QuarkXPress 10 review - latest update to Quark's layout program for print, digital publications and eBook work

Quark has been busy in the past two years since the last major update to its flagship layout program for print, digital publications and eBook work. However, it has dropped the web page design features that have been there since 2002 and QXP 5.

Under the skin the Mac version is now Cocoa native for the first time. Previously the code was based on Carbon, the hangover transition code from OS 9 days. Cocoa lets QuarkXPress hook into OS X internal features such as full-screen preview, recent file lists and language selection. If you have a Retina screen, QuarkXPress 10 switches to a higher resolution display. This version is also ready to run on the forthcoming OS X Mavericks when Apple releases it.

What experienced users will notice first is the heavily redesigned user interface. There’s a new grey colour scheme and the on-screen palettes have been updated and reorganised. Palettes can now be grouped and docked to the right or left edge of the screen, with the option of automatic hiding when not in use. You can enlarge the document window to fill the screen by hiding the top menu bar.

Pull-down menus have had a rethink, with user-specifiable lists (such as colour names and style names) presented in alphabetical order. Where a menu launches a floating dialogue, you can drag the lower edge to fit in longer lists of options without scrolling

Meanwhile the familiar Modify and Format menus for object and type frames have been dropped completely, so you’re obliged to use the revamped and extended Measurement palette that used to appear at the bottom of the QuarkXPress 9 screen. I found I preferred to drag the new one to the top, which is where InDesign puts its equivalent. However, where experienced users could change common settings through keyboard shortcuts in the old menus, the new version requires more on-screen clicking.

The Print and New Colour menus have been changed. Print gets a welcome colour preview of any page with indications of bleed, printers’ marks and print area. The New Colour palette can now be enlarged to full screen size, which helps with picking from the colour wheel, and also displays more and larger Pantone swatches at once. Numbers for the RGB sliders have been changed from percentages to show a Web-friendly 1-255 as well as new Hexadecimal equivalents.

Quark graphics engine

Quark’s new Xenon graphics engine is an important addition and greatly improves the rendering of graphics on-screen. If your computer has a dedicated graphics chip, it can use this to boost the speeds of import and printing.

Placed graphic files now always preview with the best available resolution, which is better quality than QXP 9’s old manually-selected high quality preview. It’s particularly good for text and vectors in EPS and PDF files, which previously were just blocky bitmaps.

If you import a PDF that has transparent elements, the transparency works over XPress objects and is preserved if you export the XPress document as a PDF itself. Importing from Word documents is improved, with preservation of embedded images and live hyperlinks.

Unfortunately our very early release version (10.0.0.2) had a bug in the display and direct printing of transparencies where some colours are rendered wrongly in negative, although they re-save correctly to PDFs. Quark says this will be addressed in a bug fix by the end of October.

For imported photographs or PDF files with multiple layers, the new Advanced Image Control palette shows all the layers and you can switch their visibility on and off for any combination. Other tabs display and control the colour and alpha channels and paths.

QuarkXPress master pages can now contain layers too. Layers anywhere are preserved if you cut and paste objects between QuarkXPress documents.

Font activation or deactivation in the OS X Font Book is now reflected in the Quark 10 font menu. If fonts are missing when a document is opened they are highlighted, so you can see immediately if they are somewhere unimportant like the pasteboard.

Automatic allignment and new tools in QuarkXPress

Automatic alignment of multiple objects has been refined, so that the first object you select in a group becomes the master to which the others are aligned.

The Bézier pen tool can now join two separate lines from a distance by merely clicking both endpoints to create a new linking section. Previously you had to bring the endpoints very close together and select a join command.

There’s also a built-in QR code generator so you don't need a third party XTension any more.

As before, QXP10 includes set-up tools for digital publishing, although it hands files over to the separately sold App Studio for final formatting. QuarkXPress 10 adds the popular Page Flip effect, which previously was only available with the InDesign version of App Studio. If you’re creating an ePub or Kindle document, you can embed hyperlinks and internal anchors within QuarkXPress 10.

Although it works perfectly well as a standalone, XPress is also the layout component for workflows in the professional/enterprise level Quark Publishing Platform. It can also be used in conjunction with the £175 Quark CopyDesk, which allows collaborative copy editing within XPress documents. However, CopyDesk has yet to be updated to work with QuarkXPress 10.

QuarkXPress 10 web tools

On the other hand QuarkXPress 10 drops the built-in web page creation tools that have been there since version 5. Few people used them, apparently, and its HTML4 code was out of date. Quark says it’s gearing up to allow the creation of Web Apps as a new output option within its online App Studio service, which will allow designers to use QuarkXPress to create HTML5 based publications for display on desktop browsers, duplicating the look and feel of the tablet apps they create.

If you’re already an QuarkXPress 8 or 9 user, there’s a lot in 10 to persuade you to cough up for the upgrade (if you’ve got an earlier version Quark charges you full price). Losing the web page features seems no great loss, as it seems that most people only used them for roughs and mockups.

This release comes only months after Adobe switched to its controversial rental-only model for Creative Cloud, including InDesign. You can still buy or upgrade QuarkXPress 10 outright and run it for ever. If those forum fulminators against paying Adobe on the never-never are serious, then QuarkXPress is an obvious alternative for layout work.

OUR VERDICT

If you’re already an XPress 8 or 9 user, there’s a lot in 10 to persuade you to cough up for the upgrade (if you’ve got an earlier version Quark charges you full price). Losing the web page features seems no great loss, as it seems that most people only used them for roughs and mockups. This release comes only months after Adobe switched to its controversial rental-only model for Creative Cloud, including InDesign. You can still buy or upgrade XPress 10 outright and run it forever. If those forum fulminators against paying Adobe on the never-never are serious, then XPress is an obvious alternative for layout work.

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