Review: QuarkXPress 2016

What’s the first thing you think about when you see the name QuarkXPress? If you’ve worked in publishing for a very long time, you might think “ground-breaking layout program.” Quark was there at the birth of desktop publishing in the ’80s, and grew to dominate the industry. Or, you might think “ancient history” if you were among those users who grew frustrated in the early ’00s and made the switch to Adobe InDesign. Or, if you’re a bit younger, and have only used InDesign or other tools for page layout, you might think “what’s QuarkXPress”? But no matter which group you fall into, if you’re a creative professional interested in making top quality print and digital publications, you should check out QuarkXPress 2016.

Full disclosure: Yes, I am the editor of InDesign Magazine, and InDesignSecrets, and the author of several Lynda.com courses on using InDesign. But for years I made a living (and learned to love page layout and publishing) using QuarkXPress. And I’ve just completed a brand new course for Lynda.com, QuarkXPress 2016 Essential Training. So while writing about InDesign is my “day job,” I have spent months using QuarkXPress 2016, putting both old and new features through their paces. And what I’ve found is a powerful application that is once again pioneering important publishing features. If you haven’t seen QuarkXPress in a while (or ever) this version chart can bring you up to speed on all the most important features the application offers. So without further ado, let’s get right to the best new stuff.

HTML5 Publications

HTML5_Logo

Perhaps the most impressive new feature in QuarkXPress 2016 is the ability to export a layout to HTML5. With just a few clicks (and no coding), you can publish content to the web with full design and typographic fidelity, rich media, and loads of slick interactivity. You can also easily convert existing print layouts to HTML5. No extra software or services are needed. Just choose File > Export > Layout as HTML5 Publication. You get a self-contained package of HTML, CSS, and Javascript files, along with all the necessary images, fonts, and multimedia content. Put it on a web server and you’re good to go.

In HTML5 publications from QuarkXPress 2016, you get live text, navigation page thumbnails, hyperlinks, animation, slideshows, scrollable content, pop-ups, audio/video, and more. For adding all these features to your layouts, QuarkXPress sports an HTML5 palette, packed with options that will be familiar to InDesign users.

quarkxpress-2015-html5-palette

There’s also a button in QuarkXPress that allows you to preview and test the look and behavior of your HTML5 publication in your default web browser. By comparison, InDesign lacks the ability to export a layout in this manner. However, InDesign users can export to Adobe’s Publish Online service, or use a third-party tool like in5 from Ajar Productions to get richly designed web publications with interactive features.

If you’re looking to deliver content in ebook format, you can also export QuarkXPress layouts to fixed-layout or reflowable EPUB.

Convert Imported Items to Native QuarkXPress Objects

QuarkXPress 2016 features an amazing new capability to convert imported items like PDFs, Adobe Illustrator graphics, and EPS files into native objects. And even more importantly, the conversion is a good one. Text is grouped in logical text boxes and retains the correct formatting (assuming you have the necessary fonts active). Bezier paths retain their shape and the placement of points. Colors are added to the Colors palette. Raster image content is embedded in the XPress file (you can unembed it by exporting the image and relinking).

quarkxpress-2016-convert-to-native-item-illustrator

quarkxpress-2016-convert-to-native-item-illustrator-editable

Furthermore, you can also limit what gets converted to native objects simply by cropping the content in the picture box before converting it (only visible content is converted).

There are a few things that won’t come over, like masks and transparency blend modes. But by for the most part, you get a clean conversion that allows you to work with items as if you’d created them from scratch in QuarkXPress. This could be incredibly valuable in a scenario where you only have access to a PDF version of a document or graphic that needs to be updated, animated, etc. 

Paste as Native Objects

Along with the ability to convert imported content to native items, you also can paste as native items directly from Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft applications. Simply select the content you want in Excel, PowerPoint, Preview, Pages, iBooks Author, Adobe Illustrator, and even InDesign (on the Mac), and in QuarkXPress choose Edit > Paste as Native Objects.

Microsoft-Excel-chart

quarkxpress-2016-paste-as-native-item-excel-chart

Like with the conversion feature, text formatting is retained, but styling information is not (you’ll have to create/apply paragraph and character styles to text if desired), and colors are added to the Colors palette. This feature could save a huge amount of effort if you’re often faced with the task of re-creating charts and graphics created with Office so they can be professionally printed.

With both the Paste and Convert to Native Objects features, QuarkXPress 2016 makes it easy to bring content from a wide variety of sources into your layout as live, editable items suitable for professional publishing.

Multi-Color Gradient Blends and Color Picker

Here are a couple examples where QuarkXPress is playing catch up to InDesign. Until QuarkXPress 2016, you could only make simple two-color color blends. But now, you’re free to craft any kind of gradient with as many colors as you like.

quarkxpress 2016 color blends palette

You can also assign specific transparency values to each color stop (something you can’t do in InDesign). Unfortunately, you can’t save multi-color blends in the Colors palette, but you can still reuse them by copying and pasting the blend from the palette menu, or using an Item Style (similar to InDesign’s object styles).

