Quark finally released the Macintosh version of its long-awaited Immedia product, just as Seybold San Francisco got underway earlier this month. QuarkImmedia (long-ago code-named Orion) turns QuarkXPress into a multimedia authoring tool. If you know how to use QuarkXPress, you'll be able to create multimedia projects in about an hour... it's that easy.
If you're like me, you've probably looked at using Macromedia Director. Unfortunately, I've never had two weeks free to sit down and read the manuals to learn it (and Lingo, its scripting language). Similarly, I've used Adobe Persuasion for slides and such, and though the outlining feature is great, the program doesn't give me nearly enough control over laying out type and pictures. Immedia probably handles 75 percent of the stuff people need Director for, and because it works on top of XPress, there's more than enough layout control.
Buttons, Movies, and Sounds, Oh My! Immedia lets you use the full accouterment of multimedia: buttons, sounds, pop-up menus, animations, QuickTime movies, transitions, cursors, and more. You can make an animation slide along a path and quack when you click it. You can build buttons that look like animated eyeballs. You can build projects as simple as a promotional piece that will fit on a floppy or almost as complex as a game like Myst for CD-ROM.
Because Immedia's interface is so simple (pop-up menus and palettes), it's easy to learn and fast to use. And even when Immedia doesn't give you all the control you need, it's still a brilliant prototyping tool for projects you'll later build in Director (Immedia is still a 1.0 product, and although it's good for multimedia work being done today, it's not quite a high-end product).
CD-ROM, Kiosk, and the Web -- Immedia can create projects for CD-ROM, kiosks, and even the Web. Quark has been pushing Internet and intranet uses of Immedia recently (for obvious reasons), and indeed Immedia lets you put stuff on the Web that would be impossible (or at least difficult) to do in other ways. The key is that Immedia does not export HTML... it's a separate format, much like Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). Although you can view Immedia projects in the authoring tool itself, you can also export them in several formats and then view them with the free Immedia viewer (about 750K). According to Quark, the viewer requires a 68030 or better processor, an 8-bit (256-color) monitor, and System 7.1 or higher with Sound Manager 3.1 and QuickTime 2.1.
Of course, though Immedia lets you include QuickTime animations and such, you may not want to place these on your Web site yet. In general, anything you'd feel comfortable putting in a Web-based Acrobat PDF, you could put in a Web-based Immedia document. However, you can create much more robust projects in Immedia than with Acrobat. Nonetheless, because of bandwidth, in many cases Immedia pages may feel more at home on an a high-speed intranet than on the modem-heavy Internet.
Should I Get It? With a suggested retail price of $995, Immedia is not inexpensive. To use Immedia, you'll need QuarkXPress 3.32 or QuarkXPress Passport 3.32, as well as Adobe Type Manager, System 7.1 or later, Sound Manager 3.1, and QuickTime 2.1. Your Mac must be a 68030 or better, have at least an 8-bit monitor, a CD-ROM drive, and 4 MB of free RAM.
QuarkImmedia is an impressive product. People who have played with it or have seen it at trade shows typically say "I want Immedia now. I don't care how much it is. I use XPress, and this is perfect for me." Now that it has shipped, they'll have their chance.
Quark, Inc. -- 800/676-4575 -- 303/364-5735 -- 303/343-2086 (fax)
[David Blatner is a graphic arts consultant who specializes in QuarkXPress and Photoshop. He is the author or co-author of many books from Peachpit Press, including The QuarkXPress Book and Real World Photoshop. He's currently working on Real World QuarkImmedia.]