Quark 7.0: Latest Peek Unsexy, But Strong

2005
May
24

Newest peeks at QuarkXPress 7.0 features are unsexy, but powerful OpenType. Tell me more, big Quark. Customizeable user interface. Mmm. Transparency. Ooh, baby! JDF and XML. Oh. Well. Uh. Look at the time! I should probably get going. Peeling off more bulky layers of secrecy, first with a peek here then with a flourish of [...]

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Newest peeks at QuarkXPress 7.0 features are unsexy, but powerful

OpenType. Tell me more, big Quark. Customizeable user interface. Mmm. Transparency. Ooh, baby! JDF and XML. Oh. Well. Uh. Look at the time! I should probably get going.

Peeling off more bulky layers of secrecy, first with a peek here then with a flourish of silk veils whispering to the ground in X-Ray’s second issue, Quark reveals a little more of XPress 7′s skin.

Unlike last month’s preview of XPress’s new user interface and support for transparent objects and native opacity adjustments, these new features aren’t the sexiest of curves, but they intimate that, when the full package is revealed, it won’t be the same old body that’s been dancing around the room for fifteen years.

JDF, or Job Definition Format, is a proposed industry standard widely-used in the pre-press, press, and post-press industries for information and tracking technology. With everything else in the for-press workflow gone or going digital–even film is on its way out–JDF replaces the time-honored paper job ticket that follows a print job from the client’s hands to preflight, then RIP to film, proofing to press, through cutting and bindery, and finally to delivery. With a JDF job ticket and systems capable of utilizing it, the risks of paper—loss or destruction of the ticket even from a simple coffee or emulsion spill, misconstrued handwriting—are eliminated, and with some information, such as the definitions of special color mixes or screen angles, the human mistake factor can be completely removed from the process. Some of today’s newest plateless printers can read instructions embedded in a JDF and make automatic adjustments without the need for operator’s to get involved.

Since JDF is XML-based, it’s compatible with all of today’s database and spreadsheet systems (even desktop level products like FileMaker Pro and Microsoft Excel), enabling personnel with access to the system to locate the job and discover its status at any point in the workflow—jobs can’t get lost. In the case of multiple, related jobs—for example, mini-catalogs printed with variable data on a digital press, DVD amarays and booklets running on offset, and boxes printing on a stamper—the jobs can be easily tracked and reunited for cutting, bindery, and stuffing. Assembly personnel can be alerted electronically when each phase of the production process has completed, and when it’s time for them to slip the amarays and booklets into the client-provided DVD cases, insert the DVD disks, then pack the DVD cases and customized catalogs into the stamped boxes for a full-service print, package, and ship workflow. Accounts receivable can be alerted as well, billing the client at stages in the production process—without the need to hunt down the production manager for a status report—and instantaneously marry all the different jobs for unified invoicing.

Third-party and largely proprietary systems have enabled JDF creation at the pre-press house for several years now. More savvy creative houses—often those with established and predictable workflows and strong ties to the pre-press, press, and post-press services they employ—have also taken advantage of JDF. For the average small to mid-sized agency, however, JDF has been too disparate a technology; many prefer to leave any job ticketing to the production staff, losing out on the advantages and securities it affords the creative. If XPress 7 creates well-formed, pure XML job tickets natively, in a user-friendly interface as the fleshy peek in X-Ray implies, the barrier to widespread adoption of JDF on the production and creative ends will be reduced.

But will Quark do it right? Will the XPress 7 JDF implementation follow in the steps of Quark’s “optimized PostScript,” straying just far enough from the standard to make it tough on purist applications? XPress no longer wields the industry supremacy it did during the 1990s; with such fierce competition on the desktop from InDesign, and the global locomotion toward homogenous standards, Quark can’t command the compliance of pre/press industry developers should the XPress 7 job ticket code be less than strictly adherent to the JDF 1.2 specification.

XPress 7 has some sexy curves, but we have yet to see her whole body. More importantly, once revealed, can she dance?

