• Price When Reviewed: 779 . free upgrade

  • Pros: PDF enhancements including layer export options and native transparency support, Scaling and Spelling enhancements, improved content tools, XML import, free upgrade.

  • Cons: Some bugs still evident (acknowledged by Quark), real-time previews and more interactive tools would be welcome. Full price version relatively expensive.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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QuarkXPress 8 was a fairly thorough restructuring of the venerable DTP application. This update, free to registered users of version 8, is mainly concerned with addressing bugs and sorting out the workflow. However there are some new capabilities, especially in terms of PDF creation.

QuarkXPress now allows you to apply opacity separately to text, boxes, contents, and frames, but this wasn’t fully supported when exporting to PDF. A new native transparency mode has now been added as an option to the existing Flattened Transparency mode (see right). Transparency in general is still a bit clunky however- it could do with having a real time preview to make things more interactive.

PDF handling is further enhanced by support for the creation of PDF layers. This is to be found in the PDF Export Options box and lets you apply controls and settings on a layer-by-layer basis. Each layer can be quickly turned on and off independently for output. Applications that support preflight controls, like Acrobat, can access these layers within PDFs so in a boost to productivity you can send one PDF that contains multiple variants of content. This is ideal for an article or document in multiple languages for example, where otherwise you would have to send a PDF for each language variant of the document.

Also on the PDF front, there’s a new keyboard shortcut to learn. Command/Ctrl-Option-P is now the Export as PDF command. Another new keyboard command and Edit menu option allows you to now paste text into QuarkXPress with or without formatting.

A new standalone palette for spell checking has also improved text handling. This allows you to keep working on your layout, adjusting text during the checking process.

Another new palette allows precise scaling of anything from a single item to an entire layout, so aiding productivity. The Scale palette offers a choice of numerical or percentage-based scaling, while a large offering of preferences means you can fully customise the effect.