InDesign vs. Quark: 4 things

If you’ve ever sat near me while I’m working in Quark XPress, you know what a charming vocabulary I have. I !@#$% hate Quark. It’s a $&%@! buggy piece of #@&!. I may need all the glyphs in the Unicode set to type my distaste for it.

But having glanced for a minute at Layers magazine’s new “InDesign Advantage Center,” I see a solution: I can follow their example and express my displeasure by highlighting a couple of my favorite InDesign features—which, gosh! how shocking!, Quark 6 doesn’t have. I haven’t yet played with Quark 7, but I’ve been reading reviews and think it’s safe to say these are all features it’s still missing. If I’m wrong, feel free to let me know—not that it’ll make me loathe that *&%$# plate of spaghetti code one bit less.

So. Here are the four InDesign features that I miss most in my current workflow:

  1. Linked Master Pages

    What it is: One master page can be based on another so that when you change an object or property on the parent page—such as the margins—all the masters dependent on it inherit the change, as well. You can override the inherited elements on any master or on any page in the layout.

    How I use it: I usually set up at least three master pages, even for just a sample layout: Body, which is a standard text page with running heads; Chapter Opener, which has no running heads, probably no folio, probably a sink, and maybe some kind of ornament; and Guides Only, which I use for front-matter pages, art, and other oddities. The margins are the same for all three. As I explained the other day, trying to make castoff involves a lot of fiddling with the layout. I often have to change the margins a couple of times before I get something that works in combination with my typeface and leading. In Quark, I have to change these margins on each master page separately. In InDesign, all my master pages inherit their margins from the same übermaster, so when I change the original, the new margins apply to them all. Now, with at least 66.67 percent less clicking!

  2. Layout Adjustment

    What it is: An option (turned off by default) of having page items move or resize when you shift your margins around. Objects that have been snapped to guides stay stuck to those guides, even when the guides move.

    How I use it: When I change the margins on a master page, my text boxes automatically resize to fit the new margins. Art will also shift around so that it stays centered or whatever. There’s still usually a bit of fiddling to be done by hand, but this feature eliminates most of the boring cleanup.

  3. Quick Apply

    What it is: A hotkey (cmd-return) opens a menu of all your paragraph and character stylesheets in the corner of the screen; you type a couple of characters (not necessarily contiguous—“tb” would call up styles called “table” and “text bold,” in that order; you can scroll using arrow keys or type more letters to filter the results further) to get to the style you want, and then hit return to apply it. The selection is sticky, so whatever style you applied last stays selected the next time you open the window. If you’re reapplying the same style often, therefore, you can get into an easy groove of cmd-return, return, cmd-return, return. It’s like Quicksilver for your stylesheets. You are using Quicksilver, aren’t you?

    How I use it: I typically create at least twenty stylesheets, even for just a sample layout. I’m systematic like that. There are too many of them to make assigning individual keyboard shortcuts feasible. And because I always follow the same naming convention, it’s much easier for my reptile brain to come up with “TNI” or “STX” than to remember what option-cmd-1 stands for, never mind actually looking at the style palette, moving my hand onto the mouse or trackpad, scrolling down to the style I need, clicking on it, and moving my hand back to the keyboard. With Quick Apply, I can rely on physical memory rather than the more active layers of my brain. It’s much faster. More time for napping.

  4. Nested Styles

    What it is: Most layout programs, and even MS Word, have both paragraph styles and character styles. The former applies to a whole paragraph (duh) and usually controls stuff like spacing, leading, breaks, and alignment. The latter applies only to selected text and controls stuff like font, size, color, tracking, baseline shift. Only InDesign, though, allows you to say, “In all paragraphs styled as ‘chapter first,’ set the first letter in the character style ‘stick-up cap’ and the rest of the first three words in the style ‘small caps.’ After that, use the default text style.” You can do very complex things with this feature, once you get your head around it. And if you change your mind, all you have to do is redefine some styles to get rid of all that pesky design crap.