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11 Responses Discussing “Quark 7.0: Latest Peek Unsexy, But Strong”
  1. And what kind of dance? Will it be a beautiful ‘Tango’ of will it turn out to be “Twist and Shout!” ? ;-)

    #1
    24 May 2005
    22:35 PT
  2. I’m betting she’s got two left feet.

    #2
    25 May 2005
    09:15 PT
  3. This is been a very critical review of some of Quarks very good features, i think you people go gaga over Indesings very medocre features, but dont do the same for Quark. This is really very unfair. You should give Quark a better deal.

    #3
    01 Jun 2005
    05:25 PT
  4. Quoting “Samuel”:

    This is been a very critical review of some of Quarks very good features,

    Actually, it ought to be critical. We’re critics here.
    The impression that I’m getting is that you don’t like the critical slant. And that’s your right. But insightful criticism is important, regardless of the tone, and this article has a great deal, along with a little well-taken humor to entertain.

    i think you people go gaga over Indesings very medocre features, but dont do the same for Quark.

    Nice broad brush you use there. Can I use it when you’re done? I have a wall that needs painting.

    Seriously, your comment leaves me scratching my head. There have been a range of emotions here, amongst contributors and posters, regarding Quark and InDesign. Myself, as I’ve said before, am not “Anti-Quark” but I am “Pro-InDesign”. I see InDesign has having some features worth getting excited about, features (layers, PSD Import, image editing) that Quark has been very late out of the box about (never mind OS X nativity).

    This is really very unfair. You should give Quark a better deal.

    Actually, what’s unfair is to expect anyone to give Quark a pass. The “better deal” is not ours to give; it is Quark’s to win.

    Look, over the past several years, Quark garnered a reputation for bad customer service, lack of concern for customer problems, slow development, an overall attitude of disdain for it’s paying users, and withal a disconnect from the very people it purports to serve. With the leaving of Ebrahimi and a new CEO, Quark does look like it is actually trying to change its image and practices.

    But, as some wise fellow once said to me, it takes ten “atta-boy”s to make up for one “aw, crap”. YMMV on the “atta-boy” count that accrues to Quark at this remove (I’d say yours goes to eleven).

    I must say, though, Quark shows promise. As I follow the upcoming improvements (what Quark’ll let out), though, I see them trying to achieve feature parity on the layout level. And that would be nice. But InDesign has torn up enough turf that I think It’s reasonable to wonder how Quark will reallly (not in terms of its marketing) get out ahead of InDesign. This should be Quark’s task.

    If Quark wans me to go “gaga” over it’s app, it needs to give me stuff to “gaga” about. And its still working up to that

    I (as a layout artist and paid-for Quark user) don’t owe Quark a break. It needs to win me. That’s what this is all about.

    Samuel John Klein
    (Accept no substitutes)

    #4
    01 Jun 2005
    12:46 PT
  5. Quoting John Klein
    “Actually, it ought to be critical. We’re critics here.
    The impression that I’m getting is that you don’t like the critical slant.”

    I respect all your views. It should be critical but critics shouldn’t have Pro kinda feelings. It should be fair. Infact comparisons make sense only when they are fair. You have grudges against Quark, well thats accepable, but my point is that if I will be offered a better product to work with which will make my life easier and importantly better customer care, i will not go with past grudges but will go for my business. Well its too early to say anything about Xpress 7.0, but to me it looks promising. And about fair comparisions, i think many users like me visit this site for information about these happening products, but your Pro Indesing feeling which almost deals Quark like an evil may make users go away, because comparisons and criticism make sense when they are well and truly fair and healthy.

    #5
    02 Jun 2005
    05:57 PT
  6. Quark has a serious uphill battle if it wants to win me back. Oddly it didn’t lose me with bad customer service, high prices on dubious upgrades, severely slow to market with new versions, and the seeming arrogance that comes with knowing that you own the market. Nope, Quark didn’t lose me at all.

    InDesign won me over. The upgrades have been regular and meaningful, the support that I’ve gotten from Adobe has been solid, and the upgrade costs have been reasonable. They treated me well, they gave me a product that (after the first release, at least) was superior to what Quark wanted me to be loyal to, and they integrated it in with other tools that I use on a daily basis.

