ISSUE 510: The high tech office- Aug 3
Adobe moves to 'reposition'
its PageMaker software
for nonprofessional users
The high tech folks are not the only ones to
twist our vocabulary to their own purposes. Business types can do it
just as well, thanks.
Look at the new-to-the-'90s word "repositioning." In
the swinging '70s, that would have carried sexual overtones. Not now.
Take a product, re-
package it, aim it at a different market. It's been repositioned. This,
of course, is not a bad thing -- if the product fills a valid market
niche in the new way, more power to it.
Consider Adobe Software's venerable PageMaker
desktop publisher. A dozen years or so ago, the first version of
PageMaker, together with the original Apple Laserwriter
printer, showed how the Macintosh could be a useful office tool,
permitting businesses to layout documents that they previously had to
send out. A little later, the PC version was one of the pioneering
But while PageMaker evolved and improved over the
years, it lost its hold on the professional page design market to Quark
XPress, a product that permits control over all the elements on a page
to a seemingly microscopic level. After 1997's version 6.5 failed to
make much of a dent in Quark's hold on the pro-
fessional market, Adobe seemed to give up on the product, announcing a
new, built-from-scratch program, InDesign, due later this year.
But if PageMaker is no longer the darling of the page
layout pros, how about aiming it at another market?
And that's what Adobe is trying, with its recent
release of PageMaker 6.5 Plus, for Windows and Mac users. And that
market is most of you, dear readers -- business computer users who may
need, from time to time, to layout professional-looking documents
yourselves. And there are far more of you than there are graphics and
page design professionals.
The new version is built on top of version 6.5. That
version of PageMaker has some nice features -- it allows users to work
with text and graphics in the old free-form PageMaker style, or by
working with frames, as in Quark XPress. Documents can be exported as
Adobe Acrobat files or Web HTML files for electronic publishing.
Taking a cue from Corel, which has always
thrown lots of freebies in with their graphics products, Adobe includes
more than 100 high-quality fonts, and a second CD full of clip art and
But the real repositioning for the business market
comes from the templates. More than 300 editable starting points for a
wide range of projects -- from business cards to advertisements. It's
easy to add your own graphics and text, and simple to customize the
colour choices. And Adobe has dropped the price to broaden the market
to about $600 or so.
Here, they're competing with Microsoft
Publisher, the $200 desktop publishing bestseller. Publisher includes
Wizards which, with their fill-in-the-blank style, are even easier to
use than PageMaker's templates. PageMaker, however, offers much more
powerful customization than Publisher. And Publisher is available to
Windows users only, while Adobe's product reaches Mac users as well.
But Mac users will be less happy than their Windows
equivalents. The core program is identical on both platforms. And both
boxes include the same fonts, clip art and templates and a marvelous Getting
Started manual by Robin Williams (no, not that
Robin Williams -- she's the author of tomes such as The
Non-Designer's Design Book).
Windows users get a few things that Adobe left out of
the Mac package, however. They get an Office-style toolbar, for easy
access to menu commands (very handy, as PageMaker has always insisted
on doing menus its own way).
Even more importantly, Mac users don't get the
template and picture viewer included in the Windows package.
Instead, Mac users looking for a design have to
blunder through the set of templates, one at a time, to find one they
want to work with. Windows users can quickly find the right one
It's too bad, really. PageMaker remains a powerful
program and the set of templates, along with the bundled fonts and
graphics, are all well designed and offer a way for many
nonprofessionals to produce attractive documents, both for print output
or for electronic publishing.
Windows users who are currently working with Microsoft
Publisher should check it out if they are willing to trade
user-friendly Wizards for more power (and spend a lot more).
But Mac users really need an easier way to access all
that valuable added-in content. *