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Typographical Control in QuarkXpress

written by: •edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 5/28/2009

Precise typographical control is a forte of QuarkXPress. Knowing how to use these features is essential for users of this high end page layout program.

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    Typographical control in QuarkXPress

    Precise typographical control is one of the features that helps QuarkXPress stand out from its lower priced brethren. Kerning, tracking, leading, baseline shifting and word spacing are the bread and butter of many Quark users, who use them to their fullest extent to ensure that a page layout is as exact as need be.

    However, the reality is that many users, including some who have been using Quark for years, don’t really know what all five terms mean. Tracking and kerning in particular are often confused, while word spacing is a foreign concept to many Quark users. Therefore, a quick primer on the five elements of Quark typographic precision are in order.

    Leading is probably the most obvious of the five to define. It is the distance between lines of type, as measured from baseline to baseline. For someone more familiar with the world of word processing, leading is what is used to turn a single spaced document into a double spaced document. In the world of desktop publishing, however, leading is much more precise that that. It is measured in point size (like type is) and can be adjusted with great precision to allow for maximum readability and efficient use of space. A word to the wise... leading should be subtle typographical tool, not a desktop publishing sledgehammer. Arbitrarily adjusting the leading in certain parts of a document because you have too much text and too little space (or expanding it randomly to cover dead space) isn’t a good idea. A good desktop publisher uses it consistently and coherently with an eye on readability and overall document aesthetics.

    Leading can be adjusted either in the measurement pallet (where it is set at ‘auto’ by default,) or by clicking on the ‘Style’ tab and then clicking on ‘Leading’. A note about ‘auto’ leading; in Quark auto leading is set at 20 percent greater than the point size of the largest font on a page. Thus, auto leading on 10 point type is the same as manually setting the value to 12 point.

    Baseline shift is a way of adjusting selected type so that it sits above or below the baseline of the main type block. It is accessed through the ‘Edit’ tab, by clicking on ‘Baseline Shift’. It is a useful tool if you need to insert a superscript or a subscript in a document.

    Kerning adjusts the spacing between two characters. Tracking, on the other hand, alters the spacing between multiple characters. Fine tune the spacing between the ‘h’ and the ‘e’ in ‘the’, and you’re kerning. Adust the character spacing in an entire selected word (or sentence, or paragraph), and you’re tracking. In Quark the ‘kern’ command is used for both tasks, so the difference between the two is largely academic.

    There are two ways to use the tracking and kerning features of Quark. The first is to use the kerning/tracking tool in the measurement pallet (it is directly below the leading adjustment box). The second way is to click on the ‘Style’ tab and select ‘Kern’.

    In Quark, word spacing is often ignored by users, even advanced ones. However, the space between words can be adjusted using the ‘H&J’ (Hyphenation and Justification) tool under the ‘Edit’ tab. This allows users to adjust to various typographical situations. Larger type, for example, needs less word space than smaller type. Increasing the leading in a document should be accompanied by an increase in word spacing.

    As well, various fonts and faces need different word spacing values.