Desktop Publishing Page Make-Up Software; Microcomputer Desktop Publishing Requires a Lot of Decision Making. Make Sure Your Software Choices Are the Right Ones

By Finnie, J. Scot | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, December 1988 | Go to article overview

Desktop Publishing Page Make-Up Software; Microcomputer Desktop Publishing Requires a Lot of Decision Making. Make Sure Your Software Choices Are the Right Ones


Finnie, J. Scot, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Desktop publishing page make-up software There is probably no lonelier position than being the person at your magazine asked to turn the myths and fantasies of desktop publishing (DTP) into practical reality. Not only are there some formidable technical challenges to negotiate, but product advances are occurring so swiftly that making any kind of intelligent purchase decision is often difficult. Even desktop publishing gurus are finding themselves lost in the twists and turns taken by software and hardware manufacturers. Still, there is a path to follow, which I will attempt to make clear.

Start by staring unflinchingly at the inherent problems and misconceptions of desktop publishing. For instance, who is going to design pages--the editors or the art staff? How much can you really expect from page make-upe software and microcomputers? (You may be surprised--pleasantly or otherwise.) And, how are you going to output your pages? For most magazine applications, 300 dot-per-inch laser printers do not offer an acceptably high resolution for final output. Still, once you've gotten past some of the initial pitfalls, you'll find that there really are important advantages to be gained. For starters, say magazine desktop publishers, page composition programs offer cost savings, time efficiencies and design flexibility.

What do you need to make DTP fly? Start off with a fairly fast microcomputer, a high-resolution display and a hard disk. At the minimum, plan on using the IBM PC/AT with an enhanced graphics adapter-equipped graphics board and monitor, or the Apple Macintosh SE with a hard disk. In addition, fill out requisition forms for a laser printer (preferably the Post-Script variety) for proofing, chart and drawing programs, and word processing software if you don't already have it. A scanner is an optional item. Last on the list, but not least, is a page composition program.

Along with selecting a computer, choosing desktop publishing software is the most difficult part of the equation. Moreover, because your computer hardware choice will constrain your DTP software selection, you should investigation both areas at once, if possible. There are excellent page composition programs available for both IBM and Macintosh computers, but they may have different requirements of your equipment. Aldus' PageMaker for the IBM, for example, is very easy to use but somewhat slow. If you settle on this otherwise praise-worthy program, be sure you are running it on a machine equipped with an 80386 microchip, or a fast 80286 machine. A swift hard disk is also important. See a dealer for more on which computer to select. But be careful: Some dealers are unaware of the practical requirements of desktop publishing.

Some magazines, however, already have computer equipment and must concentrate on finding software to fit the hardware. There is a lot to ponder here. In addition to the full-featured programs this article focuses on, there are many other products sold under the general heading of desktop publishing software. Some are less expensive programs with fewer features. Others offer code-based typesetting functions with little in the way of page composition. Still others provide specialized features, such as integrated spreadsheet operations. For most magazine applications, any one of the following five packages will get the job done. For IBM microcomputers, these are Aldus' PageMaker and Xerox's Ventura Publisher; for Macintoshes, they are Aldus' PageMaker, Letraset's Ready,Set,Go! (RSG!) and Quark's Quark XPress.

(Note that there are two versions of PageMake--one for MS-DOS computers and one of Macintosh computers--not one product that runs on both computers. With the last round of improvements to these programs, however, Aldus has made them functionally equivalent and visually similar. That means that anyone familiar with one should have little trouble becoming adjusted to the other. …

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