In the beginning there were word processors, page layout programs and drawing packages. Each was an essential piece of software, but together, became the cornerstone of what we now know as desktop publishing (DTP).
Desktop publishing is a burgeoning field--a cottage industry in some instances and a viable academic degree in others--that has given the power of the press to the layperson, fulfilling the words of A. J. Liebling: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one."
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Page layout software act as the blank canvas onto which many elements are placed. They import information in a variety of graphic and text formats, thus increasing their flexibility.
Desktop publishing is well suited for educational settings; administration offices create newsletters and brochures, classrooms run DTP programs to generate student newspapers and yearbooks, instructors develop course outlines or overhead transparencies, and vocational schools teach desktop publishing skills.
As of late, however, more and more DTP programs offer built-in word processors, ever-sophisticated drawing tools, or database and mail merge capabilities. Vendors' intent here is to give the desktop publisher tools specific to his or her needs that can be accessed without exiting the program.
Color capabilities are also important considerations. When used by students in a classroom with low-end computers and display capabilities, packages with limited or no color are often suitable. However, many DTP packages support both high-resolution color display and output to color printers. Those interested in teaching desktop publishing skills or planning to publish color documents may want to consider advanced DTP applications with color separation and prepress features.
Page layout and design programs boast many features that simplify the creative process. Publish It! Version 2.0 from Timeworks, Inc., for example, offers text auto-flow, which automatically adds pages for unplaced text. One can also select many objects on a page then move, resize, cut, copy or paste them with a single mouse click.
Publish It! offers typesetting options like kerning and leading. In regards to image manipulation, the program imports EPS files and can touch up scanned images after they've been placed. The developer has included over 30 clip-art illustrations and 180 professionally drawn graphics.
Numerous extras useful for education include onscreen rulers, selectable page guides and more. A built-in graphic toolbox and a word processor are also included. Publish It! ships with 85 sample templates.
Another DTP program, Express Publisher 2.0 from Power Up! Software Corp., offers a host of features, many similar to those described above. For example, users can change parameters, like the number of columns, on the fly.
Express Publisher 2.0 boasts a TextEffects feature that rotates text in one-degree increments, wraps it around a curve, fills a polygon with words, or slants letters in any direction. Users can zoom in or out for different views plus print landscape-oriented documents.
An extensive onscreen tutorial gives students answers to last-minute questions. And instructors will appreciate the program's printing option, which sends finished documents to fax machines around the world.
As a professor of marketing at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, Calif., Bill Perttula uses Express Publisher to handle various administrational tasks. For the past two and a half years he has been designing course outlines, assignment sheets and other handouts using the program.
"If I want to type a note to someone, I use Express Publisher rather than a word processor," Perttula explains. "Let's say I need to write a note to people on a committee. If I want to add another note to it, I just open a text box and put it [on the same page]. …