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QuarkXPress 8 features a redesigned user interface and a consolidated Tool palette.
Users of previous versions of QuarkXPress will notice that the app’s interface has undergone a massive makeover for version 8. While the new look can be distracting at first, once you get used to it, there’s plenty to like about the increased productivity the new UI affords. Even better, the new Quark offers an impressive set of features. Recent versions have been bloated and unnecessarily complicated. A revamped Measurements palette in QuarkXPress 7 was a small step in the right direction, but a Band-Aid at best. With the new version, it’s apparent the product development team started from scratch.
QuarkXPress 8 uses a greatly improved color scheme. Softer hues and greater contrast give the program an appealingly modern look. The Tools palette has been streamlined, with different icons and tool groupings—and only 20 tools compared to 32 in the previous version. Though there are fewer tools, the overall functionality has improved. For example, the new Picture Content tool lets you create, move, rotate, and resize picture boxes and move, scale, and rotate pictures within boxes. Even better, as you work on a picture, cropped areas are displayed with a slight ghosting so you can see exactly what’s going to print and what’s not. Similarly, the Text Content tool lets you create, move, resize, and rotate text frames and edit the text within. The versatility of these tools means significantly less tool switching and greater overall productivity than previous versions. The Bézier pen tool has been improved, as well. It now works more like industry-standard drawing tools in other apps.
Although the list of new features in QuarkXPress 8 is not particularly long, a few fall into the “killer” category. For example, the app includes typographic support for more than 30 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. With the expanded language support in QuarkXPress 8, Quark has dropped its pricey QuarkXPress Passport product.
New typographic features include hanging punctuation, margin alignment, and hanging drop caps. While similar to Adobe InDesign’s optical margin alignment feature, the hanging character feature in QuarkXPress goes a couple of steps further by letting you include hanging characters in paragraph styles and by letting you specify and save custom settings that include which characters hang outside the margin and by how much. The interface for creating sets and classes for hanging punctuation could be friendlier, but most users will probably be content with the default settings.
QuarkXPress 8 includes all the Flash authoring features previously available only by purchasing Quark Interactive Designer. While not a full-blown Flash-development tool, we easily created multimedia projects that include sound, video, animation, and interactivity in a familiar, non-programming environment.
Quark and Adobe have been playing a game of feature-matching and one-upmanship for the past several versions of QuarkXPress and InDesign. The upshot is that both apps now include many of the same features. But while Adobe has pursued a multiprogram approach for specialized graphic design requirements by offering Photoshop, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver as separately sold products or bundled with InDesign as a suite, Quark has taken the Swiss-army-knife approach and packed everything into QuarkXPress, which combines image editing, Web design, Flash authoring, and print publishing.Despite its massive feature set, QuarkXPress 8 by itself isn’t a match for the Adobe Creative Suite, but compared head-to-head with InDesign, it’s certainly a more versatile app. This may not be enough to entice former users who jumped ship to InDesign to return to the fold, but it will probably make current users happy enough to stay onboard.