Price: 779 . 279
Pros: Slicker interface; useful hanging punctuation; ad hoc baseline grids; integrated interactive design and Flash creation.
Cons: Picture Effects doesn’t work with native PSD files; PDF output is slow and files large compared to InDesign CS3; new interface will be a ‘love it or hate it’ affair.
Following years of apparent indifference to its critics, Quark is finally listening. QuarkXPress 8 doesn’t add any real blockbuster features, but it does add the kinds of tools that long-time users have been clamouring for.
Admittedly, many additions are familiar. QuarkXPress 8 includes the ability to open native Illustrator files, and adds arrows next to measurement attributes to quickly nudge values, though you can still use Quark’s mathematical inputs. The font menu sports WYSIWYG typefaces, along with formatting, such as PostScript. And you can set baseline grids by individual text container, rather than as a document-wide attribute.
There are enough of these tweaks to fill several pages, and many will appeal to designers – but you can’t help feeling that Adobe InDesign has been there, and done that.
However, version 8 does deliver some flashes of inspiration. The interface, decked out in dark grey, is more than a reskin. Subtle changes – such as active page pasteboards adopting a slightly darker shade so you can see which page a pasted element will land in – work to eradicate Quark’s historical quirks. Tools have been trimmed, and in what must mean a chilly day in hell, Quark has abandoned separate tools for content and containers. It works – and you can also import elements without creating containers first.
The minimalist interface is a refreshing antidote to InDesign’s clutter, and the toolset enables you to rotate containers, grab and resize images within containers with a minimum of hassle. You can Alt/Option-drag an element to duplicate it, though we did encounter the occasional inadvertent cloning problem, as Alt/Option retains its dual role of panning a document.