In the desktop publishing arena, QuarkXPress holds the top banana title, with good reason. The program offers precise control over typesetting and color handling and makes it easy for design professionals to lay out any sort of manuscript, from a magazine to a novel. Furthermore, after years of customer requests, Quark 5.0 finally sports a table-building tool and a complete set of Web-page design features. We do have a few complaints: we find Quark's chronic, incomplete PDF support frustrating. Nonetheless, this powerful program maintains its most-favored professional status among desktop publishers. Amateurs should try easier Microsoft Publisher 2002. In the desktop publishing arena, QuarkXPress holds the top banana title, with good reason. The program offers precise control over typesetting and color handling and makes it easy for design professionals to lay out any sort of manuscript, from a magazine to a novel. Furthermore, after years of customer requests, Quark 5.0 finally sports a table-building tool and a complete set of Web-page design features. We do have a few complaints: we find Quark's chronic, incomplete PDF support frustrating. Nonetheless, this powerful program maintains its most-favored professional status among desktop publishers. Amateurs should try easier Microsoft Publisher 2002.
New features; same face
In general, Quark 5.0 is the same desktop publisher (DTP) that professional designers know and love. The program still offers sophisticated, precise text and color handling. For example, you can define kerning (the spacing between letter pairs) and trapping (the amount of space between two adjacent colors). The tried-and-true document layout process hasn't changed a bit either. To set up a page, you must create boxes to hold text and graphics, then import these elements as needed. Nor have the palettes and toolbar altered much; you use them to access major functions such as colors, styles, and tables of contents. Version 5.0 finally supports layers, so you can easily organize objects, illustrations, images, and text boxes and hide or show individual layers as desired. On the downside, there's still no way to customize Quark's design environment. You can't create your own button bars, change key sequences, or rework the menus. Both InDesign and FrameMaker let you reassign key sequences, and FrameMaker even lets you create custom menus.
Version 5.0 does contain some impressive new goodies, including a table creation tool. You won't need it to create a set of business cards, but you will need it to illustrate sales information or technical data. In Quark 5.0, you create tables by simply specifying the number of rows and columns you want. The tool also makes it easy to convert text to tables, add rows and columns, and combine cells into larger entities. To resize cells, simply click and drag them or use the Measurement palette to enter cell size numerically. Quark even lets you convert tables back to text lists if you wish. However, Quark 5.0 cannot import tables that reside in Microsoft Word documents. Instead, the import filter converts tables to tabbed text, which you then turn back into tables via Quark's table-creation tool.
Quark takes on the Web
Earlier versions of QuarkXPress were mystifyingly ignorant of the Web, so we're pleased to see that version 5.0 finally provides ample tools for creating Web pages. However, the implementation is a bit clunky. Unlike other layout programs, such as Adobe PageMaker and Microsoft Publisher, which let you create one document and publish it either as a native file or in HTML, QuarkXPress makes you select the format you intend to publish to (standard, XML, or Web document) before you start a project. This inflexible approach doubles or triples the workload for anyone who wants to use the same file for multiple purposes because it forces you to re-create the same project in different output formats.
However, we're fairly impressed with QuarkXPress's additional Web features, which let you build Web pages in true WYSIWYG style, instead of dealing with HTML. Also, the program lets you put art and text anywhere on a page, then figures out how to translate the page into HTML. Many other programs, such as Word and Dreamweaver, force you to work your way down the page, one element at a time.
The small Web toolbar, which appears as soon as you choose to create a Web page document, has buttons for creating rectangular, oval, or Bezier image maps, check boxes, pop-up menus, and radio buttons. You can easily convert text and image boxes into simple rollover buttons (which change their appearance if a mouse passes over them) and hyperlink them to URLs. Alas, there's neither browser preview nor any built-in transfer commands for uploading to an FTP site.
No multiple undo
Clearly, the software engineers at Quark don't make mistakes; otherwise, this program would offer a multiple undo function. So far, no matter how many edits you make to a project, you can undo only the most recent one. Even Photoshop lets you undo multiple edits. And although we appreciate QuarkXPress's picture/text box layout process, we wish we could just drop text and graphics anywhere on the page as in PageMaker. And finally, it's ridiculous that Quark still doesn't offer a built-in PDF engine, instead requiring you to purchase Adobe Acrobat Distiller in order to export a file to PDF--a serious flaw. We also resent the omission of printed documentation. The online help is feeble and superficial--you won't be able to master the program without purchasing a third-party book. Quark is not exactly cheap shareware, and the lack of an adequate manual is just plain stingy.
And if you need live phone support, be prepared to pay again. Quark's Web site includes downloads and user forums and can be used to contact technical service, but the support policy is the most miserly we've seen. You get one free phone call, and after that, you must pay $35 per incident or $149 for a year's support.
Don't get us wrong, Quark is still the cream of the DTP crop. If you've used a previous version of Quark, you'll absolutely want this upgrade. We wholeheartedly recommend QuarkXPress to anyone who needs an ultimate desktop publishing tool, but we still hope Quark continues to grow and fix its frustrating limitations.