wpe5.jpg (25094 bytes) PageTools 2.0 for PageMaker

By Extensis
Features Adobe Should Have Included

by Jeff Marcus 

If you're a serious PageMaker user (you are if you shelled out the serious bucks for the program), I have an outstanding way for you to spend your next hundred bucks: PageTools 2.0 by Extensis adds plug-ins to PageMaker 6.x that will allow you to work faster and more efficiently. Adobe should have included most of these features in the first place.

Installation was quick and effortless from the CD-ROM. The fifty-some-odd-page manual is well written, with each "tool" concisely explained in a numbered, step-by-step format. The manual also includes screen shots of each dialog box with an explanation of each item.

The first "tool" that you'll see after launching PageMaker is PageTips. These are tips and tricks by designer, author and columnist Olav Martin Kvern, and a new one is displayed each time you launch or exit PageMaker. Many of the tips I've seen so far have ranged from "cool" to "oh wow." If you’re impatient, you can click "More tips" to see a list of all the topics.

The main element in PageTools is PageBars, which are toolbars that can be customized with buttons that can apply any PageMaker function, as well as additional ones that PageTools adds. PageTools provides several preconfigured toolbars, but can be easily customized to fit the way you work. For instance, I frequently use drop caps. Ordinarily, I would have to click Utilities: PlugIns: Drop Cap to open the drop cap dialog box. Now, I just click a button and the dialog box pops up. Others I frequently use are changing the resolution of graphics and changing the units of measurements from inches to picas. This is just the tip of the iceberg. They can be either free-floating or embedded on the side of the screen.

When opening a publication, PagePreview displays a thumbnail of the first five pages in the Open Publication dialog box, assuring you that you’re opening the correct version. PageThumb operates when you have a publication open by displaying thumbnails of all pages and allowing you to move to a page by clicking on it.

One of the handiest features is PageScaler. This allows you to resize selected text, line widths and graphics. For example, I frequently need to resize a logo that contains two text blocks with a ruled line above one of them, a graphic (WMF), all enclosed by a rectangle with rounded corners. Ordinarily, I would have to scale four different elements individually. Using PageScaler, I just select all of them, type in the resizing percentage and click. One limitation I found, however, is that the degree of corner rounding needs to be changed manually.

New in version 2.0 is PageType, which provides you with the ability to apply styles at the character level. Normally, you can only apply styles that affect the whole paragraph. PageType allows you to define a character style (type face, size, leading, color, kerning, etc.) to selected text without affecting the paragraph. For example, occasionally I’ll set the first character of each paragraph in Coronet (a script typeface), 20 points, leading at 12 points (to match the body text), -0.1 em kerning, and a color different from the body text. Using PageType, I set up these parameters and easily define them as a style. To apply them, I just highlight the character, select the style name and click. Undoing the style is just as easy.

You’re probably familiar with the "find and replace" feature in Story Editor or any word processor. PageColors gives you that feature with colors. You can search for colored objects like text, lines, rectangles, ovals, and polygons and selectively or globally replace their color. Very handy when a client asks "How would the black text look in fuschia?" One drawback is that it doesn’t work on paragraph rules (ruled lines applied through the Paragraph Specifications dialog box). Hopefully, they’ll issue a patch for it.

PageMaker’s print dialog box allows you to print ranges of selected pages. PagePrinter takes that several steps further by displaying a thumbnail of each page, along with the time and date it was last printed and the ability to select it for printing. It also indicates whether the page was edited since last "scanned" by PagePrinter. The manual lists several types of changes that are not detected during the scanning process that would render this feature ineffective. However, the "readme" file (recommended reading for all software you install) indicates those limitations have been corrected since the manual was printed.

I’ve mentioned only about half of the tools that PageTools 2.0 contains. It will be worth the price if you merely use a fraction of its functions. You can download a trial version from their web site. But once you use it, you’ll be hooked. You’ll never make a page again without it.

Customizable toolbars
Character-level styles
Find and replace colors
Good manual

No on-line help
Some features have undocumented limitations

Excellent. A necessary addition.

PageTools 2.0.1
Extensis Corporation
(800) 796-9798
Price: $99.95
Upgrade from version 1.0: $49.95






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