So Quark is making some noise (and filling up my inbox) with news about their new public beta of QuarkXPress 7. I’ve been looking at blogs and around the web, trying to find someone who has compared the new version, beta that it is, with InDesign CS 2.
I’ve found a review of the beta. However, I realized that if I wanted to know what the new experience is really like, I had to try it myself. So I washed my hands and signed up for the beta. After providing the Quark folks with my name, rank and serial number (I’m already on their mailing list anyway) I dove in.
I think I must have broken a record for how fast I managed to crash the application. What was I doing to bring the thing down? I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to open an InDesign file. If ID CS 2 can’t handle a file, it pops up a little error that tells you it’s an unsupported file. What does Quark 7 beta do?
Oh boy, this is going to be fun… read on for more…
Tags: Quark 7
This is just me, QuarkXPress user from 1992-2001, InDesign user from 2001 to now, clicking around and reporting on those little things that matter to the person who has to sit and work in these applications for hours each day.
First thing that struck me is how little the interface has changed since Quark 3, and that’s not a good thing. For Quark 5/6 they had the excuse that they were rushed porting from OS 9 to OS X. What’s the excuse now?
The application doesn’t have that smooth polish that InDesign has. Look at the Quark side palette on the left compared with the default InDesign view on the right (click to see larger). Maybe it’s me, but Quark feels so 1993. Clunky. If Microsoft put out an interface that looked like this, the crowds would be screaming in It ain’t Mac-like!! agony.
Looks like they spent the past few years working on the swank & textured dock icon, so maybe they ran out of time to update the application’s interface.
Interface-wise, this is kind of nice…as you move your cursor closer to the measurement palette at the bottom, you get a pop-up selection of different palette views. It makes the screen less cluttered than InDesign CS2 and its palettes all over the place, if still quite clunky.
The dialog boxes haven’t changed. They’re still huge.
Quark easily imported GIF, JPG, TIF, EPS and PNG files I threw at it with high-res previews. But how about a native Photoshop file which InDesign handles easily (and makes it very easy to make on-the-spot changes to a file without exporting to another format)?
I have no idea if this XTension will be included in the shipping version or not. How about a native Illustrator CS2 file?
Hey, at least it didn’t crash.
This was something that drove me crazy in previous versions of QuarkXPress. Let’s say you lock an item’s position and there’s something underneath it. Or, you have items on a layer and you lock that layer. Now you want to select an item that’s underneath that layer/locked item. In InDesign and Illustrator, something that is locked can be seen but can’t be selected or moved. In other words, it behaves like it’s not there even though you can see it. You can select items beneath it or draw a marquee to select items on other layers easily. The locked items are locked, but they’re not in your way. In QuarkXPress, a locked item still retains its place above other items, you just can’t touch it. So if you want to select an item underneath and you click over the locked item on top of the item you want to select, you get a locked icon cursor and you’re stuck unless you use the shift-command-option keyboard combination to select the item underneath. If the locked item takes up the whole page, you can draw a marquee to select the item(s) underneath but you can’t edit the text or do much except move it above the locked layer.
How does Quark 7 all these years later fix this problem? It doesn’t! Exact same issue. Unbelievable.
Quark’s table-manipulation feature is so lame compared to InDesign’s that it’s not even worth picking apart. Not a fair fight.
Text & Misc.
Quick text formatting without style sheets is still difficult and unwieldy in QuarkXPress. Can’t see a way to pick up the formatting in one paragraph and copy it to another. Can’t see a way to copy text and paste in another dialog box without formatting.
Font menus have been improved in Quark 7 in that they are now organized by logical name rather than just PostScript name.
Transparency is a touted feature in this release. But all you can do is move an opacity slider. There doesn’t appear to be an option to manipulate modes (multiply, screen, difference, etc.).
Modal dialog boxes (did I mention that they’re huge?!?) have an Apply button but no live Preview.
If I double click a text box one more time expecting to be able to edit the contents and instead bring up the Modify… dialog box, I think I’m going to scream so I’ll start wrapping up here. There’s still so much more to explore, but this is long enough. If you’re interested in a part 2 before the beta expires, comment and let me know.
The big news in this version of QuarkXPress is the Composition Zones which supposedly allows you to create content once and then re-use it across multiple documents in the same project. I can see where that would come in handy. It’s the only thing on Quark’s entire list of new features that InDesign lacks. I may take some time to play with that.
My verdict: If you or your company have a lot invested in Quark products and there’s no way you can afford to make a switch to InDesign, this version sucks a tiny bit less than previous versions. But it’s still no contest.