Itâ€™s the most powerful, most feature-packed version of QuarkXPress ever built, they said. It stimulates creativity and inspires organic work, they claim. They said it will revolutionize publishing. Quark VS InDesign.com goes deeper into QuarkXPress 7 than anyone before to see if they were right.
In previous editions of XPress, spacing out or aligning multiple objects was, like most other actions, accomplished through a dialog box. Items could be distributed or lined up horizontally relative to their areas, centers, or left or right edges, or vertically relative to their areas, centers, or top or bottom edges. The exact space between them could be specified as well, of course. How the aligned or distributed objects related to the page was not something with which XPress concerned itself. XPress 7 takes that part more seriously.
Rather than the familiar Space/Align Items dialog, XPress 7â€™s Measurements palette has–you guessed it–a Space/Align mode. Instead of the multi-step process of selecting radio buttons and menu items before objects move, the new method is much faster and familiar: just click an alignment or distribution button. All the usual options are there, as well as a new Page Relative Mode that lines up or spaces out the selected objects relative to the pageâ€™s edges and/or vertical and horizontal centers. Want to put an object dead center on the paper? Forget about doing the math–just click a button the Measurements palette.
With this new functionality comes one sacrifice: You can no longer specify the amount of space between distributed objects unless Page Relative Mode is enabled. Thus, itâ€™s not possible to distribute a selection of objects across an entire spread in a single step. All things considered, itâ€™s a more than equitable trade-off.
One of the biggest and furthest reaching changes to XPress 7 is the new XDraw screen rendering layer, which actually runs off the graphics engine of the host operating system–GDI+ on Windows and Quartz on Mac. XDraw finally brings to XPress an acceptable level of confidence in the relationship between onscreen work and output. If youâ€™re new to XPress, it may come as a shock that now is the first time in the 20 year history of QuarkXPress that it has had WYSIWYG.
In past versions, any serious for-print work required numerous printed proofs or at least printing to PDF where Acrobat would substitute for what XPress should have had all along. There simply was no reliable way to work on the details of a design–especially those involving images, small type, or tight clipping paths–without printing, and working from, a proof.
Now, XPressâ€™s display is not only as accurate as other applications, itâ€™s gorgeous. Moving around even shadow- and transparency-laden layouts is smooth and stutter-free, the document window updating faster than I could have dreamed.
Been there, done that, right? Heck, InDesign has had drop shadows since CS. XPress is just playing catch up; nothing new to see here, right?
Photoshopâ€™s drop shadow control is the gold standard by which all other applicationsâ€™ implementations of this very popular feature are weighed. XPress 7â€™s is not up to that standard–and shouldnâ€™t be, itâ€™s not an image editing application. It isnâ€™t a duplicate of InDesignâ€™s method for creating drop shadows either. While many new XPress features canâ€™t be compared head-to-head with InDesignâ€™s, drop shadow creation and control is easily compared. Both applications bring their own style to the feature, and both come closer to Photoshopâ€™s method in their own ways.
In InDesign CS2, drop shadows interact with objects behind them using blending modes such as Multiply, Color Dodge, Color Burn, Luminosity, and twelve others. Shadow controls include setting opacity independent of the object casting the shadow, separate X and Y offsets, blur, spread, and noise, which, when used judiciously, can enhance the realism of drop shadows. The color of the shadow may be chosen from swatches pre-created on the Swatches palette, or mixed with RGB, CMYK, and Lab sliders. Once the Preview box is checked, all changes effected in InDesignâ€™s Drop Shadow dialog provide instant feedback with live previews.
XPress 7â€™s Drop Shadow is also in a dialog–Modify–but it has a Measurements palette mode, too. The Measurements palette mode is much faster than Modify, which lacks a live preview. There are only two blending modes–normal and multiply–which limits the effects possible with this feature to drop shadows or simple outer glows. Use the multiply mode when the drop shadow is darker than the objects behind it. This will keep the darker shade, whether that belongs to the shadow or the color beneath, while lighter shades are discarded. In normal blending mode (multiply off), the color of the shadow is directly blended with the colors of objects beneath–the preferred method when your shadow is anything but black.
In addition to the blending modes, there is an opacity slider for controlling the shadow opacity, and an option to force the shadow to inherit the opacity of itâ€™s host object–in other words, if the object is 50% transparent, the shadow will be too, even if the shadow is specifically set to be 100% transparent. This is a cool feature because it enables shadow opacity relevant to its host object–as one is made more or less solid, the other updates to match. Another nifty option Quark saw fit to include was the ability to knock the shape of the object out of the shadow. With an opaque object, this toggle has no effect. But, if the object or any of its colors are partially or fully transparent, you have the option of choosing whether the drop shadow shows through. Think of a text box that has no fill, but itâ€™s drop shadow still doesnâ€™t show inside the area of the box itself.