    How I use it: Gussying up tables of contents with different styles for the chapter number, title, subtitle, and page number. Setting the numerals on numbered lists in bold or another font. Styling list bullets in another font. Styling glossary terms differently from their definitions.

The overarching theme here is that the Adobe developers seem to understand that a large part of typesetting consists of repetition. To style a long document consistently, you have to do a lot of fiddly things over and over, sometimes for forty-five chapters. Computers are good at doing repetitive things consistently; people, eh, not so much. And the less time you have to spend manually selecting bits of text and clicking on palettes to style them, the more time you can spend doing the things your brain is better at, such as making it all look pretty. And when you change your mind about the handsomest way to do something, it’s not a total nightmare to undo one global design thingy and replace it with another.

At Quark, judging from the way the software is set up, they think all you’re designing is one-page ads. Each page different, like a snowflake. They just don’t get it.

18 thoughts on “InDesign vs. Quark: 4 things

  1. Quick Apply sounds like the way Lotus 1-2-3 worked: you’d type / (to tell it you wanted to enter a command) then the first letter of each menu option, in turn. So people could work super fast, typing /XYZQ or whatever, to accomplish things — sometimes so fast they couldn’t even tell you how they did it, because the commands lived in muscle memory and their conscious brains no longer noticed the menu sequence. Now that was a well designed app. Ugly as hell and hard to learn, but super functional.

  2. Yeah, well, the other benefit to using InDesign is that if you use Photoshop and Illustrator, too—as most designers do—many of the shortcuts are the same across all three applications. So your muscles can really do all the thinking. Also, Adobe thoughtfully made a few of the shortcuts in InDesign the same as they are in Quark. Quark’s shortcuts are pretty random, though, so there wasn’t room for much of that.

    What drives me nuts, though, is that in some Adobe applications, they’ve overridden the OS X–wide command to hide the current window (cmd-h). I don’t use the dock, and I don’t minimize; instead, I rely heavily on cmd-tilde, cmd-tab, and cmd-h to keep only what I need at the front of the screen. Having to click on the menu to hide something really burns my toast. When BBEdit wants to override a system-wide shortcut, it asks you how you want it mapped, the first time you hit the key. So you can choose whichever function you associate more strongly with that key. Adobe could take a lesson from Barebones on that.

  3. Thanks, Pat! I guess I hadn’t bothered looking for a while—I seem to recall reading a long time ago that one couldn’t remap that particular shortcut. My bad. BUT . . . I still don’t see a way to remap command-tilde so that I can switch between open documents.

  4. Wow, you are the first person I have come across named India. I know Bush has a cat named India but a real person, wow! :-)

  5. I know it’s not the same (and still amazingly annoying), but did you know that if you do shift-cmd-tilde that you can rotate through the windows in Photoshop CS? You can also use control-tab. I have Exposé set to work when I move my mouse in the corners or when I press the proper F# key, so that’s another keyboard solution. However, there doesn’t seem to be a clear way of fixing this issue (I even checked editing a shortcut file manually).

    A file stored in the Photoshop application package (presumably to guide programmers) shows the operating system shortcut as cmd-~. Perhaps a bug report to Adobe could clear up the problem? Somehow I doubt it.

  6. Sigh. No, it’s not the same. The point of global shortcuts is that you don’t have to think about them; adding that shift requires remembering what application I’m in. It kind of undermines that whole “creative suite” unity thing they’re going for.

    Perhaps they’ll address it in the next version.

  7. Actually, command-shift-tilde does work in InDesign and Illustrator, as well as Firefox and the Finder, and probably a bunch of other apps besides. Adding shift simply reverses the direction of the window cycling (command-shift-tab cycles apps in reverse order). I find it very intuitive but somehow never thought to try it in Photoshop because command-tilde didn’t work. Thanks, Joseph.

    Also, option-clicking on the desktop (or another application’s window) will hide programs. It works even on those apps that have remapped command-h (but I agree, remapping system key combos without asking is bad form).

