPress has had its XTensions out for a while, and Aldus is trying hard to catch up with Additions for PageMaker. Based on some of the ones we've seen, used, or heard about, PageMaker is well on its way in the race.

A number of Additions ship with PageMaker, ranging from fairly simple ones to an Addition that takes a multiple page publication and rearranges all the items and pages so that it will print correctly so that it can easily be folded to create a booklet. This is a tedious and mentally-taxing job to do by hand, and the Addition is most welcome. Perhaps the most powerful and useful of the Additions that ships with PageMaker is Sort Pages, which shows you thumbnails of the pages in your document, (excuse me, publication - Aldus is picky about that) and allows you to move objects from one page to another or even move whole pages around. It's wonderful for quickly importing text and graphics and roughing out an overall arrangement for a publication.

Equally as interesting are some of the third party Additions that have recently been announced or shipped. For those of you lucky enough to have a Voice Navigator from Articulate Systems, you can get a free Addition that will allow you to execute any function normally performed with the keyboard or mouse with a spoken command. EDCO Services has the $149 PMproKit, a collection of Additions including such useful ones as Type Distortion, LetterTalk (for viewing and modifying kerning pairs), Pica Gauge, Rotation and Merge (which was originally supposed to allow text rotation to any degree, but was cut back to merely scaling type to match a specific line length), and Set Up Columns. Scitex has a set of Additions that let you create color blends with up to 12 different colors in linear or radial orientations, although I'd think that most people would do that sort of thing in an illustration program.

For those who are frustrated with PageMaker's limited graphics import filters, Equilibrium has Import That!, a product name that makes more sense when paired with their other product, Rotate This! Import That! can import a variety of non-Macintosh graphics file formats, and Rotate This! can rotate bitmapped graphics to any degree, a trick which it actually achieves by taking a copy of the graphic out of PageMaker, rotating it, and then placing it back in. It's all done with smoke and mirrors, I'm sure. No one has done full text or rotation in an Addition yet, but I've heard that someone is working on a clever method for getting around a similarly glaring omission in PageMaker, grouping.

Among all the Additions, I especially like the idea of Zephyr Design's $79 Zephyr Palettes for PageMaker since they provide seven customizable floating palettes that you can select from a menu at the end of PageMaker's menu bar. The palettes include font, font size, font style, leading, tracking, and alignment, and they sport some truly neat features. The font palette will group font families and let you create custom palettes so you only have to look at a few of your fonts at a time (a problem for many desktop publishers). The font style, leading, and tracking palettes all feature dynamic on-the-fly changes, so as you run the mouse up and down the choices, the selection will change in front of your eyes. For those of you without two monitors or a lot of screen space, all the palettes have a large mode, which shows all the choices, or a small mode, which uses a pop-up menu. Even if you do have a lot of screen space, you'll appreciate the fact that the palettes can either remember their last positions (even on second monitors) or always pop up in a default position. Finally, if you want the palettes to always be present when you start up PageMaker (without having to select it from the Additions menu), they come as a Control Panel too.

Even more useful to some than the Additions already shipping is a free install file that allows PageMaker users to control PageMaker with scripts from UserLand's Frontier application. Frontier is the first scripting application for the Mac and can control the operating system, the file system, networks, and most importantly, AppleEvent-aware applications. Macintosh consultant Tom Petaccia wrote the PageMaker install file, which takes advantage of PageMaker's support of the standard DOSC "DoScript" and EVAL "Evaluate" events. By using Frontier with PageMaker, script writers can supposedly control over 230 PageMaker operations. The demos that ship with the install file mostly ask a few questions and then assemble a document with the results, something which I think could be scripted from inside PageMaker as well. I think the sort of thing that will make the Frontier link truly useful is that PageMaker's current scripting language isn't nearly as powerful or flexible as Frontier's language, and Frontier can also automate interaction with other AppleEvent-aware programs. For the moment, the number of those programs is limited, but it is growing every day. One potential use I see is grabbing information from Microphone II 4.0 (or AppleLink now that UserLand is working on a scriptable version of AppleLink for Frontier), and bringing that information over to PageMaker to flow into a document also created under script control. Pretty cool stuff eventually.

Aldus -- 206/622-5500
Articulate Systems -- 617/935-5656
EDCO Services -- 800/523-TYPE
Equilibrium -- 800/524-8651 Dept. EP1
Fast Electronic -- 604/669-5525
Scitex America -- 617/275-5150
UserLand Software -- 415/325-5700
Zephyr Design -- 206/324-0292 -- ZephyrDsgn on AOL

Information from:
Aldus propaganda
Boyd Multerer of Zephyr Design -- ZephyrDsgn on AOL
UserLand propaganda and demo files