Avoiding the More Common Mistakes in QuarkXPress

Figuring out how to use QuarkXPress takes time. Learning how to use it right takes even longer! Here are some of the more common mistakes that people make when they start dabbling in desktop publishing.

Forgetting to register

Don't make the mistake that too many users make: failing to take a few minutes to fill out the disk-based registration information and e-mailing (or just plain mailing) it back to Quark.

Simply put, registering your product puts you in Quark's user database. You need to be registered if you want to use the free first-90-days-after-purchase technical-support privileges, purchase an extended service plan, or be eligible for product upgrades. And a word to the wise: Quark focuses on providing service to registered users and is less likely to be supportive if your name and serial number are never recorded. Registration takes only a few minutes, and we think that those few minutes are well spent.

Using too many fonts

Avant Garde. Bellevue. Centaur Gothic. Desdemona. Fonts have cool names, and looking at a font list and seeing all the desktop publishing possibilities is fascinating.

Trying out a great many fonts is tempting. This urge overcomes nearly everybody who's new to desktop publishing. But try keeping the number of fonts that you use on a page to two. When you have three, four, or five fonts, the document takes on an amateurish appearance, quite frankly. Experts in page design never use several fonts together.

These rules apply doubly to new Web designers who have font issues to contend with as well as color issues. How many times have you visited a Web site and shuddered at the grape background splattered with 28-point neon green headlines and 16-point pink body copy touching all four sides of the Web browser.

Putting too much on a page

One of the better things that you'll ever pick up about page design is the value of white space — the places on the page that have no text, no pictures, no lines — just the white paper showing through. Pages that are crammed full of text and pictures are pages that readers avoid. Keep some space between text columns and headlines, and between items on the page and the edges of the page.

Finding white space on a page is like going to a crowded beach and finding a perfectly smooth, empty spot that offers you a gorgeous view from your beach blanket. The white space "feels" great to you're the viewer's eyes and makes him or her more likely to get the message that's being conveyed by the words and pictures on the page. Of course, this is easier said than done. Professional designers have spent years perfecting this Zen-like approach to design.

Overdoing the design

Nothing looks worse than a complex design created by a publishing novice. Professionals know that less is more. Yes, it's possible to rotate text, skew text and graphics, make cool blends, set type on a curvy line, add multiple colors, stretch and condense type, and bleed artwork off the page. But using all these effects at the same time can overwhelm readers and make them miss the whole point of the message you're trying to convey.

Here's a good rule to remember: Limit special effects to a maximum of three on a two-page spread. Here's an even better rule: If you're in doubt about whether to add an effect to a page, don't.

Not using master pages

Before you start working on a document, you need to have an idea about what the document will look like. Will it have two columns? Will the top half of every page have a graphic? Where will the page numbers appear?

After you figure these things out, set up master pages for all the elements that will repeat in the same spot, page after page (such as page numbers). Master pages make things much easier, and they are easy to create. People who don't use master pages are people who like to do things the hard way.

To create a master page, open a document and choose Page --> Display --> A-Master. Anything that you create on that page becomes part of the master page and appears on every page in the document that is based on that particular master page. Each document can have up to 127 pairs of master pages.

Not using smart quotes and dashes

Nothing bothers a professional designer or publisher more than seeing inch marks where typesetter's quote marks should appear or skinny little hyphens — or worse yet, two skinny little hyphens — in place of em dashes. (An em dash is a dash that is the same width as the current font's capital M. You can create an em dash by using the key command Option+Shift+hyphen or Ctrl+Shift+=.)

Using the correct quotes and dashes is easy in QuarkXPress. You can choose among a variety of quote formats, including some that work with foreign languages. You want to use typographically correct quotes and dashes because they make your document look much more professional.

To use typographically correct quotes, choose Edit --> Preferences --> Preferences and select Smart Quotes in the Interactive pane of the Preferences dialog box.

To get the right kinds of quotes and dashes when you import text from a word processing application, make sure that the Convert Quotes box is checked in the Get Text dialog box.

Be aware, however, that if you're dealing with measurements in your text, in particular inches and feet, the inch and foot marks will appear curly, too (and bother those professionals even more). You can get around this problem by using the shortcut key combination of Control+Shift+" for inch marks and Control+' for foot marks on the Mac, or Ctrl+" for inch marks and Ctrl+Alt+' for foot marks in Windows.

Forgetting to check spelling

Typos are like ants at a summer picnic — they show up all the time. You can avoid some typos if you always remember that the last thing to do before printing your document is to check spelling. Checking spelling won't catch every possible error, but using the built-in spelling checker in QuarkXPress is easy to do, and it can prevent embarrassing typos and missspellings — oops, misspellings.

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