Review – QuarkXPress 2015

Jay J. Nelson
13 January, 2016
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AAA

QuarkXPress 2015

Quark, www.quark.com

Pros 

Dramatically enhanced ePub and long document features

Cons 

None significant

US$849; US$349 upgrade from versions 3 to 10; US$199 education price

Reviews

Recent versions of QuarkXPress added features that were requested by Quark’s users. QuarkXPress 2015 continues this strategy. For example, it has changed its version numbering scheme to indicate the year of release and the product is still offered with a traditional perpetual licence rather than requiring an ongoing rental fee.

New features include Fixed-Layout eBooks, text variables that automatically populate content such as running headers, a new table feature with Excel integration, automatic footnotes and endnotes, and PDF/X-4 output.

ePub enhancements

The ePub format has two variants: Reflowable, commonly used for novels, textbooks and other simple text-and-pictures publications; and the newer Fixed Layout ePub, the preferred format for publications the layout of which is as important as its text and pictures.

QuarkXPress 2015 supports both Fixed and Reflowable ePubs. While you cannot export a Fixed Layout ePub from an existing Print layout, you can still build a Reflowable ePub from an existing Print layout. There are benefits and drawbacks to this forked approach. The main benefit to Quark’s approach is that you can design one layout for your eBook and let QuarkXPress optimise its page size and special features for each output format.

Once inside your new eBook document, you can use all the rich layout tools in QuarkXPress, including sharing Style Sheets, Colors, Item Styles, Footnote Styles and other attributes across Print, App Studio and eBook layouts. This makes it easier to keep an identity consistent across multiple layouts.

Four years ago, Quark’s App Studio was the first user-friendly tool to convert publications into complex, interactive iOS apps. With the recent ratification of the EPUB 3 standard, Quark has now migrated its HTML5-based App Studio tools into all the QuarkXPress 2015 layout, so you can now use the familiar App Studio interface to build interactivity into ePub files.

The existing Reflowable ePub features have also been enhanced. You can now apply an unlimited number of Style Sheets and use the new HTML5 palette to add audio and video interactivity to items. Items on the Pasteboard in the reflow can be included and Callout Anchors can be used to insert pictures into the text flow without needing to split the Story into multiple components.

Content variables

Previous versions of QuarkXPress let you repeat common text throughout multiple layouts, so that when you change one, they all change. Now you can also create Content Variables that grab information from one place and display it elsewhere.

Table enhancements

The table feature in QuarkXPress was overdue for an overhaul. But rather than enhancing the existing table feature, Quark chose to create a new Inline Table feature. You can apply a table style to inline tables, which keeps multiple tables formatted similarly, and the table data can be linked to an external Excel spreadsheet.

Verified PDF/X-4 output

Printing professionals have been clamouring for QuarkXPress to output to the PDF/X-4 standard for quite some time. This PDF standard supports native transparency and DeviceN as the output colour model, which creates smaller PDF files that print faster and are essential to some workflows. Specifically, imported graphics in PDF, AI and PSD format maintain their native transparency when exported from QuarkXPress. This issue is so important that the default PDF Output style in QuarkXPress 2015 has been changed to export native transparency instead of flattening it.

Support for legacy documents

One important issue must be noted: QuarkXPress 2015 will only open documents last saved by QuarkXPress version 7 or higher. If you have older documents, be sure to download Quark’s free QuarkXPress Document Converter application that opens legacy files from versions 3 to 6 and saves them in a format that QuarkXPress 10 and 2015 can open.

In addition, Quark has dropped support for the bitmapped frames available in earlier versions of QuarkXPress. When you open a legacy document that uses one of these frames, QuarkXPress 2015 alerts you that these frames are no longer supported. There is no easy workaround.

The small improvements

Every mature application benefits by refining the ways its daily users interact with it. Having completely overhauled the QuarkXPress interface several versions ago, Quark has now improved many of the rough spots identified by its users. The first change is that there is no installer – instead, you simply drag the application to your Applications folder. Another under-the-hood change will be enjoyed far longer: QuarkXPress 2015 is now a 64-bit application, resulting in dramatically faster viewing of imported graphics and exporting of PDFs and, since the text engine is now multi-threaded, you can more fluidly work with complex text objects such as tables.

Pages can now be much larger: up to 224 by 224 inches instead of the previous limit of 48 by 48 inches, and you can now save named, custom-size pre-sets for new layouts. To accommodate these larger page sizes, you can now scale pictures up to 5000 percent.

Additional small improvements make creating your layouts much more fun. For example, a new Format Painter lets you copy attributes from text and apply them to other text. You’ll find it in the Home and Character tabs of the Measurements palette, and it also has keyboard shortcuts. Speaking of which, you can now assign or change keyboard shortcuts for menu items or other actions, and save them as custom sets.

You can also now filter the items in the Style Sheets, Colors, Hyperlinks and Content Variables palettes by name, which is handy since these palettes can often be quite lengthy. Thankfully, WYSIWYG font menus can once again be disabled – QuarkXPress 10 had inexplicably removed that ability.

Other practical improvements include the ability to automatically view a PDF after exporting it, and the ability to collect all the assets from all the layouts in a project by using Collect For Output – previously, only the assets from the current layout could be collected. You can now use the Usage dialogue to relink any imported picture to a different picture file, and the Usage dialogue now displays filenames without cropping long names to fit.

Bottom line. QuarkXPress 2015 is a valuable upgrade for QuarkXPress users who make ePub files, work with lots of tables or footnotes, or need running headers. By also providing the top 10 most-requested feature improvements, Quark has made this an upgrade every user will want.

To assist in creating a Fixed Layout ePub, QuarkXPress 2015 provides standard device page-size options, such as iPad and Kindle Fire.

One Comment

One person was compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. fenner says:

    I’ll only take a look after my CS6 starts to look outdated.

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