First Look: QuarkXPress 8

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QuarkXPress 8 delivers on typography demands with text features like extensive Hanging Character support and advanced Baseline Grids. Using hanging character sets, creatives can have precise control over which characters hang and by how much, while tricky situations involving drop caps can be handled without manual tweaking. Quark claims this is the first page layout application to offer paragraph-by-paragraph control, multiple presets and the ability to create and share settings for hanging characters. Hanging characters can also be linked to style sheets.

Hanging Character sets are highly customizable, one of the user-defined typography features.

In previous versions of QuarkXPress, the Baseline Grid offered one grid per layout. The new version offers the ability to apply text grids at both the page and box level, so affording designers freedom to create layouts with separate grids for sidebars, captions, and so on. Grids can display different lines (baseline, top line etc,) and offer separate view controls for page and box grids. Additionally grids can take information out of the font or be specified manually. A new Grid Styles feature means that such custom-built grids can be kept consistent without extra manual work. These maintain consistency throughout a project and can be linked to style sheets to inherit text-formatting changes.

Version 8 also adds more control over traditional page guides, enabling users to set position, color, and other options, just by double-clicking the guide.

Furthermore, Design Grids become an even more powerful feature when working in East Asian Languages, supporting true ideographic-grid based type alignment. This is pertinent to all users, given the wider support for international text in the new editions of QuarkXPress.

Facing the world

The first thing you’ll notice on seeing QuarkXpress 8 is how different it looks. The tool set has been reduced dramatically, but each tool offers a wider range of options than before.

All font menus now offer a WYSIWYG preview of the fonts in your system and will also display whether the font is Truetype, Postscript or other formats. There are also new icons in the Style Sheets palette.

Quark has reworked the active page logic so that when a QuarkXPress user has to change the spread, the application assumes that the page in the middle of the window is the active page. A subtle feedback indicator has been introduced to show which page is active, based on the color of frames and the addition of a drop shadow

Users can of course adjust preferences for these interface tweaks.

A preview of all the pages is available in a pop-up thumbnail pane at the lower part of the screen and, playing to Quark’s user base, this is a Mac only feature. A zoomed preview is accessible by pressing the up arrow when hovering over each thumbnail. Quark is also working on a Quick Look filter for version 8, to take advantage of Leopard’s preview feature.

Font menus in QuarkXPress 8 display the actual typeface, for speedy selection.

Off the page

Every edition of QuarkXPress now includes the ability to design simultaneously for print and Flash (SWF), without the need for any programming skills. Existing print jobs can be converted swiftly into Flash and designers can author fully integrated print and interactive Flash campaigns with shared images, text and styles. As well as embedding images and sound in the document, it’s possible to externally reference video files.

A dedicated interactive palette is where all interactivity for objects is defined, controlled and removed. It gives access to animation features, such as a library of around 100 behaviors, as well as providing a dialog for setting events, triggers and transition effects. Version 8 supports Flash ActionScript, but the script editor is completely graphical in nature.

As the palette is integrated within the content creation toolset in version 8, it’s possible to combine time based actions and events with custom built graphic elements to create buttons to drive video, interface events and animations—all without leaving QuarkXPress.

Users can export QXP documents as Web-ready layouts that conform to HTML, XSLT and CSS standards as well as being able to set the SWF player version for animations. These can either be exported as stand-alone application (projector file) or embedded in the HTML page.

The integrated Interactive Designer eases creation of Flash-based animation and video projects.

Graphic detail

New features like the enhanced Bézier tool have revamped illustration work in QuarkXPress 8. Hitting the P key activates the tool and switches the application into illustration mode. The original Bézier tool interaction still works the same as before, but new modifier keys and functionality is available. For example, if you hold down option you can turn corner points into smooth points and you can grab segments to drag them around, as you would in Adobe Illustrator. Other features are similarly aimed at allowing designers to be able to interact directly with the object: clicking on points on an object deletes them, Option-dragging an object creates a duplicate and the Drop Shadow tab on the Measurements palette offers direct manipulation via ticker arrows that control the shadow’s scale, size and blur.

Under the Item menu is the Convert Text To Boxes command. This allows you to transform text into a graphic shape, which can then be edited with the pen tool. It’s especially useful when working in conjunction with single symbols from the Glyphs Palette, but you can also transform an entire multi-line story with this feature in QuarkXPress 8. Color, transparency, and position settings are all retained.

Editions and availability

Version 8 of QuarkXPress has been designed to make it easy to publish anywhere in the world. It offers a unified language feature set and global file format, as well as a true East Asian text engine.

“More and more of our users are creating multilingual documents or publishing their content internationally,” says Quark’s Dan Logan. “So we created a file format in QuarkXPress 8 that can support both eastern and western typography, as well as including support for more than 30 languages in all editions of the product.”

The old ‘Passport edition’ has been retired and now all editions of QuarkXPress share the same spell checking and hyphenation and justification (H&J) functions—the initial release will support 38 languages.

Version 8 will be available in the following editions: Europe West and Europe East (formerly Passport) organized into 25 User Interfaces (UIs) to choose from in each one; Americas (US English, French Canadian, Latin American); and East Asia Edition (Japan, Korean, SC+TC Chinese, English). Currently Arabic is offered as an XTension.

All Non-Asian editions also support the import, formatting and output of East Asian text, but if you require deeper features such as formatting Rubi characters, advanced character spacing such as mojikumi, or true ideographic layout grids with character count, then a Plus edition is available for the UK & Ireland English UI of the Europe West edition to add this functionality. The only difference therefore is that features like line-breaking, vertical text and so on, common to Asian typography will be able to be opened in the ordinary U.K. & Ireland edition, but you can’t modify it unless you buy the Plus Edition. However the universal file format ensures that there is no file transfer headache waiting for users of either version.

QuarkXPress 8 will support Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 and will be available this summer. Pricing has yet to be announced.

This story, "First Look: QuarkXPress 8" was originally published by Macworld U.K..

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