Quark has released the newest version of QuarkXPress 5.0 for US systems, following intense public beta testing.

A release for UK systems isn't to far behind, Quark communications manager Glen Turpin told Macworld UK exclusively. He added: "Now that QuarkXPress 5.0 has shipped in the United States, we are focusing our efforts on the European release of the software. The different regional editions of QuarkXPress are closely related, so a US release of the software means that a UK version will soon follow.

"Of course, we're applying the same stringent quality metrics to the European versions of the software as we did to the US version. We'll ship QuarkXPress 5.0 in the UK when we know our customers will be able to use it with confidence."

'Coming soon' Paola Chopard, Quark's European communications co-ordinator, claimed: "I can confirm that QuarkXPress International English 5.0 and QuarkXPress Passport 5.0 is a high priority. We expect it to be ready in the next few months."

Quark beta tested its product with the help of 370,000 testers. This iteration of the product implements a number of Web-friendly features with an eye to media-independent publishing.

It's capable of generating content for print, Web and eBooks, and it supports a wide range of file formats, including HTML, PDF and XML.

Test driven "We have been putting QuarkXPress 5.0 through extensive quality tests, and we are now ready to release it for use," said Quark president and CEO Fred Ebrahimi. He added: "We're confident that the new features and enhancements will help the industry become more efficient and more productive. QuarkXPress 5.0 is an important step towards helping publishers realize more cost savings by integrating layout and production for print, Web, and new media."

Enhancements in this version include new Tables functionality, capable of assembling graphically rich tables to structure design elements or to organize complex data. To do this, XPress uses table cells, which can contain pictures and text with virtually all the typographic and image control of the application.

The application also sports a new Layers feature, so items can be isolated within documents. This feature has been developed for users building targeted marketing-materials, or multiple-language documents.

Interface refinements Quark has also revised the print user-interface, making it more efficient. PDF support, contextual menus and improved colour management also feature in this long-awaited release of the application.

Quark sees the application's "Web-friendly" features as the "killer-punch". The company claims: "Designers who are familiar with QuarkXPress can become productive Web designers immediately without having to learn new tools."

Brett Mueller, senior product manager at Quark, explained: "Our customers have told us it's vital for them to manage costs by merging print and Web workflows. QuarkXPress 5.0 is a direct response to that request. It's a true design environment for both print and Web, so designers can take their rich skills to both media, and beyond."

Quark has published a Web page detailing all the features of the application. There's also a PDF document available with a complete feature list.

Workgroups The company has also developed a new license-management feature in this iteration, aimed particularly at publishers with multiple seat installations. It's a server-based system, enabling site administrators to create customized user pools and assign customized access privileges to each group. The server can be configured to permit remote users to check out software for use off the network, and offers the facility to purchase further licences as required.

The company has retained support for XTensions. These are likely to be broken when it releases the Mac OS X version of the application. But for the Mac OS 9.x version, Quark has developed a more robust XTensions API, introducing new ways to hook into the application.

QuarkXPress 5.0 (US) is available for Mac and Windows operating systems. In the US, its list price is $995. XPress 4.x users can upgrade for $299, while XPress 3.x users can upgrade for $399.

Quark is working on a Mac OS X version of the application, which should appear this year. In an exclusive interview with Macworld UK at Total Publishing last year, Mueller reassured Macworld the company would not offer a punitive upgrade path to the OS X version.