QuarkXpress used to be the industry standard desktop publishing system. Having trumped Adlus Pagemaker some 15 years ago, Quark enjoyed almost monopolistic control over the industry, until Adobe introduced InDesign.
After losing market share to Adobe's new kid on the block, Quark was forced to up its game or perish the way of PageMaker in the 1990's.
Despite playing catch-up, with Version 8, Quark certainly is now on a par with InDesign. This latest version sees a quite radical overhaul of the venerable programme, both in it's appearance and the methods of working. Of all the releases since version 3, this is probably the most extensive and will have some seasoned users scratching their heads wondering what the new methods are for doing things that were previously second nature.
The new "modern" interface, with dark grey backgrounds as opposed to the previous light grey, has slimmed down toolbars, as well as fewer tools available. The reason for this is one of the most obvious changes to Version 8. Previously there was a text box and picture box tool. Now there is just a single box tool. Draw the box and then decide the content by either inputting text or placing an image in it.
The corner styles have also been removed from the toolbar, and are now part of the Modify menu.
Also gone are the rotation tool and resize tool. These functions are now achieved by "direct manipulation" of the box - in other words, by holding the cursor over the edge or corner of the box, you can rotate or scale as you wish, a small but highly welcome feature.
The same new ease of manipulation also applies to images within boxes, which can be scaled and rotated using the mouse without the need for multiple tool selections or key commands.
Whilst using the Picture Content Tool, another improvement is that that parts of an image which fall outside the box, ie cropped areas, are shown as a ghosted in the background, very useful for seeing how much image there is to play with. Quark now also displays the effective print resolution of images when they are selected, a feature that InDesign has had for some time.
Another welcome improvement is the simple ability to option/alt (depending if you're on Mac or Windows) Click'n'Drag objects to create a duplicate object. Drag'n'Drop of images and text from folders and other applications has also been built-in to Quark 8, significantly speeding up the workflow process.
Another new introduction is Item Styles. This are the object equivalent to Text Style sheets, meaning that a particular style can be applied to any number of boxes or lines, making global changes much quicker and easier.
One of the extremely annoying features of past version of Quark, namely baseline grids (lines which ensure text lines up horizontally across multiple boxes), have also been overhauled. Previously a document could only have a single baseline grid across all pages, but with the introduction of Design Grids, the baseline grid can be set accordingly by individual box.
Bezier tools have been improved to work in the same fashion as those found in Adobe Illustrator, making life a lot easier for someone used to using both programmes. Similarly, the keyboard shortcuts are now single key presses, so to get the Line Tool, just press L. For those not wanting to re-learn these new shortcuts, the old style ones are still available as well.
There are also a host of other improvements such as WYSIWG font display, page thumbnail popups, enhanced International spell checking, layered pdf output , xml import and enhanced hanging character control.
A lot of the changes seen in Version 8 have actually been available as Quark Extensions in previous versions, such as Drag'n'Drop and Item Styles, and so to some users will not seem like anything new, but it is good to see that they have now been fully incorporated into the software.
There have also been enhancements to the interactive part of QuarkXpress, namely the web and flash authoring tools. And this, unfortunately, is where my gripe with Quark lays. I would suspect that the majority of Quark users never use these tools, as there are better industry standard solutions available elsewhere. For any serious web or flash designer, Quark's offerings to not stand up.
For the occasional user, they may prove to be useful for the odd time that they need to venture into this realm, but I would rather see Quark drop it's hefty price tag by offering a "lite" version of Quark with just the DTP tools, and leave the interactive element as an addition, or as a "full" version.
In summary, Version 8 is a worthwhile upgrade. Whilst seasoned users may find themselves cursing for a short while as they come to terms with the new methods involved, this inconvenience is outweighed by the productivity benefits and improvements that Version 8 brings. For those new to Quark however, the price tag of the full version is, in my opinion, very high, and will turn many towards the cheaper option of Indesign.
Quark is a leading DTP. If you want a simple business card or a 200 page booklet then this is by far the best software to use.
I have been a Graphic Designer now for 12 years and have used this application since the very start of my career; I started on Quark 3 and over the years have used every version which now leaves me on Quark 8.
When I first started using this application back in college it was very basic and easy to use but you had to rely on other applications (Photoshop etc) to get different effects (shadows etc) but over the years they have improved the application so much that you can now pretty much get all the effects you need with the click of a mouse button. Quark allows you to work with multiple page documents very easily, you can control colours, layers and transparency which enables you to create some very clever effects and this is why it's the preferred application for most designers.
When you open Quark you start a new blank document and you will see a set of tools on the left hand side, these are used for selecting the various elements you wish to include on your page and on the right hand side you can choose to view your colours and styles etc. At the bottom of the screen is the measurement palette, this is used to change your text style the size of you text, boxes, angles, alignment and more. Having the tools and measurements pallets makes it very quick and easy to select what you wish to do without having to search through lots of menus.
Quark also has a web design feature so instead of starting a new blank document you start a blank web page and use all of the tools, measurements and colours as you would if you where designing a leaflet. I'm not so sure of this part of the application; I think when it comes to web design you need to use the dedicated applications to do it.
The only downside to Quark is the cost of it, you are looking at £800 to purchase this application, which is why a lot of people are now buying Adobe In-Design instead, its only £450 but I think it's a lot harder to use & does not give you quite so many effects.
You can download a free 60 day trial of Quark at www.quark.com, so if you do have a design project on the go its worth downloading and having a look.