Quark has announced the next full release of its flagship DTP application, QuarkXPress 8. The company says that whereas version 7 concentrated on expanding on the application's feature set, QuarkXPress 8 overhauls the interface and workflow.
The upgrade has a darker grey design that's more in keeping with Mac OS X 10.5's Finder windows, and a new set of icons and palette designs that Quark says are consistent throughout the whole application, unlike with version 7. The contextual menu system has also been redesigned to make them quicker and easier to use, say Quark.
Quark has also attempted to simplify the application. The number tools in the Tools Palette have been reduced, for example by removing the previous version's division between picture boxes and text boxes. In XPress 8, boxes can contain either.
The Picture tool has been revamped, with a single tool providing control over both the box and content. When a picture is selected, users have access to different sets of handles to change both the box size and content scale.
Other new workflow improvements include intelligent tool selection for faster working, so if a user clicks on a text box, the application automatically changes it to the text tool.
New typographic tools include controls for adding hanging characters and the beginning and/or end of paragraphs. Individual boxes can have their own baseline grids, and designers can create and apply these as Grid Styles. A WYSIWYG font menu lets you choose between fonts and font styles visually. Quark has also added Unicode support throughout the application, including in Styles and file names.
Items Styles is a new function that enables users to create and apply settings for boxes that include parameters for both text and the box itself -- so as well as applying font, weight, and size to the text, you can set the background colour and border styles for the box.
QuarkXPress 8 includes many features designed to assist users of Adobe's Creative Suite. There are new Bezier pen tools that users will find similar to those in Illustrator, and .ai files can now be placed inside layouts. Users are also able to option-drag to duplicate elements to the addition of new keyboard shortcuts (though Xpress's traditional ones work too).
Other new features include drag-&-drop of image files to and from Xpress layouts, improved PDF output (including to Ghent Workgroup workflows) and, in the Mac version only, scalable thumbnails of pages when selecting pages.
The upgrade also changes what users get in the box -- adding the previously separate Quark Interactive Designer tool for multimedia and Web design. The different language versions have been condensed into a single release -- ditching the more expensive Passport version. However, there will be a Plus version that adds extra typographic tools for East Asian languages.
QuarkXPress 8 will be released before July 28 and runs under Mac OS X 10.4/5 and Windows XP/Vista. It costs £779 plus VAT, or £279 plus VAT as an upgrade. It can save files in QuarkXPress 8 and 7 format, but users who purchase the upgrade version can still run version 7 on their computers, allowing downsaving of files in version 6 if required. Pricing to upgrade to the Plus version has yet to be announced.