10 Do’s and Don’ts When Using QuarkXPress

By Jay J. Nelson

If you had to choose ten easy-to-forget-but-extremely-useful things to remember about QuarkXPress, the ones in the following list, dear reader, would be them. Namaste.

Do talk with your commercial printer

All print projects begin and end with the printer. That’s because only printers know their limitations and the thousands of ways a project can be improved without increasing cost. Chat with the printer before you start your project, discussing your goals and budget. The printer may even have a Job Jackets file that will set your project up correctly before you even begin — and it will drastically reduce the possibility that your file will have problems at the end.

Don’t use scroll bars

Instead of using the scroll bars to pan around your layout, use the Grabber Hand. Just hold down the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) key and then click anywhere on the page and drag. To move to a different page, press Shift+Page Up or Shift+Page Down on your extended keyboard. (If you work with multipage documents, investing in a keyboard with Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys will pay you back almost immediately.)

If you use this panning technique along with Command-0 (Mac) or Ctrl+0 (Windows) — and that’s zero, not the letter O — to change your view to Fit In Window, as well as Shift-Control-drag (Mac) or Ctrl+drag (Windows) to zoom into an area, your efficiency will improve by 1,000 percent.

To recap, memorize these navigation techniques:

  • Mac: Shift-Control-drag to zoom into an area. Option-drag to pan around. Command-0 to Fit in Window.
  • Windows: Ctrl+drag to zoom into an area. Alt+drag to pan around. Ctrl+0 to Fit in Window.

Do temporarily switch to the item tool

When you need to move an item as you’re editing its content, you don’t need to switch from the Content tool to the Item tool. Just hold down the Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) key to temporarily use the Item tool. When you release the Command or Ctrl key, your cursor reverts back to the Content tool.

Don’t copy when you can share

Whether you’re using one layout or multiple layouts, if any possibility exists that an item you’re about to copy will be updated later on, use the Sharing features. That way, if you update the item anywhere in your project, it gets updated everywhere.

Do use the built-in calculator

Every field in the Measurements palette can do math for you. If you need to reduce an item by half, type /2 or *.5 after the current value. If you need to move an item by a specific amount, type + or after the current value and then type the distance to move it. You can use any unit, so to change a value by 2 points, type 2pt. Use p for picas, mm for millimeters, for inches, and so forth.

Do make style sheets quickly

The fastest and most intuitive way to make a style sheet is to format some text the way you want it to look and then click the New (+) button in either the Paragraph or Character Style Sheet palette. A new Style Sheet is created with all the formatting of the selected text.

Do use keyboard shortcuts to size pictures and text

To scale a picture to fit its box, press Shift-Option-Command-F (Mac) or Shift+Alt+Ctrl+F (Windows). In other words, mash down the three modifier keys that surround the Z key and press F.

To increase the size of a picture inside its box by 5 percent, get the Picture Content tool and press Shift-Option-Command-> (Mac) or Shift+Alt+Ctrl+> (Windows). To decrease, use < instead.

To increase the point size of selected text by 1 point, use those same shortcuts.

To increase leading by 1 point, press Shift-Command=’ (Mac) or Shift+Ctrl+’ (Windows) — and that’s an apostrophe at the end. To decrease leading by 1 point, press Shift-Command-; (Mac) or Shift+Ctrl+; (Windows) — and that’s a semicolon at the end. To increase/decrease by 1/10 point instead, add the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) key.

Trust me: When adjusting pictures and text, these shortcuts will become your best friends.

Don’t scale pictures below the DPI you need for output

When scaling a picture, keep an eye on the Effective DPI field in the Home/Classic tab of the Measurements palette. (It’s on the bottom row, far right, and looks like a grid of gray squares.) If the value gets below 240 dpi, the picture could pixelate when printing. In that case, import a higher-resolution original image or find a way to reduce the size of the picture on the page.

Do use Auto-Save and Auto-Backup

If your computer is prone to crashing, select the Auto Save check box in the Open and Save pane of QuarkXPress Preferences. Your projects then save themselves at the interval you specify there. If you want to keep copies of your project as it evolves, select the Auto Backup check box in that same pane and tell it how many revisions to save. Each time you manually save your project, QuarkXPress will then create a new copy for you to continue your work and keep the old ones intact.

In any case, even if you don’t enable Auto Save or Auto Backup, QuarkXPress 2016 silently saves a backup of your last ten opened documents. You find them in the Quark Backup folder that QuarkXPress creates for you in the Documents folder on your hard drive.

Do customize how QuarkXPress works

After you use QuarkXPress for a while, poke around in its Preferences. Here are some of the changes that may increase your productivity:

  • Change the width of the Pasteboard (Display pane).
  • Make your own keyboard shortcuts (Key Shortcuts pane).
  • Change the language format of Quotes and turn on/off Smart Quotes (Input Settings pane).
  • Enable Auto Save & Auto Backup (Open and Save pane).
  • Control which attributes are included by default when Sharing an item (Sharing pane).
  • Turn Font Previews on or off in menus (Fonts pane).
  • Enable East Asian text functionality (East Asian pane).
  • Control Index styling (Index pane).
  • Automatically evaluate layouts using Job Jackets (Job Jackets pane).
  • Change appearance of Notes (Notes pane).
  • Change Project/Layout naming scheme for exported PDFs (PDF pane).
  • Ignore numbers and Internet addresses when spell checking (Spell Check pane).
  • Change appearance of fractions and prices (Fraction/Price pane).
  • Verify pictures when opening a project (General pane in the Project section).
  • Turn Auto Page Insertion on or off (General pane in the Layout section).
  • Change default Ruler unit of measurement (Measurements pane in the Layout section).
  • Change appearance of Small Caps, Superscript, and Subscript (Character pane in the Layout section).
  • Change everything about tables you create with the Table tool (Table Tool pane in the Tools section of the Layout section).
  • Change the snap distance to guides, and whether they are in front of page items or behind them (Guides & Grid pane in the Layout section).
  • Change default Soft Proofing profile (Color Manager pane in the Layout section).