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August
2003

QuarkXpress 6

Way back in the Paleolithic age of computing, otherwise know as the 1980s, there was an earthquake in the publishing world. The convergence of Apple’s Macintosh computer, personal laser printers that used Adobe’s PostScript printer language and Aldus PageMaker meant that the world of the printed page would never be the same. PageMaker, now owned by Adobe, lost a lot of ground in the 90s to an upstart page layout program, QuarkXpress from Denver-based Quark, Inc. Adobe countered back with the well-received InDesign, but now the long-awaited Quark 6 has been released.

Win
Mac

First, the basics. A page layout program is used to assemble and format the component parts that go into any printed page. This means getting the text, photographs, illustrations, typestyles and any other pieces, positioning them on the page, assigning colors and other properties and then ensuring that the layout will then be able to be printed correctly. The best of these type of programs give you a lot of tools to deal with common situations that come up…missing images, letters spaced slightly too far apart, wrapping text artistically around an image. This sort of miniscule control has always been Quark’s strong suite.

Quark 6 will feel very familiar to users of previous versions; it maintains its sleek, minimalist interface, while adding a raft of new features. The most impressive of these is the new Layout Spaces, which allow you to have one QuarkXpress document containing different layouts of the same design for different applications. You can have one layout for your brochure layout, another for the company web page and yet another for a billboard advertisement. Quark allows you to synchronize the text between layouts so that if you edit one layout the text will be updated in the others while maintaining the formatting unique to that layout space. This is all controlled through a series of tabs at the bottom of the screen and by using the new Synchronized Text palette (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

The web authoring and export features are also very extensive. While Xpress won’t supplant a program like Macromedia DreamWeaver or Adobe GoLive, it does a credible job of turning a layout into a web page. You can determine which elements on the page you want to be text or graphics, set links, generate cascading style sheets and create rollovers, image maps and cascading menus (Fig. 2). This is a boon to graphic artists already familiar with page layout software who want to be able to easily publish a page to the Web.

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Many features introduced in QuarkXpress 5 have been updated as well. The Layers are now more robust. When you lock a layer, objects on that layer cannot be selected or edited with only a few exceptions. Text will still be reflowed into linked text boxes and the Spell Checker will catch errors on locked layers. Layers can also be set to suppress printout, which is great if you need to have template or other objects for reference that you don’t want in the final output. The visual cue to indicate which layer an object is on is clumsier than it should be for a program of this sophistication, Xpress uses a parallelogram in the upper right corner of an object’s frame in the color designated for that layer. Although you can turn these indicators off, it adds a clunkiness to the program’s otherwise streamlined interface (Fig. 3).

Other new enhancements include long-needed Multiple Undo capability. For far too long Quark users have been limited to a single undo and you could only undo certain actions. The list of actions that you can undo has grown, including text linking, picture and text import and style sheets changes, and you can now undo up to 30 steps. Quark also now gives you the option of having a full-resolution preview of imported images, allowing you to more accurately position elements in a layout. And, of course, Quark continues to have the best Print dialog box of any professional graphics program (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4

Probably the most anticipated new feature of QuarkXpress 6 is that it is now fully compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. Users have been waiting a long time for this updated version. In the print publishing world, a bastion of Mac OS users, the lack of a Mac OS X native version of QuarkXpress has significantly slowed adoption of Apple’s latest operating system. Many graphic artists and designers have put off the upgrade, sticking with Mac OS 9 and version 4 or 5 of Xpress.

QuarkXpress 6 lists for $945, upgrades start at $199 depending on the previous version you have. Quark also offers a competitive upgrade from products like Adobe InDesign, check their web site (www.quark.com) for details. QuarkXpress runs on either Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP or Mac OS X v10.2 (Jaguar) or higher. You will need at least 128MB RAM and 230 MB of free drive space for installation.

Having switched to Adobe InDesign because I wanted Mac OS X compatibility, going back to QuarkXpress feels like putting on some comfortable, well-worn shoes. It takes very little time to get back in the Quark frame of mind. The upgrade is a very nice one for professional graphic artist or those in the print/publishing industries.

Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. The Graphics Guy has never met a Quark he didn’t like. If you would like to see the Graphics Guy address a specific topic email Paul Vaughn at paulv@mac.com.

 

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