Kevin Slimp: Thumbs up (and sideways) for these alternative applications
Friday, February 14, 2020 5:29 pm
Having spent my morning writing about mergers, buyouts, and bankruptcies, I was ready to spend a few minutes on something more fun.
For the past three or four months, I've been holding on to three new applications, waiting for the time to share them with my friends at newspapers. Now is that time.
The first, Affinity Publisher, made a lot of noise in 2019 as several online publications wrote about its similarity to InDesign, QuarkXpress and other layout applications, at a fraction of the cost. I believe Rob Dump, a publisher in Nebraska, was the first to write me and ask if his newspaper should cut the monthly subscription fees to Adobe and switch over this at US$49 (that's a one-time process, not a monthly subscription). Others soon followed with the same question.
The good folks at Affinity were nice enough to give me free copies of each of their products: Publisher (similar to InDesign), Photo (similar to Photoshop), and Designer (similar to Illustrator). They had good reason. The products are solid and, with a few improvements, could work well in newspaper and magazine design.
However - and there always seems to be a however - Affinity Publisher is not ready for primetime yet. It's a great product for someone designing a newsletter, poster, business card or whatever. There is, unfortunately, a major problem that makes it unusable in its current form for professional page layout: It just can't handle PDF files in a way that makes them work correctly on the page.
I could spend 800 words explaining the issue, but I only have 800 words for my column, so let me break it down to its simplest element. In Affinity Publisher, PDF files are editable when placed on the page. That sounds good. It's not, for our purposes. As a result, fonts are replaced, things move, and other issues appear that will not make your advertisers happy. Until that's fixed, and I wouldn't expect it to be fixed anytime soon, Affinity Publisher just won't work for our purposes.
Affinity Photo, however, comes much closer to replacing Photoshop for our purposes. While still lacking many of the tools available in Photoshop, Affinity Photo is impressive and allows the user to edit a photo with good results. There are some tools missing, or at least I've not been able to find them, which are important in our work to ensure optimum printing in CMYK, but there are ways to address these.
In short, I wouldn't be tossing out InDesign (or QuarkXpress) or Photoshop any time soon. Who knows, maybe Affinity will address some of these issues and we can all be free from monthly subscription plans, In the meantime, I expect I'll keep shelling out a monthly fee for my Adobe licenses.
Which brings us to IDMarkz: I've loved Markzware products for more than a decade. Heck, it might be two decades by now.
Back when everyone seemed to be converting from Pagemaker and QuarkXpress to InDesign, we would have never made the transition without Q2ID, the InDesign plug-in that allowed users to open QuarkXpress files in InDesign.
Markzware has released several InDesign and Quark plug-ins in the years since, and their latest product will be of interest to a lot of newspapers. IDMarkz isn't a plug-in. It's an application on its own. With IDMarkz, users can export InDesign files in various formats including Affinity Publisher, QuarkXpress, Illustrator and PDF.
One of Markzware's chief marketing points is that users can preview and open InDesign files without having InDesign. If you're a Quark-based publication, the ability to open an InDesign file immediately in QuarkXpress is a necessity. However, most of us already have InDesign, so what can IDMarkz do for us?
I experimented for an hour with IDMarkz and was intrigued by how well it exports files to other formats. Sure, some things move around and fonts change if you don't have the font installed on your system. Still, the results are quite remarkable.
I can think of at least three reasons a newspaper might want to have IDMarkz on hand. First, if a newspaper is QuarkXpress-based, IDMarkz is a simple way to open InDesign files. Second, if your paper needs to send QuarkXpress files to clients, you could still design the files in InDesign and use IDMarkz to convert the files for QuarkXpress (although users are required to have Quark installed for this function to work). Finally, if your workflow requires you to create files to be converted to Affinity Publisher, IDMarkz is the best tool I've seen for this.
In a nutshell, not everyone needs IDMarkz, but a lot of us do. Visit markzware.com/products/idmarkz to try IDMarkz out for free. Purchases price is US$199.
• Kevin Slimp is publisher at Market Square Books and CEO of newspaperacademy.com