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Aldus Delivers

Well, at least that’s what they claim and it sounds better than "Aldus Promises." Aldus showed up to show off at the last dBUG meeting in downtown Seattle. Aldus president Paul Brainerd started the evening with a version of his keynote address to the Seybold Conference earlier this fall, and unlike most of those "I have a dream about computers…" talks, Paul actually had an application. I liked that because I’m becoming bored with canned demos and videotape productions showing off what well-paid executives think will happen in the future. Not surprisingly, Aldus’s current vision of the future is based on PageMaker, and Paul jokingly called the program "Multimedia PageMaker." The basics of the program look a lot like what I would expect PageMaker to look like once it supports QuickTime, with the ability to import and play sound, animation, and video. That was cute, but not terribly interesting. However, Paul’s main point, I think, was that people receiving the information ought to be able to receive it in whatever form they wish, putting the burden on the author to make that possible and on the program to make the forms obvious. Multimedia PageMaker approached this by optionally displaying the multimedia document with sound and video as a three dimensional picture that let you look behind the virtual page. Each medium was represented by a 3-D bar whose length corresponded to the time of the sound bite or video clip, and the reader could pick and choose between them, jumping in anywhere at will, much as people browse through books or radio stations or TV channels. It was a good idea, though not exactly revolutionary. Paul did mention the serious problems of copyright and distribution but didn’t offer any solutions. I’m waiting for the solutions.

Back in the real world, several product managers introduced the latest versions of their programs, PageMaker 4.2 and FreeHand 3.1. PageMaker 4.2 sounds like a solid, if not impressive, upgrade. First and foremost, it includes full System 7 support with Publish & Subscribe, which will allow PageMaker and FreeHand to be even more tightly integrated. Double-clicking on a placed FreeHand document in PageMaker will run FreeHand and open that document for editing. Changes in the FreeHand document are then reflected immediately (if you wish) in PageMaker. An enhancement that is not physically included in PageMaker’s code is Aldus PrePrint, which now comes bundled in PageMaker’s box for free. People who do color separations will appreciate that. Everyone will appreciate the speed increases in PageMaker 4.2, including the ability to interrupt the screen redraw. I’m not enough of a type-head to understand the use of this, but Aldus added baseline to baseline leading, and apparently that’s a big deal. To compete with QuarkXPress, Aldus included a control palette (it allows users to enter precise numerical values for various actions) and the ability to load discrete modules, called Aldus Additions. Aldus showed several examples of Additions, including one that allowed repetitive actions to be scripted with a simple scripting language and another that allowed the user to arrange thumbnails of pages to quickly modify the overall arrangement of the document.

FreeHand 3.1 has a couple nice new features, including support for pressure-sensitive tablets such as those from Wacom. No other PostScript drawing program supports these pressure-sensitive tablets, so FreeHand will probably pick up some supporters on that basis alone. Other enhancements include the ability to import and export color libraries, new style and layer palettes, and of course the hot links with PageMaker, which do require System 7.

Some highly-awaited features that should appear in the next version of PageMaker include multiple documents on screen at the same time (finally!), an ink-based color model, the ability to rotate graphics (and presumably text) in small increments, and the ability to group objects, which would be excruciatingly helpful.

Information from:
Aldus representatives
Aldus propaganda

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