The Most Common Mistakes Among Users Of QuarkXPress

by : Andrewwhiteman

If you have recently started using QuarkXPress, you may find yourself making some of the errors outlined in this article. Take a second to read through our top beginner pitfalls and spare yourself a little frustration in getting to grips with your new software.

The New Project dialogue window (which appears automatically whenever a new project is created) is often completely ignored by many QuarkXPress users, even if the settings are not the right ones for the project they are about to create. The settings you see are left over from the last project created: if the new project needs different settings, go ahead and change them.

People who are new to QuarkXPress will often shy away from placing content on the margin guides, leaving a little gap instead. They are mistaking the blue margin guides for the edges of the page. In fact, the edge of the page is indicated by the outer black frame.

Another common error is excessive use of ruler guides. These are created by dragging either the vertical or horizontal ruler onto the page and can be used to align elements using Quark's handy snap-to-guides features. Snapping two elements to the same guide ensures that their edges are aligned. This is a great feature when used in moderation. However, a lot of users create so many guides that it becomes difficult to see which guide relates to which element on the page. In general, guides are quicker to use but measurements are more accurate.

A classic error beginners make when using guides to align objects is as follows. They drag a guide and align it (by eye) with one of the edges of a box then they snap a second box onto the guide. This means that only the second box is actually snapped to the guide. Remember that both boxes need to be snapped to the guide to get the full benefit from them. Since one of the edges of the original box was used as a reference point for the guide, it will be almost aligned but not quite: it just needs to be moved slightly until it actually snaps to the guide. Position the mouse pointer over the appropriate middle handle of the box until the cursor changes to a pointing finger. Click and drag the handle so that it snaps to the guide. (If necessary, move the handle away from the guide and then back onto it to feel the magnetic snap.)

Automatic text boxes is another source of confusion for many QuarkXPress users. This option can be activated when creating a new document and allows you to use Quark in a similar way to a word processing package. Each page in the document automatically has a text box on it and once this box is filled with text, a new page is generated, also containing a text box.

Many new users assume that all this feature does is to automatically create a text box on the page for you, saving you the trouble of doing so yourself, not realising that the text box created in this way has one other special property. When it becomes filled with text, QuarkXPress automatically creates a new page containing another automatic text box linked to the box on the first page. So if you are creating a single page brochure or advert, an automatic text box is a liability since, if it becomes filled with text for any reason (for example, when you are experimenting with typefaces and font sizes), you end up with an extra page being created.

Users new to QuarkXPress will often develop a strange fascination with the text box tool and try to assign it powers that it doesn't in fact possess! For example, they will attempt to edit text by selecting the text box tool and clicking on the text. In fact, the only thing the text box tool can do is to actually create the text box in the first place. Thereafter, the content tool should be used for entering and editing the text.

Another popular type of confusion with the QuarkXPress tools is when to use the Item tool and when to use the Content tool. One often sees beginners trying to edit or import text while the Item tool is selected. Like the text box tool error, it's not such a biggie since sooner or later you will remember that you have to select the Content tool before you access the text inside the box.

Another common Item/Content tool error is that new users will often insist on selecting the Item tool when resizing a box: in fact, resizing works fine regardless of whether the Content or Item tool is selected.

QuarkXPress newbies will often create more text boxes than they need to (This box is for my heading, this one is for my subheading, and so on...), forgetting that the format of text can be changed as many times as necessary within the same box. Separate text boxes need to be created only where the attributes of different blocks of text cannot be accommodated within the same box: for example, a heading spanning two columns above a two column story.

Beginners in QuarkXPress will often spend a lot of time aligning headings within a text box, for example vertically centring, forgetting that, since the box will not print, all that matters is the position of the text itself on the page. A good way of curing this one is to get into the habit of pressing F7 (a shortcut for View - Guides). This keystroke toggles the visibility of the QuarkXPress margin and ruler guides as well as the edges of boxes that have no frames. This means that you are always reminded of which elements will actually be visible when the document prints.