QuarkXPress 4.1 update

The quality of its free in-between upgrades is Quark’s only defence against the hordes of aggrieved XPress users. They complain about the aeons that pass between XPress upgrades. Unlike other software developers, Quark’s preferred approach is to produce major upgrades just once every three or four years, with a handful of free X.x upgrades in between. The cynical contingent of Quark’s user-base is wont to dub these X.x upgrades ‘bug fixes’. But, while that might have been true of the 3.3 to 3.3.x series, the 4.0.4 to 4.1 upgrade is focused on new features. Maybe the threat of Adobe’s InDesign is making Quark try a little harder. Worth a bundle
The collection of features in 4.1 is excellent: a bundle of extra-functionality, and XTension-type add-ons that would have been worth paying for. Probably the most high-profile feature is QuarkLink, an automatic Internet link. This allows XPress users to receive information from Quark about technical support, customer service, XTensions and possible conflicts. And, because it also sends Quark information about your copy of XPress – including serial number (users of pirate copies, beware), printer driver, and operating system – it means Quark can customize the information it sends you. It’s a great sounding feature – although, so far, all it’s accessed for me is an internal error on the Quark server. But ultimately, QuarkLink is a bit of a distraction. When you fire up XPress, you want to design something, not browse the Web. What’s wrong with Quark just sending you an email that you can read when you want? At long last, there’s an import-export PDF facility for XPress in the shape of PDF Filter 1.4 – the lack of support for PDF in 4.0 was a huge oversight on Quark’s part. This allows PDFs to be imported into picture boxes, and also allows export of files in PostScript format, triggering Adobe Acrobat Distiller. In practice, this last point is really no different from using the Save As File settings in the Mac OS 8 and 9 print dialogue boxes. But, it’s important in a more strategic way: at least now XPress has some in-built PDF capabilities, rather than relying on System-level functionality. There’s also an HTML import-export tool in 4.1. The import is simply a filter HTML that brings in content, plus all the mark-up tags. The export is more useful: it saves the contents of a text box with basic HTML formatting in place, such as alignment, text styles – including superscripts and subscripts – and font changes. The HTML Text Export Preferences dialogue box allows preferences to be set, dictating the way XPress exports text in HTML. Text in a certain size range can be assigned a corresponding HTML attribute, and checking the Use Fonts box tells XPress to use the same fonts in the HTML text as used in the XPress document. Accurate guide
There’s a new tool, Scissors, which allows cutting of text boxes, picture boxes, lines and text paths; a Microsoft Word 6-8 filter for importing and exporting text in the latest Word version formats; and a Guide Manager, which – at last – allows precision placement of guides from a dialogue box. The dialogue box itself isn’t the most intuitive of interfaces – like the guides you drag from the rulers, they don’t actually place unless you’ve got Show Guides already turned. This is confusing when you click the OK or Add Guides buttons and nothing happens. But, it’s a good start, and at least it saves zooming up to 400 per cent, or more to place guides accurately. Super Step-&-Repeat extends the function of the Step-&-Repeat dialogue box by offering the ability to scale, rotate and skew – as well as duplicate items. DejaVu is a means of quickly accessing recently-opened documents, and customizing default folders for saving documents, text and pictures. This is a handy feature, saving the time of navigating through endless folders to find your way to and from the graphics, to the text, to the document location. DéjaVu works by appending a list of recently used documents to the File Open command sub-menu, or the File menu itself. It also allows you to customize its settings: up to ten file names can be displayed, in alphabetical order or not, and you can choose whether or not to see the full path name – thereby creating a mammoth menu width. Custom Bleeds is another new feature. In the Print dialogue box, the Bleed tab now has a Custom addition to the pop-up menu, allowing you to enter separate values for all four edges of a document. The Clip to Bleed Limits box, if checked, prints items only up to the bleed limits; uncheck it to print all items that hang over the bleed limits. And, finally, there’s Composite RGB, allowing composite RGB graphics files to be printed on PostScript colour printers.

OUR VERDICT

As it’s free, the 4.1 updater is excellent value for (no) money. Quark is mailing it out on CD to all registered users – if you haven’t received your copy, it was featured (as a world exclusive) on the January Macworld CD.

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