Print Shop Deluxe moves from kiddie realm into adult world


September 07, 1992|By Michael J. Himowitz

For the past eight years, Broderbund's Print Shop has entertained countless children and provided their parents with a quick and painless way to turn ordinary printers into magic machines that produce greeting cards, party invitations, signs, letterheads and banners.

The program has also been a favorite among clubs, organizations and small businesses for quick-and-dirty fliers, notices and in-store promotions.

For serious users, however, Print Shop has always had a serious failing. While the ragged quality of its output was fine for youngsters, it would never fool anyone into thinking it came from the program's namesake.

Until now. The latest version of this old warhorse, Print Shop Deluxe, takes the program out of the kiddie realm and into the adult world, with superb text and beautifully drawn graphics that take advantage of today's cheap, high-powered computers and printers.

Print Shop is still easy enough for kids to figure out, and almost as easy for older people. But the program has been completely rewritten to take ad

vantage of high-resolution, scalable typefaces and "vector" graphics, which eliminate the jagged edges and amateurish look of the older versions. New options also make it possible to produce truly custom-designed documents.

All of this has its price. Print Shop Deluxe requires some real computing power -- an IBM-compatible with an 80386 processor, a VGA monitor, a megabyte of internal memory and four megabytes of hard disk space.

This is an entry-level machine by today's standards, but owners of older 80286 and 8086 machines are out of luck. Even some 386 computers, especially those running slower than 25 Mhz, will labor mightily under the weight of the new version.

For best quality, Broderbund also recommends that you use a 24-pin dot matrix printer, ink-jet or laser printer compatible with standard Epson, IBM and Hewlett Packard models, although it will work with most inexpensive nine-pin printers.

Print Shop fans who have amassed a library of graphics and typefaces for older versions may also be disappointed. The old pictures and fonts aren't compatible with the new program. And the graphics editor that allowed users to create their own artwork is missing.

But if you have the horsepower under the hood and you're willing to settle for the generous selection of 130 pieces of clip art and 30 typefaces that come with Print Shop Deluxe, you're in for a treat.

Like its predecessors, Print Shop Deluxe is easy to use and passes the 8-year-old test (if an 8-year-old can figure it out, an adult shouldn't have too much trouble). The program is driven by intuitive menus that take you step-by-step through the creation process. If you don't like something you've done, you can easily back up and change it.

An opening menu gives you a choice of a sign, a greeting card, letterhead or a banner, although these are just guidelines. A sign can be a PTA flier, sale notice, letter -- anything you want it to be.

Once you've done that, you can select a background graphic, to frame the entire page. This is a new feature that replaces the old Print Shop page borders, and it's well done. Backgrounds include such exotica as a haunted house, a shipboard scene and a crab with sunglasses lounging on a beach, as well as more mundane frames and holiday scenes.

Next, you select a layout, an arrangement of text and graphic elements on the page. There are dozens of different layouts, but this version lets you modify any of them once you've selected.

After that, it's a matter of selecting from a variety of extraordinary graphics -- many of which are better than the clip art that comes with expensive design programs -- and entering the text in your choice of typefaces and formats.

A headline feature will bend type into different shapes, with a variety of backgrounds and gradient patterns, and you can move any element -- a text block or graphic -- anywhere on your page, or layer them and stack them in any order.

The graphic images are all in color, but they're cleverly designed to reproduce well on black-and-white printers, too -- something that many other graphics programs don't take into consideration. Unlike older versions, which allowed you to change the color of your graphics, Print Shop Deluxe allows you to change only the "density" of the image -- essentially how dark it appears on the page.

While it won't import graphics stored in other formats, you can export Print Shop Deluxe pictures to a variety of other formats and use them with many standard word processing and graphics programs. The artwork is so well done that this may be worth the price of admission alone.

Print Shop Deluxe will never win any speed contests. Even on a quick 80486 PC running at 33 Mhz, the program took its time redrawing the screen and sending images to the printer. A complex, full-page document with several graphics and a variety of text effects took almost six minutes to print out at high resolution on a HP LaserJet.

Later this fall, Broderbund says it will introduce Print Shop for the Microsoft Windows graphical environment. Windows' built-in graphics handling and printer spooling may solve many of the speed problems of the DOS version.

Print Shop Deluxe lists for $79.95. But who pays list? Additional graphics libraries are available at $44.95 each. For information, contact Broderbund Software Inc., 500 Redwood Blvd., Novato, Calif. 94948.

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