Desktop publishing (DTP) lives and thrives, but with some notable differences that reflect today’s advanced technology. Once DTP software was in a class of its own, today we’re seeing a blurring of the lines between word processing and desktop publishing. For example, Microsoft Word allows you to create advanced layouts and link documents, and many DTP applications include word processing features.
Specialized software for desktop publishing systems can be divided into three categories: high-end, small business, and budget. The following list is not exhaustive, but mentions the more popular products in each category.
When we think of high-end DTP software, Quark and Adobe come out on top.
QuarkXPress 7 is said to be the industry standard in commanding market share for high-end DTP software. Award-winning QuarkXPress 7 (about $749) is suitable for large publishing tasks, such as layouts for magazines and newspapers. Its multi-user capabilities allow multiple users to edit different “zones” on the same page, and it also lets you edit the layout and graphics outside of the layout program. Speed is one of the product’s claims to fame, as determined in a new independent report by Ron Roszkiewicz Consulting. According to Quark’s website, the report concludes that QuarkXPress 7 delivers superior performance in both design-intensive and production workflows.
Adobe’s InDesign CS3 is a fierce competitor and, according to Adobe, is the new standard in page layout software. This high-end product, priced at around $699, is designed for fast-paced publishing environments where two or more people work on design and layout simultaneously. Like QuarkXPress, it is well suited for the layout of large publications. The application includes the features of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and integrates with other Adobe products, including Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InCopy and Acrobat. Individuals unfamiliar with these products will find a steep learning curve. InDesign CS3 is available for both Mac and Windows.
I’m not sure where the Scribus DTP program fits in. According to the website, “Scribus is an open source program that provides award-winning professional page layout for Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of print-ready output and new approaches to page layout.” The site promises that the product supports professional desktop publishing features, including CMYK color, separations, ICC color management, and PDF creation, under a user-friendly interface. A community of enthusiastic users provides support for 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, the “little brother” of InDesign, is suitable for small businesses, schools and organizations that want to produce brochures, sales letters, newsletters, one-page flyers, complex reports and similar documents. The application provides templates, graphics and intuitive design tools that enable users to work productively with other Adobe applications. It can be output to any printing device, including digital fast printers and high-end commercial printers. PageMaker is available for both Mac and PC and retails for around $499.
However, CNET readers were less than thrilled, scoring PageMaker just 5.3 out of a possible 10. Complaints included a steep learning curve, the fact that it was four times more expensive than 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 quickly turn paper documents into PDF files or compile catalogs from databases. Adobe encourages users to switch to InDesign, so perhaps PageMaker 7 is the last release of PageMaker.
Designed for the small business, school, or organization, Microsoft Office Publisher 2007 lets you create the same types of business documents as PageMaker 7. In this first release since 2003, Publisher offers a quick start and a 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.
The Publisher’s Task feature is another interesting concept – this feature offers advice on various topics, 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 customer rating averages 4.5 out of 5 stars. The software costs about $150 when purchased separately or bundled with MS Office
There are quite a few offerings that dominate this category, but I couldn’t pinpoint the leading products.
Printing house 22 deluxe
It’s hard to believe, but since its introduction in the 1980s, more than 17 million copies of this software have been sold. Current version is 22 for PC and 2 for Mac OS. The PC version is available in 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 handmade cards and invitations.
The Print Shop 22 Deluxe retails for around $50 and is rated 3.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Various companions are available, including Print Shop Pro Publisher Deluxe, aimed at small businesses; Print Shop Design Suite Professional Edition; and several applications for creating family trees.
CeledyDraw is graphic design and desktop publishing software suitable for homes, schools and small businesses. Adapted for non-professionals, it creates logos, illustrations, flowcharts, diagrams, flyers, brochures, business cards, greeting cards and more. Celedy Draw (about $65) can only import text in text format, which can be a pain for small businesses that are used to including Word documents in their publications. Consumer Guide Products says this software is best for creating one- or two-page documents and has a fairly steep learning curve.
Canvastic is a desktop publishing company for kids K-8. The app offers a clear display on the screen that grows with the user. It has no toy features, and teachers have expanded the ability to customize the app to meet the needs of students. The product retails for $80, while a school license is available for $60.