Latest Version of Quark Shows Significant Improvement

by Kevin Slimp, November 2004

Latest Version of Quark Shows Significant Improvement
Somebody pinch me. I think I’m dreaming. I just downloaded and used Quark’s latest update of it’s publishing software, QuarkXPress. And I like what I saw. Taking clues from Adobe’s layout application, InDesign, Quark seems to have gotten a lot right in version 6.5.

Many of the features I love in InDesign - and a few that aren’t - are now available in QuarkXpress. Immediately I noticed the ability to view high resolution previews on-screen. This means eps files are no longer jagged, as they were in previous versions of QuarkXPress and other programs. The biggest surprise was the ability to adjust levels, curves, saturation, hue and other settings that are normally relegated to Photoshop. Making changes to levels and curves was very similar to making these changes in Photoshop, as were adjusting the hue and saturation of a photo.

In addition, users can create unique lines, dashes and arrows, though it’s a bit more cumbersome than creating them in InDesign. Working my way through the preference, I found a setting that’s very appealing. In the PDF preference, the user can set QuarkXPress 6.5 to export directly to PDF or to export to a Postscript file, for later distilling.

Another option allows you to automatically place the Postscript file in a “watched” folder for later distilling.

QuarkXPress now allows multiple undos. Twenty seems to be default, but can be changed in the preferences to a higher or lower number. There’s also the ability to automatically backup files while you’re working on them, something that has brought joy to InDesign users who have lost power in the middle of a project.

Version 6.5 includes several helpful scripts. One interesting script allows the creation of crop marks (and cutlines, if you desire) on the fly. The Quark website touts the ability to import Adobe Photoshop documents (PSD files) using an import filter powered by ALAP (A Lonely Apprentice Production) but, try as I might, I couldn’t get QuarkXPress to import a PSD file. Maybe I was missing something. A script for creating drop shadows worked, but seemed like a lot of work after getting used to InDesign’s ability to create unique drop shadows with a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Quark reports that version 6.5 has increased the reliability and stability of the software. Robert Hossa of Digital Hub, a Chicago-base imaging service, says that documents that previously caused printing issues print “with no problems at all.”

I invite your input as I test the latest version of QuarkXPress over the coming months. From my initial experience, it looks like Quark got a lot of things right. It will be interesting to see how Adobe responds in future versions of InDesign.

Quark 6.5 is a free download at www.quark.com for registered owners of QuarkXPress 6.1.

(Since writing this review, I’ve received word from Jennifer Churchill, Quark media representative, that the PSD import filter didn’t make it into the November 1 release. She said it will be available as a separate free download from Quark.com. The filter will be built into future releases of version 6.5)