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Jun 01 Network Management

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 06
Column Tag: Network Management

Seybold Boston, 2001

by John C. Welch
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, MS

An Administrator's Eye View Of A Publishing Conference

Welcome

Seybold 2001 is best described as a conference in transition. While the show still proudly proclaims its publishing heritage, the show seems to be moving from publishing as an end to publishing as a means. Print or digital, the output of the data seems to be far less important than what you do with and to that same data. Asset and rights management have also taken on a much greater importance in this era of Napster and Gnutella.

Another sign of change was the vendors, and as important as who was on the show floor, was who wasn't. The biggest gap was Apple, which adds a touch of irony, considering that without Apple, the digital publishing industry would be far from what it is today. That is not to say there was no sign of Apple at all. In fact, they were everywhere. At least 90% of the vendors on the show floor had at least one iMac, Cube, or G4 tower showing their products in action, and at least half of these were either running Mac OS X, or loudly proclaiming imminent compatibility with the new OS. Apple did have a room that was used for various presentations on OS X, Final Cut Pro, iDVD, and OS X's use of PDF. The session on PDF was quite well attended. The level of questions from the audience was of a technical enough nature to prompt the presenter to ask the folks to remember that the World Wide Developer Conference is coming soon, and that is a better forum for that level of questioning. Apple's iServices group also had a booth in support of another vendor, and was talking up their WebObjects consulting and services options.

The other notable absence on the show floor was Quark. Instead of their usual impressive area on the show floor, they were running their presentations from hotel meeting rooms. This was probably a good thing, as Quark 5 is still in the realm of "Real Soon Now." Their major keynote announcement was an Internet component to Quark Express, that allows multiple people to work on a document, without needing a copy of Quark on each person's computer. While this is a good enhancement, the fact is, Quark 4.x is getting long in the tooth, and at presents a fairly stationary target for other publishing applications, most notably Adobe Indesign. Quark did say at their keynote, that they are working at shedding their hard-earned reputation for being somewhat insensitive to their customers. This was a humorous contrast to the near argument that broke out between the CEO of Quark, and a journalist during a post-keynote Q and A session on the same topic.

So, with no floor presence by either Apple or Quark, this was pretty much Adobe's show, and they took full advantage of it. Adobe showcased the newly released Acrobat 5 and talked about the upcoming revision to Indesign. Acrobat 5 boasts a great many new features, such as WebDAV support for online annotation and comments on PDF files, more support for complex graphics in PDF files, and the long-awaited ability to save PDF files as RTF, so that they can be more easily edited. The interface to Acrobat has been overhauled, sporting more of a Microsoft Office look. Tear-off palettes, collapsible palettes, and a toolbar that can be easily customized are among the most notable interface changes. Thumbnails are also dynamically generated, or can be created in a more static mode as in Acrobat 4. Also upgraded is integration with Microsoft Office, databases, and other corporate computing tools. Unfortunately, only Windows users will see these new updates. Although the corporate line is that some vague limitations in the Mac OS prevent Adobe from implementing the Office integration tools in the Mac version, the reality is, Adobe doesn't see a market for this on the Mac side, and ihas chosen not to implement this feature.

On the surface, there doesn't seem to be any practical reason for Mac shops to upgrade to Acrobat 5 if they need integration with non-Adobe productivity applications. Indeed, Adobe's CEO said during the post keynote Q and A that 90% of all Acrobat purchases are Windows customers. This is a bit misleading, as most Mac OS Acrobat users don't even know that this capability exists, so don't know to ask for it. However, there are two ways around this issue. The first is a set of plugins from Virginia Systems, http://www.virginiasystems.com/. These plugins, available in both Mac OS and Windows implementations, allow you to automatically create linked tables of content, figure tables, indices, and other such features. While not the one-click integration that Adobe has implemented on the Windows side, these plugins give you 90% of the convenience, and more functionality than the Adobe tools. The Adobe tools only work from Office documents, and are useless on PDF files made from other sources, or created without the integration tools. The second solution is from Adobe, namely FrameMaker. While not a cheap solution, (MSRP of $800 per copy), FrameMaker can easily import Word files, and then internally create the links, and export to PDF with the links intact. The advantage that FrameMaker has over the other tools here is that it runs natively on most brands of Unix, and is available with floating licenses, so that companies that are running Unix machines have a decent, easy to use publishing tool available. This does bring up the other, less noticed aspect of Acrobat 5. While they did not directly say there will be no more native Unix support for Acrobat beyond Reader, Adobe came about as close as they could.

