Tools of the Trade

A cornucopia of products for creation, design, and production fits the bill for almost any NeXT publishing project
No matter how complex, most publications consist of just three things: body text, graphics, and display type. Most likely, you will create each of these elements in a separate application, eventually combining them in a page-layout program. Because of the high degree of integration on the NeXT computer, this approach is less fraught with frustration than it is on other platforms. NeXT's adoption of PostScript and standards such as TIFF, EPS, RTF, and RenderMan's RIB file format, make it a simple matter to exchange files and incorporate existing libraries of fonts and clip art into a layout.

Preparing text means either sticking with WriteNow, which has become the standard simply because it was once bundled with all NeXT hardware, or opting for the more full-featured WordPerfect. Unfortunately, this choice is less of a no-brainer than it may appear.

Many users will be more than content with Write-Now, which has won accolades for its speed, straightforward interface, and general philosophy of including most of the features needed by most of the people most of the time. WriteNow's ruler-based formatting is easy to grasp, and basic features such as spell checking,

search-and-replace, word count, mail-merge, and multiple headers and footers are well implemented. Graphics support is weak, however, and the program lacks high-end features such as a glossary, a thesaurus, style sheets, or tables.

WordPerfect's approach to multiple columns, style sheets, and graphics makes it a superior choice if you want to stay with one program. The program includes a full complement of word-processing features, including a browser-style thesaurus, style sheets, table-of-contents and macro generation, and its graphics support is a big improvement over WriteNow. WordPerfect uses a frame-based approach to graphics that is highly suited to DTP. You can anchor captions to frames, choose from a variety of border and background styles, and precisely position them on the page. Text wraps automatically around placed graphics and you can adjust the offset of the wrap.

If San Diego–based Paragon Concepts follows up on its intentions to deliver Nisus for NeXT, we can look forward to such features as noncontiguous text selection, drawing tools, and a full-blown macro language.

Professional graphic designers will find nothing lacking in Adobe Illustrator and Altsys Virtuoso, while occasional artists will probably gravitate toward Appsoft Draw and Stone Design's Create.

Adobe Illustrator was one of the first programs to bring PostScript power to the user, becoming a standard tool for designers working in the emerging field of desktop publishing.

With the NeXT version, Illustrator has, in a sense, come home again. Display PostScript lets you work on-screen in illustration mode, seeing the results of your changes as you make them. There's also a much greater correspondence between what appears on the MegaPixel Display and what comes streaming out of your laser printer. You can create original artwork using Illustrator's precise Bezier tools or rely on the Autotrace tool to turn scanned images into line art. Even nonartists can use Illustrator to convert any Adobe Type 1 font into an editable outline, which can be skewed, rotated, or blended to create new type effects.

Recently arrived Virtuoso is expected to provide some serious competition for Illustrator by bringing to the drawing table advanced tools for managing layers, color blending, text handling, and built-in support for the pressure-sensitive Wacom tab-let. Like Illustrator, Virtuoso was also derived from a Mac program, Aldus FreeHand, but its original designers at Altsys have taken the program in new and surprising directions. Despite its power, Virtuoso is easier to use than Illustrator, particularly when it comes to freestyle drawing and applying gradient fills. Unique control over patterns, textures, and border styles puts Virtuoso over the top.

Appsoft Draw is designed for the business-person who has to create the occasional org chart, flyer, presentation, or newsletter. But there are features, like the ability to bind text to an arbitrary path, that rival those of high-end packages. Draw's sophisticated handling of TIFF images, including masking and the ability to adjust brightness and contrast levels, lets you prepare scanned images like photographs for inclusion in a publication.

Stone Design's Create is a truly enabling piece of software that brings the power of Post-Script effects to the novice user. Create can be used to produce dazzling display type, colorful logos, and more, using standard drawing tools and a series of interactive inspectors.

Lighthouse Design's Diagram, one of the first drawing programs to appear on the NeXT, is still a good choice if you frequently need to reuse elements in your layouts or prepare org charts for a company in which things are perpetually in a state of flux.

To use photographs or video images in your document, they must be digitized with any of a variety of types of scanners.