  8. Regarding the Cmd-H problem, I’m a programmer, not a designer, but I need all the help I can get in staying focused. For me this means only having the window I’m in visible.

    Enter a little app called Spirited Away that I simply cannot live without. It sits in your menu bar and hides apps that have been in the background for x seconds. It’s pretty well configurable in that you can set the delay and exclude specific apps from auto-hiding.

    I don’t even use Cmd-H at all any more. Just Cmd-Tab and let the window disappear. You can download Spirited Away here. The homepage seems to be perpetually down, but is here.

    The only downside is that it’s not Universal so it sucks up a bunch of RAM on Intel macs. It’s worth it to me, though, and I suspect that most Adobe-centric designers are still on PPC anyway.

  9. Thanks for the tip, Ben.

    Hmmm . . . I’ll have to think about this. I’m not sure why I hide windows all the time—I mean, a lot of it is obviously just an ingrained reflex from jobs where bosses were always looking over my shoulder, but that’s certainly not the situation when I’m sitting on the couch at home, and it’s not the case in my current office, where nobody can sneak up on me unless they rappel down the outside of the building. Not that I’m working on anything I’d need to hide there, anyway—I just got the job; why would I need to be working on my resume already?

    I suspect that a lot of my many daily hides are because I have this vague feeling that I’m supposed to be doing something else, that I left some window undealt with, but I can’t remember what it is. I know only that it’s not in the application I’m currently using, so I cmd-H one app at a time until I find the thing I forgot about. If this is really how I use cmd-H, Spirited Away might make me less productive. But I’ll have to cogitate on it, clearly, and observe my habits more closely.

  10. India-

    Yeah, it’s definitely a personal thing that has to do entirely with one’s own workflow. I came across the app on 43folders in a post about how to reduce distraction. Someone in the comments advocated Spirited Away along with another app (Backdrop, which essentially hides the desktop) as a way to hide everything but what you’re actually doing at that moment.

    The general idea is that productivity is increased when the only thing visible on screen is the task at hand. Coming from a Windows background where I keep all windows maximized all the time, this was a very natural thing for me. Of course, if hiding windows has another purpose in one’s workflow (as it does for you), it may be counter-productive. It can certainly be annoying when I’m trying to debug a problem and have my editor in one window and a log file in the other.

  11. I moved from Quark to Indesign a few years ago and NEVER looked back. The crappy thing about any of these programs is that they all seem to have forgotten about automatic footnotes on any other level than just importing them. I do a lot of academic journals, and it’s very frustrating to have to go back to the source file to make changes if there are footnote adjustments.

    Still, Indesign makes everything else a lot easier. Thanks for a few good tips.

  12. What kind of adjustments are you talking about? Of course I don’t have InDesign in front of me at the moment, being at the office, but I seem to recall that the embedded notes work very much as they do in Word.

  13. I’m stalking you this evening. I’m terribly jealous you have so many readers. I’ve tried bribing people – it doesn’t work. I’m revamping, hopefully that will help. It’s no fun transferring an entire blog, though.

    I do book covers, never interiors. I often wonder about the people who do interiors. They must be very patient. I can’t imagine someone killing a paragraph and causing a reflow for the next 80 pages and being able to deal with that without drugs – or a drive bye.

    I am an Adobe woman. Hate Quark. I live in Illustrator. I love Illustrator. I’m not so in love with Adobe since they put so many danged security features on their software you can’t instal it on your own computer and you have to pay $100s to call them for help…but that’s another blog.

  14. Hi, Cathi. I had a readership of three—honest!—until a friend asked if she could send a link to I told her, “Hey, it’s not my bandwidth. . . . Not that I can see what Kottke would see in my site . . .” Well, he did post the link, and within minutes the site was mobbed. Who knew? So, um, my advice is . . . let your friends pimp you out?

    I think it requires a different mindset to do interiors, maybe even a different personality.

