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Preliminary Practical Primer to QuickDraw GX, Part I

QuickDraw GX had a great deal of advance press, which isn’t surprising given that it was originally supposed to ship with the first release of System 7 three years ago. Apple promised it would improve the Chooser and Print Monitor, word processing companies swore it would easily enable landscape and portrait page orientations in the same document, font makers noted that GX-style fonts can offer much more than ever before, Adobe, Farallon, and other digital document software creators surely noticed the Portable Digital Document Maker feature, and we users tried to sort out the features from the babble and the hype. This multi-part article explains what to expect from QuickDraw GX and the basics of how to use it.

QuickDraw GX comes with Apple’s recently released System 7.5, but third-party developers can license it for a small fee and include it with their products (it comes on four high-density floppy disks). I acquired my copy through Peirce Software’s Peirce Print Tools, a set of QuickDraw GX extensions that add assorted printing capabilities to the basic GX lineup. (You can find out more about GX extensions in Part II of this article, and I plan to review Peirce Print Tools in an upcoming TidBITS issue.)

Hardware Headaches and Software Minimums — QuickDraw GX isn’t for everyone and requires more RAM than many Macs have to spare. Here’s the low down – to run QuickDraw GX, you need:

  • System 7.1 or later
  • 68020-based Macintosh or newer (including the Power Macs)
  • Approximately 1.7 MB of RAM that you can dedicate to QuickDraw GX
  • 400K RAM that you can dedicate to Adobe Type Manager GX (only if you use ATM GX)
  • A GX printer driver for your printer. QuickDraw GX comes with drivers for: StyleWriters (no Color StyleWriter), ImageWriters, various LaserWriters (a few of the QuickDraw LaserWriters appear to be missing, but you may be able to substitute an existing driver for a missing one). Note that many (if not all) PostScript printers do work with the LaserWriter driver, but if you need to (or wish to) use a third-party driver, you must ask the third-party about the driver (in general, third-parties are releasing GX drivers).

If your hardware can handle GX and you like to play around with funky printing projects, GX offers you hours of amusement. If you work in an environment where a bank of printers hang out near every water fountain and you can never remember whose office has the color DeskWriter this month, then you need GX to help you avoid extra trips to the Chooser. If you work in a corporate environment where the Help Desk staff is more NT-oriented than Mac-savvy and (as a result) you know the location of every Mac printer within a twenty minute walk, GX will save you more trips to the Chooser than you can make in a month of Sundays.

What Supports QuickDraw GX? — Remember System 7-savvy? Depending on who you asked, System 7-savvy meant different things, although after a while people came to agree that you might expect a System 7-savvy application to support virtual memory, Publish & Subscribe, offer at least a few Apple events, and so on. Similarly, GX-savvy means different things to different people, but on a basic level, a GX-savvy application must support the "GX printing architecture" by recognizing GX printer drivers and offering GX-style Print and Page Setup dialog boxes. On a more sophisticated level, a program might support GX fonts by recognizing their extended character set (up to 65,000 characters per font) and by handling their "line layout capabilities" (Part II of this article will have more on GX fonts.)

To find out to what extent a program supports QuickDraw GX, you’d have to ask the company that makes the program, though it’s a reasonable assumption that software released before this summer does not support GX. In much the same way that native Power Mac programs have dribbled out over the past seven months, I expect that GX-savvy software will slowly arrive, though I expect more programs will support the printing architecture than the fonts.

Of the new crop of word processors coming out this fall, only WordPerfect 3.1 and Word 6 can claim GX support (WordPerfect 3.0 also has GX support.) These three programs support the GX printing architecture, but none support the fonts. The soon-to-be released FullWrite 2.0 and NisusWriter 4.0 will not support GX, though both companies plan to add GX support in future releases. Adobe (the name "Aldus" has disappeared into the dust stirred up by the Adobe-Aldus merger) is still hedging over GX support for PageMaker, and Quark has said QuarkXPress won’t support GX, though they also said they wouldn’t ship a PowerPC native versions and later changed their minds.

Of the three programs currently planned to ship with full GX support, the one I’ll be keeping an eye out for is Manhattan Graphics’s Ready,Set,Go! GX version 7, but it will also be interesting to check out the full GX support in the more specialized Typestry 2 (from Pixar) and FontChameleon (from Ares Software Corporation). The folks working on Ready,Set,Go! GX hope to ship version 7 by the end of 1994 – I know I’ll be checking out their booth at January Macworld Expo.