If you work only in grayscale and do not foresee the need for color capabilities in the future, there are some excellent monochrome flatbed scanners on the NeXT market. These units, equipped with smoothly usable software, will scan in flat, reflective art like photographs and store these images as TIFF or EPS files on your hard drive. Products like the Canon IX-30F Image Scanner and the HSD Scan-X Professional are reasonably priced (from $1545 to $2195) and have plenty of resolution (typically 400 to 600 dpi) to handle most any task.

If your source images are generally color photographs, choose a color flatbed scanner like the Epson ES300C, the Hewlett-Packard ScanJet IIc, or the HSD Scan-X Color. A separate NeXT driver is available (and needed) for the Epson and HP models. For the Epson, get Second Glance's ScanTastic or Goldleaf Publishing's eXTraScan; for the ScanJet, try Qscan from Pixelution. Each program provides color-correction capabilities along with scanning controls. Volume shipments of color scanners have driven their prices down.

If you already have a flatbed scanner, perhaps attached to another kind of computer, then you may only need to get a NeXT-STEP interface in order to take advantage of it on your NeXT. Interfaces are available, or in development, for the Microtek 600Z, the Sharp JX-600, and the Apple One Scanner, among others.

A new twist on the color flatbed scanner is the Canon CJ-10, which provides 400-dpi color scanning, 400-dpi color bubble-jet printing, and color copying in one unit for about $10,000. Contact Goldleaf for driver software.

If your source material is 35mm transparencies, you will need a slide scanner rather than a flatbed. Second Glance's ScanTastic will drive the Nikon LS3500AF, while Pixelution's Qscan works with the Microtek 1850.

Interfaces are also available for high-end drum scanners. Goldleaf Publishing provides driver software for a desktop drum scanner from Howtek. If you want your NeXT to speak di-rectly to one of the big, professional drum-scanning systems from Crosfield, DS, Hell, or Itek, you will need the Centurlink hardware and ImagLink software system from Talus Imaging.

Often, source material is not flat like a photo or a slide. Objects like a cat or a piece of marble can be photographed and then scanned, but some of the visual depth may be lost. An overhead scanner or a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera is designed to scan in vignettes. The Photometrics CCD Camera system can work with a NeXT using the Photon interface from Dazzl. Alternatively, consider Opto-Tech GmbH's OPTOSCAN professional line of overhead repro scanners or Rollei Digital ScanPack for the Rolleiflex 6000 series of professional cameras.

You can also input live images using video-capture hardware. Metaresearch offers its monochrome Digital Eye or Color Digital Eye for this purpose. They plug into the DSP port on any model NeXT workstation. If you have invested in a NeXTcube, you can put one of its NeXTbus slots to work with a NeXTdimension Board from NeXT. This com-bination 32-bit color card and video input/ output board can capture video from a wide range of sources.

Clip art
Because nearly all NeXT applications accept graphics in EPS and TIFF formats, NeXT users can take advantage of a wide variety of existing clip-art libraries. Many of these collections are on CD-ROM, so you'll need a CD-ROM drive to take full advantage of them. A few companies offer NeXT-specific collections on floppy disk.

TIFF is the preferred format for finely detailed images, but these images take up a lot of room on disk, are more difficult to modify, and suffer from a loss of quality when scaled.

For more flexible functionality, you'll want to use EPS-format art. EPS images can be opened and modified in Illustrator or Virtuoso. T/Maker has long offered a version of its popular ClickArt collection for the NeXT, which includes over 400 EPS images.

Totem Graphics's Color Clip Art is a similar collection of 1248 images on CD-ROM. MicroMaps's MapArt is a more specialized collection, consisting of over 5MB of global, national, and regional maps. Point of View Computing's Elegance is a unique collection of border designs, decorative elements, and embellishments. And don't overlook Digital Webster, which contains hundreds of TIFF images of animals, musical instruments, and architectural elements.

To give your document a professional look, you'll want to use appropriate typefaces and pay close attention to letterspacing and leading. Adobe TouchType helps you do this in the most intuitive way possible, by treating each letterform as a graphic that can be freely moved about on the screen. Vivid Publishing's TypeView provides a window into your type collection, allowing you to view the entire character set of a particular font, access an unusual character, or get information about kerning pairs.

