QuarkXPress 8 Announced

May 29th, 2008

After leading the page layout sweepstakes for many years, QuarkXPress was slowly but surely falling behind Adobe InDesign in sales and functionality as the #1 page layout program (primarily for print). When Bruce Chisholm was at the helm at Adobe he championed the concept that Microsoft has used so effectively for years: bundle a bunch of strong applications into a “suite” and become untouchable in the market.

I still feel that Microsoft Office is more of a Halloween grab bag that a true suite of software. While there are meaningful software connections between Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc., I for one rarely exploit those connections. They must add value for some users, but the function of these disparate products is so…disparate…I find the major advantage of Microsoft Office is just saving big bucks over buying a program I use daily (Word), frequently (PowerPoint), infrequently (Excel) and never (Access). And then there’s Microsoft Publisher which I use (never).

Adobe’s Creative Suite makes a lot more sense. Most designers use Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat. Adobe InDesign, which was still behind the 8-ball when Creative Suite first entered the market, suddenly became more appealing as part of a bundle. The first versions of Adobe Creative Suite also tossed in Adobe’s ill-fated Web-authoring application, GoLive.

Fast forward to today, with the announcement of version 8 of QuarkXPress. The first thing to note is that this product will appear just over two years since the last upgrade to the software (oddly enough called QuarkXPress 7). This from a company where you used to be able to raise a family in the gap between upgrades. As such Quark is approaching Adobe’s revision calendar, usually about 18 months between versions.

The initial reaction of several commentators to QuarkXPress 8 is in the ho-hum category, but I think that QuarkXPress 8, while officially a new version, has to be seen as the completion of the major revision that was version 7. I wrote about that release on my Gilbane blog, “The Importance of QuarkXPress 7.0,” and also in a Quark-commissioned brochure, “QuarkXPress 7 for Output Service Providers.”

The best commentary on the new version is found, somewhat ironically, on AppleInsider, which I now discover leaked the news on May 13. Its commentary examines in some depth the smart moves that Quark is making to try to bring the software into parity with Adobe InDesign and make it compatible with Creative Suite 3. That’s an essential mission for Quark, while it continues into other market areas with products like the Quark Dynamic Publishing System (which I cover here).

And of course Quark needs to keep checking to see who’s walking behind in the darkened alley: if Adobe sticks with its 18-month revision cycle, Creative Suite 4 will be available by the end of this year.