    My mother’s an artist, so I spent my childhood being dragged to galleries and museums. Every birthday and Christmas I received art supplies, more and more art supplies, until finally I put my foot down, and that year I received . . . dolls, which I hated. So I said it was okay to give me art supplies again. Not surprisingly, I learned to draw realistically at an early age, and I pored over tons of art books, as we had tons of them in the house. For art class in high school, when we had to go to the museum to sketch things, invariably the entire class would show up on the day before the assignment was due, only to find that the sculpture we were supposed to draw had been roped off. So those who could draw would get the prime seats in the doorway of the room, right under the rope, while everyone else would crowd behind and draw from the sketches of the people in front. I was at the front. But . . . I don’t think of myself as a visual person.

    I was an English major in college, but I took some electives in art history and art studio. I liked art history because it was easy, and so much of it was writing. I considered double-majoring but decided that I didn’t really care about art; I just liked it because it was easy for me. And I liked art studio because I like making stuff, crafting, but I hated coming up with concepts for pieces. I’m not a conceptualizer; there aren’t many grand ideas I feel driven to express. I just like using tools and “making mud pies,” as I call it. I loved making etchings, because there are so many cool tools, and the big machinery, and the luscious texture of the ink, and the dangerous solvents, but, to my mother’s ongoing annoyance, I don’t have any interest in making art.

    So when I design a book interior, I’m thinking in terms of craft, of usability, of shaping the text efficiently; I’m not thinking, “How can I express my creative side?” Along the way, of course, I may get excited about things like woolly mammoth tusks, but I’m not necessarily happier with a design that uses graphics and carefully selected display type than I am with a design that uses one gorgeous type family throughout. To be good, my work usually has to be subtle, and that’s the way I like it.

    Covers, on the other hand, are both more public and more personal. They’re like small works of art, more expressive than informational, but there’s also much more client input. You have to please a lot of people who aren’t designers, and over and over you must watch a client choose the lamest of a set of comps—the one you threw in just as filler—or, worse still, you have to follow the client’s request to make a Frankencover, combining the weakest elements of all the designs you proposed. That happens with interior designs, too, sometimes—though not at my current job, so far—but the constraints are tighter, so there are fewer variables that anyone can ask to have changed.

    As for typesetting, which I’m only doing freelance at the moment, there’s a lot less of that reflowing wackiness than you might think. I can usually find a one- or two-page way to bury an edit of one to four lines, and editors know that it’s expensive to ask for such drastic changes, so they do it only if it’s really crucial. I have had to reset a few books almost entirely, and while that certainly can be tedious, I find typesetting in general to be somewhat meditative. Time flies. I usually find it fun. There’s a lot of short-term problem solving. “Okay, I’ve got a widow I need to pull up. Here’s a very short line on the previous page; maybe I can get that to run up. . . . Nope, no-go. What about this one two pages back? Nope. Okay, what if I run the preceding spread a line short? Yeah, that works. . . .” and then you let those neurons reset, and you go on to solving the next problem. You finish the work feeling clever and resourceful.

    And though sometimes it’s a lot of work, when it’s done, you know it’s done, because there you are, on the last page. How do you know when you’ve finished a cover? How can you tell when it looks as good as it can or should? You have to have a strong vision to design covers, a powerful desire to express—if not yourself—the personality of the book.

    Of course, there are many designers who do both covers and interiors, but they probably don’t like both kinds of assignments equally. Or some like to design both covers and interiors about equally but wouldn’t dream of typesetting the text themselves.

    Anybody care to dissent?

  15. I tried to get a blogroll on my site last night, I was going to link to you. No go.Wrote my site guy, hopefully he can do it. I have a good handle on HTML, but that’s old school and CSS, PHP, Java….might as well be Martian.

    You work freelance? Seriously, pop me an eMail. My interior person has gone out of business and I have only one other guy and he’s super busy. Pop me an eMail, and let’s “talk”…

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