QuarkXPress 8 takes on InDesign

Does it have what it takes?

It's a different game for Quark these days. Once, its flagship QuarkXPress was far and away the leading software for professional print publishing; but its market share has eroded in recent years, faced with tough competition from upstart rival Adobe InDesign.

Quark isn't taking the challenge lying down. On Thursday it announced QuarkXPress 8, a new version that adds intriguing new features to the venerable publishing platform. The question that remains is whether this new release will be enough to push Quark back into the limelight, or whether past mistakes have cost it the crown for good.

Among the new features for QuarkXPress 8 are Bezier pen tools for quick drawing directly onto a page, better interoperability with image-editing software (including Adobe's), improved typographic controls, WYSIWYG font rendering, and a redesigned user interface.

What's more, Quark has redoubled its focus on the Web -- arguably the hottest segment of today's publishing industry -- with a number of new tools. In addition to supporting export to HTML and PDF, QuarkXPress 8 now offers native Flash authoring, right from within the program. Designers can publish simultaneously to print, PDF, and the Web, including Flash movies.

But let's face it: A slim feature set was never Quark's problem. Longtime QuarkXPress users who jumped ship to InDesign will remember how long it took Quark to release a version for Mac OS X, not to mention playing catch-up with Adobe. (Even some of the new features in QuarkXPress 8 have been available in some form since early versions of InDesign.) And other long-suffering print designers I've met have expressed an almost pathological hatred of Quark over some of its past business practices, such as charging for tech support.

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Neil McAllister

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