DTP Today: 1995
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1995. First
published in Our Computer Player, April 1995
The word 'revolution' gets over used... for everything
from a new minivan
to a new skirt length. Like other areas of commercial life prone to
hype, the computer industry has not been immune to this tendancy
Nevertheless, DTP, short for desktop publishing, has
been one of a few
areas by which personal computers have revolutionized the world of work
Prior to the coming together of the Macintosh, a laser
dtp software in the mid-80s, graphics and design were relegated to
professionals using higher-priced equipment. And personal computing in
a business environment meant text mode word processing and
Aldus Pagemaker version 1 changed all that for ever...
(I was going
to say 'for good', but the graphics professionals might disagree that
that has resulted in so many documents using so many fonts can be
Suddenly, documents could be produced in-house with
ready for printing. Or if a lower resolution was okay, simply laser
the original, and send it for photocopying.
And as laser and inkjet printers came home, so did
page design. School
and church bulletins took a big leap past the PrintShop/dot matrix era
of the early 80s (if I see one more blocky teddy bear, I'll scream!)
Like other great democratizing movements, not
everything, or even most
pages produced could make claims to great design-- but slowly, there;s
been an improvement, as amateurs discovered the value of white space,
keeping the number of fonts per page under control.
THAT WAS THEN...
Today, the DTP revolution has slowed down, moving to a
more mature phase.
Like many MAC-based areas of computing, there has been a movement to
in fact, Aldus PageMaker migrated to the Windows environment as early
1987, making it one of the first power applications on that platform.
Today, the classic heavy-weight Mac applications all
clones that run on Windows PCs... Pagemaker and Quark XPress for page
PhotoShop, Illustrator, and the like for graphics and photo
Much of the exciting stuff has moved from the strictly page design
(like Pagemaker or XPress) to the illustration programs (like Adobe
and on to photo manipulation (with Adobe PhotoShop supporting a whole
of add-ins and hardware enhancements).
In the sub-universe of PhotoShop professionals, the
Mac continues to
be the platform of choice. Some of this is conservatism-- yes,
revolutionary is today's standard-bearer. But there are still good
for the Mac-centrism. While the main applications are available for
the wide range of add-ons available on the Mac have been much slower to
migrate. And Mac hardware and software remains better integrated-- a
necessity for users who need to hop between programs.
As well, if you need to send your work to a
professional service bureau,
for high-resolution output (2400 dpi linotype, for example), you'll
PC files treated as second-class citizens at best. Service bureaus
are not used to working with such files, and many, if they work with
at all, will have a lone machine abandoned in the cornmer, surrounded
a host of Macs.
With the price of a fully equipped Pentium still a
couple of thousand
dollars less than a comparably equipped PowerMac, there are pressures
change, but DTP remains a Mac strength.
In professional circles, a growing focus has been
towards colour output.
Here standards are still emerging (watch for WIN95 to include Kodak
built-in, for example). Professional-level software has begun to
the capability to properly trap output for colour separations, while
slow drop in colour laser prices, and fast improvement of low-end
inkjets have made colour output more possible for more users.
Another area of change has been the strengthening of
for home and small business-- users who have no pretense of being
but need to create attractive documents from time to time. While the
has remained dominated by Mac users, the large installed base of
machines has attracted vastly improved low-end software.
Two products of note include Microsoft's Publisher
(now in version 2.0),
and PagePlus, from Serif.
Publisher was the pioneer in Microsoft's Wizard
concept-- helpful super-macros
that walked a user through the entire design process, resulting in a
document (or in Publisher's case, paper-airplane or origami swan). The
resulting documents are surprisingly usable, considering their
PagePlus lacks Publisher's Wizards (or its annoying
moving van cursors,
for that matter). What it succeeds at is bringing most of the features
of high end programs (incuding colour support, for example) to home
in a relatively simple-to-learn package, for a deciding low-end cost
US). If you're interested, there's a free limited working version of
(maximum four page documents) available for a phone call plus about $10
shipping (call 603-889-8650 for more information).
Combining one of these programs with a low-cost laser
or colour inkjet,
and many users will find that they can produce everything they need,
on the desktop. And using PagePlus's higher end features, gives them
of room to grow, with the possibility of producing almost
DTP may no longer be revolutionary-- the next fad may
hypertext publishing (including Internet Web pages). But whether
a leaflet or two with Publisher, or taking the plunge into the depths
PhotoShop, it remains an area where individuals can build some basic
of good taste into a career, and do it on their desktop.