QuarkXPress 8 (4 out of 5)
Writing a review on a product that you have used for years is always a bit tricky. In fact, a bit of disclosure is probably in order; I’m a regular Quark user who never made a full switch to InDesign, so I admit to some bias. It’s fair to say that when Quark 8 came out, I had more than a passing interest in it.
On the other hand, having used Quark for so long and for so much, I also have to admit that I’m a bit set in my ways, so any favoritism I might display towards the product is tempered by suspicion of any changes that have been made to this venerable page layout program. Hopefully the two cancel each other out.
When it comes to changes, the new version of Quark has more than a few. In fact, it’s fair to say that Quark 8 is the most radical reinvention of the software in quite some time. The whole user interface has been changed, and long time users will find the new Quark a bit disorienting, to say the least.
For one thing, the whole concept of separate text and graphic boxes has been thrown out the window. As part of the simplification of the program (which is a good thing, once you get used to it), a single content box now fulfils that function. The link and unlink tools are gone as well, although they are available deeper in the program.
There are plenty of other changes as well (too many to cover in a review such as this one). Quark 8 offers Flash creation, improved drag and drop support, a Bezier Point Pen Tool (goodbye Illustrator?), and a greatly improved Picture Content Tool. The goal of the new Quark is to make it the same kind of all-in-one design suite that Adobe offers with its products.
The new Quark definitely takes some getting used to, especially for long time Quarkphiles who use the program on an almost instinctive basis. However, once you reprogram your creative brain to use the new features and forget about the old ways of doing things, you begin to see that the new Quark makes a lot more sense than the older versions of the program.
Is it worth upgrading if you are a current Quark user? Yes, probably more so than any recent release of the program. This isn’t just an update … it’s a rebuild. Is it worth switching from InDesign if that’s your page layout program of choice? Probably not; if you’ve invested in Adobe’s powerhouse, the new Quark isn’t quite the killer app that’ll force you to make a switch. For new users who haven’t yet made the choice between Quark and InDesign, Quark 8 certainly levels the playing field, and is worth a look at, especially given that a free 60 day trial download (with no restrictions) is available at www.quark.com .