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Eight Reasons to Love QuarkXPress 8

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Wondering what happened to the QuarkXPress Content tool? Kelly Kordes Anton, coauthor of QuarkXPress 8: Essential Skills for Page Layout and Web Design, answers these and other questions about changes in the latest Quark update. You may be surprised at how much you like this new version!

I'll never forget the annual Quark conference at which a QuarkXPress user claimed that he spent more time with his software than with his spouse. He was making the point that users become intimately familiar with the programs they use. Longtime users become vested, attached. That may explain why QuarkXPress has remained static for so long, with its interface and tools barely changing in the last 15 years.

Far from being the same old thing, QuarkXPress 8 has undergone a makeover of reality TV proportions, and its fresh look brings valuable new features that range from truly revolutionary to "it's about time." But as with a spouse in midlife crisis, who may lose weight or get a new 'do, the inner workings are still the same. Despite the cosmetic changes, QuarkXPress still offers the ease of use and precision controls you rely on and spend time with, day in, day out.

When you see the new interface, you're likely to do a double take. Then you'll start to feel apprehensive. What happened to the tools? Where's the Content tool? How long will it take me to learn this? Are these changes justified by cool new things? Before you start to resent your made-over pseudo-spouse, let's take a look at the changes. After introducing you to the biggest change—those new tools!—I'll show you eight surefire reasons you'll love QuarkXPress 8.

Taking On the New Tools

The QuarkXPress Tools palette has shaped up, combining multiple tools into single multipurpose tools and further consolidating tools into pop-out menus. It's now a lean, mean designing machine. The diagram in Figure 1 compares the version 7 tools to the version 8 tools.

Figure 1 The transformation of the Tools palette.

Table 1 explains what has happened with all those tools.

Table 1

Tool Palette Changes from Version 7 to Version 8

Version 7

Version 8

Content tool

Like other layout and design programs, QuarkXPress now has separate tools for working with text and pictures—the Text Content tool and the Picture Content tool. Double-clicking a text box automatically selects the Text Content tool, and you can resize items with either tool.

Rotate tool

The Rotate tool is gone. Hover the mouse above any corner point to see the rotate pointer, and twist away. You can still enter values in the Angle fields in the Measurements palette and in the Modify dialog box.

Text Box and Picture Box tools

You no longer need specific text boxes or picture boxes, so you no longer need specific Text Box and Picture Box tools. QuarkXPress 8 provides generic box tools for all the basic shapes.

Orthogonal Line tool (the plus sign)

The Orthogonal Line tool for creating horizontal and vertical lines was never really necessary. Just hold down Shift with the Line tool to create straight lines.

Text Path tools

The Text Path tools are gone, because QuarkXPress 8 doesn't require you to create a text path specifically to flow text along. All you have to do is click the Text Content tool on any item and start typing.

Linking and Unlinking tools

You still need these tools to link and unlink text boxes, but these rarely used tools are now tucked into a pop-out menu of the Text Content tool.

Polygon tool

The Polygon tool is gone. Try the drawing tools and the Starburst tool if you feel the need for a polygon.

Corner box tools

The tools for drawing special concave-corner boxes are gone. But you can achieve the same effect—and save it with an item style—by using the Corner Style area in the Box tab of the Modify dialog box (Item menu).

Hand tool

The Hand tool has moved to a pop-out of the Zoom tool, previously available only through a keyboard shortcut.

Consolidating tools creates a smaller palette that takes up less space, but you're going to end up switching tools more often. To ease this process, and to make QuarkXPress more consistent with other design programs, you can now use single-letter keyboard shortcuts to select tools. Table 2 shows the shortcuts.

Table 2

Shortcut Keys to Access Toolbar Tools

Shortcut Key

Tool(s)

V

Item tool

T

Text Content tool, Text Linking tool, Text Unlinking tool

R

Picture Content tool

B

Rectangle Box tool, Oval Box tool, Star Box tool, Composition Zones tool*

L

Line tool

P

Bézier Pen tool, Add Point tool, Remove Point tool, Convert Point tool, Scissors tool, Select Point tool, Freehand Drawing tool*

G

Table tool

Z

Zoom tool

X

Pan tool

* Press the key repeatedly until you've selected the tool you want.

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