• Price When Reviewed: £1,095; upgrade from 5.0, £199; upgrade from 4.0, £299. All plus VAT.

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First, the good news. Using QuarkXPress 6.0 is like pulling on a favourite sweater, or slipping into a pair of comfy shoes. Everything about it feels so familiar that you’ll soon forget any interface tweaks and be delving into its new features. Many of the new additions are subtle and have that QuarkXPress stock-in-trade: they let you get on with the task in-hand, rather than having to reach for the manual to fathom the workings of new tools. For Mac OS X upgraders and QuarkXPress 4.1 users, this is doubly good news. While XPress 6.0 is now a Carbonized application running on Mac OS X (and Windows XP), it enjoys the familiar interface of previous versions. Menus, tools, and methodology are almost identical, leading to a shallow learning curve and a rapid move to it being an integral part of the publishing workflow. For Quark and its users, though, there’s a lot riding on this upgrade to what is the world’s most popular professional desktop-publishing package. Version 5.0 was an awful release, with ill thought-out additions and features that left much to be desired – most users have hopefully shunned upgrading, preferring to wait for this release. For Quark, version 6.0 is make-or-break time. The time of InDesign
And then there’s Adobe InDesign 2.0, a rival DTP package that is winning hearts and minds in the publishing community. Compared to the previous version of QuarkXPress, InDesign is stacked with incredible features and impressive implementation. It embraced the PDF workflow with an embarrassment of output options, and has become the typographical touchstone for layout artists. In short – and even with this version of QuarkXPress – InDesign is still the superior product. Your purchasing decision will be ultimately governed by whether you prefer InDesign’s feature-rich brashness or the homely niceties of QuarkXPress. QuarkXPress 6.0 is a far better upgrade than version 5.0 – adding new ways of working, and finally supporting native PDF export without the need for a third-party distilling tool – and it has more polish and intelligent features than version 5.0. The kicker, though, is there are some deal-breakers in the upgrade. The first concerns licensing. With version 6.0, you have to validate your copy of XPress directly with Quark and it is then locked to the hardware set-up of your machine. You can’t run it on a separate machine at all – so no working on a home workstation or a laptop if it’s locked to your desktop at work. And, if you make too many changes to the workstation XPress 6.0 is installed on – upgrade the memory and change the harddrive, for example – you’ll need to reactive the software. This isn’t just annoying, it’s downright unacceptable. It restricts a ‘moral’ second licence of having two installed copies that will never be used at the same time. And, for those that take work home (including yours truly) this is a real handicap. Most of us know the difference between blatant copying and practical working solutions, and Quark’s presumption of guilt of its users is a little unsettling. Complaints loom
My advice would to be complain to Quark as strongly as possible and, if you need to have it running on two separate machines, give some serious thought before parting with your cash. It seems churlish, but you also have to register XPress to activate some of the promised functionality, such as high-resolution picture previews. It takes up to 48-hours to get activated, and it’s almost akin to Adobe saying unless you register Photoshop, it won’t be able to use the colour red. It also won’t save documents to any earlier than QuarkXPress 5.0 – although you can open version 4.1 documents perfectly. So after the initial sour taste from the installation process, XPress has nowhere to go but up, and happily there are many positives in this release – and even a few gems. The two major gems are the introduction of layout spaces, and synchronized text. QuarkXPress now creates projects, rather than separate documents, into which you can create up to 25 unique documents. Then, using a tabbed selector, you can switch between documents at will, cutting-&-pasting elements as you go. It gets interesting when you mix in a range of document types – version 6.0 can handle Web and print documents handily in each project, and you can duplicate a document – from a print one into a Web page, for example. Add synchronized text, and it gets compelling. You can create text boxes and specify the text content as the parent then, using the Synchronized Text palette, link it to other text boxes in other documents in the project. It’s baby-step simple to use – I managed to sync text across a print and Web page without bothering with the manual. The upshot is that if text is updated in the parent text box other, synchronized boxes are automatically updated. A simple layout
