Windows offers the best desktop publishing

PERFECT PAGES

January 20, 1992|By LESTER A. PICKER

As we've seen, switching to Windows offers distinct advantages and some disadvantages. However, once you've made the decision to go to Windows, you will probably never go back.

In last week's column, I recommended Lotus' Ami Pro and Microsoft's Word as the two preferred word processors on the market for IBM computers and IBM-compatibles, with WordPerfect running a close second. For spreadsheets, Lotus' 1,2,3 for Windows and Microsoft's Excel for Windows are both excellent choices. You really can't go wrong with either.

This week I look at presentation and desktop publishing software for non-profit organizations.

As far as presentation software is concerned, leader Harvard Graphics 3.0 is in trouble. The DOS-based presentation package will soon become a dinosaur, replaced by more agile performers like Microsoft's Powerpoint for Windows and Lotus' Freelance Graphics for Windows. In response, Harvard Graphics plans a Windows release this spring.

Presentation software allows a user to create overheads, which a non-profit executive might need for a board meeting or conference presentation. You can also create 35mm slides or computer presentations with these packages. Non-profits developing proposals for funding will find presentation packages indispensable for explanatory graphics.

The first package reviewed was the high end Persuasion by Lotus, every bit the equivalent of their top-of-the-line desktop publishing package, Pagemaker. The problem our review team found was that Persuasion was difficult to learn and sometimes confusing. Further, much like Harvard Graphics, each slide is a separate file, making the process of stringing slides together to create an entire presentation a chore. The program is powerful enough for a graphic designer, but overkill for all but the largest non-profit organizations.

In contrast, Powerpoint and Freelance Graphics offer a wide range of features and are very easy to learn and use. We found ourselves up and running in minutes, creating a conference presentation within an hour. As with many Windows products, there are some quirky aspects to the programs, such as Powerpoint's inability to draw dotted lines.

Both Powerpoint and Freelance use a presentation approach in which all slides of a presentation are in one file. You simply click through the pages to go from one slide to the next. You can make global changes to all slides quickly and easily, change the format, or make last-minute revisions.

Freelance is tightly integrated with Lotus' Ami Pro for Windows and borrows its icon structure to enhance the program's ease-of-use. Lotus also included more than 60 SmartMaster sets. These well-designed masters allow you to pick the one you find )) visually most appealing, then fill in the blanks for the title and bulleted text.

Powerpoint is equally impressive, designed for use by the people who will actually be giving the presentations. Like Freelance, Powerpoint allows you to view tiny versions of all your pages on one screen, then change their order or make global changes.

All three programs have a feature that automatically generates handout pages. Add notes for your audience and the programs will print your graphic in miniature, along with the full-sized notes. Persuasion is available locally for about $350, Powerpoint for $250 and Freelance for $370.

In the desktop publishing category, there's Pagemaker for Windows. And then there's everyone else. If you want a full-featured, top-of-the-line desktop publisher, you need to shell out $500 and invest the time and resources (lots of both) to learn Pagemaker.

On the other hand, suppose you're like me. You'd love to have the time to become proficient with a desktop publisher, but you simply don't have the time to learn. You would like to produce brochures for the organization, a newsletter, invitations to your annual meeting and some fliers. Yet, you don't want to sacrifice quality. In that case, I don't see any other choice but to run to the store to purchase Microsoft's Publisher.

Publisher ($79) is one of the neatest, and least expensive, programs to come along in a long time. We literally took Publisher out of the box and, using its amazing PageWizards, we produced a four-page, 3-column newsletter in less than an hour!

PageWizards is "an interactive tool that automates the design process," according to Microsoft. You simply answer some questions on screen, then, while you watch, your newsletter is designed for you. Add your copy to the boxes and, voila, instant newsletter. You can then modify it. Publisher comes with most of the features of higher-end software.

PageWizards also helps you design forms, brochures, invitations and more. Publisher has some quirks, but they are minor and should disappear in the next edition. Overall, it is the way to go for an organization just entering the desktop publishing scene or for someone looking for an inexpensive, easy-to-use alternative to Pagemaker or the soon-to-appear Ventura Publisher for Windows.

If you move to Windows, you will find that there are some great software buys available.

Les Picker, a consultant in the field of philanthropy, works with charitable organizations and for-profit companies.

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