Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 17.05
May 2011


How To



Download ATPM 17.05

Choose a format:


by Mark Tennent,

Da Pain, Da Pain

How can life be so cruel? Here I am with a copy of QuarkXPress 9 to play with, and I haven’t got time to give it more than a cursory glance. One thing is for sure: this is the most exciting version of QuarkXPress…ever. It has jumped miles ahead of InDesign, even though Adobe fans will never admit it.

QuarkXPress 9 has become the best production tool encompassing digital publishing in just about all formats, from books and magazines, through Web and Flash to the new world of e-books and apps. All in one package that even designers from the era of QuarkXPress 3 will feel comfortable with. The cycle will be complete when the iPad app creation plug-in is available (for free) in a couple of month’s time.

So What’s New?

As a long-time jobbing designer, I’ve done just about anything in print. Each design job needs different tools: for press ads and one-page designs I usually reach for InDesign, but for anything heavy-weight or requiring superb typography, QuarkXPress is the tool for me. Especially for 300-page, heavily illustrated books of which I must have designed near-on 2000 or more.

I can’t wait to get my next book because of the new tricks Quark has given me to play with. The list is beyond the scope of a column, and the 45-minute introduction to QuarkXPress 9 is well worth watching.

For me as a book designer, the best elements of QuarkXpress 9 include the new and amazing conditional styles, which can automate the formatting for an entire book. Once styles are set up in the new palette, text is formatted word-by-word, line-by-line. It is a bit like the nested stylesheet idea in InDesign—but with a turbocharger. Quark has taken it to new level by looking for certain conditions such as a return, column break, tab, or whatever you set as a conditional style marker. Then repeat the action until it reaches the last conditional style marker. You can even format text forwards or backwards.

This really is easier to see demonstrated, and to set things up is a bit of a mind bender involving a certain amount of experimenting. Once done, styling even a whole manuscript is a case of a click or two instead of an hour or two. There is even a new story editor, dragged in from Quark’s Publishing Solution (as used by daily newspapers and the like). So it’s taken Quark 20 years to copy one tiny part of PageMaker, Calamus, and just about every other DTP package, but it makes life so much easier.

Got the Bullet

Also new are bullet, numbering, and outline styles, which can also reflect the formatting of imported text. As can Quark’s new import filters which are, at last, smart enough to leave in place local styles such as bold and italic. If it could even change the typeface rather than the local style, it would be perfection. Before sending any job off, one should really search for incidences of text being turned bold, italic, small caps, etc, and swap it for the bold, italic, small caps version of the typeface. It is the matter of moments to do, and usually one finds spurious fonts, colours, and so on which have been retained from imported text.

Another big plus is the way QuarkXPress handles text flows. It used to be a pain in the proverbial to unlink and reflow text and often a sure way to accidentally lose text in long chains. In QuarkXPress 9, text boxes can be linked even if they contain text, or unlinked retaining the text already in the box. I’m just not sure about the controller’s name, Linkster. It just sounds too much like a Batman arch enemy.

Calling All Outs

My favourite feature, apart from the new and as yet untested (by me) e-book publishing, is graphics and call-out handling. If I am designing a book on the uniforms of the KGB (which I have to admit is one of mine), I want to make sure the photo of the cap badge sits neatly beside the text referring to it. This used to be a matter of attention to detail, but when one cap badge looks almost the same as the next, and you are already finding yourself bored to death by the subject, it was easy to let the two get separated. Not so now with QuarkXPress 9’s new Callout Styles, which anchors text and graphics or other text boxes together, even to the point of positioning on the page. As text flows back and forth due to author’s changes, the graphics move with it.

The latest MacUser says that the Table tool now handles text and graphics, but as far as I’m concerned, it did in version 6 or 7 and I have the books to prove it. However they also say that live links can be created between Excel and QuarkXPress. Something I didn’t know. It all sounds similar to that what Apple tried to achieve in System 7 or 8 but developers weren’t as forward looking in those days.

Finally, and again as a book designer, another great improvement is the way QuarkXPress 9 handles repeated graphics. This is a further escapee from Batman called the Cloner. In reality, it controls copies of anything across multiple pages or even documents, and even replicates stylesheets.

When a 300-page book has five images per spread, the designer has to establish a means to communicate with the editor over which picture goes where. The easiest way is to make a contact sheet which, until QuarkXPress 9 and Cloner, meant using an AppleScript to automatically import graphics into a grid, but they arrived naked with no caption. It was easier to import the images into something like iView and create the contact sheet complete with labels. Cloner solves this dilemma.

There is just so much to learn and like in QuarkXPress 9 that it is going to take me two or three months to get to the bottom of it, if ever do. It is the first version of QuarkXPress which makes me feel completely de-skilled because there are just so many new features. Even so, the interface after two decades will still be familiar and immediately usable by a DTP pro from the early 1990s.

Even so, there are one or two minor anachronisms, such as the PPD selection list, which still has a too small window, and the book palette still needs attention.

As far as e-books and apps, they will have to wait until the final elements of QuarkXPress 9 are in place.

Also in This Series

Reader Comments (0)

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article