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Review: QuarkXPress 6.5

The Big Picture's art director gives his opinion of the latest Quark update.

QuarkXPress has been the industry standard for page layout for many years. However, with the introduction of InDesign a few years ago, QuarkXPress has had to develop new enhancements to stay competitive with this new challenger (see "Digital Workflow: QuarkXPress vs. Adobe InDesign," by Stephen Beals, March 2005, p. 30).

Its latest enhancements come in the form of the much-anticipated upgrade, QuarkXPress 6.5, which was announced and made available late in 2004. Quark has improved the stability of the software from previous versions, and it has made some major enhancements. The new features are a welcome addition to workflow and output processes, and they can result in a real time benefit for all users.

Stand-out features

Let's take a look at some of the features that I believe truly make QuarkXPress 6.5 stand out.

One of the newest features is a timesaving extension called QuarkVista. Vista lets you manipulate images in Quark using adjustments that are found within Adobe Photoshop. From the Picture Effects palette, the user can apply Levels, Curves, Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, and so on. Also you can apply effects such as Gaussian Blur, Unsharp Mask, Despeckle, and other effects that are in a re-orderable list in the Effects palette. Each of these effects can be applied to imported TIFF, JPEG, PNG, SCT, BMP, and GIF images within the layout. Importantly, once these effects are applied, they're saved within the application without affecting the original file"?unless the user chooses to do so (Quark calls this being "non-destructive").

Another new feature in QuarkXPress 6.5 is the ability to import Photoshop PSD files natively into QuarkXPress. Once you have imported the file, layers can be switched on and off, opacities and blend methods can be modified, channels can be assigned to be spot colors, and clipping paths can be chosen from within Quark. The benefit here, of course, is that you can work with Photoshop images without leaving QuarkXPress.

Other enhancements in QuarkXPress 6.5 include support for guides on pasteboards on master pages, table enhancements such as grouping, and the ability to set print styles. Plus, it includes an upgrade to QuarkXClusive, an extension that provides for variable-data publishing capabilities.

Fonts and pricing

Quark also has helped users address the terrible "missing font" message. Registered users of 6.5 receive a font bundle from Linotype available for download at no cost. And if there's still an outstanding font or two in a project, users can click on the "buy missing font" button and purchase additional fonts from Linotype at a special price.

The QuarkXPress 6.5 upgrade is available at no charge to registered users of QuarkXPress 6.1 (note: If you're using QuarkXPress 6.0, you first have to update your copy to QuarkXPress 6.1, then continue with the update to QuarkXPress 6.5). For new users, the suggested retail price is $1045 ($945 if from the Quark store; and special pricing is available for multisite licenses, students and educators, as well as non-profits).

Quark: www.quark.com

Jaxon Cook is art director for ,The Big Picture, magazine.

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