• Price When Reviewed: 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.

  • 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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Hanging punctuation and baseline grid settings are comprehensive; both support style saving. But these pale in the face of Item Styles: it’s no exaggeration to say that you could build an entire element – frame, opacity, picture scaling and more – from the ground up without having to leave Item Styles.

One disappointment was in traditional print speeds. We tested it on an Intel Macbook against InDesign CS3, and QuarkXPress 8 proved the laggard. It took longer to start up (averaging 12 seconds, compared to 5 seconds for InDesign), and longer to create PDFs. We used as close as possible press-ready settings and identical documents, and the same PDF took an average of 46 seconds to create in QuarkXPress 8 compared to an average of 14 seconds in InDesign. Whether the new interface and workflow changes will offset time lost to PDF baking remains to be seen.

Version 8 isn’t going to woo InDesign users back to Quark – but if you’re still at version 6.5 or earlier, there’s no excuse not to upgrade.

For newcomers, it’s easier to learn than InDesign is, but QuarkXPress has a high price that, for a little more, would see a new designer kitted-out with the comprehensive Adobe Creative Suite.