Application compatibility and open source rendering issues

In my ongoing quest to examine web developer and web designer touch points, I have been getting my hands pleasantly dirty with both Quark’s latest iteration and the all-consuming box that is Creative Suite 4 (CS4).Both the new products have been considerably upgraded from their previous versions and while CS4 is a really well integrated product inside the Adobe suite; Quark has also come on leaps and bounds with a new appreciation for publishing right through from the printed page to the web.

In my ongoing quest to examine web developer and web designer touch points, I have been getting my hands pleasantly dirty with both Quark’s latest iteration and the all-consuming box that is Creative Suite 4 (CS4).

Both the new products have been considerably upgraded from their previous versions and while CS4 is a really well integrated product inside the Adobe suite; Quark has also come on leaps and bounds with a new appreciation for publishing right through from the printed page to the web.

But, in some senses, what they both appear to suffer from are compatibility issues arising from these significant upgrades.

With Quark, I am constantly exporting back to keep project settings for designers that I work with who are running older versions.

With Adobe, I am facing an interminable battle with rendering issues in the open source ‘simple’ document viewer Evince. “Evince is a document viewer for multiple document formats. It currently supports pdf, postscript, djvu, tiff and dvi,” says the web site.

Will it seamlessly work with all image rendering from InDesign PDF exports? Not for me it wouldn’t. Why was I trying to read PDF’s outside of Acrobat you may ask – well, I work with a lot of developers and DBAs who like to run Ubuntu and prefer to opt for an open source reader as well. So I’m all about ‘compatibility’ everywhere.

Quark recently stated that its QuarkXPress 8product was “independently” reported as having better Flash capability than InDesign CS4. This was a claim that I put to Adobe’s Paul Burnett who is senior worldwide evangelist for creative solutions when I attended a really good CS4 ‘Masterclass’ (I’m not worthy) early this March. You can imagine his comments without me stating them.

Remember please, at its core I was approaching this topic from a developer perspective keeping in mind that web designers can now get their hands on SDKs and hosted development environments that are vastly improved compared to what was available even five years ago.

Thinking again about the web developer-designer connection; also bear in mind the that proposition Adobe is making with Flash Catalyst, which as many will know is a design tool for rapidly creating application interfaces and interactive content without coding. Who needs the developer with this in place then?

That’s an overstatement; of course it doesn’t eradicate the need for web developers. But there is an increasing amount of automation out there isn’t there? So, is “automation” always a good thing? Especially when we have the creative nature of web design to consider.

This same idea is also seen in widgets for mobile development based on web code rather than on a specialist programming language. Both professional and hobbyist developers are now able to design these add ons – but are there any dangers and will they arise in further compatibility issues I wonder?

I asked a fellow journalist for an opinion and spoke to Andrew "Spode" Miller, founder of thinkabouttech.com who told me, “I send all my invoices and documents in read-only PDF format because I know it will render the same way on every platform, thanks to the (recently) open nature of the document format. I never get any issues with other people reading documents I've exported from OpenOffice, yet strangely, I've had odd errors, especially with printing, when using PDF files exported from software such as InDesign, even when using the official Adobe Reader on Windows! Ironically, at this years Linux Expo, anyone printing their tickets using an Open Source document reader didn't get the barcode that was needed for entry.”

Seeking divine inspiration (well, corporate inspiration perhaps) on this subject, I did track down one of Adobe’s lead Acrobat guys who helped me examine the differences between what their own technology will render and the performance of open source alternatives.

The bottom line is that if you are running Acrobat 9.1.0 (and I suppose there is no reason why you wouldn’t be) then there are some easy to use conversion tools under the ‘Preflight’ option. I say easy to use because I did use them and they did work.

The open source alternatives are faster for sure. But then so is a car if you rip all the seats out and take the doors off. Trouble is, the ride is probably not as comfortable though is it?

Anyway, I shall continue to use all the products I can so that I, personally, can remain as humanly compatible with everyone I work with.

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