For the fonts themselves, look for NeXT versions of the Adobe Plus Pack and Type Sets 1, 2, and 3. Other fonts from the Adobe catalog (over 1200 fonts) are available by calling authorized distributor RightBrain Software's Font Hot Line at 800/525-3668.

Page layout
The goal of any publishing project is to bring all of the elements of a design together in a page layout on the screen. Along with the development of PostScript, it was the arrival of page-layout programs like Aldus PageMaker, Quark- XPress, and Ventura Publisher that defined the application called desktop publishing.

None of these programs is available for the NeXT, and until recently there hasn't been a good substitute for them. Now, four page-layout programs have either shipped or are in beta testing. Together with several existing document-editing programs, they make NeXT a via-ble publishing platform for the first time.

The first of the new NeXT page-layout programs to reach market is PasteUp from RightBrain Software. It is positioned as a general-purpose layout package, suited equally for graphics-rich professional design, corporate publishing, or general productivity.

RightBrain says that PasteUp can do anything PageMaker or XPress can do, though it may do it differently. Thus, its kerning, tracking, and type handling in general is as precise as Quark's, but it treats text like any other object, to be scaled, rotated, or skewed.

The program has won kudos for its implementation of NeXT programming principles, including direct manipulation and drag-and-drop capabilities. Not only can you drag graphics and text, but colors, attributes, and styles can be simply dropped on a page element. Selecting an object is as easy as clicking any portion of it, regardless of its layer.

Among PasteUp's other strengths are its ability to search and replace, infinite undo, and multiple views of the same document at up to 1600-percent magnification.

The flip side of PasteUp's carte-blanche approach to page design is a layout program from Pages Software, which after several years in the making is close to release under the name Pages by Pages. It guides users to produce well-designed business documents by limiting their choices to a preset range provided in a companion "design model."

Pages by Pages will ship with seven design models, most aimed at corporate design (other models will be available separately from Pages and third parties). A separate program, the Pages Designer Edition, is used to create models.

Each model contains rules for typeface control, column layout, headline styling, and other elements that make up a page design. The idea is that an organization will use the product to standardize on a common look for all its documents. The constrained approach also allows users to create attractive designs easily, with a fairly flat learning curve.

The Pages user interface groups 26 page elements under six basic palettes. All elements are dragged and dropped on the page, and they interact appropriately. For example, a subhead will know that it lives in a column, so it scales to the column width.

Once users are comfortable with a design model, they have several ways to expand or change it. Every element has an inspector with controls to adjust the behavior of the element. Users may also alter a design model by overriding one or more rules, and then saving it as a style sheet. They can also create a design model from scratch with the Designer Edition.

Pages believes it has hit on a fundamentally new ap-proach to page design. It is aimed squarely at business publishing, leaving the graphic-design market to other products.

The third contestant among the new page-layout systems for the NeXT has the most interesting approach of all. The Archetype Document Engine is the basis for a proposed document-object standard that NeXT has tentatively endorsed as a publishing extension to its custom-application strategy. Archetype sees the engine as the basis for an explosion of modular, third-party, and custom publishing applications.

Archetype it-self will publish the first program built on the Document Engine, a page-layout program it plans to market as Archetype Page. At this writing, few details were available about the program, which was scheduled to be shown for the first time at the Seybold Conference in September.

Archetype has developed numerous page-layout programs that have appeared under various names from publishers on other platforms. The company says that it has collected, polished, and documented its objects and is making them available for others to use. Archetype's document-centric approach has great promise for workgroup publishing. Documents can be easily moved between applications and platforms or simultaneously shared by different users on a network. The surprise entry in the page-layout category is Altsys Virtuoso. This offspring of Aldus FreeHand on the Macintosh had always been expected to be a heavyweight in the NeXT illustration category, but earlier this year Altsys delayed Virtuoso's introduction to pursue what the company called a "strategic text initiative" to add traditional page-layout typographic capabilities to its repertoire.

Thus, it features capabilities for wraparound text, multiple columns and rows, automatic hyphenation, copyfitting, text-block linking, and full typographic controls. Many of its illustration strengths, such as allowing text on paths and color-separation tools, are boons in the page-design field.

