When I looked at the first release of Unison World's Avagio desktop publishing program more than a year ago, I decided it was a good idea to wait for the second release.
While Avagio had intriguing capabilities, it was so slow and quirky, and its instruction manual was so bad, that I was afraid to review it lest someone would actually buy it.
The new Avagio 2.0 is vastly improved, and certainly a contender for people who want to put real pizazz into their newsletters, fliers and brochures at a reasonable ($149) price.
While the program is still quirky and suffers from some minor bugs, it looks and handles much better than the original and runs much faster.
The instruction manual has improved to the point of providing some reliable information. As a result, if you need the program's superb ability to manipulate type and graphics, it may well be worth the effort.
Avagio requires an IBM-compatible machine with an 80286 or 80386 processor, 640K of memory and a hard disk drive. The faster the processor and the more memory you have, the better Avagio runs.
Like all desktop publishing programs, it lets you design documents that include multiple columns, head lines and graphics, placing any element anywhere on a page.
You begin by laying out your pages, creating "frames" for various text elements. Avagio also provides "master" pages that include headers, footers and page numbers that will appear on every page.
Once you've set up a page, or part of it, you can type in text (slow and awkward), or import it from a word processing file. Avagio supports WordPerfect, Microsoft Word, Multimate and Wordstar files in their native format, or text from any word processor so long as it's saved in standard ASCII file format.
You can easily link frames to allow text to flow from one to another and jump to another page. Or, you can select an auto-flow mode that will automatically flow text from one frame to another without linking.
Avagio comes with 11 different scalable fonts from Micrologic. Scalable fonts allow you to use any typeface in any size. The program will also convert standard, single-size laser printer font files produced by other major publishers.
Avagio's fonts aren't quite so well drawn as fonts I've used from Bitstream, Adobe and other typeface publishers, particularly in smaller sizes. But they're acceptable.
To enhance your document, you can place a graphic anywhere on a page. It can lay on top of your text or behind it, or you can have the program flow the text around it. Unlike some desktop publishing programs, Avagio won't flow text around irregularly shaped objects; it draws an invisible box around the graphic and flows the text around that.
Unfortunately, Avagio has implemented its own proprietary graphics file format. But it will import and export graphics saved in the standard PCX and TIFF formats used by many other programs. This is a good thing, because the clip art images that come with Avagio are poorly organized and not particularly useful samples from a variety of independent publishers.
Avagio's own vector-based graphics tools are powerful, producing beautiful, scalable images (providing, of course, that you know how to draw). Besides the usual box, line and circle drawing tools, there are tools to create irregular polygons and curves.
Manipulating graphics and text is Avagio's forte. You can use an infinite variety of shades, colors and fills for your text characters and graphics, allowing you to create some startling effects -- including some found only in expensive design programs.
You can rotate text or bind it to a graphic object, which means you can set text in a circle, around a square or triangle, or along a winding street in a map.
The program's most powerful feature, and its most puzzling, is called "mingle." It lets you set change the fill, color and other attributes of your text and graphics objects when they overlap other objects.
It's hard to explain, and the manual doesn't help much, but imagine that you want to overlap a large headline over a black box. With mingle, the part of the headline outside the box is black, but the portion overlapping the box is white.
Combined with fills, colors, gradient shades and other goodies, mingle can produce some dazzling text and graphics effects if you're willing to experiment, as the manual advises.
The program will drive a wide variety of printers, including Postscript devices, which are new in this version. While a laser printer will naturally provide the best results, Avagio did a credible job with the beat-up, nine-pin IBM dot matrix printer I use mostly for mailing labels.
Avagio also will drive color printers but won't produce four-color separations, which limits its usefulness for serious, mass-production design.