QuarkXPress 7 unveiled at special event in NY

New York City’s trendy SoHo district is the setting for Quark’s rollout of QuarkXPress 7, the newest version of its page layout software for Mac OS X and Windows. Quark Senior Vice President of Desktop Products Jurgen Kurz spoke to an audience of Quark users, partners and press at a keynote address that kicked off a one-day training and product introduction event on Tuesday.

The choice of SoHo as the event’s venue was an obvious one, said Kurz. “This is the heart of the publishing industry,” he said.

Quark itself turns 25 years old this year. The company estimates that well over three million copies of QuarkXPress have been licensed over the years, with more than five billion QuarkXPress documents in circulation worldwide.

QuarkXPress has seen its dominance as the preeminent page layout software on the market erode in recent years, primarily thanks to competition from Adobe’s InDesign software.

“People ask me if I spend sleepless nights worrying about Adobe,” Kurz said. “I don’t. I lie awake worrying about you.”

Keeping pace with ever-changing nature of graphic design and providing added functionality while improving performance and ease of use are key for Quark going forward.

“This is our biggest upgrade ever,” said Kurz. “We’ve added more than 160 new features to QuarkXPress 7.”

Better looking

“Everything simply looks better,” he said. QuarkXPress 7 has a completely rewritten graphics engine that provides better image controls and much tighter integration with Adobe Photoshop. What’s more, QuarkXPress 7 features improved support for OpenType fonts and Unicode multi-language character sets.

“We’ve minimized palette clutter so you can work faster,” said Kurz. “Almost all core design functionality is now available in a simple, lightweight palette.”

Kurz demonstrated how QuarkXPress users could apply filters and make adjustments to layers in Photoshop documents without having to open Photoshop. With the acquisition of ALAP (A Lowly Apprentice Production), no other software has the integration with Photoshop that QuarkXPress 7 does,” he said.

“Color management has been completely redefined,” said Kurz. “Users don’t need to be a color scientist — color management just works. After 20 years, WYSIWYG is finally a reality.”

QuarkXPress 7 includes default management settings and output setups that the company said should work well in most situations. Users can also create custom source and output setups, which can then be included in a Job Jacket, which helps make color and other key elements of the page consistent from start to finish.

New key features

The Job Jacket is a key feature of the new release. Kurz describes the idea of the Job Jacket as keeping “everyone on the same page from concept to press and press to concept.” It goes beyond pre-flighting, to help designers and press alike make sure that documents stay in compliance with specifications. Job Jackets are Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based documents that use the Job Definition Format (JDF), an open standard.

Another new feature in QuarkXPress 7 is the Composition Zone. Kurz explained:

“The Composition Zone is a piece of real estate on a page — or several pieces — that you can farm out to other users,” he said.

Shared elements can reside in different layouts, but remained linked to their original source. When a designer, editor or someone else makes a change to that original shared content, the update happens in real-time.

Apple “an important relationship”

“We’ve spent the last three years rekindling a very important relationship with Apple,” said Kurz. “Earlier this year we pledged our commitment to Apple’s new CPU architecture.”

While QuarkXPress 7 ships this week as a PowerPC binary only, Kurz said, “We’re almost there. We’re moving at full speed to roll out the first Universal Binary professional layout application.”

“The demo I gave today was done on the Universal Binary,” said Kurz. He added, laughing, that he wouldn’t have done so unless he had faith that the product worked well.

Quark plans to ship the Universal Binary as a free update to QuarkXPress 7 sometime this summer. And to demonstrate the company’s commitment to Universal Binary support, the six dozen or so systems Quark has set up in SoHo’s Puck Building for Tuesday’s hands on training are Intel iMacs, running the pre-release Universal Binary version of QuarkXPress 7.

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