Shadow positioning controls are where XPress 7 and InDesign really diverge, each having its strengths and weaknesses. In XPress, a skew field enables the creation of a rudimentary cast shadow, something InDesign canâ€™t do. In fact, not even Photoshop can do it better than XPress without a third-party plug-in. A shadow blur control in XPress doesnâ€™t stand up against InDesignâ€™s spread, noise, and blur options. Neither does the single distance measurement, which controls how far a shadow falls from an objectâ€™s top left corner (the â€œoriginâ€). Between the angle and distance controls, you have all the same freedom as InDesignâ€™s independent X and Y shadow coordinates, but it takes more practice to get the get same result in XPress. However, the presence of one tiny checkbox in XPress makes the effort more than worth it: Synchronized Angle.
If youâ€™ve used the drop shadow layer style in Photoshop, you should immediately understand the purpose and convenience of this feature. Checking Synchronized Angle on several objects keeps the angles of those objectsâ€™ shadows identical, creating the illusion of a single light source affecting them all. Changing the shadow angle on any such object automatically changes them all–a huge time saver. Although Photoshop has this option (called Global Angle there), InDesign doesnâ€™t; InDesignâ€™s drop shadows are not linked in any way, and the Drop Shadow dialog box resets to default options every time itâ€™s used on a new object.
Runaround can also be set to account for a drop shadow. By default, runaround only applies to an object, ignoring a drop shadow, even if that means text overlapping the shadow. Often times, thatâ€™s desired behavior, but when it isnâ€™t, XPress 7 provides the option of forcing text to runaround the shadow as well as itâ€™s host object–this is something InDesign can also do, but only by manually editing the shape of the text wrap (A.K.A. runaround) bounding box.
One major drawback I found with XPress 7â€™s drop shadows is that, on screen, shadows are not necessarily accurate representations of the printed output. Toggling the Multiply Drop Shadow option, for example, which determines whether the shadowâ€™s blending mode is set to multiply or normal, shows no difference between them on screen. Printing the two modes, however, reveals significant differences in the way background object colors blend through the shadow. It could easily make the difference between a believable composition, and a collection of objects. This could be a costly gotcha on press.
Which one does drop shadows better–XPress or InDesign? That depends entirely on the shadow you want. In one case, XPress is better, InDesign in another. Keep Photoshop handy for those times when you need more than either can offer.
I wonâ€™t go into a lengthy definition of OpenType fonts. If you donâ€™t know what they are by nowâ€¦ Well, then youâ€™ve probably been using XPress. Perhaps I should give a brief definition.
Succeeding the legacy of both PostScript Type 1 and TrueType fonts is OpenType, a Unicode (double-byte) intelligent font format capable of holding all the worldâ€™s currently active–and even yet to be created–written languages–and much more–in a single .OTF or .TTF font file. PostScript and TrueType fonts only have space for 256 characters per font, which is extremely limiting and led to inconsistent assignment of slots–one font may use slot X to hold a trademark symbol, while another font may stick a virgule in slot X and insert the trademark symbol somewhere else. With OpenTypeâ€™s generous number of slots, every glyph has its own predefined place that is, and must be, consistent across all OpenType fonts; if a type designer intends to draw a trademark symbol, it may only be placed into slot X and nowhere else. Similarly, if the type designer decides not to draw a trademark symbol, that slot must be left empty.
Even after filling up the OpenType slots with all Western language glyphs and their various accents, ligatures, and symbols, then doing the same for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, and other languages, there are still many, many slots available. Consequently, those slots are tasked with holding other sorts of glyphs, like alternate versions of letters and symbols. Itâ€™s possible, for example, to find a single font file incorporating not only one complete set of upper- and lower-case letters, but also a genuine small caps set–drawn at small caps size, with stroke weights matching caps and lowercase glyphs–as well as titling alternates, swashes, several different styles of numerals (e.g. separately drawn fixed-width, variable width, numerator, denominator, superior, and other styles), and many, many other glyphs. Where Type 1/Type 3 or TrueType fonts required several font files to provide all of the above–with the attending difficulties of typesetting lines of copy in multiple fonts–a single .OTF (or OpenType version .TTF) file can now handle it all.
Now that you understand some of the value of OpenTypes to a professional publishing workflow–and itâ€™s important to recognize that the above is a significantly abbreviated description–you should know that XPress can finally use them in version 7. OpenTypes can be used with earlier versions of XPress, as long as the operating system understands them, but theyâ€™re treated like TrueTypes in those earlier versions; it isnâ€™t until XPress 7 that you have access to the features and benefits of OpenType fonts.
