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Introduction to Scripting QuarkXPress

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: AppleScript Essentials

Introduction to Scripting QuarkXPress

by Benjamin S. Waldie

My last two columns have focused on using AppleScript to automate graphic processing with Photoshop and GraphicConverter. This month, we are going to switch gears from graphic processing to discuss another commonly automated creative process - desktop publishing. Specifically, we will explore some initial steps necessary for automating a desktop publishing workflow using QuarkXPress, a popular page layout application.

History

QuarkXPress was one of the first applications to support AppleScript, with version 3.2. In fact, it is believed by some that QuarkXPress is actually partially responsible for AppleScript being around today. Rumor has it that, at one time, Apple had planned to do away with AppleScript, but received such a backlash from the publishing community, who threatened to move to PCs if their scripted workflows were taken away, that it was decided to keep AppleScript around.



Figure 1. QuarkXPress 7's New Icon

One great aspect of Quark's AppleScript support is its commitment to backward-compatibility. From the early days to today with version 7, see figure 1, Quark's AppleScript support has not changed all that much. New terminology has been added for new application features. However, existing terminology has stayed relatively the same, with only minor modifications along the way. This has allowed many users to upgrade their scripts for new versions of Quark without the hassle of making a large number of adjustments. In fact, the recent jump from Quark 6 - 7 introduced only a handful of changes to existing AppleScript terminology, allowing many Quark 6 scripts to function in Quark 7 without any changes whatsoever.

Getting Started

As you begin scripting Quark, be sure to refer to Quark's AppleScript dictionary regularly to determine the proper terminology to use. (See figure 2.) You will find that Quark's dictionary is broken into a number of logical suites of classes and commands, and that Quark's containment hierarchy is fairly straightforward.



Figure 2. QuarkXPress' AppleScript Dictionary

For Quark 6.x users, I highly recommend downloading and installing an updated copy of the Script.xnt XTension. This updated XTension will fix problems that may occur when printing Quark documents to PostScript format in Mac OS X 10.4 and higher. This XTension is part of a package named Output Enhancements XTensions software (user mode) for QuarkXPress and QuarkXPress Passport 6.5. This package is available for download from the Support > Desktop Downloads section of Quark's website at <http://www.quark.com/service/desktop/downloads/details.jsp?idx=601>.

Getting to Know Quark Projects

In QuarkXPress, the document in which you will work is known as a project, and a project contains one or more layout spaces. For example, a project could contain a print layout, a web layout, and more. Prior to Quark 6, layout spaces did not exist, nor did projects. At that time, a document was simply called a document.

As far as AppleScript is concerned, Quark's AppleScript terminology contains project, layout space, and document classes. The document class exists to allow for compatibility with scripts written for older versions of Quark.

When referring to a project in Quark, you do so as follows:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell project 1
      -- Do something
   end tell
end tell

The code above would refer to the frontmost project. The following code demonstrates how you would address a layout space within that project. In this case, the first layout space is being addressed. Even if the project only has one layout space, you must still address the layout.

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell layout space 1 of project 1
      -- Do something
   end tell
end tell

As mentioned before, Quark also supports a class of document, which you may use if you choose to. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell document 1
      -- Do something
   end tell
end tell

Referring to a document in this manner is essentially the same as referring to the current layout space of a project. In this example, document 1 refers to the frontmost project document.

In the examples above, I referred to projects, layout spaces, and documents by their index, or front to back ordering. Of course, you may also refer to projects, layout spaces, and documents by their names, if desired. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell layout space "Layout 1" of project "Project1"
      -- Do something
   end tell
end tell

Creating a Project

To create a new project with a single layout space in QuarkXPress, use the make command, the result of which will be a reference to the newly created project. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   make new project at beginning
end tell
--> project "Project1" of application "QuarkXPress"

In Quark, layout spaces within the same project can be different sizes. In the code above, we did not specify a height and width for the layout space in the newly created project. Because of this, Quark's current default size settings will be used to create the project. However, these can be adjusted by modifying the page height and page width properties of the default document class, prior to creating the project. For example, the following code would create a project containing a layout space that is 6 inches high and 8 inches wide.

