Avenue.quark is an XTension which converts QuarkXPress 4.x page-layout documents into tagged XML documents. It will soon also import XML and convert it into formatted page frames. A US English version was released in April 2000, but we Brits had to wait for the International English release as part of the multilingual Passport edition.
Unfortunately, it’s still not complete: the StreetPost Web server uploader and XML Import modules are still in pre-release for US English only. Both will run with International English if you want to download them and live dangerously. Future free export modules will support the Microsoft Reader (.lit) eBook format, and Quark’s high-end Digital Media System asset database.
Whether it’s worth forking out £149 for an incomplete avenue.quark today depends on whether you need XML export now and can’t wait. The forthcoming QuarkXPress 5 upgrade will bundle avenue.quark as standard, though cost and shipping are anybody’s guess (mine being probably this year).
The export side of avenue.quark lets you apply a DTD (document type definition) to structured content in an XPress document, and to output it as an XML document with correct use of opened/closed tags, headers and so on. DTDs are the definitions that convert XML content tags to formats within a published document. A basic DTD is supplied for the tutorial, but for real life you’d either have to write your own, or use one of the industry-specific DTDs being issued by standards bodies.
Once installed, the avenue.quark XTension appears as a scattering of new menu items that launch floating palettes. To start content extraction, you open your XPress document, then use a new File menu option to create a new XML document. This opens a new XML Workspace palette on-screen that displays the DTD’s tags in a tree menu. You Cmd-select the XPress content to be extracted and Option/Alt-drag it onto the appropriate element, which applies a tag. Pictures can also be extracted as filenames and given <img src=”xyz”> HTML tags where appropriate. Tagged items can be highlighted in the XPress window. Multiple content frames forming a story item can be linked and listed in the correct order for the final XML document using the Sequence palette.
If you use XPress stylesheets, you can automate the tagging process. You start with the Tagging Rules menu, which lets you associate each element type defined by a DTD with one or more styles, colours and/or type styles available in your XPress documents. Once you’ve defined the relationships, you save them as a named XML template that can be applied to any other XPress document that uses the same styles. The New XML document menu lets you choose from any XML template.
The complete XML code can be previewed in another palette before saving it. A neat feature is the dynamic content updating, which automatically changes XML items in the Workspace window if you edit its parent item in the original document.
XML isn’t a replacement for HTML (XPress 5 will offer HTML export as well as XML). The latest Web browsers can open XML documents via XML Cascading Style Sheets, although Web authors are likely to be wary because of backwards compatibility. Some Web applications servers, notably Vignette’s V/5 series can accept XML and serve HTML, which is a more universal, if pricier, solution. The StreetPost XTension will upload XML directly to Web servers.
The forthcoming XML import module is very interesting. It lets you insert “placeholders” into XPress object frames with a list of named element types from an XML DTD. Each element name can be given a format, just like normal text. When you import an XML document into a placeholder frame, the differently tagged items take on the format you specified, which is very clever.
While avenue.quark is a useful helper program, you still need to work manually within each file, and tweak the resulting XML code in a text editor. You can’t script avenue.quark to batch process whole collections of documents automatically.
Documentation is good, though printed manuals would have been preferable to PDFs. The tutorial is basic but clear, and the main manual has a guide to writing DTDs. Within its limitations, avenue.quark is impressively easy to understand and use.