    I’ve made my investment, I’m happy with the product, and I’m having a hard time imagining wanting to leave the fold. Xpress 7 could do it, I suppose, but I remain skeptical.

    #6
    02 Jun 2005
    11:50 PT
  7. Samuel,

    First, thank you very much for your candid opinion of the site. I respect your opinions. If I may, I would like to answer some of your points:

    This is been a very critical review of some of Quarks very good features, i think you people go gaga over Indesings very medocre features, but dont do the same for Quark. This is really very unfair. You should give Quark a better deal.

    There are a couple of important things to note in response to these. First and foremost is the fact that XPress 7 is not yet released.

    Neither we nor you (from what I’ve read) have actually used XPress 7. My editorial was written from the Quark-issued press release and from X-Ray Magazine’s preview of these features. Both sources are controlled to different degrees by Quark, Inc.

    Thus, how good the features are, how well they work, and what, if any, drawbacks and limitations they possess are unknown to us. Without a product in hand to evaluate for ourselves these features, we cannot “go gaga” over them and still be responsible journalists.

    On the other hand, we do have InDesign CS2 on hand and have for many months. We can validate or disprove for ourselves, objectively, any claim Adobe makes about a given feature of InDesign CS2. In this story, I had personally used each of the features I described.

    Also, it’s important to note that Adobe is very careful not to divulge features of its unreleased products ahead of the official announcements. So, discussing the above story in particular, there’s a bit of an apples and oranges thing going on. Had Adobe foretold a feature of InDesign CS2 before April (and had I not been bound by NDA not to discuss it), you would have read the same kind of article from me about an InDesign CS2 feature–sounds great, here are the potential drawbacks. Since Quark is marketing XPress 7′s features ahead of time, and since they have elected not to let us in on the preview, we cannot tell you for sure how the features work. What we’re left with is reporting on what Quark has chosen to release, and pointing some potential pitfalls.

    Part of the reason journalists write articles in that way is to get consumers to think past the marketing hype that surrounds any product release and ask appropriate questions to determine whether the investment in a new or updated product will satisfy their needs.

    Keep in mind that, though creative software companies base their product features on the input of creative pros (to varying degrees), the software is still built by programmers who don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of creative workflows. With stories like the above, written by a creative pro with the volume of a journalist’s voice, there is the opportunity for the product to be made better–either in a future version or, in this case, with the as-yet-unreleased XPress 7. Hopefully–if not in the above story at least in something I’ve written–something I say will spark a programmer to say, “Wow! We had better include that feature” or “maybe we should bump up the priority of expanding on this feature, it looks like the customers might need it more than we thought.”

    I can tell you for certain that Quark reads this site. So do many at Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft (among others). Suggesting that media in general, or Quark VS InDesign.com in particular, may help shed some light on questions programmers may not think to ask is not unreasonable. There are some brilliant minds building our tools–I know many of them, using the word brilliant is not hyperbole–but most of them also value the input of differing points of view on their products.

    When XPress 7 actually releases, we will evaluate it and give it a fair and thorough testing and review, just as we have with all of Quark’s products. To wit: You will find both Sam and myself going gaga over QuarkXPress here and Quark’s Postcards from the Edge” and tell me, honestly, how else could I have written it. I looked hard for anyone with a positive view of those cards and the attitude they portrayed. I didn’t find a single one. Read the comments. That story has been read by everyone in the industry and quoted in numerous other media. Still, no one has left a comment in support of Quark’s postcard campaign.

    Quark VS InDesign.com, as the tagline states, is a news and opinion resource. We’ll give you the news–about Quark or InDesign–and we’ll give you our honest and fair opinions as well.

    Samuel, I highly respect your opinion. And, more so, I appreciate and respect the time you took to express it (and if you read this entire lengthy response, you’re my hero).

    Here at Quark VS InDesign.com we use both products daily in the same types of workflows as our readers. When a new version of either program comes out, we get it because we have to (I, for example, write about it in various forms and forums, I use it as a designer, and I teach and consult on how to use it in others’ workflows). Our job, though, is to present all the relevant information for those who have to make either a choice between them or have to decide whether to upgrade to the latest version of one or the other. Since everything both companies do, from customer service to marketing, plays a factor for our readers in the value proposition of investing in their DTP applications, we report on all of it–objectively, and try to have and create fun while we’re at it.

