Expert Tips: QuarkXPress 4

The vast majority of desktop publishers simply don't have time to learn every nuance in a new piece of software. To get your work done on time, you probably just zero in on the major new features without stopping to pick up tricks and techniques. And too often it's the nonintuitive, underdocumented techniques that turn out to be most useful. But if you use QuarkXPress 4, you're in luck–you're about to learn some techniques that will both speed up your work and make the program a little more enjoyable to use.


Keyboard shortcuts aren't particularly sexy, but learning to keep your hands on the keyboard is one of the best things you can do to work faster in QuarkXPress (or any program). For instance:

  • command-F opens the Find/Change palette; in version 4, command-option-F closes it.
  • command-tab and command-shift-tab select the next and previous tools, respectively, in the tool palette; in version 4, the same keystrokes also jump to the next or previous tab in a dialog box.
  • XPress has some screen-redraw problems, often leaving pieces of objects on the screen after you've deleted or reshaped them. When you see such artifacts in version 4, you can force XPress to redraw the screen by pressing command-option-period (.).
  • Confusingly, while version 4 retains all of version 3's keyboard shortcuts, some of them now work slightly differently. For example, command-shift-backslash () used to open the Font Size dialog box. Now it opens the Character Attributes dialog box and highlights the Size field, which can be a much slower process when you have more than 20 or 30 fonts loaded. A clunkier but faster option is to use command-option-shift-M (to jump to the Font field of the Measurements palette), press tab (to switch to the Size field), type the size, and press enter.

    And the infamous Martian still makes an appearance when you delete an object with command-option-shift-K, but in version 4 the same key combination occasionally releases a guy from Neptune, too.


    XPress 4 keeps several of its most useful features hidden away. For example, the program now offers contentless boxes–those containing neither pictures nor text&#150b;t hides the tools for creating them. The trick: command-click on the Default Tool Palette button in the Tools tab of the Document Preferences dialog box (command-Y), and when you click on OK, contentless-box tools magically appear in your tool palette.

    The new version contains other hidden gems to help you work faster. For example, you can now control-click on a tool in the palette to hide the tool inside a pop-out menu; holding down the control key and choosing a tool from a pop-out menu reverses the process, pulling the tool out of the menu and placing it in the palette proper.

    One of the most popular features in QuarkXPress 4 is the ability to convert text into outlines. But if you hold down the option key when you select Text To Box, the outlined box actually replaces the original text and is automatically anchored in the text box.

    The option key brings all kinds of other hidden features to the surface. For example, when you've got two style sheets (either paragraph or character) and want to know how they differ, you can have XPress 4 compare them for you. Select both styles in the Style Sheets dialog box (shift-F11) by command-clicking on each style. Then hold down the option key while clicking on the Append button (which becomes Compare when you press the option key). The result: QuarkXPress displays the definition of each style sheet, setting the discrepant attributes in bold. This trick works in the Colors and H&Js dialog boxes, too.


    Sometimes we look at a dialog box and don't even notice the new features staring back at us. For example, the ability to rotate a picture in a picture box is nothing new, but XPress 4 also lets you rotate text in a text box. Just press command-M, switch to the Text tab of the Modify dialog box, and change the Text Angle setting.

    Similarly, one of the coolest new features in the Find/Change palette is easy to overlook: if you turn on Ignore Attributes, you can search and replace style sheets. That means, for example, that you can search for all the 11-point Helvetica text in your document and "replace" the attributes with a character-level style sheet. (This feature is a boon to anyone using run-in heads in their documents, because it's so much faster than applying the character styles manually.)

    The best way to become really efficient in QuarkXPress 4 is to keep your eyes open and spend some time playing around with the program. But until you find the time to explore, these suggestions will help you speed up your production efforts&#150a;d maybe even enjoy your work just a little bit more.

    February 1999 page: 101

    S ay you want to not only place text over a picture but also have the image show through the text. The new version of QuarkXPress still doesn't offer transparency, but that doesn't mean you can't fake it&#150a;d doing so is not as hard as it might seem.

    1. Select one line of text and choose Text To Box from the Style menu. (You can convert only one line of text at a time.)

    2. Select the picture box behind the text, and use Step And Repeat from the Item menu to duplicate the image once with horizontal and vertical offsets of 0.

    3. Modify the picture in this "clone" box (or import a new one). Here, I reimported the TIFF file while holding down the 1 key to convert the image to gray scale, and then picked a color from the Style menu.

    4. Move the Bézier box that is shaped like the text outline into position, and then select it along with the duplicate picture below it.

    5. Choose Item: Merge: Intersection, and voilà! The altered picture shows through the text.

    You can easily crop a picture by shrinking the picture box. And in QuarkXPress 4, you can clip a TIFF image by using the Clipping tab of the Modify dialog box. But have you ever considered cropping one part of an image and clipping another?

    Note: The following technique requires you to build a path around the image in Adobe Photoshop before importing it into QuarkXPress.

    1.To experiment with the clip-and-crop technique, let's say that you want to crop the lower two-thirds of this grocery bag and clip the background out of the top of the image.

    2.In the Clipping tab of the Modify dialog box, choose Embedded Path from the Type pop-up menu. Then choose the path that includes all the parts of the image you want visible, even if it contains more of the foreground image than you need. Here, the clipping path includes the entire bread bag.

    3. Set the size of the picture box so that it crops out the parts of the image you want to remove but leaves the rest of the image visible.

    4. In the Clipping tab of the Modify dialog box, click on the Crop To Box button and uncheck Restrict To Box. Click on OK.

    5. Finally, change the size of the picture box. (For some images, step 3 might require that you change the box to a Bézier box by choosing Item: Shape and then adding points. If you do this, remove those extra points now.)

    Trying to draw a perfect circle with QuarkXPress's Text Path Pen tools might give you a migraine. Instead, when you want to place text on a circle, follow these simple steps.

    1. Draw a circular text box (hold down the shift key while dragging with the Oval Text Box tool to constrain it to a circle), and type some text in it.

    2. While the text box is selected, choose the squiggly line from the Shape submenu (under the Item menu). This converts the box to a text path.

    3. Set the color of the line to None (in either the Colors palette or the Modify dialog box). Otherwise, the line will print along with the text.

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