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MultiAd looking to make waves

What if Adobe made a surprise announcement that it had taken InDesign, removed a few of the features that are rarely used by most designers, and released a new version called InDesign Express? And what if the new version sold for $30? Stop cheering. Get off that table. It hasnít happened. And I donít expect it will. MultiAd, however, has done just that. Its just released application, Creator Express, is basically a stripped down version of Creator Professional.

Kevin Slimp
Long time users of Creator might notice some of the features that are missing:
  • PMS colour matching: Creator Express deals out RGB and CMYK only. No spot colours.
  • Trapping: Trapping is an important element in the printing world. If youíre printing high resolution magazines, Express isnít for you.
  • Hyphenation: This is the feature that makes Creator Express less of an option for pagination. It doesnít do hyphens. So long words will be moved to the next line. Not as much of a problem for ads and graphics, but a deal breaker for page layout.
  • Color Separations: Express prints only composites. Since most publications convert their files to CMYK, this isnít a major issue for ads. However, it does limit the use of the application for use when printing directly from Creator to a RIP or printing device.
  • Express is available only on the Mac platform. No Windows version is currently available. I donít know if there will be in the future.

I recently received a press release from MultiAd, announcing the soon to be available product. At first, I imagined it would be something akin to Photoshop Elements, a great application that does some of things Photoshop does but isnít of much use to the professional designer, or may be another Microsoft Publisher type application. And we all know we have plenty of those.

In Creator Express, there are limitations. No doubt about it. However, many designers would rarely be affected by many of these limitations. For instance, most ad designers simply create ads, convert them to EPS or Postscript files, and then convert those to PDF files. This process works exactly that way in Creator Express.

To test the application, I designed a simple page. It included a couple of photos and some text. At one point, I experimented with starbursts and other features. They worked well.

When the page was finished, I exported it as a full colour EPS file, and then ran it through Acrobat Distiller to get a PDF file. Next, I placed the PDF on an InDesign page and printed the separations. It worked perfectly.

It was a painless process, without surprises. I hadnít used Creator in several years, but I still had no problem jumping in and designing a page. The Ďnuts & boltsí tools work very much like similar tools in InDesign or QuarkXpress.

A few of the attractive features in Creator Express are:
  • Clipping Paths: Theyíre called Masks in Creator, but they work like clipping paths in InDesign and QuarkXpress. I took a photo of a flower with a white background and let Creator Express clip out the unwanted background. It worked like a charm.
  • Variety of Shapes Available: Choose from starbursts, circles, triangles, polygons and more and easily colorize, texturize or create gradients within the shapes.
  • Text on a Path: Use it to wrap text around any object or path you draw, or convert the text to a path so it becomes an editable graphic.
  • Style Models and Element Styles: Apply multiple formatting instructions to selected text or elements.
  • Multiple Export Options: Export documents (or just a selected image or element within the document) as PDF, PNG, JPEG, EPS, GIF, TIFF or XML.

I spoke with Rachel McMenimen, marketing director at MultiAd, and learned that the company had home users in mind when they came up with the idea for Creator Express. She said she was as surprised as anyone when they starting hearing from professional designers who were using the new product.

After using Creator Express for an hour, I can easily see uses for it in the hands of an ad designer. My suggestion would be to purchase one copy and give it to someone in your office who can take it for a spin around the block. Then decide if itís a worthwhile addition to your design arsenal.

Purchasing Creator Express might be tricky for some. Currently, it is available only in the Mac App Store. And the App store can only be accessed by Mac users using Snow Leopard. Rachel tells me MultiAd is exploring other distribution options so customers without Snow Leopard can purchase the application.

(Kevin Slimp is director of the Institute of Newspaper Technology and technology guru. Read past columns at Newspapers can sign up to spend an hour with Kevin during live webinars at


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