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell default document 1
      set page height to "6 in"
      set page width to "8 in"
   end tell
   make new project at beginning
end tell
--> project "Project1" of application "QuarkXPress"

The layout space class itself also has page height and page width properties, which can be modified after the project is created, if desired. For example, the following code would create a new project with a single layout space that is 4 inches high by 4 inches wide.

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   set theProject to make new project at beginning
   tell layout space 1 of theProject
      set page height to "4 in"
      set page width to "4 in"
   end tell
end tell

Creating a New Layout Space

The make command may also be used to create a new layout space within an existing project. In doing so, you may choose to specify properties of the layout space, such as page height and page width. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell project 1
      make new layout space at end with properties {page height:"11 in", page width:"8.5 in"}
   end tell
end tell

Working with Text

Creating a Text Box

A key aspect of scripting Quark involves working with text. In Quark, text is placed into text boxes on pages within layout spaces. To create a text box via AppleScript, you will need to determine where you would like the text box to be created, and how large you would like it to be.

First, determine the page on which the text box should be created. Next, determine where you would like the box to be positioned on that page, and how large it should be. This information will be communicated to Quark using a list of bounds. This list will be formatted as follows:

   {top position, left position, bottom position, right position}

Now, to create the text box, use the make command, and specify the bounds for the box as follows:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      make new text box at beginning with properties {bounds:{"1 in", "1 in", "3 in", "6 in"}}
   end tell
end tell
--> text box 1 of page 1 of layout space "Layout 1" of project "Project1" of application 
   "QuarkXPress"

Using the code above, a text box would be created on page 1 of the layout space. The top left corner of the box would be one inch down, and one inch from the left side of the page. The bottom right corner of the box would be 3 inches down, and 6 inches from the left side of the page. Therefore, this text box would be 2 inches high and 5 inches across.

Placing Text

In Quark, a story represents all of the text within a text box. Once a text box exists, you may set its text to a specified string by setting the value of its story element. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      set story 1 of text box 1 to "My Project Text"
   end tell
end tell

Please note that the code above would replace existing text in the box, if present.

Styling Text

Stories possess numerous text properties, which are modifiable via AppleScript. I will cover only a few of these in this column. I encourage you to explore Quark's AppleScript dictionary for a complete list of these properties. Please note that many of these are found under the text properties and character properties classes, which are inherited by the story class.

The following example code demonstrates the modification of a number of different character properties within a story, including font, size, and color. As you can see, values for these properties may be applied to the story itself, such as in the case of the font property below. Or, values may be applied to elements of the story, such as specific paragraphs, words, or characters.

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      tell story 1 of text box 1
         set font to "Arial"
         set size of word 2 to 24
         set color of word 1 to "Yellow"
         set color of word 2 to "Cyan"
         set color of word 3 to "Magenta"
      end tell
   end tell
end tell

Figure 3 shows an example of a text box containing text that was styled using the example code above.



Figure 3. Styled Text in QuarkXPress

Working with Pictures

Creating a Picture Box

As you will find, working with picture boxes in Quark is very similar to working with text boxes. To create a picture box, use the make command, and specify a value for the box's bounds property. Again, the bounds of the box will indicate its size and positioning on the specified page. The following example code will create a 3 inch high by 5 inch wide picture box.

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      make new picture box at beginning with properties {bounds:{"3 in", "1 in", "6 in", "6 in"}}
   end tell
end tell
--> picture box 1 of page 1 of layout space "Layout 1" of project "Project1" of application 
   "QuarkXPress"

Placing a Picture

Once you have created a picture box, you will probably want to place a picture within it. To do this, set its image to a specified file path. For example:

set theImage to choose file with prompt "Please select an image to place:" without 
   invisibles
tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      tell picture box 1
         set image 1 to theImage
      end tell
   end tell
end tell

Figure 4 demonstrates a picture box in Quark that has been populated with an image file using the example code above.



Figure 4. A Placed Picture

Naming Boxes

In most of the examples so far, we have referred to text and picture boxes by their index, i.e. front to back ordering on the page. The problem with writing a script in this manner is that the ordering of the boxes on a page may change if boxes are added, grouped, or deleted.

