With QuarkXPress 10 came dramatic improvements in image rendering speed and some other nice feature updates. QuarkXpress 2015 may become one of the more important milestones in the history of this venerable layout design application.
Perhaps the most important deal with QuarkXPress 2015 is that Quark didn’t just implement new features they thought were important, but asked its users in a survey what they wanted. The ten most pressing needs that came out of that survey were translated in improvements and new features. More than the new branding and packaging this must be the number one reason why you should upgrade and even, if you’re not too fanatical, reconsider QuarkXPress as a layout design app. Of course, if you’ve invested big money in Adobe’s solutions, so be it. But QuarkXPress isn’t to be taken as the lesser solution anymore.
The most pressing need for Quark was to make QuarkXPress 2015 more stable and faster. The answer is QuarkXPress 2015, a 64-bit app that installs by drag-and-drop on OS X. A new text rendering engine adds to the feeling of speed, in addition to the Xenon Graphics Engine image rendering technology introduced in QuarkXPress 10. The new version runs on OS X 10.8 or higher, and on Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 (all in 64-bit).
On OS X, the platform I’ll be focusing on, QuarkXPress 2015 comes with full OS X support, i.e. Retina capability, full screen support, auto-open documents, etc. All of this wasn’t even on the list of most requested new features. Neither is the ability to publish to mobile based on HTML5, without the need to go through App Studio. Apparently, Quark found that apps aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. Apps cost too much, they’re too complicated, and all sorts of reasons why many designers leave mobile apps for what they are.
QuarkXPress 2015 comes with an alternative: animated, fixed layout digital books based on the ePUB 3.0 standard, which complies with iBook, Kindle, etc. The new mobile publishing capability is much cheaper than an app for multiple reasons. In QuarkXPress 10 you could already create static such files, but in the new version content can be fully animated. Just as with any other app, you can add slideshows, videos, audio snippets, etc. It all works much like what you would do when creating an app.
QuarkXPress 2015 features that users asked for
The survey responses upon which at least ten new features of QuarkXpress 2015 are based, pointed to very simple as well as more robust, high-end features. Among the simple ones, there was the request to reintroduce the orthogonal line tool, which now proudly sits in the toolbar (again; it was removed at some point in the app’s history).
[bctt tweet=”QuarkXPress 2015 is a 64-bit app with support for very long tables, endnotes and footnotes” via=”no” nofollow=”yes”]
A bit higher on the list as far as efficiency is concerned, are Dynamic Guides. They were partly available in QuarkXPress 10, but in version 2015 they’re really much more powerful. When you drag-create a new box or shape, dynamic guides with measurement associations will appear, i.e. whenever the shape reaches a measurement that is equal to a corresponding measurement of another shape on the page a guide with size indications will appear. This makes it easy to create shapes that have equally measuring edges, for example.
QuarkXPress 2015 supports larger page sizes, much larger than its predecessor. Whereas QuarkXPress 10 supported pages of up to 48in, version 2015 supports up to 224in (569cm). It does slightly better than InDesign CC even (216in). You can now also save custom page sizes as presets in the New dialogue.
Something many people asked for is the ability to relink images even if the link hasn’t been broken. It works through the “Usage” dialogue window and is simple to use and straightforward. Another feature in QuarkXPress 2015 that is bound to save much time is the Format Painter. It’s an easy way to quickly apply the formatting of characters and/or an entire paragraph in one location to those in another. Instead of having to struggle with Option keys and a specific work order, you just need to select your source characters — or an entire paragraph if you want to paint the paragraph styling as well — select the Format Painter and click or drag the characters or paragraphs you want to apply the formatting to.
The tool is persistent until you click it again, so you can apply a specific formatting across pages if needed — all without the need to create a new style just to format perhaps a few words.
On the OS X platform, QuarkXPress now supports custom keyboard shortcuts as well as a “Collect for Output” functionality that applies across the entire project, which saves a good deal of time.
Tables, footnotes/endnotes and other variable stuff
QuarkXPress is often used to create Annual Reports, which always requires a good deal of tables to be included. Until now, tables were a bit of a pain in QuarkXPress. Large tables nor Excel worksheets worked well with QuarkXpress 10 and earlier, causing frustration and taking much time to get it right. With QuarkXPress 2015 comes a new type of table, the Inline Table, which can hold very large numbers of rows and spread automatically across pages. For these tables in particular new one-click styles are available while importing from Excel .xlsx worksheets is fast and fool proof.
I tried Inline Tables with a 1100 rows worksheet and the application did what it was expected to do: place that table across pages. The formatting was still a bit buggy in the preview version, but it worked and showed a glimpse of the ways in which you can now format a multi-page table in seconds.
[bctt tweet=”QuarkXPress 2015 supports very large page sizes, even larger than InDesign does” via=”no” nofollow=”yes”]
Footnotes and endnotes are also new to QuarkXPress 2015. They’re flexible, dynamic with live numbering and will move with the text box location of the referring text. It does require a bit of planning so that you don’t end up with footnotes/endnotes in the middle of a page, for example. That could happen when you have two linked text boxes and create a footnote in the top one. The footnote will appear at the end of that text box, even if it’s in the middle of a page. Now, if you try to add an endnote and your text boxes have been linked together, the endnote does appear at the end of the “box chain”.
Content Variables are a new feature that offers flexibility. When I saw these, I thought about InDesign’s regex feature, but they’re actually usable by everyone. Content Variables allow for repeating chunks of text, such as “Page x of y” or automatically updating running headers. You can also create custom variables.
Finally, QuarkXPress 2015 has a new export format: PDF/X-4. It’s not so much the new format that is special, as is the way Quark ensures it’s 100% compliant with the standard. QuarkXPress 2015 uses callas PDFtoolbox to verify PDF/X-4 files, and that’s the same technology as used by Adobe, so you simply can’t go wrong if you need to output in that format.
With so many new features and under-the-hood improvements, QuarkXPress 2015 is a very important upgrade. Its new ePUB output capability should make you drool, because it gives you a cheaper “app-alike” publishing capability and and at least yet another publishing channel to tap into. Footnotes/endnotes, large tables and Content Variables are time savers and efficiency boosters. And QuarkXpress looks good too.
QuarkXPress 2015 is available on April 28th. A full perpetual license will cost €999, an upgrade €399 from any version. The app will be distributed as an ESD only.