Extensis QX Tools vs Xpert Tools Pro

December 1st, 2004 DG, Software, Tech

The InDesign faithful really have no reason to claim Quark Xpress has no features. Standalone toolsets extend it further than you’ve imagined — we compare two of the best.

QX Tools

Like a graphic design Coalition of the Willing member, Extensis has been with Quark since the early days and as such is the most widely known. It’s broken into three major areas of productivity; Fine Tuning, Utilities and Outputting.

Fine Tuning

The character palette doesn’t do much more than the measurements palette already in Quark Xpress where you apply text sizes and styles, but the paragraph brings an element of immediacy Adobe InDesign users already enjoy.

Object and Rule are much handier, allowing you to do everything you normally do in several places at once (such as the frame and rule above/below setting), and they do some freaky things you’ve never done in Xpress before, like skewing an object like you would in Illustrator.


Find/Change is much more than the plain Xpress text search window. It deals with almost every other attribute of the elements in your layout, including frame widths, background colours, and the behaviour of box contents.

Other functions range from the now obsolete (layers) to the handy (a full list of Xpress keyboard shortcuts), although Scaler redeems one of Quark’s biggest downfalls.


Unnecessary now that Xpress finally collects fonts for output, QX Tools offers no in-built pre-flight function apart from Preflight Online, presumably a service you have to register for that wasn’t present in our review copy.

Xpert Tools Pro

US software developer A Lowly Apprentice Productions has less of a reach into the industry than Extensis but that doesn’t mean Xpert Tools Pro is a lesser product.

Apart from a staggering number of functions, Xpert Tools Pro differs from QX Tools in that instead of just attaching a set of tools onto the edge of Xpress, it hides new tricks that crop up in menus everywhere.

It not only has everything QX Tools does (and plenty more), but in almost every case, it offers far more complete control.

For starters, all the functions we’re now used to in InDesign (and bemoan their absence in Xpress every time we return to it) are provided by Xpert Tools, such as a comprehensive align palette.

But the Xpert Tools that really impress are just too numerous to mention. The guide and grid feature is so involved it’s almost an application in itself. Textlink gives you such control over modifying linked text boxes and how the text flows within them it makes it seem ridiculous that it wasn’t part of Xpress from the beginning.

And they’re just two examples out of a dozen or more.

But perhaps the coolest part of Xpert Tools is Toolbars. You can create custom floating toolbars with functions or selections from all over Xpress with only the ones you need for your particular workflow. For example, you might have a toolbar with buttons that apply a size of 40pt to the selected text, colour the selected box with a green background or align a box to the edge of a page. It’s only one step further from merely thinking about executing a repetitive task.

The Winner

QX Tools seems to be a little more focused on stuff you can’t do in Quark whereas Xpert Tools also takes into account the tasks you can do and make them easier.

For sheer number of tools and productivity, Xpert Tools Pro is the clear winner. When you take into account the price difference (it’s almost $100 cheaper), it’s no contest.

Price and Availability

QX Tools Pro 5.0.1 for Mac 8/9/OSX, AUD$350 (USD$244)

Xpert Tools Pro 2.1.1 for Mac 8/9/OSX AUD $240 (USD$167)


Extensis QX Tools Pro

Xpert Tools Pro

A Lowly Apprentice


Extensis QX Tools Pro

Pica Software
03 9388 9588

Xpert Tools Pro

Xclusive Software
1300 137 140

Full client and publication list:

  • 3D Artist
  • APC
  • AskMen.com
  • Auscam
  • Australian Creative
  • Australian Macworld
  • Australian Way (Qantas)
  • Big Issue
  • Black Velvet Seductions
  • Black+White
  • Bookseller & Publisher
  • Box Magazine
  • Brain World
  • Business News
  • Business NSW
  • Campaign Brief
  • Capture
  • CHUD.com
  • Cleo
  • Cosmos
  • Cream
  • Curve
  • Daily Telegraph
  • Dark Horizons
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Desktop
  • DG
  • Digital Media
  • Disney Magazine
  • DNA Magazine
  • Empire
  • Empty Magazine
  • Famous Monsters of Filmland
  • Fast Thinking
  • FHM UK
  • Film Stories
  • Filmink
  • Follow Gentlemen
  • Geek Magazine
  • Good Reading
  • Good Weekend
  • GQ
  • How It Works
  • Hydrapinion
  • Inside Film
  • Internet.au
  • Loaded
  • M2 Magazine
  • Marie Claire Australia
  • Marketing
  • Maxim Australia
  • Men's Style
  • Metro
  • Moviehole
  • MSN
  • Nine To Five
  • Paranormal
  • PC Authority
  • PC Powerplay
  • PC Update
  • PC User
  • PC World
  • Penthouse
  • People
  • Pixelmag
  • Popular Science
  • Post Magazine
  • Ralph
  • Reader's Digest
  • ScienceNetwork WA
  • SciFiNow
  • Scoop
  • Scoop Traveller
  • Seaside Observer
  • SFX
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • The Australian
  • The Retiree
  • The Sun Herald
  • The West Australian
  • thevine.com.au
  • TimeOut
  • Total Film
  • Video Camera
  • Video&Filmmaker
  • Writing Magazine
  • Xpress
  • Zoo