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ALAP Imposer

Imposition software for QuarkXPress (Mac/Win) By Jeff Bolkan
Not every publishing job requires the imposition step. Even when imposition is required, it has almost always been done by a technician in the back of the service bureau or print house using expensive, often custom imposition software as the last step before ripping and generating film or a proof. Quark can't even do imposition without forcing the designer to jump through hoops?unless you've added ALAP's (A Lowly Apprentice Production) Imposer 2.1.3.

At about $200, Imposer is almost a no-brainer when compared to the imposition software commonly used in professional print houses and service bureaus, which often cost many thousands. Although Imposer isn't going to replace these industrial products, it does give the mid-level bureau a powerful tool and helps bring self-publishing a bit closer to being practical.

Almost as refreshing and easy as the price is the Imposer's installation routine. ALAP software is sold online?you download the software, pay for the serial number that unlocks the full functionality and get to work. You can use the unregistered software in demo mode for 15 days. Note: The demo mode used to cause QuarkXPress to go into demo mode as well, but this has recently changed. You now get a full 15-day evaluation. Once you've gotten the download onto your drive, you run the self-extracting, self-launching application, and, after you fill out a brief form with your serial number, Imposer snoops around to find QuarkXPress, installs itself and even adds a shortcut to QuarkXPress in the Imposer folder.

What it does When you next run Quark, you'll see a new item in the File menu, directly below the Print option. Choosing Imposer from the File list brings up the deceptively simple Imposer dialog box (see screenshot). A pair of tabs enable you to switch between print preview and layout dialog boxes. Simply input your specifications and print. The actual QuarkXPress document is untouched; the pages are shuffled and arranged in the print-spooling phase.

The Preview tab shows a thumbnail of your job and gives you the option of adding printer's marks either centered or off-center, choosing a signature size from 8 to 64 in multiples of 8 with a count of one or two. Obviously, this means that if you're printing a document beyond 128 pages, you'll need to do imposition in multiple passes. If you're looking for precise, custom printer's mark location, you're out of luck. ALAP does have another extension for QuarkXPress (MarkIt) that does enable custom printer marks from within Imposer, but MarkIt is currently available only for Macintosh systems.

The Layout tab offers more choices and controls. Your document can be 2-up, 4-up, Work & Turn or Work & Tumble?a proxy-page preview shows how your pages will be arranged depending upon your choice. You can choose from three binding types: saddle-stitched, perfect or cut-sheet. You can also set margins, gaps (horizontal and vertical), bleed, creep and crossover. Margin settings are represented in inches; the other settings are all points. There is no option for customizing the units of measure.

Printing is fast, trouble-free and familiar. You do want to ensure that you've chosen a PostScript printer though. This is the only unacceptable problem I had with the XTension itself: I forgot to switch from my default printer, a non-PostScript inkjet, a couple times and was unceremoniously dumped not only from Imposer, but from QuarkXPress as well, losing my unsaved document once. In fact, the first time it happened I wasn't sure what the problem was, even though I had read the Imposer requirements clearly. The need for a little more elegant (to say the least) error handling is solely needed.

Little annoyances are perhaps to be expected from a $200 product in a $4,000 category. The only other problem I had wasn't with the program itself, but with the documentation?specifically the fact that it's a little difficult to print, with a completely black cover and back page. But it's certainly forgivable.

The bottom line At less than 10 percent the cost of most professional Imposition software, Imposer is a heck of a deal, if it will do what you need and you don't have to go out and buy the expensive stuff anyway. The good news is that you can try the demo version first; the bad news is that you can't really test the program's full capabilities and performance without registering it. Once you're convinced, you can buy in bulk and save?ALAP offers five- and 10-pack pricing.

If you use QuarkXPress, need imposition software and are willing to work within the relatively narrow parameters of the program, Imposer could be the best buy you've had in a while. In our traditional review parlance, that translates into a "strong buy" recommendation.

Incidentally, InDesign users aren't out in the cold either; there is a separate version for that program (not reviewed at this time). Macintosh users can choose between the InDesign and QuarkXPress 3.x or 4.x versions of Imposer.

Imposer at a Glance

Maker: A Lowly Apprentice Production (ALAP)

Price: $199.99/$899.99 (5-pack)/$1,699.99 (10-pack)

Platforms: Macintosh and Windows (reviewed in Windows)


Overall Impression: ALAP Imposer is a $200 XTension competing in a $4,000 application market. It holds its own well, particularly for mid-sized print houses.

Key Benefits: Imposer is simple to install and use, though its functionality is anything but superficial. Printing is fast, trouble-free and familiar. The Preview tab shows a thumbnail of your job and gives you the option of adding printer's marks either centered or off-center, choosing a signature size from 8 to 64 in multiples of 8 with a count of one or two. The Layout tab offers more choices and controls. Your document can be 2-up, 4-up, Work & Turn or Work & Tumble.

Disappointments: Be careful to select a PostScript printer before using Imposer, or you will be dumped out of QuarkXPress, losing any unsaved changes.

Recommendation: Strong Buy

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Related Keywords:Quark, Alap, imposition, film, proof


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