Desktop publishing star is still improving


April 22, 1991|By PETER H. LEWIS

Aldus Corp. of Seattle has introduced a greatly improved version of Pagemaker, its desktop publishing program for IBM PCs running the DOS-Windows 3.0 operating system.

Like its Apple Macintosh counterpart, which was released earlier, Pagemaker 4.0 for Windows can meet the needs of a broad range of users, ranging from church newsletter secretaries to technical manual publishers.

Pagemaker is widely credited, along with the Apple Macintosh, with creating the desktop publishing industry. Pagemaker first captured the imaginations of personal computer users years ago, allowing people much more control over a printed page than was possible with simple word processors.

At its most basic level, Pagemaker allows a PC user to take a word-processing document, lay it down on an electronic pasteboard, trim it, wrap it around some art, add a headline and print a professional-looking newsletter or report.

What you see on the Pagemaker display is what you get when it comes out of a laser or inkjet printer.

But today, many of those early Pagemaker users have become more sophisticated desktop publishers, and they demand such advanced features as automatic letter spacing, text rotation, vertical justification, indexing and table-of-contents generation for long documents, the ability to use color files, the ability to pull files from spreadsheets easily and other tricks that once were the exclusive province of professionals.

Pagemaker has kept pace. Pagemaker 4.0 (list price $795) "is an all-round publishing program that is in a class by itself," said Tony Bove, editor of The Bove and Rhodes Insider Report on Desktop Publishing, a newsletter published in Gualala, Calif.

Mr. Bove said the new Pagemaker is suitable for casual users as well as for professionals. "It's the only Windows publishing program to be useful for all kinds of publishing applications," he said.

Although Pagemaker has lots of competition on the low end of the desktop publishing market, including the attractive but unfortunately named Publish-It, from the Timeworks Co., the only real competition Pagemaker had in the Windows realm was Ventura Publisher.

In fact, Ventura ($795 from Ventura Software) Software Inc. of San Diego, Calif., was the only solution for people who wanted to create long documents, such as books of several hundred pages. Pagemaker was better suited to newsletters, where Ventura was weakest, but Ventura shone in the long document category.

Pagemaker 4.0 can now do book projects as well, up to 999

pages. (Turnabout is fair play, of course, and Ventura has just come out with a Macintosh version to challenge Pagemaker's dominance on that side of the universe.)

Pagemaker was also being challenged from below by standard word processing programs, including Word Perfect and Microsoft Word, which had added many page-layout tools, like the ability to wrap text around graphics.

This time it is Pagemaker's turn for turnabout. Our favorite of the 75 or so new features in Pagemaker 4.0 is the Story Editor, which is essentially a built-in word processor that allows the Pagemaker user to compose and edit text without exiting to the word processor.

It has search-and-replace, spell checking and most of the other typographical features found in the leading word processing packages. It is not as fast as many other word processors, but it's not slow death, either.

While the Story Editor is great for composing documents within Pagemaker, it is also helpful in dealing with documents created outside.

One of our biggest headaches in desktop publishing is the inadvertent creation of multiple versions of a single story. We often make trims and edits in a document after it is laid out in Pagemaker.

Meanwhile, the original text file, a copy of which was "imported" into Pagemaker, remains unchanged in its word processing program. If we ever have to rebuild the page, or recall the story, we'll get the unedited version.

Story Editor allows the user to "export" the edited file from Pagemaker back to the original word processor. It is not an automatic process, but it beats reconciling changes line by line.

Pagemaker 4.0 for Windows shares a lot of the same features with Pagemaker 4.0 for the Macintosh. On the Mac side, Pagemaker's main challenger is Quark, which has become the favorite of the professionals who lay out magazine pages and other color documents.

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