Perhaps the most impressive upgrade I saw at Macworld was Aldus PageMaker 5.0. On the whole, PageMaker’s enhancements fall in the category of "It’s about time," but it’s not worth complaining now that they’re here. I’m sure some people will write to tell me that Quark XPress has had such-and-such feature for nigh on 39 years and why is it a big deal that PageMaker has finally caught up. The simple answer is that as far as I know, PageMaker is still the most popular desktop publishing program around.
I’m not going to go through these new features in any order, and similarly, I’m not going to talk about the standard things that haven’t changed. PageMaker has too many features to do that, and some would say that PageMaker has too many features period.
The main new features I noticed in PageMaker 5.0 are its capabilities in moving objects between documents and rotating and skewing text and graphics. PageMaker 5.0 can finally open multiple documents at the same time (welcome to the 1980s, Aldus!), but not content to catch up to programs from the last decade, Aldus added a feature I’ve only seen in a few other programs, the capability to drag an object from one document to another without copying and pasting. The copy-paste metaphor works best in the UniFinder metaphor of the Mac Plus era; in today’s world of multiple megabyte machines, large and multiple screens, and constant MultiFinder, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to drag data between documents, if not applications. I’d like to see this in more applications.
PageMaker 4.2 added the ability to rotate text in 90 degree increments, but this feature was generally greeted with derision – 90 degree rotation is unimpressive. PageMaker 5.0 should silence those criticisms with its free rotation of text and graphics in .01 degree increments. You can skew text and graphics with similar precision. Oh, and by the way, you can edit text or graphics after transforming it, something that wasn’t easy even with 4.2’s limited rotation. This news will be welcome to anyone who does single-page layout of posters and the like.
I appreciate PageMaker’s new capability of printing non-contiguous pages. If you wish to print pages 1, 5, 8, and 23 of a publication, you just type the page numbers into the page range box, separated by commas. Any application that prints should have that feature. Aldus finally implemented grouping, an extremely common command in graphics programs, though only as an Addition. Those were by far the most impressive features I noted, but Aldus has a list of more – I’ll reproduce some of it here.
- Horizontal and vertical reflection of objects
- Enhanced Control palette
- Numerically exact positioning and rotation of any object, from its center or any handle
- Specific "nudge" amounts for exact positioning
- Incrementally rotated inline graphics
- Cropping of rotated graphics
- Text mode of the palette visible in layout or story editor views
- Numeric kerning
- Baseline shift
- Process-color separations of PageMaker text and graphics, as well as imported CMYK TIFF, DCS, and EPS images – all without leaving PageMaker.
- Printing scalable up to 1600%
- Automatic centering of the page on whatever paper you use
- Overprinting for any spot or process color or tint
- Spot-to-process conversion at printing
- Choice of printing individual inks of process-color separations
- Automatic scaling of the page to the paper size
- Separate line and fill attributes
- Choice of transparent or opaque dash lines
- Support for up to 18 language dictionaries, plus any number of installable hyphenation dictionaries
- New search-and-replace capabilities for a character’s position and case
- Sophisticated kerning and track editing
I don’t wish to imply that Aldus fixed everything that might be construed as a problem in PageMaker. For instance, although Aldus completely redesigned the awkward modal print dialogs for the better, I found PageMaker still extremely modal, especially in defining a text rule in a paragraph style. This process can require a ludicrous traverse of as many as four modal dialog boxes. We have the screen space these days – there’s no reason these dialogs must be modal except for design laziness.
My other problem with PageMaker is that even after high-end word processors like Nisus, low-end word processors like WriteNow, and integrated programs like WordPerfect Works (the ex-BeagleWorks) have implemented character styles, PageMaker lags behind. I’m sure it’s partly related to PageMaker’s close relationship with Microsoft Word, another notable laggard, but surely the functionality of character styles is clear – whenever you want to assign a specific style to one or more words, but not an entire paragraph, you can do so on a consistent simple level. Consider the words you might want to do this with, program names, book titles, commands in a manual, and the list goes on. I’ll hop off my interface horse now, but we should praise and condemn Aldus on interface. Overall, I think the praise wins out; PageMaker 5.0 seems like a solid upgrade to a popular program
Aldus — 206/628-2320