In front of about 200 invited guests at an intimate setting in downtown New York City, Jurgen Kurz, Quark’s senior vice president, desktop products, this week previewed the latest upgrade to the 25-year-old page layout and design program, QuarkXPress. Calling it the biggest upgrade ever, Kurz said 160 new features were built into the application. Meanwhile, Adobe offers selective and uncharacteristic peeks into the next version of competing InDesign, not due out until spring 2007.
The launch event, a day-long affair consisting of general sessions led by strategic developer partners, along with best practice-style sessions and hands-on trainings, kicked off a road show that will visit eight cities in the U.S. and Canada during the month of June. The upgrade attempts to address production workflow issues and streamline designers’ tasks and increase confidence in the preflight process.
Indeed, Kurz equated the 75,000 downloads of the beta release to the heightened anticipation of designers for the new version. "It’s the most anticipated release from looking at the number of beta downloads," said Kurz.
Kurz focused on three areas of improvements in the application: design, production and collaboration. Design improvements include tighter integration with Adobe’s Photoshop, long sought-after drop-shadow and transparency functionality, and built-in picture effects. For production functionality, Quark includes a Job Jacket feature that’s intended to streamline the preflight and PDF creation process through an evaluation process that compares a file against preset output specifications. Designers are also able to collaborate on the same file in real-time by grouping elements of a page that can be manipulated via a separate workstation.
In his keynote address, Kurtz noted that he doesn’t "spend sleepless nights" worrying about long-time competitor Adobe, which also develops design products. "I worry about what you need," he said, directly addressing the designers in the audience.
Meanwhile, Adobe announced yet another high-profile convert to its Creative Suite product grouping, which includes QuarkXPress rival InDesign. Health and wellness publisher Rodale has switched the production of all of its magazines and books to InDesign, joining Future Network USA, Hearst Magazines and Meredith, among others. The company converted 400 seats to the application over the course of a year while simultaneously upgrading to the Macintosh OS X operating system.
Also, Adobe has uncharacteristically been previewing to the press certain features of Creative Suite 3, a full year ahead of a planned spring 2007 release. Key among these is the ability to select an entire group of images to place, preloading them into a "place gun" cursor, which enables the user to scroll through ghosted thumbnails of each image to be dropped into a picture box. "This is the bread and butter stuff that designers do 100 times a day," says Will Eisley, group product manager at Adobe.