Desktop Printer Icon — Installing GX works much like installing any other program, but once you install it, you cannot print until you set up a desktop printer (tech support people, pay attention here!). If you don’t set up a desktop printer, attempts to print result in error messages, such as "Select Chooser from the Apple menu to create a desktop printer."

To create a desktop printer, open the Chooser, select a driver icon, select a specific port or printer, and then click the Create button. The desktop printer icon sits on the desktop, and you cannot place it elsewhere, though you can place an alias elsewhere. If you select a desktop printer icon, a Printing menu appears right of the Special menu. Once you create a desktop printer icon, you can print using traditional techniques or by dragging a document icon to a desktop printer icon.

Desktop printers add new printing features and replace Print Monitor, affectionately known to those of us who hate it as Print Monster. To see documents queued to a printer, double-click the corresponding desktop printer. The new printing features enable you to put a print job on hold, see a "print preview" of any queued job (just double-click the job), remove a print job, start printing again on any page, drag a print job to the Finder for storage, drag a job to a different desktop printer so it can print to the corresponding real life printer, and more.

Using a desktop printer, you can "share" a real printer, much as you would share a hard disk (select the icon and choose Sharing from the File menu). You can also password protect printers, though this works best on networks where everyone runs GX.

If you set up more than one desktop printer, one printer becomes the default in the Page Setup and Print dialog boxes. The default printer has a heavy outline, and you can make any printer the default by selecting its icon and choosing Set Default Printer from the Printing menu.

If you only have one or two printers, the desktop printer interface works well, but if you have access to many printers, you won’t want a million printer icons cluttering your desktop. Since you can’t store the icons anywhere else, I expect a number of utilities will show up to assist people in managing desktop printers. One possible (but inelegant) strategy for coping with too many desktop printers is to pile the icons one on top of the other in a corner somewhere and then organize the aliases neatly in the Apple menu.

New Page Setup and Print Dialog Boxes — The basic Page Setup dialog box offers a More Choices button and four basic options – orientation, scale (formerly called reduction), desktop printer (or any installed driver, and paper size (including any custom size that you set up in the PaperType Editor – more on that in Part II).

If you click the More Choices button, the button turns into a Fewer Choices button and the dialog box offers an interface reminiscent of the System 6 Control Panel. You might see additional page setup choices, either from the active program or from a GX extension.

A number of familiar Page Setup options have retired, and I say good riddance to Larger Print Area, Font Substitution, and Unlimited Downloadable Fonts (GX fonts download much more efficiently to the printer, so there should never be a problem with the printer not having enough RAM to accommodate them).

The new Print dialog box also has a System 6 Control Panel interface. "Fewer Choices" mode is straightforward, and should take care of the options that most people want most of the time. But after you click the More Choices button, you can set a wide array of options, which can come from the current application or from a GX extension. Perhaps the most intriguing option controls how a large image prints if it doesn’t fit on one page – you can crop the bottom and right so the image fits on one page, tile the image so it prints on more than one page, or scale it to fit. Other interesting features include setting the print time for a document and indicating that a document is urgent and should print before other queued documents.

Before I began playing with QuickDraw GX, I figured it would take me a half hour or so to write up an article for TidBITS; instead, after many hours, I’m still learning more and I’ve written enough information to fill an entire issue. So, instead of running one monster-sized article, I’m breaking this article into one (or more) additional articles. Tune in next week for a look at QuickDraw GX fonts – the coolest part of QuickDraw GX – and for a peek at the various utilities that come with QuickDraw GX (a digital document maker, a utility for turning GX off, a new LaserWriter Utility, and so on).

If you have experience with QuickDraw GX and have run into a quirk, snafu, or problem, I’d like to hear from you. Or, if you bravely installed the beta on seventy Macs printing to ten different printers and miraculously had no problems (or none you couldn’t solve easily), I’d like to know about that as well. Be warned, I probably won’t offer any solutions, but I’d like to get a better feel for GX’s overall stability.

Ares Software Corporation — 415/578-9090
Manhattan Graphics — 914/725-2048
Pixar — 510/236-4000
Peirce Software — 800/828-6554 — 408/244-6554
408/244- 6882 (fax) — <[email protected]>

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!)
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