‘Toronto Computes!’, Aug 20002.
Desktop publishing has come a long way in just the past ten years. When I first got seriously into the field, I had a bubble jet printer, an IBM Aptiva and a copy of Microsoft Works. I had to plan out my layout on a piece of blank paper, then print my text and cut it out and tape or glue it down, leaving space for my pictures. Since I didn’t have a scanner or easy access to a photocopier I ended up hand drawing most of the pictures to fit the empty spaces. The finished heavily taped sheets would then get taken to the copy shop for reproduction.
There were desktop publishing products available at the time, but none of them were very affordable.
Now, desktop publishing is easier than ever. Store shelves are jam-packed with software ranging from clip art collections to design applications. If you go looking the big three names you are going to always run across are, unsurprisingly: Microsoft, Quark and Adobe.
QuarkXPress 5.0 is a very powerful program that would be of great value to a professional graphic designer. It allows linking of text boxes, text and image manipulation and colour management. It’s not as user friendly as other desktop publishing programs but it is capable of doing many things the other programs can’t. It is available for both Macs and PCs but runs a fairly hefty $899.00 US. If your desktop publishing endeavors are business related, you may want to consider looking into Quark, since you can write the purchase off as a business expense. For the rest of us though, it is a bit expensive.
Microsoft Publisher 2000 is the program that I use most often. It is a lot more affordable, at $229.99 CDN, and though it may not have all the bells and whistles QuarkXPress has, it has everything that most desktop publishers will need. With MSPub you can easily create business cards, magazines, books, greeting cards, stationary and more. It comes complete with clipart gallery and Wizards to walk you through the creation process. (It also has lots of templates, but as I advised last month, leave them be.) You can set pictures behind your text, manipulate the pictures right in MSPub (change the size, border, tone, and so on) and flip and mirror them. Link commands connect your text boxes even if they are pages apart and you can even rotate your text. Easy to use task bars make construction of your publications easy.
The third big desktop publishing software provider out there is Adobe. Adobe offers a wide range of products encompassing clip art collections, graphic manipulation programs and more. They don’t really have a desktop design program, but they do have a program that Micheala Helliwell of Tiger Horse Design says is an essential tool for any professional graphic artist. The program is Adobe Illustrator 10, which runs around $749.99 CDN. Like XPress it is a powerful design tool, but it is used more to construct illustrations than to do layout. The tool bars are similar to XPress but some of the command buttons are difficult to find. After finding the buttons, my wife and I have found Illustrator very handy in designing the layout of our new house. (“No, I don’t like the couch there. Move it into the living room and rotate it to the left.”)
The Adobe program that you should definitely pick up is Acrobat 5. It’s not too expensive at $379.99 CDN so if you can afford it, get it. Acrobat has a lot of uses, but primarily it can turn your publication into one anyone can access. When you install Acrobat it allows you to turn your MS Publisher files (.pub) into Acrobat files (.pdf). Adobe offers a free Adobe Acrobat Reader, which will allow anyone to view your document (without it being easy for them to alter). Acrobat can convert almost any type of file into a .pdf, and this is becoming the top way to share files. When I first began using Acrobat I didn’t like it, but now I don’t know what I would do without it. It is a very handy program and I suggest you purchase it if at all possible.
If, as a hobbyist desktop publisher, I had to choose between QuarkXPress and MS Publisher I would have to lean towards Publisher simply because of the price difference. It is also significantly easier to use as well. However, if you have grander ideas, and you want the professional touch, than Illustrator and Quark are the way to go.
For more info on these programs go to:
Adobe Systems Inc. http://www.adobe.com/
Quark Inc. http://www.quark.com/