Quark founder Tim Gill accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at Macworld magazine’s recent Editor’s Choice Awards ceremony, he quipped that one of the nice aspects of leaving the company was that he wouldn’t have to answer questions about “when QuarkXPress 5.0 is going to ship.”
Quark originally said it would ship the upgrade of its flagship page-layout software in late 2000. But the company, trying to avoid the reliability problems that beset QuarkXPress 4.0, is now targeting late spring for extensive beta testing, said Glen Turpin, Quark’s corporate communications manager.
The developer, he said, recently completed extensive in-house testing of QuarkXPress 5.0, and has distributed a pre-release version to a small group of users. In about a month, Quark plans to offer the software to a larger group that includes digital imaging services and software trainers in Quark’s ServicePlus member program. The company plans to incorporate feedback from those users before launching the wider beta program this spring.
“QuarkXPress 5.0 is going to be most tested version of QuarkXPress ever,” Turpin said, acknowledging that Quark “lost a lot of trust with our customers” when it shipped version 4 with a variety of bugs, prompting loud complaints from professional users. “That was a hard lesson for us,” he said. “But it was a lesson we learned. We don’t want to make that same mistake again with QuarkXPress 5.0. When it ships we want it to be ready to do the job.”
New features in the page-layout software include the ability to work with layers, edit tables and create HTML-based Web pages. The program will also be bundled with avenue.quark, a US$199 program for automated XML-based Web publishing. However, Turpin said that Quark has not set a price for the upgrade.
QuarkXPress 5.0 will not be Carbonized, Turpin said. “By the time we got a really good build of OS X, we were already engineering complete on 5.0 and had begun testing,” he explained. “Going back to create a Carbonized version would have put us way behind schedule.” It will run in OS X’s Classic environment — which means it won’t take advantage of OS X’s modern OS features — and a future version will run natively under OS X, Turpin said.
Turpin added that QuarkXPress 5.0 would run only on Power Macs. “That was a tough decision for us,” he said, since a large portion of Quark’s customers still use older 68K machines. He noted that a native OS X version of QuarkXPress would have even more-stringent hardware requirements, since OS X will run only on G3 and G4 systems released after September 1998.
Because the page-layout upgrade won’t be ready to ship in time, Turpin said the company does not plan to exhibit at the Seybold Seminars 2001 Boston publishing trade show, which runs April 10-12. However, Quark co-founder and CEO Fred Ebrahimi is scheduled to give a keynote address on April 12, at which he’s likely to demonstrate the upgrade’s new features.
Quark has other products in the pipeline. CopyDesk SE, a standalone version of the Quark Publishing System’s CopyDesk module, is scheduled to ship in less than two months. Designed for writers and editors, CopyDesk SE includes all of the typographic controls in QuarkXPress, but at $300, costs less than a third of the price of the flagship program.
“We know this will cut into QuarkXPress sales a little bit,” Turpin said, “but we want to give people the right tool for the job.” Quark also licenses developer kits for companies that want to create CopyDesk SE Xtensions and custom workflow software for publishers.
In less than a month Quark also plans to release QuarkDMS 1.5, a new version of the high-end digital asset management system. New features include enhanced search queries; the ability to check in and set attributes for multiple files or folders without using scripts; the ability to drag and drop files or folders to the desktop for quick check-out; and the ability to organize assets required for an individual project into a centralized collection. The program can also automate e-mail notifications and asset routing; and import XML files into metadata and keyword fields. But QuarkDMS does not come cheap: an entry-level 10-user system costs $50,000. Quark has sold about two-dozen DMS systems — mostly to newspaper, catalog and book publishers — since it began shipping about a year ago.
Turpin also admitted that Quark is engaged in an ongoing effort to polish the somewhat tarnished image it has among many publishing professionals, who have complained about poor customer service in addition to the bugs in QuarkXPress 4.0. “We’ve gotten a lot of flak over the years for this,” he said. “We’re making strides toward projecting a kinder image. This is the kind of culture we’re trying to teach every single person in our organization.”