Serious desktop publishing needs special software to paint and draw

PETER McWILLIAMS

October 10, 1990|By PETER McWILLIAMS | PETER McWILLIAMS,1990 Universal Press Syndicate

The hardware -- computer, special monitor, laser printer and mouse -- that I mentioned last week for the "serious" desktop user is only the start. Software makes it all run.

The first thing you need, naturally, is a desktop publishing program that will be the heart of your system. 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 Pagemaker, Quark and Ready-Set-Go. These programs cost from $300 to $900. You will need only one of them. As I said four weeks ago, I happen to like Ventura Publisher when I publish my own books.

In addition to your "main" program, you might want to get two complementary programs: draw and paint.

A draw program is -- you guessed it -- for drawing. I flunked drawing years ago and went right for the modeling clay. Three dimensions I can work; in two dimensions, I'm all stick figures and suns with lines shooting out of them. Even so, I'm amazed at what I've created with Corel Draw (Corel Systems, 1600 Carling Ave., Ottawa, Ontario K1Z 8R7 Canada; [613] 728-8200).

Corel Draw, with the use of a mouse, gives you a variety of tools to easily create lines, boxes, circles, ovals, geometrical shapes, any kind of wavy figure and text. At first I assumed that "drawing" meant creating still lifes or pictures of women descending staircases.

Once the notion of art school left my head, I found these kinds of programs were great for creating logos, business cards, interesting chapter titles, postcards, calendars, invitations and almost anything that has a line in it. I created a 4-by-2-inch ad that I ran in newspapers.

These images you make can be imported from another program, dropped in and sized.

So what's a paint program for? Paint programs edit scanned images -- images imported by your scanner. Scanners create images in pixels (dots), and with a paint program you can edit pixel by pixel.

Paint programs also can give you color, but color is not useful for most people. It is for those giving demonstrations using a color monitor or for those few who have a color ink-jet, thermal transfer or laser printer. Microsoft Paintbrush is my program of choice, and it comes free with the Microsoft Mouse, my mouse of choice (Microsoft Corp., 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, Wash. 98052-6399; 882-8080).

Draw programs always print at the highest resolution of your printer or typesetter (it's best on typesetters, naturally). Paint-program graphics are limited by their pixel resolution (the number of dots per inch). With draw programs, you can enlarge or reduce a graphic with no loss of quality. Paint-program graphics become jaggy when enlarged and muddy when reduced.

Clip art is the name for images on disk, copyright free and available for everyone to use at will. People, automobiles, the outline of the United States, hands, lamps, brooms, fire engines -- such images can be purchased as clip art. Once you import the images, you can tinker with them at will. The most attractive paint-type clip art comes from Metro Image Base (18623 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, Calif. 91356; [800] 525-1552). Some of the most useful draw-type clip art are PicturePacks from MGI (P.O. Box 6589, Richmond, Va. 23230-0589; [804] 747-6991.)

With Corel Draw, for instance, I "clipped" a globe and then bent some words around the top half of it to make a logo. (Corel Draw is particularly great for bending, flipping, shadowing and otherwise manipulating words and letters for effect. You can draw a squiggly line and have a sentence laid down on the line's path.)

The last kind of software you might consider for your "serious desktop publishing" system is for optical character reading, or OCR, which is, well, like science fiction. Hate typing something already printed? With OCR, you stick the page in your scanner, and OCR software converts the resulting image into editable text on your computer.

The best of this by far is OmniPage (Caere Corp., 100 Cooper Court, Los Gatos, Calif. 95030; 408-395-7000). The OmniPage software is highly automatic. It even runs the scanner. All you need to do is put in the pages that you want scanned.

After your text is scanned, OmniPage automatically goes through a three-part process. First it looks at your page and erases all the pictures and graphics, leaving just the text. It then reads the text and moves into the "recognizing" stage. It then turns what it reads into standard computer text. Your screen looks as it would if you typed the page using your computer keyboard. OmniPage comes in versions for IBM computers and compatibles and for Apple Macintosh systems.

OK, so if you're serious, you need a lot of "stuff," both hardware and software. Springing up across the nation, however, are small shops that rent desktop publishing systems by the hour. (Kinko's photocopy shops in Los Angeles, for instance, do this.) Extension classes, too, offer both expertise and equipment. With some time and only a modicum of money, you can try desktop publishing for yourself.

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