• Price: £779 or £279 for an upgrade

  • Company: Quark

  • Pros: Design for digital media from within familiar QuarkXPress surrounding; powerful automation with conditional formating; improved tables support

  • Cons: Most features still lacking any kind of preview

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

There was a time when QuarkXPress was almost the only serious program for page layout and desktop publishing. But in the last ten years it has steadily lost market share in the face of a sustained onslaught, first from InDesign and then from the Creative Suite. Yet in recent years QuarkXPress has positioned itself as the more nimble player, combining print, web and interactive Flash projects in the same package.

Its a neat trick, one that QuarkXPress 9 tries to repeat by supporting the growing ebook and app publishing markets. Ebooks and digital media tend to have a far more structured approach than the freewheeling layout that most magazine designers are used to. So, one of the major new features of QuarkXPress 9 is Reflow, which you use to add the kind of structure to a project that ePub expects. An ebook can only be a single document so Reflow lets you extract pages to an eReader in the right order.

However, using Reflow can be a rather laborious process. Reflow tagging means that you do have to go through and manuallly tag every element to say what items you want and what order they go in. Once you've grabbed the elements you then have to go back and add the actual tags to say what is a headline or a chapter header.

Shapemaker is a quick and easy way of creating unusually shaped boxes, and features a preview!

QuarkXPress 9 can export files to ePub or the Blio eReader. You can expect to hear more about Blio in the next few months as it’s powering quite a lot of the new online bookstores that are starting to appear, for example, from the likes of Toshiba and Dell, and there’s a Blio app on the way, first for iOS and OS X with Android coming later.

Eventually QuarkXPress will include the same App Studio that has just been added to QPS. This includes a starter App that can be adapted to test and make other apps, and the ability to upload the finished app to Apple’s App Store. However, that’s a separate story as the App studio won’t be available for another three months – it’ll be a free update for licensed users early this summer.