    #7
    02 Jun 2005
    14:29 PT
  8. Samuel:

    It should be critical but critics shouldn’t have Pro kinda feelings.

    I couldn’t agree less with that viewpoint. Just because I style myself a critic I should have no likes or dislikes?

    Whether or not I have a positive feeling about InDesign really has nothing to do with what I think about Quark. I’ve used both. I like Quark; I just so happen to like InDesign just a little more. What’s more, InDesign has earned my respect over Quark.

    My output has been meagre, admittedly, but I believe I’ve been fair. With respect to Quark, I’ve given it praise where praise is coming (please see my review of QuarkVista here)(short form: excellent XTension with one irritating flaw). I don’t think a person who loathed XPress would do the same.

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Pro-InDesign does not mean Anti-XPress.

    Samuel:

    You have grudges against Quark, well thats accepable,

    Ah, no, I don’t have grudges against Quark. Honestly I don’t. Once again, I am a paid-for, registered user of XPress. Trust me, I wouldn’t waste mumble-hundreds of dollars (that I really don’t have) if I had a grudge against Quark. I’d go so far as to say that, as a customer, I have some interest in seeing Quark succeed.

    Certainly there are designers and layout artists who can’t stand Quark. I’ve read feedback from them. They’ve usually been users for years, and were victims of a certain Quark attitude that seemed to have been borne of an awareness of Quark that they owned the market and didn’t have to compete. Coming as they seem to have from long experience, they seem to be well-founded. We can’t simply dismiss them.

    Samuel:

    but your Pro Indesing feeling which almost deals Quark like an evil may make users go away

    Cite, please. Where has something I’ve written treated Quark like an evil? Or this site? I suspect this one is in the eye of the beholder. I’ve read a lot of mad XPress users (curiously, some of the most acid are on Quark’s forums) and this site treats Quark with a great deal of respect.

    But if I take your point that a critic, writer, or reviewer having a pro-InDesign attitude is enough to make Quark users go away, I think that goes back to what Quark says and does, not the reviewer’s attitude-percieved or otherwise.

    Quark made its bed; but I’m not forcing it to lie there. If V7 turns out to be the greatest think to happen to the design trade since the 42-line Bible, you bet I’ll say that. What we have, though, is a couple of articles from X-Ray that are tantalizing but indicate evolution, not revolution. And that evolution, from a layout artist-end user perspective (mine) is toward InDesign. Palette snapping, Palette grouping, transparency…those have been InDesign basic features for a long time.

    That’s my honest opinion. I see little about Quark worth turning cartwheels about yet. If I put it any other way, that wouldn’t be honest. It would be wrong. If you think that’s being unfair, I disagree, and I’m sincerely sorry about that.

    Samuel John Klein
    (PS: My first name is just like yours. You can refer to me as “Sam” if you want, though)

    #8
    03 Jun 2005
    18:02 PT
  9. I read both Pariah and Sam’s response, I respect your views. I feel better we should wait for Quark to unleash the most talked about product these days i.e Xpress 7.0. As a user I wish they come up with a good product which will make our lives more easier. As for me I am putting my investment on hold and will wait for Xpress 7.0. Well well well… I am expecting a Pre reslease build of Xpress 7.0, once I get that i will update you with my views. Thanks to Pariah and Sam for follow comments to clarify my points.

    #9
    03 Jun 2005
    19:39 PT
  10. [...] Website: CIP4 (JDF standards body) Website: JDF User Forum Article: Quark 7.0: Latest Peek Unsexy, But Strong [...]

    27 Jul 2005
    02:47 PT
    #10
  11. Quark and InDesign are just tools. If InDesign makes a better tool, you’d be a fool not use it. If Quark makes the better tool, only an ass would refuse to switch. Both companies make you pay through the nose for their products. But after you plunk down your money, you owe no allegiance to either these guys. As a customer, you can only hope that their competition.

    #11
    24 May 2006
    18:10 PT

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