OpenType fonts are fully cross-platform–gone is the need to fear character substitution, text reflow, and other common issues of collaborating between Windows and Mac. The same OpenType font works–and works exactly the same–on Mac, Windows, and Unix. During my testing of XPress 7, I transferred XPress projects and their fonts between Windows XP and OS X several times. At no time did a single letter of any text box reflow, nor did any symbol or accented character suddenly turn into something else.
In OpenType support, XPress is most certainly playing catch-up. To put it in context: even Photoshop, an image editor, laps XPress 6.5 in typesetting power. Making good use of OpenType required a rewrite of XPressâ€™s text engine, which took time. Now that itâ€™s done, XPress is finally back in the game of professional grade typesetting. It does not yet support every feature of OpenType–and not as many as its competitors–but in a single bound it catapulted from the Stone Age into the modern world.
So whatâ€™s still missing? Certain contextual OpenType features that change glyphs on the fly (if activated), such as changing the second instance of the letter e in a word to a different version of the e for variety, arenâ€™t fully supported. They work on simple occasions, but become less reliable as the complexity of contextual replacement increases. Stylistic sets are also missing.
Fractions are handled in an odd way, too. OpenTypes have spaces for the most common fractions–1/2, 1/4, 1/3, and so on–as single glyphs, much like Type 1 and TrueType fonts. They also have slots for all 0-9 numerals drawn as numerators and again as denominators and the instructional coding necessary to build fractions from those glyphs. Unlike the pre-drawn fraction glyphs, built fractions consist of at least three glyphs inserted and kerned to create the appearance of a single fractional glyph. In English, that means the fraction 5/9 would be created from the 5 numerator glyph, a solidus (slash), and the 9 denominator glyph. In some cases, XPress 7 bypassed the pre-drawn common fractions like 1/2 to build them using the three-glyph method. Whether this is an issue with the beta or intended that way is not known. Itâ€™s a minor point, regardless.
Because of the way XPress reads and interprets OpenType fonts, they may appear in the typeface menu with slightly different names than in other applications. This is a choice XPress is making about which internal font name and ID fields to read and use. There are several fields, with different types and lengths of font titles and IDs, and XPress chooses them differently than some other applications. Itâ€™s worth mentioning here because it can be disconcerting or even frustrating if your fonts look out of order on a menu. (For a third method, look at the font menu in Microsoft Word.)
While XPress has the customary quirks and is missing a few useful OpenType features, it does support the majority of OpenType–certainly the most commonly used features. For every one thing XPress 7 does wrong or oddly in this area, it does ten other things absolutely right.
Via the OpenType menu on the Measurements palette (in Character Attributes mode), you have access to ten different major OpenType features, four styles of general numerals, and four styles of special numerals (superscript/superior, subscript/inferior, numerator, and denominator). Depending on the font, some, none, or all of these features may be available. Those wrapped in brackets are unavailable because they were not included in the font–not all OpenType fonts include all the features. Script fonts, for example, rarely have a need for more than a single type of figure.
Among the potentially available OpenType features are: standard ligatures (fi, ff, fl, etc.); discretionary ligatures (ct, st, ch, etc.); scale-appropriate ordinals (1st, 2nd, 10th, etc.); titling alternates, alternate versions of glyphs for use at larger sizes; all small caps to convert a mixed case arrangement of letters to genuine small caps; small caps, which converts all lowercase letters to genuine small caps; fractions to convert any typed fraction (e.g. 1/12) into a proper set of numerator, solidus, and denominator, and; contextual alternates, which, similar to ligatures, searches for arrangements of glyphs that would be more aesthetic or readable using alternate versions of some of its constituent glyphs (e.g. replacing the second g in jiggling with a smaller-tailed version to increase readability).
OpenType options can be applied anywhere you can apply other text attributes–selectively to highlighted text, or as part of character style sheets, which, of course, can be incorporated into paragraph style sheets. I recommend you set your default Normal character style sheet to an OpenType, and turn on standard ligatures so you wonâ€™t have to manually set this fundamental option. Depending upon what kind of type you normally set, you may want to add other OpenType features to your default Normal character style sheet as well.
Setting aside every other new feature of XPress 7, true support for OpenType fonts and most of their capabilities is the single biggest step Quark could have taken to bring XPress into the modern world of typesetting. It has a few issues (noted below under the â€œThe Uglyâ€ section), but, in the case of OpenType, the scales are overwhelmingly heavy on the what-they-got-right side.
With OpenType support comes a new Glyphs palette for getting at each fontâ€™s roughly 65 thousand potential glyphs. Itâ€™s very similar to InDesignâ€™s, but that isnâ€™t a knock against XPress–itâ€™s just an effective solution. This–in XPress 7–is what a Glyphs palette should be. I wonâ€™t say itâ€™s perfect, but itâ€™s close.