Budget desktop-publishing programs let beginners print pages with pizazz

September 26, 1990|By Peter McWILLIAMS

With my review of the desktop publishing program Ventura Publisher last week, I'm reminded of a letter I received recently from a woman in Nutley, N.J. She asked for advice on a home desktop-publishing program. This brings up the topic of desktop publishing for beginners.

To reiterate: Desktop publishing refers to page design and typographical control. Desktop publishing goes beyond word processing. It allows you to drop in graphics and change lettering. Newsweek, Time and other magazines arrange their pages for visual interest. You, too, can design pages, whether for a fancy letter home or for your own magazine.

The top-of-the-line desktop publishing programs for MS-DOS computers include Ventura Publisher and PageMaker PC. For the Macintosh, the top contenders are Quark, PageMaker and Ready-Set-Go. These programs, however, cost $300 to $900 and work best when you have a laser printer, a computer with a great deal of memory and a scanner to read in graphic images.

For those of you who just want a taste of desktop publishing and have at least a dot-matrix printer, there are a number of programs for the PC. You do not need all the expensive hardware of a design artist to turn out pages with pizazz.

A popular beginner's program for IBMs and compatibles is PFS: First Publisher ($149, Software Publishing Corp., 49 Kessel Court, Madison, Wis. 53711; (608) 274-6813). With it, you can have font sizes up to 70 points high, have up to 4 columns per page, and you get 150 pieces of free clip art (pictures) that you can drop into your text for liveliness. First Publisher also comes with 85 sample layouts.

First Publisher is geared for beginners, with an easy-to-read manual. You do not, of course, have all the power of the top-of-the-line programs. Such things as automatic hyphenation and global style changes are missing. Nonetheless, the programs are far less intimidating than those on the high end.

With a little more money, you might also consider Publish-It Timeworks, 444 Lake Cook Road, Deerfield, Ill. 60015-4919; (708) 948-9200). It comes in versions for IBMs and compatibles, for Apple IIs and for Macintoshes.

Publish-It offers more control than the previous two programs, and although it's geared for novices, Publish-It has enough power to be used professionally. Small businesses might like it. A simplified version called Publish-It Lite -- for dot-matrix printers only -- costs just $89.

Some word-processing programs themselves offer desktop publishing features. WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, WordStar 6, Word for Windows and Ami all let you combine text and graphics.

If you simply want to read about the basics of desktop publishing, I still recommend Daniel Will-Harris' "WordPerfect: Desktop Publishing with Style" (Peachpit Press). Mr. Will-Harris explains in a detailed, humorous and clear style just what desktop publishing can do, specifically with WordPerfect.

The woman in Nutley, N.J., by the way, says she uses a Macintosh at work with PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator. She wanted something inexpensive for home that would be compatible. My recommendation is PageMaker at home, too, expensive as it is. If she does not have a Macintosh, a fast PC (a 286 or 386sx) and the program PageMaker PC will keep her compatible at a fraction of the cost (under $2,000). Corel Draw is compatible with Illustrator files.

NEXT WEEK: What you need if you want to leap into desktop publishing in a serious way.

1990 Universal Press Syndicate

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