Desktop publishing (DTP) is alive and flourishing–but with some notable differences that reflect today’s advanced technologies. While DTP software was once in a class of its own, today we see a blurring of the lines between word processing and desktop publishing. For example, Microsoft Word allows you to create advanced layouts and linking between documents, and many DTP applications include word processing features.
Dedicated desktop publishing software can be classified into three categories: high end, small business and budget conscious. The following list is not meant to be inclusive, but mentions better-known products in each category.
When we think of high-end DTP software, Quark and Adobe emerge as leaders.
QuarkXPress 7 is said to be the industry standard, holding the market share for high-end DTP software applications. The award-winning QuarkXPress 7 (about $749) is suited for large publishing tasks, such as layouts for magazines and newspapers. Its multi-user capabilities permit more than one user to edit different “zones” on the same page, and allow layout and graphic elements to be edited outside the layout application. Speed is one of this product’s claims to fame, as determined by a new independent report from Ron Roszkiewicz Consulting. According to Quark’s Web site, the report concludes that QuarkXPress 7 offers the highest productivity in both design-intensive and production-intensive workflows.
Adobe’s InDesign CS3 is a stiff competitor and, according to Adobe, is the new standard in page-layout software. This high-end product, costing about $699, is intended for fast-paced publishing environments in which two or more people work on design and layout simultaneously. Like QuarkXPress, it is well suited to laying out large publications. The application incorporates features found in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and integrates with other Adobe products, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InCopy, and Acrobat. Individuals not familiar with these products will find a steep learning curve. InDesign CS3 is available for both the Mac and Windows OS.
I’m not sure where the Scribus DTP program fits. According to the Web site, “Scribus is an open-source program that brings award-winning, professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of ‘press-ready’ output and new approaches to page layout.” The site promises that, underneath its user-friendly interface, the product supports professional desktop publishing features, including CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and PDF creation. An enthusiastic user community provides support to new users, and the price (free) is hard to beat.
Small Business DTP
Microsoft and Adobe are the ones to beat in this category.
Adobe PageMaker 7 , InDesign’s “kid brother,” is suitable for small businesses, schools or organizations that want to produce brochures, sales letters, newsletters, one-page fliers, complex reports and similar documents. The application provides templates, graphics and intuitive design tools that allow users to work productively across other Adobe applications. It can be output to any printing device, including digital quick printers and high-end commercial printers. PageMaker is available for both the Mac and PC, and sells for about $499.
CNET readers were less than thrilled, however, rating PageMaker only 5.3 points out of a possible 10. Complaints included a steep learning curve, the fact that it is four times as expensive as MS Publisher, its main competitor, and the poor quality of the HTML-generated pages. CNET recommended PageMaker for businesses that publish a lot of documents and want to turn paper documents into PDF files quickly, or assemble catalogues from databases. Adobe is encouraging users to switch to InDesign, so perhaps PageMaker 7 is the last of the PageMaker releases.
Intended for the small business, school or organization, Microsoft Office Publisher 2007 allows you to create the same types of business documents mentioned for PageMaker 7. In this first release since 2003, Publisher is designed to offer a fast start and short learning curve. Interchangeable templates allow you to start with a business card, for example, and then click a button to create a return mailing label using the business card information–already applied.
Publisher’s Task feature is another interesting concept–this feature offers tips on various subjects, such as how to prepare a publication for a mailing list or how to track the effects of marketing campaigns. The application integrates with other Office components, including Office Outlook 2007, Office Excel and Business Contact Manager.
Amazon’s average customer review is 4.5 out of 5 stars. The software is approximately $150 if purchased separately, or comes with MS Office
Quite a few offerings dominate this category, but I couldn’t determine the leading products.
The Print Shop 22 Deluxe
It’s hard to believe, but this software has sold more than 17 million copies since it appeared in the 1980s. The current version is 22 for PC and 2 for the Mac OS. The PC version is available in both Print Shop Deluxe and Print Shop Pro Publisher Deluxe editions. This software includes graphics and layout tools that allow you to create booklets, business cards, calendars, CD/DVD labels, certificates, family trees, greeting cards, and handcrafted cards and invitations.
Costing around $50, Print Shop 22 Deluxe garnered 3.5 out of 5 stars at Amazon. Various companions are available, including Print Shop Pro Publisher Deluxe, targeted at small businesses; the Print Shop Design Suite Professional Edition; and a couple of applications specific to creating family trees.
CeledyDraw is a graphic design and desktop publishing software application, suitable for homes, schools and small businesses. Tailored to the non-professional, it creates logos, artwork, flowcharts, diagrams, flyers, brochures, business cards, greeting cards and more. Celedy Draw (about $65) can import text only in text format, which may be an inconvenience for small businesses that are accustomed to incorporating Word documents in their publications. Consumer Guide Products says that this software is best suited to creating one- or two-page documents, and has a rather steep learning curve.
Canvastic is desktop publishing for K-8 kids. The application offers a clear on-screen display that grows with the user. It has no toy features, and teachers have expanded options to customize the application to meet student needs. The product retails for $80, while a $60 school license is available.