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QuickDraw GX at the Expo

After writing about QuickDraw GX in TidBITS-243 , I settled in to wait for Macworld Expo, where I hoped to see the wonders of GX fonts in action. GX has gobs of practical problems, but I thought (and still think) that the fonts are compelling enough to make some abandon practicality and to make others improve the practicality.

Mainstream vendors of the feature-laden monstrosities we consider "popular" programs appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach to supporting GX fonts (though support for the GX printing architecture is more common). This leaves room for lesser-known companies to support GX fonts with a higher risk and with higher potential returns. Programs supporting GX fonts offer an interface for accessing font options, so you can see how changes you make to type look within the context of the current document.

Linotype-Hell — GX fonts do exist, and Linotype-Hell had a demo going in the Apple area. The demo showed off some of Linotype Hell’s GX fonts, and show-goers could see how easy GX makes it to use special dingbats, ligatures, fractions, small caps, drop caps, and so on that can be built into a GX font. GX fonts can also include Multiple Master-like features, so you can (for example) lighten, darken, contract, or expand text in a font.

LightningDraw GX — Lightning Draw GX, a soon-to-be-shipping graphics program from Lari Software, works fine with GX fonts and uses GX graphics capabilities in a number of features. The program combines painting and drawing in sometimes unexpected ways. For example, you can paint with tools such as Charcoal or Paint, and the program then merges your efforts into a single object.

The Reshaper tool lets you change the shape of an object by pushing and pulling any point on the object’s edge (you can set the amount of force with which the object thinks you are pushing or pulling). You can join and subtract objects; for example, you might draw a large square, draw a smaller circle within the square, subtract the circle out of the square, and end up with a square having a round hole in its middle. Objects placed on top of one another can also overlap and you can set the level of transparency that the top object has, thus determining the color of the area where the objects overlap.

When LightningDraw GX ships, it should import Photoshop and PICT images, and place EPS images. It should be able to save as PICT. Other features, such as bezier curves, Multigon and Star tools, extensive zoom, unlimited layers, WorldScript, and ColorSync add up to make for an interesting product that takes up 2 MB or your hard disk and requires a minimum of 2.5 MB RAM. It will run on any 68020 or later, and (of course) requires that you also run QuickDraw GX.

UniQorn — One surprise at Macworld this year was from SoftPress Systems Limited in England. They’re putting together a product called UniQorn, a fully-featured professional design and layout program built on top of QuickDraw GX. UniQorn exploits all of QuickDraw GX’s new functionality, allowing extensive typographic and display features not available in non-GX-savvy applications. (Quark has indicated it won’t support GX in QuarkXPress because GX isn’t cross-platform; Adobe is at present an unknown with PageMaker.)

In addition to all the functionality provided by QuickDraw GX, UniQorn is scriptable, WorldScript-savvy, implements Drag and Drop, and comes with Apple Guide assistance. SoftPress has indicated that they fully intend to support OpenDoc when it becomes available. UniQorn is targeted at designers, naturally, but SoftPress’s tactics seem more directed at "multiple media publishing," meaning the preparation of data for a wide variety of formats. UniQorn can transform a portrait, U.S. letter document into a landscape, A4 document using a set of customizable rules about how graphics, columns, and the like should shift. One particularly interesting application is that UniQorn automatically generates tagged versions of its documents: with the right style sheet, these can look remarkably like HTML. UniQorn will be available for Macs and Power Macs and, although pricing isn’t set, is expected to be between $700 and $900. We’ll have more news on UniQorn as its shipping date nears.

Besides newcomers Lari and SoftPress, the only other GX-savvy software I saw at the Expo was Pixar’s Typestry 2, a type rendering and animation program. I didn’t get a chance to see a personal demo of Typestry 2, and the group demo didn’t mention the fonts.

Lari Software — 800/933-7303 — 919/968-0701
919/968-0801 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Linotype-Hell — 800/842-9721 — 516/434-2706 (fax)
Pixar — 510/236-4000
SoftPress Systems — 44-993-882588 — 44-993-883970 (fax)
<[email protected]>

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