Layout spaces are simple to use, and ideal for layout artists working on multiple-media publications, or different format variations of the same layout. The Synchronized Text palette is a dream to use, and operates much like the Styles palette, and you might be tempted to use it as a super clipboard for storing regularly used content. However, they don’t go far enough. The ability to synchronize images would have been logical, as well as drag-&-drop between documents instead of resorting to the clipboard. There’s no global find-&-replace for the project, or global spelling – everything is done on a per document basis – apart from saving. It’s impossible to just save out a single document from within a project, which could be a problem if a project file became corrupted, as you’d lose all enclosed documents. Quark has finally bowed to pressure and added multiple undos – and it does this quite well. You can have up to 30 levels of undo and redo, with a handy pop-up that lists previous actions in the document window. Layers – introduced in version 5.0 – have been modified so you can now lock a layer’s content, regardless of the protection state of individual elements, and you can select all items on a layer through the Layers palette. One of the biggest additions to version 5.0 were tables, and it was a feature that InDesign soundly beat QuarkXPress on. Tables see some of the biggest changes, and I found them much easier to use. Logical, intelligent additions include the ability to link cells to other text boxes, and setting the order of tabbing through the cells. Images are great to use, with clipping settings retained as you place images in cells, and you can set cell background colours to None – making them transparent. Other additions include the ability to convert tables into grouped boxes. However, there are some glaring omissions. You can’t import Excel tables, and table power users will miss not being able to split tables vertically and horizontally, or flow them over multiple pages. Considering that Quark has at long last embraced PDF, there’s surprisingly little documentation included with the upgrade. You can export to PDF straight from XPress without needing a separate distilling tool, and it creates clean, polished PDF files based on Global Graphics Jaws PDF technology. An array of job options are all present and correct, and I’d be happy sending off PDFs from QuarkXPress to print. Yet there are some curious gaps. QuarkXPress only supports PDF 1.3 (it’s currently at version 1.5), and it lacks both security options and PDF/X support, which printers rate highly. Frustratingly, there is no way to save PDF styles, and QuarkXPress first creates a PostScript file then uses a virtual (or networked) printer to distill into a PDF. InDesign is much quicker, as it writes PDFs directly. The Web tools should be looked upon as a bonus. They’ll never replace a dedicated Web-design application, but for creating brochureware sites, they’re ideal. Using a DTP metaphor, you can get some impressive output. New additions include creating cascading menus, the ability to preview and export HTML, two-position rollovers, and more powerful forms features. Oddly, though, it can’t print Web pages – you need to export them to a Web browser first – and it can’t import saved HTML. However, it’s quick to pick up, and converting print documents into Web pages is a snip. If that’s all you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. Print output sees two fundamental changes – the addition of As Is and DeviceN options. Both are worthy additions that will aid any pre-press workflow: As Is retains the colour profile of each element at print stage – so colour spaces for different images are not over-ridden by a document-wide colour profile – and the colour information is handled by the RIP at output. This gives far more control over the job at printer level, and is a welcome addition. Device city
DeviceN is even more clever. It can output files with blends, multi-inks, and colourized TIFFs as composite colours, but retains colour-separation definitions. This is great for in-house proofs of complex, colour documents, and in operation is a simple process to deploy. However, the print summary isn’t overly better than version 5.0, but overall printing is more robust than previous editions. Yet despite these worthy additions, and despite what you’ll read elsewhere about this being Quark’s triumphant return, there are too many negatives for it to retake the top slot. Take the lack of new typographical features. With InDesign dazzling us with OpenType support and fancy ligatures, you’d think Quark would have thrown us some new type goodies. But, this is an application that still has the zoom tool stuck at an 800 per cent (compared to InDesign’s 4,000 per cent), and document sizes are limited to 4-x-4 feet, compared to InDesign’s 18-x-18 feet. And there are no drop shadows or transparency, and even Publish & Subscribe has been taken away. The spellchecker is still basic, dialog boxes enormous, and H&Js are exactly the same. QuarkXPress 6.0, then, is better than the version 5.0 upgrade. It does have some natty new features, and it will output to repro houses and you’ll get a good result back. It now works on Mac OS X, and features such as synchronized text are great to use. Yet, don’t let the neon-glow of an Aqua interface and a few bones tossed to us in the shape of unusual features woo you into thinking this is Quark’s happy return. The fact is its PDF output is lacklustre, its lack of new type controls an embarrassment, and the licensing restrictions unwelcome. No printed manual, a rudimentary spellchecker, mammoth dialog boxes, and a hundred other things, and you’re left finding version 6.0 wanting. And while still the kind of tool that you can run a business with, it could have been so much more. So, if you want an Aqua interface and a few interesting features over version 5.0, go buy QuarkXPress 6.0. But don’t be fooled by its shiny new clothes – this is still, by far, a poor second to InDesign.