QuarkXPress 2016 also has new color picker functionality built into the Colors palette. With the color picker, you can click anywhere in a layout to sample the color at your cursor. The color is added to a set at the bottom of the palette (which persists even when you switch to a different layout). Double-clicking a sampled color will open a dialog box where you can edit, name, and save it. There’s also a button on the right that allows you to quickly add one or all of the sampled colors to the list in the palette.

quarkxpress-2016-color-picker

Other Enhancements

Other new features of QuarkXPress 2016 include:

  • Advanced footnote and endnote formatting options
  • Cross references to footnotes, endnotes, and numbered items
  • Support for OpenType stylistic sets
  • Spellcheck enhancements: return to previously skipped words and restrict spellchecking to visible layers only
  • Touchpad support for pinch and zoom (Mac only)
  • Search and replace non-breaking spaces and characters
  • Additional dynamic guides for textbox columns
  • Fit textbox to text
  • Word count enhancements: you can now count total number of words in all the text boxes in a layout.
  • Streamlined and efficient UI on both Mac and Windows
  • Ability to increase size of measurement palette
  • Text wrap with content variables
  • Support for ICCv4 Profiles

System Requirements and Licensing

QuarkXPress 2016 runs on Mac and Windows and you can read all the system requirements here.

The full price of a perpetual license for QuarkXPress 2016 is $849. But if you’ve ever owned a license for QuarkXPress, you can take advantage of a generous upgrade policy to save money. Upgrading from versions 3-10 costs $349. Current users of QuarkXPress 2015 can upgrade for $179. Free trial versions for both Mac and Windows are also available.

The Verdict

QuarkXPress2016

QuarkXPress 2016 is a powerful application that can help you efficiently produce and deliver great-looking content for print and digital publications. It is stable and speedy, and the modern UI is (for the most part) a pleasure to use. Yes, InDesign users will notice some limitations and features that are missing in QuarkXPress. But there are also significant things that QuarkXPress can do that InDesign cannot. The fact that InDesign CC is now available only via subscription and increasingly integrated with a growing set of Creative Cloud services like CC Libraries, Typekit, Behance, and Adobe Stock makes a direct head-to-head comparison to QuarkXPress rather complicated. It’s like buying your favorite movie on Blu-ray vs. subscribing to Netflix. But if you’re interested in a standalone layout program that comes with a perpetual license, offers direct HTML5 publishing, and gives you the ability to convert content from a variety of sources into editable items, then give QuarkXPress 2016 a look.

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Posted on: May 30, 2016

Mike Rankin

Mike is the Editor in Chief of InDesignSecrets.com, InDesign Magazine, and CreativePro.com. He is also the author of several lynda.com video training series, including Font Management Essential Training, InDesign FX, and InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals.

24 Comments on Review: QuarkXPress 2016

  1. Superb and authoritative review from someone who understands both systems. Excellent

  2. Endnotes!!!!

  3. Unfortunately, I can’t attend PEPCON so I’ll be taking your QuarkXPress course instead. BTW, have a great time…!

  4. Thank you for this review. I appreciate your editorial disclosure at the beginning of the article, and glad that you see fit to go in-depth and highlight so many of the groundbreaking features of this new version of Quark. I’ve subscribed to CreativePro since the mid 1990’s, and I can tell you, it’s very refreshing to read an article about layout software that is something other than an Adobe product, especially to readers like me who never jumped ship, and have been using Quark for decades. It’s an excellent layout tool that keeps getting better.

  5. I have to thank you for your honest words. As a long time QuarkXPress user I am glad that my favorite layout software made big steps in the recent years, and I am also happy with new capabilities of QXP.

  6. Good article Mike, I am one of those who has stuck with QuarkXpress down through the years from version 3.0. During that time Adobe scrapped Pagemaker, bought and closed Freehand and then changed to a subscription system. QuarkXpress has served my business well, although I acknowledge there was a period with V10 that frustrated the hell out of us. Now with QXP 2016, they have produced a cutting edge product with some very clever new features. Many of these new add-ones were a result of a public consultation with QXP users which is to be applauded. I have also found QXP support to be very responsive and effective. Their publishing manager Matthias is readily available on social media with quick and friendly responses to any questions. I’m very happy to have stuck with QXP. Equally I’m happy to use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom but for me QuarkXpress is a good fit as a friendly and hard working smaller company, long may it last!

  7. How much is it to switch back if you can prove you were a user? And even if I were to switch back, I’d still be burdened with CC Cloud payments anyway.

  8. Quark dropped the ball a few years back and everybody abandoned it, but v2015 was superb. InDesign is finickity and sluggish in comparison – the latest Quark engine is basically like working with the outputted PDF.

    It’s InDesign that is the one now resting on its laurels.

