QuarkXPress 4.0 - It's here at last!
After months of speculation, rumour and many 'sneak previews', QuarkXPress 4.0 was finally officially released on October 1st 1997. It's being released on both the Windows 95 and Mac OS platforms simultaneously, in 11 languages worldwide -- and depending upon the language version you require, it should be ready to buy within 30 - 60 days.
Although you can't buy it right now, you can give it a try and have a play with the new features. Quark has cleverly put up a demo version that can be downloaded from their web site (http://www.quark.com). I couldn't resist downloading the Windows demo version, and after waiting around an hour for it to download (with a 28k baud modem), I was keen to give it a try.
Keen, but also nervous -- I love using QuarkXPress 3.32, any excuse and I'll use it -- even for letters and shopping lists! -- but when trying the 'latest versions' of a favourite program I always worry at first, that it might suffer from 'feature overload' and they might have spoiled an already great program.
So what's new in QuarkXPress 4.0 and have they spoiled it?
Quick answer -- there's loads of new things, and a definite 'no' they've certainly not spoiled it -- worry over! In fact, it's such great fun trying out the new bézier drawing tools and features that I've spent so long trying it out, that I almost ran out of time to write this month's column!
In appearance QXP4.0 is very familiar to version 3.32, with the Windows version now taking on the appearance of a Windows 95 fully compatible program -- the palettes and dialog boxes becoming more 3D in appearance.
The tools palette now features several new icons --and some icons now feature 'pop outs' -- extra tool icons that pop out from a single icon when the mouse is held over them. Many of these new tools are part of the new bézier and freehand drawing and shaping tools. Need a text box or picture box? Now, it can be any shape you wish! You can use bézier drawing tools to create any shape text or picture box to suit. Once created, you can also convert text boxes into picture boxes and picture boxes to text boxes and so on.
It's also possible to use these tools to edit the shape of a regular rectangular or circular shaped boxes too. Once you create a few boxes, you can then merge them together to create new shapes -- it's even possible to cut holes out of boxes too! This is great fun -- create a picture box, then create a circle box over the top, select both, then use the Merge functions to cut the circle out of the box, and whatever is behind will then show through too. Imagine holes cut out of a picture, that then lets text underneath show through!
The combination of the new drawing tools and Merge commands creates some very effective and time-saving techniques. What would have originally required a combination of say, Quark 3.32, Photoshop and Freehand, Illustrator or CorelDraw, can now be created directly in QuarkXPress 4.0.
Examples include creating variably shaped picture boxes or clipping paths -- now you can simply draw the shape of a picture box to suit, and you can combine boxes to make further shapes. In the past you would have had to use clipping paths created in Photoshop first. It's very easy to make customized and decorative 'frames' too -- create a series of overlapping shapes, select them all, use Merge > Unite and a single combined shape is created. This can then be set as a picture or text box, and given a border as required.
One very neat trick is that text can now be converted to a box. Set some large text, say 144 points, highlight it -- then Style > Text to Box, and it creates a box in the shape of the text. Then set the box to either a picture or text box to suit -- this way you can have pictures or text flowing inside text shaped boxes. The possibilities are almost endless!
QuarkXPress Style Sheets
New QuarkXPress Style Sheets
It's now also possible to flow and curve text into curves and around shapes. If you need curved text there's now no longer a need to create this in a drawing program and export it to Quark. In Quark 4.0, just use any of the new line tools; straight line, bézier or freehand to create the curves, then click on it with the content tool, and you can type the text along the curve to suit. It works great in practice, and is quicker and neater than the similar options in drawing programs -- in Quark it curves the text along the curve as you type it, you don't have to type it then apply the curving. Taking this further, once you've got the text curved to suit, it can then be converted to a picture box and a picture can be placed within, again the options are endless!
What the new drawing tools and merge commands mean for certain documents or effects is there is less of a need (or no need) to work in a separate drawing program. However, for complex drawings or 'illustrations', Freehand, Illustrator or CorelDraw could still prove more appropriate -- if only because they can be 're-packaged' or exported in more formats from a drawing package than from XPress.
New Drawing Tools Palette
CHARACTER BASED STYLE SHEETS
Next improvement is character based styleŠsheets. Until now, any style sheet applied affected a paragraph as a whole. If any particular words within it needed individual styling it had to be formatted individually. With Quark 4.0, both paragraph and character styles can be created. This alone will be a great time saver for particular text effects. The idea is based around creating a paragraph style, then assigning character attribute styles to it. This way, the same paragraph style can be used from a section of text, and the character style is then applied to this. Looking at the style sheets palette, there are now 2 sections, and selected text indicates which character and paragraph styles are applied. Long document features have been greatly improved, with the inclusion of indexing features, which can create lists, indexes or table-of-contents etc.
Also new is the 'Book File' -- this is a file where several separate Quark document files that create a single publication can be worked on independently, but the 'Book File' keeps them linked together, and keeps the styles and settings synched between the various files. As an example, a large book can be broken down into many different files, say a file for each section or chapter. The Book File will then track which pages are in which files, and can edit or update style sheets across the whole document. This will make long documents far easier than ever before in Quark, and is a great enhancement.
There are also many smaller improvements, but together they make a great difference; text over flow icons are now red, a very simple improvement but it makes such a difference! Palettes are now collapsible, double click on the top bar and they roll up or down. Empty picture boxes used as graphic boxes can now have their contents set to 'none', so they lose the infamous 'X' guidelines normally empty picture boxes have; this really makes the display much clearer.
Colour management is much improved, devices can have their own colour profiles set, such as monitors, printers, scanners etc., although it can also be completely switched off if required. In all, the new features give Quark an even greater lead for creating design led publications over other pageŠlayout packages, PageMaker included.
It's a pleasure to use, there's less switching between programs, and it appears bug free and stable. If you're interested, download the demo, and give it a try -- it's a great way to learn it before you buy. Well done Quark for a great upgrade!
If you've any DTP or graphic design related questions or comments, I'd really like to hear from you. You can contact me on the email address below or from the link on the web site. Until next month happy DTP'ing. Andy. CONTACT: (Andrew.Davidson@onyx.octacon.co.uk)