Quark: Intel-native Xpress to be 'fast as hell'

QuarkXPress 7 debuted to much fanfare Tuesday. But while the initial release of the page-layout application boasts many new features, one thing it won’t have right off the bat is the ability to run natively on Intel-based Macs.

Not to worry, Quark executives said Tuesday. The company is working to produce a Universal Binary version of QuarkXPress 7, and Quark’s senior vice president of desktop products believes that Mac users will be pleased by the results.

“I can tell you it’s running fast as hell,” Quark senior vice president Jurgen Kurz told Macworld at the unveiling of the new version of QuarkXPress Tuesday.

“The imaging technologies are threaded, so we can take advantage of the Intel architecture,” Kurz said. That also has some trickle-down performance benefit for QuarkXPress users with multiprocessor and multicore PowerPC-based systems.

Kurz says Quark is in the final process of vetting a Universal Binary beta that should ship in a few weeks. “The most important thing is that we cannot afford to flip-flop in any way,” he said. “The bottom line is that it’s about quality.”

To that end, Kurz said that Quark is rigorously testing the Universal Binary version before releasing it. It will be a free update for QuarkXPress 7 customers. In the interim, Kurz confirmed that the shipping version of QuarkXPress 7 works fine under Rosetta.

The lack of a final Universal version of QuarkXPress 7 didn’t stop the company from running a pre-release Universal version of the page-layout application on Intel-based Macs during Tuesday’s press event; that included the system used to drive Kurz's keynote presentation and a hands-on lab comprising dozens of iMacs.

Challenged by Adobe

Once the unquestioned leader in the desktop publishing world, Quark has seen rival Adobe make gains among professional designers and printers in recent years with its InDesign application. Kurz acknowledges that Quark has lost some customers to Adobe, adding that the best way to win those users back is to continue to improve QuarkXPress.

“We’ve gotten out and clearly extended our product against the competition” with the new QuarkXPress 7, Kurz said. New features include improved OpenType and Unicode font support, “Job Jackets,” “Composition Zones” (areas on the page where designers, editors and others can be responsible for individual content), and simplified color management technology.

Graphic design, page layout and printing has dramatically evolved over the years, Kurz said. “Graphic designers are coming into the market and end up joining in a lot of projects and doing a lot of things,” he added.

For professional designers, time is money, and the average company can no longer wait several days for a designer to come up to speed with the specifications for a project. That’s where Job Jackets come in. Job Jackets—XML documents that comply with the Job Definition Format (JDF)—go far beyond just pre-flighting, according to Kurz. Job Jackets help designers and printers alike define specifications ranging from colors, style sheets, trapping and color management to picture color space, format, resolution, page size, number of pages, even ancillary information like whom to contact if there are problems.

JDF is an open format, but, ironically, it’s one that was created by Adobe. Quark is finding new ways to use JDF and is promoting its own extensions to the standard that the company is giving back to the International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress Organization (CIP4)—the not-for-profit industry group tasked with shepherding JDF.

Ultimately, though, the new technology is a means to an end, Kurz said—creating great design that’s easily and accurately output. “At the end of the day, it’s a creative industry,” Kurz added. “There’s not a single graphic designer who’s not concerned about quality.”

And to that end, Kurz hopes that designers will see QuarkXPress 7 as another formidable tool in their arsenal to help produce top quality work.

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