To get around this limitation, and ensure that your script is always interacting with the correct boxes, it is good practice to assign names to boxes in your Quark documents. Just as projects, layout spaces, and documents can be referred to by name, text and picture boxes can also be referred to by name. The problem, however, is that Quark does not provide an interface for naming text and picture boxes. Therefore, this must by done using AppleScript, by modifying the name property of the desired box. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      tell text box 1
         set name to "Photo Description"
      end tell
   end tell
end tell

Once a name has been assigned to a box, you can use its name, rather than its index, to refer to the box. For example:

tell application "QuarkXPress"
   tell page 1 of layout space 1 of project 1
      set text of text box "Photo Description" to "Photo Description"
   end tell
end tell

Next Steps and Resources

Documentation and Examples

If you are a serious QuarkXPress user, and you are planning to make yourself more efficient by introducing AppleScript automation into your workflow, there are several ways to get started. First, be sure to view Quark's Guide to Apple Events Scripting documentation. This is installed along with QuarkXPress, and can be found in the Documents > Apple Events Scripting folder in the main QuarkXPress folder.

Also, in the Apple Events Scripting folder, you will find a sample Layout Construction AppleScript file, which contains some example code to get you started. This script is unlocked and editable for you to modify, or to borrow code for insertion into your own scripts.

If you're interested in finding even more documentation on scripting QuarkXPress, you may want to check out X-Ray Magazine at <http://www.xraymag.com/>. X-Ray is geared entirely for Quark users, and (excuse the shameless plug), in addition to writing for MacTech, I also write a regular AppleScript column for X-Ray on... you guessed it, AppleScripting QuarkXPress.

If the above resources still can't contain your quest for more QuarkXPress AppleScript knowledge, then you should check out AppleScripting QuarkXPress, by Shirley Hopkins, which is available (although in short supply) from Amazon.com at <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0970726503/>.

Expanding QuarkXPress' AppleScript Support

Inevitably, you may encounter things that you wish were scriptable in Quark, but unfortunately, simply are not. Well, before you get too upset, you may want to check around to see if there is a third-party XTension that will add the functionality that you need. Quark's XTension architecture allows developers to create their XTensions that actually add new AppleScript terminology to Quark's dictionary. One such developer is Em Software (http://www.emsoftware.com), whose Xcatalog and Xdata XTensions are scriptable, and can allow users to automate quite complex document construction workflows. Gluon (http://www.gluon.com) is another developer that offers a number of scriptable XTensions for QuarkXPress.

Recording AppleScript Code in QuarkXPress

The dream of anyone getting started on scripting QuarkXPress, is to be able to record tasks they perform manually using the Script Editor's record functionality. Unfortunately, QuarkXPress (like most applications) does not support AppleScript recordability. To get around this limitation, however, be sure to check out ScriptMasterXT, a commercial XTension for QuarkXPress, available from Jintek, LLC (http://www.jintek.com/). ScriptMasterXT adds AppleScript recordability, as well as numerous useful AppleScript commands, to QuarkXPress. A limited demonstration version of ScriptMasterXT is available for download from the Jintek website.

In Closing

We have really only scratched the surface of scripting QuarkXPress. There are many, many more tasks that can be automated in Quark using AppleScript, and I would encourage you to continue exploring them on your own. With a little work, it's easily possible to automate even the most complex Quark-based workflows using AppleScript.

Until next time, keep scripting!


Ben Waldie is the author of the best selling books "AppleScripting the Finder" and the "Mac OS X Technology Guide to Automator", available from <http://www.spiderworks.com>, as well as an AppleScript Training CD, available from <http://www.vtc.com>. Ben is also president of Automated Workflows, LLC, a company specializing in AppleScript and workflow automation consulting. For years, Ben has developed professional AppleScript-based solutions for businesses including Adobe, Apple, NASA, PC World, and TV Guide. For more information about Ben, please visit <http://www.automatedworkflows.com>, or email Ben at <ben@automatedworkflows.com>.

 

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