MultiAd could make waves in the design world with Creator Express

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 hasn’t happened. And I don’t expect it will.

MultiAd, however, has done just that. Its just released application, Creator Express, is basically a stripped-down version of Creator Professional. Long time users of Creator might notice some of the features that are missing:

- PMS color matching: Creator Express deals out RGB and CMYK only. No spot colors.

- Trapping: Trapping is an important element in the printing world. If you’re printing high resolution magazines, Express isn’t for you.

- Hyphenation: This is the feature that makes Creator Express less of an option for pagination. It doesn’t 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 isn’t 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 don’t know if there will be in the future.

I received a press release from MultiAd last week, 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 isn’t of much use to the professional designer. Or maybe 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 effected by many of these limitations. For instance, most ad designers simply create ads, convert them to EPS or Postscript files, 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 color EPS file, 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 hadn’t used Creator in several years, but I still had no problem jumping in and designing a page. The “nuts & bolts” tools work very much like similar tools in InDesign or QuarkXpress. Speaking of Quarkxpress, I’ve been told my prerelease copy is on the way, so expect a review next month.

A few of the attractive features in Creator Express are:

- Clipping Paths: They’re 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 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 it’s a worthwhile addition to your design arsenal.

Purchasing Creator Express might be tricky for some. Currently, it is available only on 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.

For more information, visit MultiAd.com or visit the Mac App store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/creator-express/id421228960?mt=12 .

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