QuarkXPress crowdsources its wishlist, and hurtles past the competitors
QuarkXPress 2016 brings powerful new features to the table, works with QuarkXPress 2015 compatible extensions, and reveals a remarkably responsive attitude to user requests, which other software houses could learn from.
Alongside a slew of user-requested features which on their own would make the upgrade worthwhile, QuarkXPress brings a pair of major new elements which send it hurtling past the competition.
The biggest frustration for most designers is getting supplied graphics to match the design. There has been an explosion of exciting new apps to produce maps, diagrams, charts and specialized illustrations—these are great, until you want them to match your brand, rather than impose their own. Then there’s Word’s ‘smart’ art and Excel charts—by far the commonest format for off-brand graphics. These are a nightmare, and designers are often reduced to recreating them element by element, because they don’t import properly into anything.
Now there’s a solution to these lost hours of re-creation: In QuarkXPress 2016 you can paste elements such as vector graphics and text natively from other applications, and import EPS and PDF files and convert them natively into Quark editable vector objects. This is huge.
Illustration apps, of course, have been able to do this for years—after a fashion. However, anyone who has actually tried to import a PowerPoint slide, Excel chart or MagicMaps map knows that so much cleaning up may be required that it isn’t worth the effort. QuarkXPress has leap-frogged not only its own main competitor, but also the world’s leading illustration application in accurately bringing in and converting the most troublesome graphics.
Fonts, text, and colours come across flawlessly, with text in editable form, rather than broken up into single words, single letters, or baffling hieroglyphics.
Screenshot: the dreaded Excel Chart. Managers can’t resist including them in documents, but Illustrator garbles the text, meaning they often have to be recreated. QuarkXPress 2016 pastes them flawlessly from the clipboard into native objects allowing for them to be matched against official colours and styles, instead of Excel’s default styles.
There are still opportunities for improvements here, based on how the originating application treats its files. For example: Word smart art copy/pastes as low-resolution images, but if exported as PDF, they import and convert into good Quark vectors. Excel’s bar, pie and line graphs copy/paste fine, but the odd conical charts (seriously, does anyone still use these?) come across as image files no matter what you do.
With full page PDFs, it means that there is now no barrier to taking a layout from some indeterminate source and turning it straight into a Quark master page. Logos can be seamlessly extracted, as can graphic elements, and all of these are then amenable to Quark’s own quite powerful path combination tools, and the inimitable Super Step and Repeat. It works for vector elements and bitmap elements, and you can save these out as images and reimport if you want to keep them separate from the main file.
Importing an EPS or PDF file and converting to native objects also adds the colours used to Quark’s list in the colour-space in which they are saved. This means that you can now pick up a full set of brand-approved CMYK or RGB values, even if these differ from Quark’s internal conversions, without having to enter the numbers by hand.
What is remarkable here is how fast Quark is then able to work with the new objects. A logo should not cause any application any trouble, but if you import a GIS-derived map of, say, an English county with all of its statistical output areas, most applications grind to a halt. Quark’s leading competitor can’t import PDFs or EPS as native objects, but if you do try to copy and paste the aforementioned county map from Illustrator, that competitor grinds to a halt, before eventually coming up with an apologetic error dialogue.
Can we have an app for that?
It will thrill some users, and not interest others, but Quark can now natively create and export standalone HTML5. No third party software or subscriptions are required. Quark calls it “HTML5 Publications” and it can be created fresh or Print layouts can be created to digital layouts and then exported. From a digital layout, features such as popups, slideshows, video and animations can be applied as easily as creating text boxes and importing graphics. As significantly, imported graphics can be anything that Quark supports. It is not necessary to convert EPS files to PNG or JPEG. Quark does it all, seamlessly. What’s more, you can export from the same digital layout to multiple formats — HTML5 Publications, ePub (fixed layout and reflow), Kindle, content for native apps — and all the features that the format supports will be available.