The new version of QuarkXPress offers nearly a dozen enhancements of that nature. A major new capability lets you export documents to ePub format for the creation of ebooks. QuarkXPress 9 understands the issues inherent in creating ePub files, and provides a good tool for doing so.

Quark has also promoted a new feature called App Studio, which lets you create publications for distribution through an iPad app, using Apple’s in-app purchasing capability to manage single issue and subscription sales. This feature isn’t part of the QuarkXPress 9.0 test drive that launched earlier today or the final 9.0 version that Quark will release on April 26th. Rather, Quark says App Studio will be included in a free upgrade to version 9 that is expected to ship by August.

Smarter object creation and linking

Over the years, desktop publishing tools have made once difficult tasks such as text wrap routine. QuarkXPress 9 adds several features that make it even easier to create sophisticated layouts, designs and documents.

One of these capabilities is the ShapeMaker function, which lets you create all sorts of complex shapes that would be very difficult to draw, even with the program's Bézier tools, think squiggly or curved-sided boxes. With ShapeMaker, you use various controls such as sliders to manipulate the types of shapes it can create, and then apply those settings to an existing or new box. Get ready for a complex shape boom once QuarkXPress 9 ships.

My only wish is that you could get a real time preview of the effect on the box you’re working with. Although there’s an onscreen preview of the shape itself, you can’t see what the effect will do to existing images in that box until you apply it.

The other major layout capability added to QuarkXPress 9 is the Callouts feature, which lets you anchor items to specific spots in the text, so they move as the text does. Add an anchor in your text, select the item you want to associate to it, and choose Item -> Callout Anchor -> Associate Item to Callout Anchor. Or select a different anchor to associate an item to it. This separation of anchoring from the object creation makes the task easy.

To use QuarkXPress’ new ImageGrid, you need to put all the images in a single folder (which can include subfolders). The import applies to all images in that folder and, optionally, its subfolders.

QuarkXPress is precise in ImageGrid placement, as you specify the image grid parameters before importing the images (but you can’t preview them in the layout), and the program gives you caption boxes for each image and lets you apply drop shadows to them during import.

More subtle additions to QuarkXPress 9 are the Linkster and Cloner tools, which will help certain workflows. Linkster lets you break text flow between boxes in ways beyond the usual “break the link between these two specific boxes” method used in the Unlink tool. Using options in the Linkster tool, you can break all boxes, so each one is a separate box containing the original text as separate stories. And you have options to unlink just the selected box from the flow, break the flow after the current box, or break the flow before the current box.

The Cloner tool lets you copy selected items or the contents of one or more pages to any of several locations, including new documents. You can have individual pages copied to separate new documents and multiple-layout documents can be copied so each layout is in its own document.

The final layout addition in QuarkXPress 9 is one of those “finally!” additions: There’s now a Story Editor (something PageMaker pioneered 15 years ago) so you can edit a document’s text without the distraction of the layout. It doesn’t show the style formatting applied to your text; however, you can see some of this information in the Style Sheets palette. QuarkXPress' Story Editor does show overset text, but there’s no way to change the font and size of the Story Editor’s text.