In combining layout capability with its core illustration tools, Virtuoso is attempting to redefine the market. While layouts are confined to a single page, it excels at graphic design for advertisements, packaging, and brochures.

Long documents
As newer programs have garnered the headlines, Frame Corporation's FrameMaker 3.0 has been quietly cranking out mountains of reports and technical documentation for early NeXT enthusiasts. Shipping since 1988, Frame's NeXT implementation is equivalent (except in user interface) to its products on 28 other platforms, according to the company. It has considerable strengths as a long-document publishing package. It also has some more prosaic shortcomings, such as lack of support for wraparound text.

FrameMaker is a comprehensive long-document processor, combining tools for word processing, table editing, page layout, graphics, and more. It is designed for corporate publishing ap-plications, including reports, books, and technical documen-tation. Until now, Frame has had the NeXT layout market to itself. It will likely continue as a strong contender for the long-document segment of the market.

If FrameMaker is a layout program with extensive word-processing capability, then Word-Perfect, as mentioned above, is a word processor with modest designs on the page-layout market.

WordPerfect provides a basic set of page-layout tools, including the capability to wrap text around graphics, flexible column layouts, cropping, scaling, rotating, and zooming. As the standard for corporate word processing, it also provides a strong list of features for long-document publishing. Its strength will remain business documentation, but it is more than equal to the occasional simple newsletter.

Now that a wide range of software is available for desktop publishing on the NeXT, it appears that the distinct categories of word processing, page layout, and illustration software with which we are familiar are blurring. Instead, developers are providing a mixed bag of functionality to match their views of the emerging NeXT publishing market.

In the past, the lack of prepress tools was among the most serious problems preventing the NeXT from being a complete publishing solution. Now, a broad range of products is coming to market to fill voids in the NeXT prepress universe – and proving to be some of the best available on any platform.

Prepress is the science and art of taking artwork from a computer screen and preparing it for the demands of output, whether to slide film or the printed page. It has four main elements: image manipulation, color correction, color separation, and file-format conversion.

Image-manipulation products are used for setting global values for contrast and brightness, modifying individ-ual pixels, and converting images to printable screens. These products have literally hundreds of features and de-serve a close look.

The feature list for Appsoft Image sounds like an artist's wish list: masking, joined and subtracted selections, transformations around a chosen point, anti-aliasing option on EPS files, the capability to save without alpha-channel coding, independent line-and-fill patterning, user-definable patterns and brushes, and 100 gradient stages. The inspector-based program brings all the possibilities out front, where you can find them easily but not clutter your screen.

Compose in Color from Unter Ecker Software has a full suite of manipulation tools and a background batch-processing capability. It seeks to distinguish itself through new types of tools for creative manipulation, especially those involving several different images.

Chromagrafx PixelMaster, due by the end of the year, takes the high-end approach, aiming to give professional clients a true alternative to proprietary systems like Hell and Scitex. In addition to providing ex-tensive image-manipulation tools, PixelMaster is designed to be fully programmable for the user. In some ways it will be an object-oriented image engine. Gemstone Systems's Emerald Image Tool was originally developed at TRW for analysis of satellite photos and specializes in manipulating large images using tiling and other techniques. Due to its pedigree, it promises to be packed with unusual goodies.

Color separation is required to produce film for the different colored inks used in the physical printing process. Several of the image-processing applications described above, including Image and PixelMaster, will output separations, as will some illustration and layout programs, including PasteUp, Virtuoso, and Illustrator. Products from Goldleaf Publishing, described below, provide both separation and color correction.

Making sure final color output or printing looks as expected has always been a big issue in publishing. This is made doubly hard because color on computer monitors is transmissive (light comes from behind) while color on the printed page is reflective (light bounces off of it).

Prior to September, there were no solutions to this problem on the NEXT. Now, Goldleaf Publishing has introduced eXTRACAL and eXTRACOLOR for the physical calibration of monitors with output devices and the color correction of images. CAL includes a physical device that attaches either to your monitor or to any object that contains a color you want.