  9. Love this course!

  10. Your courses are always excellent in every respect and I always look forward to watching them. However, the only thing I don’t like is the fact that whoever types the transcript has a problem with spelling!

    Instead of the correct spelling i.e., QuarkXPress in Section 8. Paragraph Controls; Video: Controlling Alignment, the typist refers to Quirk Express!!!!!!!! Unfortunately, it undermines the excellence of the course.

    • Thanks Anita! I’m pretty sure the transcripts are automated. I agree they shouldn’t have typos, especially in the name of the software! I’ll pass it on to the folks at Lynda.

  11. Nice review. The convert to Quark native objects feature would be worth it alone for many users and is making me seriously consider learning how to use it despite only ever having used InDesign.

    However (and I know many people don’t agree with me!!) I have a dislike of buying software that is NOT on a subscription basis nowadays. I prefer to pay a fixed amount and always have the latest version. A lot of this is because how much easier it is to manage software budgets this way. Havinf to upgrade runs the risk that management will say “just skip it this time” and all the pain that brings.

  12. Hi Sudo,

    most companies actually do not offer you a subscription, they offer you a renting scheme, right? Meaning, when you do not pay anymore, you need to leave or give back what you had. That’s renting.

    Quark offers you an optional Upgrade Plan, which is a bit like a true subscription: You keep what you received until you cancelled. That’s what the Upgrade Plan is, you get all upgrades free of charge as long as the Upgrade Plan is running. Once you cancel it, you keep the last version of QuarkXPress that you received and can continue to use it as long as you like.

    So maybe that’s a good alternative for you, regular payments without the risk to being caught “forever”?

    Give us a call please: http://www.quark.com/Buy/QuarkXPress_Sales/Customer_Service/#phone

    Thank you
    Matthias

  13. I disagree particularly with the statements regarding stability of the latest Quark issue. I have been a Quark user since 3.0. Now that was a good product. It steadily got better until 9.1 was superseded. From then on the bells and whistles grew sacrificing stability. I have wasted a ton of money upgrading as each upgrade became available in the hope that stability might improve. Although I got the very latest 11.2.0.5 it is still as unstable as ever, crashing or freezing at the smallest task. Sorry Quark but since you degraded from 9.1 your product is a piece of frustrating crap. I have had to change my loyalty to InDesign. Now that IS very stable. I’ve never had a crash. OK it may not have all the bells and whistles that are inherent in latest Quark; InDesign is as easy to learn and use without the frustration of Quark. I have spent many an hour redoing lost work and going back and forth to Quark Customer Service but never have received any workable solutions or work-arounds for the many issues I’ve experienced since 9.5 and on. For those interested I am using a Mac OSX 10.11.5 with 16 gig ram in a 2.9 GHz Duel core Intel processor (OK, not the fastest available, I know but adequate for print design work). Would I recommend Quark? Not a chance unless they gave me a steel clad guarantee that any new upgrade were provided free and included a one year crash/freeze warranty.

    • In my experience, InDesign is no more stable than QuarkXPress 2016. I don’t know any InDesign user who has used it for any length of time and not seen it crash. Just look at at the comments or forums at InDesignSecrets on CC 2015.4. InDesign is still a great application, and I love it. But it has its share of problems. The genius of the folks at Adobe was to build in crash recovery so users don’t lose work.

  14. Hi Jonathan,

    last year, when QuarkXPress 2015 was already out for half a year, we asked our customers which version is the best ever released.

    66% of all participants said it was QuarkXPress 2015 back then. And what people liked most is stability and performance of the release. We also analyze crash reports that are being sent to us and fixed many crashes in the last update to QuarkXPress 2015 and QuarkXPress 2016.

    So I guess mileage varies, you unfortunately do not seem to have experienced that QX2015 is much more stable than any other release. I started with QuarkXPress 3.1 and boy, did we have a lot of crashes.

    How can we help to resolve this please?

    Did somebody analyze your crash log and remotely logged into your machine to fix this? Send me an email with your details please, it is the letter m for my first initial, then guenther for last name at quark.com.

    Thanks
    Matthias
    (Quark)

  15. I am still waiting for InDesign to become stable. After the last update, the app was in a permanent state of flux and had me pulling my hair out! I find that every time there’s an update, chaos rules! In contrast Photoshop is an absolute dream to use.

    I took Mike’s course on QuarkXPress 2016, which was fantastic, and am seriously considering switching from InDesign to QXP 2016 when my annual subscription runs out.

  16. Matthias, I’m going to take Mike’s course, QXP 2016, again and look at Facebook as well. I will be in touch if I get stuck. Many thanks!

  17. Mike:
    I have to tell you again, your course on QuarkXPress 2016 is just brilliant. I’m about to tackle it for the third time, as I think the software is a great alternative to InDesign 2017. And it has endnotes! 🙂

  18. Cherri International have been appointed as Distributor for QuarkXPress in Australia. Cherri International have been established 24 years in Queensland, and in Printing and ICT for 37 years. We are Quark users of 28 years.

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