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QuarkXPress 8 to target Adobe's Creative Suite this August

Quark, Inc. is preparing to release a major new version of its flagship QuarkXPress software this fall, aimed at cementing its lead in the market for professional desktop publishing against Adobe's rival InDesign product, AppleInsider has learned.

People familiar with the release say the new version is slated to take on the publishing features of Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash in a revamped, standardized, and polished package that will temporarily be offered as a free upgrade to new buyers of the existing QuarkXPress 7 ahead of the 8.0 release in the August timeframe.

How Adobe Forced Quark to Compete

QuarkXPress 8 will closely follow the release of Quark 7 in 2006, which delivered OpenType, PDF/X, and Unicode features all pioneered by InDesign. Back in 2002, Adobe caught Quark napping and beat it to market in releasing the first desktop publishing tool native to Mac OS X. Adobe subsequently began eating into Quark's business by bundling the relatively new InDesign with its popular Photoshop and Illustrator in the Creative Suite package. It has since added Flash to the mix, which it acquired when buying Macromedia in 2006.

Quark was a year behind in offering a native version for Mac OS X, but has since scrambled to catch up. It beat Adobe in delivering native support for Intel Macs with a Universal Binary distribution of QuarkXPRess 7.01 that arrived eight months ahead of Adobe's universal version of InDesign CS3 (5.0).  

Over the last year, Quark has also delivered official support for Windows Vista and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard via point updates. The latest version of InDesign 5.0.2, released in January 2008, still does not properly support Leopard. Adobe reports in its update notes that the application may unexpectedly quit under Leopard and offers no workarounds for the issue. Quark is now aiming to maintain its lead with the new 8.0 release poised to take on Adobe's popular Creative Suite.

The New Look of QuarkXPress 8

According to people familiar with Quark's plans, the next version of QuarkXPress will deliver more intuitive layout tools and an updated interface designed to allow users to do more with fewer clicks. The new version will also use more standard keyboard shortcuts intended to be more familiar to users who work between several applications, and should add resizable thumbnail page navigation (below).

Hey Hey, It's Adobe

In addition, the update is expected to expand native support for Illustrator and Photoshop files, which is currently a strong feature advantage for InDesign. QuarkXPress 8 should even see the addition of new standardized Bézier pen tools (below) expressly designed to "reduce reliance upon Illustrator," according to those people familiar with Quark's planned marketing push.

Quark 8

The existing version similarly added picture effects intended to minimize the need to use Photoshop. In version 8, the Picture Content Tool (below) will allow users to crop, scale, and rotate graphics within a picture box using standard controls, obviating the need to do basic graphics tasks in an external editor. 

Quark 8

Quark is further including authoring tools for Adobe's Flash to help develop interactive web layouts in SWF directly within QuarkXPress (below). Adobe's Open Screen Project should make further support for creating Flash content easier for third parties, but Adobe faces some hurdles along the way, as noted in AppleInsider's recent Flash exposé.

Quark 8

International House of Text

QuarkXPress 8.0 will also add improved international publishing features that include support for typographical layouts in 39 languages, including expanded support for East Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean and Chinese (below). It should likewise leverage a universal file format, making it easy to exchange documents between regions.

Quark 8

Version 8 moreover brings flexible and easy to use tools for creating shadows and transparency effects, PDF/X Plus export via pre-loaded Quark Job Jackets, and "what you see is what you get" font selection menus (below).

Quark 8

Another new addition is user modifiable Design Grids (below) for applying custom baseline settings for text in individual boxes to adjust the look of hanging characters. Settings can be saved as a Grid Style, and linked to a Style Sheet for easy updating throughout a project. 

Quark 8

Item Styles (below top) similarly make it easy to develop document wide consistency with item attribute search and replace features (below bottom).

Quark 8
Quark 8

Buy 7 Get 8

In advance of the new release, Quark hopes to spur sales this year with an offer for a free upgrade to the new version 8 for users who buy QuarkXPress 7 prior to the new update's release. The significant upgrade costs Quark has previously charged its users have left many customrs on previous versions. According to sources familiar with Quark's marketing plans, the company will aggressively pitch the version 8 upgrade to users of both QuarkXPress 6 and 7. Offering the future version 8 upgrade for free to new buyers of Quark 7 should also help migrate Quark's installed user base up to the most recent version now, in an effort to stave off defection to InDesign, which many designers get for free when they buy Adobe's Creative Suite 3.

To qualify for the free upgrade to the new QuarkXPress 8, users will need to present proof of purchase of the existing version 7 between May 1, 2008 and August 1, 2008, when the program will expire. Version 8 is planned for release around the same time in August.