It reads color measurements into the CAL software, so the image you are creating can match it exactly. COLOR is an application that works from the Services menu. It takes an existing image and corrects it for the output device of your choice. If you want a color on your screen to appear the same as when printed using a four-color press and coated stock, COLOR will tweak your electronic file and produce separations for the desired result.

File-format conversion is necessary because different programs support different file types. Partner from IPT and the Cayman Systems's GatorBox provide automatic file conversion for output to a Macintosh-based printer.

The most versatile of the file-conversion products, however, is PixelMagician from Bäcchus. This Swiss-Army-knife software supports 16 different formats, from a variety of platforms. It also has the capability to change an image's attributes, like color-bit depth, to tweak the image to the exact specifications needed by your output device.

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of output. After all, it is the only way to publish for anyone who doesn't have a computer with which to view the pages. After prepress, the publication process has often left the NeXT for the Macintosh and its highly developed range of output devices. But this is changing rapidly, as NeXT's output options now include NeXT-branded printers, other companies' printers, imagesetters, and film recorders.

One of the core issues with NeXT output is the potential of the NEXT to do its own Post-Script processing. Printers don't then need a RIP (raster image processor), which can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $30,000. Another consideration is how fast the NeXT can feed its data to the printer, ranging from the fast dedicated NeXT printer port to the slow serial port. Licensing issues with Adobe Systems, which requires separate licensing agreements for PostScript output over 900 dpi, still need to be resolved.

At the head of the ouput list are the primary NeXT devices, the NeXT Laser Printer and NeXT Color Printer. Both benefit from a fast connection to the NeXT and the use of the CPU as a RIP. At $1795, the 400-dpi black-and-white printer is an excellent value for a variety of final and preliminary printing tasks. Though not appropriate for publication-quality output, the $3495 color printer fits the bill for presentation graphics and color proofing.

Of course, virtually any PostScript printer can be connected to the NeXT, but you have to buy a RIP, and the connection via serial lines is often slow. It would be impossible to list the full range of PostScript devices, but those that cater to the NeXT market include thermal-wax color printers from Océ and Tektronix.

To connect to a variety of low-end, inexpensive printers, Federico Heinz Consulting offers Dots. For those users with an Epson dot-matrix device, like the HP LaserJet or IBM Proprinter line, for example, Dots lets you salvage something from your old PC system. For connecting to Macintosh-compatible printers, IPT's Partner lets you put the NeXT on a Mac network and access any of its printing devices directly.

To get the higher-resolution output needed for professional-looking publications, a growing number of service bureaus provide direct support for NeXT. Most do not, however, in part because of the unavailability of the entire Adobe Type 1 library for NeXT. The alternative is to transfer your NeXT file to a Mac disk and send that to the service bureau.

Imagesetters are high-resolution output devices that print to either photographic paper or film. The two leading manufacturers, Linotype/ Hell and Agfa, both sell a range of products in the NeXT market. For the most part, these products still require an external RIP. But Goldleaf's eXTRASET connects the NeXT via the SCSI port to Linotype/Hell's Ultrix line of imagesetters.

Film recorders allow users to produce high-quality slides directly from the NeXT and offer great savings over service bureaus. Talus remains the most aggressive player in the film-recorder market, selling its stylish T1 Film Recorder and ImageMate software, which use the NeXT as a RIP. Agfa markets a full line of film recorders that require an external RIP.

In a class of its own is the Canon Laser Copier (CLC). This is the Cadillac of full-color output and the best available equipment short of a printing press. The CLC is a key component of the Color PowerStation that Canon is preparing to ship. The package will include a CLC 500, a NeXT Turbo Color machine, an IPU-10 (Image Processing Unit), and specialized software. The price tag is upwards of $100,000. Among the system's key qualities are intelligent job-tracking for billing puposes and optional support for the CLC as a high-end color scanner. The entire PowerStation can also be dropped into a Mac network as a high-end print server, with the NeXT serving as the PostScript RIP.

The output market is getting crowded and complex, but the presence of big players such as Canon, Agfa, and Linotype is a strong indication that the NeXT has finally arrived as a publishing platform with a bright future.

"Tools of the Trade" was compiled by Dan Ruby, Dan Lavin, Rick Reynolds, Lee Sherman, and Kristin Dyer.