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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Article 3 on the Small Press

Toronto Computes!, Sep 2002 (rejected)

When Microsoft told me that they were sending me Publisher 2002 to review in this column I could hardly wait for it to arrive. As I’ve said before, I think Publisher is THE program for any desktop publishing hobbyist, and I wanted to see the new version, and I wanted to see it now! It took the courier almost three weeks to deliver the program, and by the time I held it in my hands I had begun to despair of ever seeing it.

Running home, I immediately installed it on my computer and was dumbfounded by the changes that had been made. I opened a pre-existing project to compare it to how it used to look, and the first thing that hit me was how clean the image was. The program is crystal clear, very bright, and displays amazingly well. Graphics that had no backgrounds literally now had no backgrounds, whereas before you could still see a rectangular line around them.

Secondly I noticed that the WordArt had changed slightly. Now, when it says best fit, it means it. In MsPub 2000, WordArt generally had a lot of white space around it and you had to enlarge the box to make it the actual size you wanted. Now my WordArt was the exact size of the box. When I clicked on a WordArt box I found that you could now grab it and spin it around, or angle it, without going to a tool bar. That said, there is a new WordArt toolbar that does appear when you click on a WordArt box. This toolbar allows you to easily edit the text, the format, the spacing, the text wrapping and so on. I have found it to be a very handy tool.

I began to poke around within the other tool bars and menus and discovered many new, exciting features. MsPub now comes with Design Objects, which includes things like pull quotes, barbells, logos, title graphics and ready to use advertisements. Now, instead of manually designing a pull quote (or other object), you can plunk in the object and insert your text. (Personally, I still prefer to design every aspect of my publications myself.)

The number of Wizards and Templates seems to have doubled, and they now include things like Resumes and Award Certificates, as well as many others. It also has Web Design tools, so you can create your documents to be directly viewed from the web. This includes being able to imbed links within your publications.

There are many other new options that I haven’t really played with much yet such as the Styles and Formatting, Colour Scheme and Font Scheme. With these options you can set defaults that ensure all your documents have a similar feel and theme to them. This is especially useful if you are designing multiple documents (newsletter, business card and website, say) for one club or organization.

While exploring I also discovered that you can set a default that tells Publisher how you want to handle text wrapping (how text flows around your graphics). This is much easier than manipulating each graphic’s outline, as I used to have to do.

Even better is that MsPub can now import higher end graphics like eps files. You can now use your Adobe Illustrator created graphics in Publisher!

The only drawback I can find so far is that MSPub 2002 is built with the XP operating system in mind. My computer is still running off of Windows 98, and there are a few incompatibility issues. For instance, I can’t paste text without the program crashing, and the clip art organizer did not work. However, on my wife’s computer, which has XP, everything worked fine. (I can see I’m going to have to sneak onto hers more often now.) To get around the text problem you can import a text file into your text box. It’s a little more time consuming, but it is a viable work around if you don’t have XP.

Picture pasting can be problematic as well. In 2000 if you selected a picture frame, then pasted or inserted a picture it would scale the picture to that frame. If not on XP when you do this with 2002 the picture comes out its regular size. The only work around I’ve discovered for this so far is to scale my image down in PaintShopPro or Photoshop first.

Still, even with these incompatibility problems MS Publisher 2002 is a great program, and a vast improvement over earlier incarnations. Also, for only $229.99 it’s still very affordable. A must have for the hobbyist desktop publisher.

As you can likely tell by now, I am a big fan of Microsoft Publisher and think it’s the best low-end layout program around. Think I’m wrong? Does your company produce a desktop publishing program? Have them contact me at imelod@sympatico.ca and send me a copy and maybe I’ll change my tune.

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