7.13 Desktop Publishing Programs

Companies producing white papers etc. often find word processing programs do not provide the control needed for professional layout and typesetting. Unless the task is farmed out to publishing companies (often the case), a desktop publishing program has to be used.

DTP Versus Word Processing

Word processing is not to be despised. Today's programs are sophisticated, and capable of typesetting to a standard better than that commonly seen in novels and academic paperbacks. MS Word has an excellent indexing facility, moreover, and tables can be attractively laid out with proper borders and cell spacing. {1} Typesetting is also made quicker and more professional-looking by using stylesheets and third-party plugins. {2}

Word documents can be converted to the PDF format preferred by printers by using one of the many Word to PDF conversion programs: A small selection:

Program

Price

Retains Formatting

Retains Hyperlinks

Extra Features

Abbyy PDF

Transformer

$80

Yes

Yes

Also converts PDF to

Word. Some editing functions.

Acrobat X

$250-400

Yes

Yes

Many: the originator and

still market leader.

Cute PDF

Free

Yes

Yes

Basic, but commercial versions available.

Expert PDF 7

€69

Yes

Yes

Also converts PDF to

Word. Many editing functions.

Lead Tool's ePrint

Professional

$99

Yes

Yes

Also converts PDF to Word.

Many editing and batch functions.

Good typesetting requires painstaking care, experience and a strong sense of graphic design, i.e. skill more than software. {3} {12 {13} Nonetheless, word processors fail in more advanced tasks: {4}

1. Where text must be flowed through separate box inserts.
2. Complex layouts with superimposed graphics and text.
3. Finer typographic control
3. In making color separations for CMYK printing.

Popular DTP Programs

A general comparison of the more popular programs with the word-processor Microsoft Word.

Feature

InDesign

Quark Express

PageMaker

Framemaker

Ventura

Word

Market

design studios

design studios

business

long technical

manuals

long technical

manuals

home &

business

Text flow

7

8

6

7

7

4

Typographic Control

9

6

4

7

6

5

Master page control

8

6

5

8

8

5

Section saving

7

7

6

7

7

1

Drag & Drop

8

3

7

2

7

5

Program to

program conversion

7

5

7

7

5

3

Macros

8

7

7

3

7

8

Layout tools

8

8

6

8

8

5

color control

8

5

6

3

3

2

Image manipulation

9

5

7

6

6

2

PDF handling

8

8

8

7

7

2

Preflighting

7

9

5

6

6

1

Integration with

Adobe programs

9

3

4

8

5

2

Ranking is from 1 (missing) to 9 (superb). Companies will need to undertake a more detailed comparison for specific tasks, but many graphic design studios have moved to Adobe's InDesign. Plugins exist for both InDesign and Xpress (indexing, tables, etc.), and for all shortcomings there are work-arounds. Backward convertibility remains an important issue (InDesign CS2 files cannot be read with InDesign 2), but InDesign is a program engineered from scratch, and seems easier to learn. Corel Ventura and Framemaker address a loyal but specialist market (long, highly structured technical manuals in XML).

Questions

1. For what tasks would you employ a word processing package to lay out a page?
2. What DTP package would you employ for these tasks, and why:
a. a mass market novel,
b. a flyer for your local pizza takeaway,
c. a scientific paper involving complex math formulas,
d. your company parts manual with 6,000 entries, and
e. a photographic journal?
3. Your fashion company's magazine is to become available on tablet computers. Investigate the format conversion software available and devise a preproduction flow path.

Sources and Further Reading

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