Finally, Acrobat 5 is not a carbon MacOS application, although Acrobat 5 reader is a carbon application. Questions to when Acrobat 5 will be available as a carbon application were met with Adobe's standard reply - the next major revision to their Mac OS products will be native for Mac OS X. This is a little perplexing because Acrobat 5 seems to be a Carbon application, but is registering as a Classic application. Actually, Adobe's delay in this area is attributable to the delays from Apple in getting the final version of IO Kit to developers. Adobe in particular has a hard need to be able to talk to external input devices, such as scanners. Without the IO Kit, doing this in OS X is essentially impossible, so for now, Adobe is in a wait status.

Adobe wasn't the only vendor with a large presence at Seybold however. Corel, determined to regain the confidence that they have frittered away of late, had one of the larger non-Adobe booths. Hyping not only Corel Draw 10, but applications like Bryce, they are making a strong statement that anyone counting them out is doing so prematurely. Corel said that they should have OS X native versions of all products but Corel Draw 10 in time for MacWorld Expo in New York, and that Draw 10 should be out in the fall.

Another Mac perennial, Deneba Systems, http://www.deneba.com/ was showing off the capabilities of Canvas 8, the next revision of that venerable tool. Although Canvas 8 wiil be released for Windows first, this is not a sign that they are abandoning the Mac market. They felt it was better to delay the Mac version, so that it would be available as a Carbon application, rather than releasing the Classic version, and releasing another version for OS X almost immediately. In addition to Carbon, there are quite a few new features in Canvas 8 that make it well worth considering for current Canvas users, or those considering a switch. The first new feature that drew my attention was the addition of scripting to all aspects of Canvas. Both the Windows and Mac OS versions will be scriptable in their native environments. In addition, Deneba is using Adobe's idea of actions, to create internal macros. They call the Canvas version Sequences, but regardless of name, they allow you to quickly automate repetitive tasks across the entire feature set. Sequences are cross platform, and can be called by either Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) scripts, or AppleScripts. Deneba also is looking into allowing Sequences to connect to scripts, so that a Sequence could pass results or data back to a script, thereby increasing the workflow capabilities of Sequences. Other features include new slicing tools, for web graphics, and a bitmap preview option, whereby you can take a vector image, see what the bitmap version will look like, and edit it without actually rasterizing the file. Once you are done, then you can convert the file to a bitmap image. This allows you to get a much better bitmap output of your file, without having to convert, undo, edit, convert again, or do all your editing as a bitmap. Finally, Deneba is implementing an online, shared editing system, so that Canvas users can easily set up a peer-to-peer (P2P) system for dealing with any document format that Canvas can handle. Deneba also assured me that Canvas 8 will contain more than a few improvements aimed at the technical illustration users, who have been somewhat left out of the last set of version improvements.

The final vendor of note was Sprockets, http://www.sprockets.com. Sprockets provides online project management capabilities for companies. Although they didn't have as flashy a press conference as last year's Seybold, , they did have some good news, including a partnership with enterprise storage vendor EMC. Also they were almost done validating their Java and other components on Mac OS X. (Note to vendors: If you want to please the press, a B-52s concert is the way to go.) This company continues to catch my eye, as in this day of distributed workflow and teams, the service they provide, and the way they charge is an excellent way for project-based companies to track and charge for work, without the kind of in-house servers and staff this level of product requires.

Conclusion

This was a very quiet Seybold compared to other years, which I attribute more to the transitional aspect of publishing these days. While print is still a big focus, the electronic aspects of publishing, such as electronic books, and other methods is going to be a major new arena, and the ways of dealing with both in a coherent way haven't settled down yet. It definitely looks like Adobe's PDF will be the format of choice for output either way, but the big struggle is still how to get from idea to output.


John Welch jwelch@aer.com is the Mac and PC Administrator for a weather and atmospheric science company in Lexington, Mass. He has over fifteen years of experience at making computers work. His specialties are figuring out ways to make the Mac do what nobody thinks it can, and showing that the Mac is the superior administrative platform.

 
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