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It marks a major change to the user interface of the venerable page-layout and design program for the Mac. At the same time, version 8 offers very little in the way of new features, thus making the interface change its hallmark.
Obviously, if you never updated from XPress 6. And it essentially is just that. There are a few truly unique functional additions, including a sophisticated set of controls for optical margin alignment what QuarkXPress calls hanging characters , the ability to create grid styles, and the ability to specify the way characters align vertically as part of a paragraph style. Simplified user interface Changing the user interface of an established application is very risky for software companies.
Quark has certainly evolved the interface of XPress over its year history, but essentially, the program has stayed fairly close to its original look-and-feel for the last 18 years. The new interface is simpler, cleaner, and easier to work with, and because of that streamlining, feels a bit faster too. Plus, these tools are now more flexible.
For example, XPress 8 lets you rotate an object with the Item and Picture Content tools that you frequently use rather than forcing you switch to the Rotate tool—there is no longer a Rotate tool. You can now resize an object or its contents the same way. But Quark one-ups Adobe by not segregating the Free Transform functions to a separate tool; instead it marries them to the Item and Picture Content tools you use so often in XPress.
Plus, XPress 8 provides a live preview of your changes as you make them. The changes are subtle but make it easier to switch among all three programs. This bolsters a key XPress interface strength: XPress 8 also seems simpler than InDesign when it comes to the palettes called panels in InDesign that offer specialty controls for editing and applying style sheets or managing colors.
And InDesign makes almost every feature available via panels, while XPress splits features between palettes and menu-invoked dialog boxes, which can make it hard to remember that some of those unseen dialog boxes, and their features, actually exist. For example, you no longer need to draw a box before importing text or graphics. Instead, you can now directly import or drag text and images into your layout, from any drag-and-drop-enabled application or the Finder, and XPress 8 will create the appropriate box to hold it.
XPress 8 lets you define precisely how various characters overhang the left and right edges of text boxes, a common advertising technique. In XPress 8, you can quickly update a style sheet based on formatting changes you made to text that had the style sheet applied, using the Update button in the style sheet palettes—old news to InDesign users, but much easier than writing the changes down and then manually updating the style sheet.
Other small but welcome interface enhancements include the ability to change the pasteboard size and color and the ability to choose which application you want to edit original graphics in. Moreover, in the Mac version only, XPress 8 shows resizable preview thumbnails of your pages in the Page menu, which can make it easier to jump to the desired page.
Overall, XPress 8 has done a good job of reworking its front-and-center user interface to be simpler and easier to use, even for experienced XPress users. How does all this streamlining affect speed? Some tasks feel faster given their better controls—such as updating styles and going to the correct master page. On the other hand, XPress 8 was slower to launch and load pages than version 7.
Computer intensive tasks such as replacing and reflowing page elements and applying transparencies were comparable between versions, though applying an irregular wrap was notably faster 1. The most widely applicable is the ability to create grid styles, so you can set up separate grids for text alignment and then associate them to as many text boxes as desired to ensure consistent grid use.
You can also have separate grids on each master page. The new grid styles featured in XPress 8 let you define separate grids for text boxes and master pages, so you can more easily control alignment. The ability to import settings from fonts and styles makes baseline grids even more precise.
But this feature is not well implemented: You would use the item-styles feature—which was previously available through the free XPert Tools Pro XTension—to apply those styles, so it would make sense for the item style to let you also specify the desired grid style.
That makes for more precise grid locations. Getting the grid based on a font is easy, but getting it based on a paragraph style is unintuitive; you have to first select a paragraph style or master page or grid style , using the Load Settings button in the Edit Grid Style dialog box, and then check a box in the Edit Grid Style dialog box.
XPress 8 also introduces styles for hanging characters. With hanging characters, you can specify precisely how text aligns at the left or right edge of a column. This is useful in ads, posters, and other typographically oriented publications, as it can create a more visually pleasant edge by adjusting the parts of characters that could overhang, such as the bar in an uppercase T, the serif in a lowercase m,and various punctuation characters.
This setting is important only if you have text or inline graphics whose size differs from the rest of the text in your paragraph. Normally, all characters align to the baseline of each line, no matter their size. Now, XPress 8 lets you change how the characters align, such as to the top of each line or to the middle.
This, too, is a feature that typographic fine artists will appreciate but that most users will likely never have reason to take advantage of. XPress 8 gets rid of the distinction between the regular, Passport, and CJK Chinese, Japanese, and Korean editions, ending compatibility problems of sharing files between language-based versions. Now, XPress 8 can create, edit, hyphenate, spell-check, and output in some 30 languages, including Asian ones, ending the former linguistic divide.
A separate Asian Plus edition provides extra Asian-language typographic controls and also uses the newly unified XPress file format. This global unification does not extend to the Middle Eastern and Indic versions of XPress that other companies produced under license from Quark.
XPress 8 adds support for Illustrator file import, a critical feature to designers. But smaller, less important issues have yet to be resolved. XPress 8 also does not correct the longstanding unintuitive, convoluted approach to importing Excel files. And you now get a live preview of your changes as you make them.
Key additions rolled in Of the features rolled into XPress 8 from previous Quark add-ons, the most significant is the interactive set from Quark Interactive Designer, which lets you create basic Flash animations within XPress, such as buttons, rollovers, and objects that move along a path. And a few useful XPert Tools Pro features—multiple-page paste, group scaling, and saved layout settings—did not find their way into XPress 8, but should have. Quark has done a very good job in making the new interface work more like Creative Suite while not being a difficult switch for long-time XPress users.
XPress 8 should have been a significant leap forward in both functionality and user interface, but Quark unfortunately decided to do just half the job, though it is certainly a half-job well done. When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details. At a Glance.