• Price When Reviewed: 779 . 279

  • Pros: Revamped, cleaner interface; adopts many conventions from InDesign; native Illustrator support; extended language support.

  • Cons: Some overdue fixes still to be addressed; current users may find interface and usability challenging; preview version suffered from some slow performance.

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Like some grizzled prize fighter, Quark has been battling round after round with Adobe's InDesign page layout software – and popular opinion has had Quark on the ropes more often than not over the past few years. But can QuarkXPress 8, the latest incarnation of the former world DTP champion, land a sucker punch against InDesign and see Quark retake some of its former DTP ground?

We got our hands on a preview version of QuarkXPress 8 and, although it's a little rough around the edges due to its unfinished code, Quark has clearly put in the effort to address on-going gripes levelled at it by page layout designers.

New features are a combination of some big hitters – such as deeper language support than InDesign and a revamped interface – and long overdue fixes that cover a whole host issues. The good news is that many of the additions finally sort out some longstanding niggles and omissions that have hung over from version 7.

So, you can now import native Adobe Illustrator files and view them in full resolution (see above right). We found imported .ai files moved fluidly around the page, and could be resized and rescaled at full resolution with zero speed hit. No longer do you also need to type and retype numbers into the measurement palette to adjust attributes; up/down arrows adorn each measurement field for quickly altering values and nudging elements, such as drop shadows.

Version 8 also offers up – finally – a true WYSIWYG font menu that includes font type flags (such as OpenType) and, handily, you can hit Shift when selecting it to turn off the font preview. Other, small changes matter: an effective image resolution value now appears in the Measurements palette – all adding up to a raft of tiny, almost incidental changes that will cumulatively enhance working through a project.

All eyes, though, will be on the more radical changes that Quark is aiming to deliver – and it's here that the preview version is a mixed bag.

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