Erik Vlietinck: QSystems Q4 Pub System Review

Publishing system by QSystems, Q4
Written by Erik Vlietinck

Publishing digital content is harder than it should be. Erik Vlietinck reviews Q4 by QSystems. The system includes built-in DAM, task-management and workflow automation.

Publishing to print — and publishing to ePubs and tablets — just isn’t easy as it ought to be. QSystems just released Q4, a task-driven publishing system, which purports to fix that. So I took an in=depth look.

It’s true Q4 comes closer to the publishing nirvana I’m seeking than other platforms I’ve checked out. It includes such unique features as traversal queries, structural configurations, an XML-editor and, even, centralized dictionaries.

Q4 treats every part of the publishing hierarchy as an object. For publishing to printed matter, that’s somewhat strange. But it makes a lot more sense when publishing to digital content, including tablet and mobile publishing.

As with most other publishing systems, except Quark’s, Q4 uses an InDesign and InCopy palette and menu plug-ins to integrate the system with Adobe’s tools.

After importing a document, Q4 automatically creates an entry in its editorial planning system and converts text and layout to separate internal objects. This simultaneously converts the document into a PDF for presentation and into a format allowing visual control by editors.

Publishing system by QSystems, Q4

There are a few features that strike me as unique to Q4. Tasks are one of them. Q4 shares this capability with vjoon’s K4.

The task concept in Q4 is a simple and effective one. First, an editor selects a page or any other editorial object, using the “assign task” option in the Q4 client. This opens a form sheet to fill in the task specs.

Publishing system Q4

To unify the naming of tasks, Q4 includes a task name generator. It takes its nomenclature method from an engine that uses a pre-defined syntax. Admins are able to set up different name generators depending on the task types. It times and monitors tasks. And it’s possible to use the system for statistical purposes, too. It isn’t just about workflow.

Q4 is one of a few systems that directly support tablet publishing and ePUB.

Typically, authors create ePUBs by first exporting a PDF rendition of the publication to ePUB. But this is often problematic. After all, a PDF is a static format compared to a digital pub, which is naturally more fluid.

Q4 uses text and image tagging in InDesign, utilizing a predefined XML schema. The system then will export the lot in XML format to the Q4 database.

Interactive educational tool made with Q4

Although the process remains time consuming for long text documents — users still need to tag or label every object manually — the tagging can be done while designing and editing the publication. ePUBs can be generated without flow problems and with all the structural elements in their correct places.

In addition, if you change text or images after tagging, the XML updates by simply exporting again.

Q4 uses a similar approach to interactive publishing. Here you prepare one or more frameworks using HTML5, JavaScript and Objective C. Q4 generates the versions for the digital product and stores them in the database.

Worth noting: QSystems developed a production Digital Asset Manager (DAM) that builds upon what I’ve determined is a powerful query system. The DAM integrates the digital asset workflow with the publishing workflow. In the system release I previewed, the integration is still in its infancy. But reps say the ultimate goal here is to control page or object events and actions — depending on the status of an asset.

Finally, unlike other publishing software, Q4 has no problems with workflows where the production of a publication starts before anyone even has created a layout. That’s where other publishing systems choke. Q4 uses its Attachments feature to compensate for the design stage it lacks.

Imagine a book or brochure workflow in which the publication starts with a Word document. Books rarely have elaborate design elements, though fonts, diagrams and images might be part of the layout. In order to have these design elements available to all users involved with the publication, Q4 allows the initial user to attach files to the document or object he/she is set to check-in.

A problem with this approach might be that it is platform dependent. For example, many files on older Mac OS systems have Mac resource forks. Windows systems won’t understand these. I like that Q4 system encapsulates old Mac resources if it finds them.

IT Enquirer hosts a full report on Q4 in PDF format. It can be downloaded for free here.

For, I’m Erik Vlietinck.