All-in-one DTP

1VISION from tms GmbH integrates plug-in publishing modules

by Rick Reynolds

To do publishing work with NEXTSTEP, you can buy all the individual pieces: Illustrator or Virtuoso for drawing; PasteUp, FrameMaker or (soon) Pages for layout; and Image, TIFFany, or Compose in Color for image retouching. You can make them work togeth-er with the support of utilities like Pixel Magician.

Or you can buy the all-in-one publishing environment from tms GmbH called 1VISION. The "vision" of 1VISION is an integrated publishing environment with functional modules that plug into a common framework. The modules may be provided directly by tms, or they may be custom programs that are written to 1VISION's API (application programming interface). This sort of system can be a dream for system integrators, who can sell 1VISION to a client knowing that they can quickly build a module to handle anything the package happens to be missing.

It is a fine idea. The problem is that none of tms's individual modules are compelling and the overall framework is confusing and buggy.

The vision
1VISION is structured as a framework with a set of basic menus relating mostly to the environment itself, an icon scroll bar reminiscent of Preferences that contains icons for each of the modules presently loaded, another icon scroll bar with tools icons for each kind of functionality within the active module, and an inspector panel that has controls associated with the currently active tools.

Colors appear on the monitor the same as when printed, thanks to the tms SoftProof system, which knows about monitors and offset lithography. Color-separation facilities are also built into the system.

1VISION has a neat system of highlighting items over which your mouse is traveling, so you know what you would select if you clicked at any time. It also flashes the name of the element in a space at the top of the window, but I found it did so even when I passed over blank desktop space.

1VISION allows dragging and dropping of TIFF and EPS files and properly supports NEXTSTEP 3.1's filter services (allowing you to use BŠcchus's Image Agent for additional import formats).

The modules
tms ships 1VISION with a set of modules for drawing, layout, and image processing.

Manet is a PostScript-based professional drawing package, with all the features you would expect: Bezier-curve editing, text-to-path conversion, blends, and rich color support. Manet also has an expandable collection of frequently used PostScript forms and figures.

Manet gave very good feedback during vector-graphics manipulation, and allowed good selection and manipulation of items, as well as good zooming controls. Absent (but not missed) are the tools, such as automatic charting and heavy text handling for single-page composition, that seem to get tossed into drawing packages these days. Presumably, those tasks would simply be handled in other parts of 1VISION and don't need to be tacked onto drawing tools.

Lanston, the page-layout and typesetting module, is more suited to structured typesetting than freehandtext design, so it feels a lot more like FrameMaker than PasteUp. Missing, unfortunately, are the bookmaking functions and automatic table-of-contents and index-generation facilities that make FrameMaker a pleasure to use on long documents. Lanston has plenty of precision controls for text handling, and a sophisticated hyphenation and spell-checking system that sports dictionaries in eight languages. Column handling is excellent. Small things, like the page-numbering facility, are creative and helpful.

Cranach is an image-processing and color-correction program. Like Photoshop, Cranach allows you to manipulate individual pixels of the image with a wide variety of tools and apply filters to regions or the entire image. Masking support is substantial and more traditional in approach than those in Appsoft Image, but I prefer Image's 8-bit masks to Cranach's more Photoshop-style single-bit masks.

If you are a proficient Photoshop user, you will definitely experience a substantial learning curve. Every tool is approached differently, while the 14 included filters also work differently as well. There is limited support for scanning directly into the program.

The reality
While 1VISION is an intriguing idea, the implementation leaves much to be desired. I could not decipher the significance of the small, grayscale icons controlling which tools palette is presented; the arrangement of commands was counterintuitive; and tools were hard to find, since they appeared only on palettes and not in the menu.

Annoying alert boxes confirm any attempt to delete an item with the delete key; this can quickly become bothersome. Deleting even small items occasionally took as long as 15 seconds.

1VISION is also filled with bugs: The program launched correctly for me only from a fresh log-in session. Undo rarely worked correctly. Labels on some buttons ran off the edge. 1VISION is also a memory hog, needing at least 32MB of memory to get anything done. We found problems in Lanston (disappearing text) and Cranach (vanishing controls) as well.

1VISION was written in German; only some of the modules have been localized for English. (Not surprisingly, Manet lacks the option to have measurements presented in inches.) The system lacks on-line documentation, and we were unable to obtain English-language paper documentation to review.

The modules are reasonably full-featured, but none of them is superior to the best alternative, stand-alone application. When you move to some of the smaller areas of functionality, the discrepancy looms even larger: 1VISION's import and export functions do not begin to approach Pixel Magician's.

1VISION is a great concept, but it is not yet finished. For now, collecting individual publishing tools from different vendors will provide you with a better system than tms has managed to produce in this initial attempt.

Rick Reynolds is technical editor at Publish and a contributing editor to NeXTWORLD.

1VISION 1.60.3

1 & 1/2 Cubes

1VISION's intriguing concept of an extensible publishing environment is buried under a confusing user interface and buggy implementation. Wait for Version 2.

$580* Manet (includes 1VISION)

$871* Cranach (includes 1Vision)

$871* Lanston (includes 1VISION)

$3775* 1VISION (includes Manet, Cranach, and Lanston, as well as other modules, drivers, and tools, and technical support, free updates, and free new modules for one year)

*All prices converted at press time: 1.722 DM to $1.

tms International, P.O.Box 178, 3760 AD Soest, The Netherlands.