Desktop publishing – Software Review – Evaluation

Susan Glinert

Six of the latest document tools for everyone from beginners to professionals

Desktop publishing (DTP) has revolutionized the printing industry and changed the way businesses handle printed material. Thanks to the latest DTP software, even the smallest home-based operation can easily produce its own letterhead, brochures, newsletters, or marketing flyers without dealing with commercial printing establishments.

Today’s crop of DTP programs ranges from template-based tools to professional applications. To choose a product, you should decide first why you’ll need it–small brochures, a few business cards, glossy four-color advertisements, or technical manuals. Then assess your budget and your designer’s skill, even if it’s your own.

We’ve sampled six DTP packages in a variety of price and power categories. We tested each on a 450MHz Pentium II desktop with 386MB of RAM, constructing a four-page newsletter and a long, multipage document and printing them to both a Lexmark Optra R+ monochrome laser and Epson Stylus Color 3000 color ink-jet printer. We also tried the Web output of programs that offered it.

The lower-priced programs here–Corel Print Office and Microsoft Publisher -are aimed at novices. They supply templates and clip art, and walk you through the process of adding your text and customizing a publication.

At the other end of the spectrum, heavyweights QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign assume you’re a graphics pro seeking do-it-yourself tools to design sophisticated documents and four-color separations. These products also assume you have a library of artwork and typefaces of your own, and thus ship with few extras.

Adobe PageMaker and Corel Ventura Publisher fit somewhere in the middle: They’re more complicated than the fill-in-the-blanks programs, but supply templates and ancillary features that soften their somewhat formidable feature sets.



Adobe InDesign 1.5

Rating: 8

QuarkXPress 4.1

Rating: 7


Adobe PageMaker

6.5 Plus

Rating: 9

Corel Ventura 8 Publisher

Rating: 8


Corel Print Office 2000

Rating: 7

Microsoft Publisher 2000 Deluxe

Rating: 8


HOME OFFICE COMPUTING rates products on a scale of 1 to 10-with few 9’s or 10’s-based on value, performance, innovation {medals go to rare standouts in these areas}, ease of use, and suitability for home offices. The [up arrow] and [down arrow] symbols indicate pros and cons.

Adobe InDesign 1.5 HOC RATING: 8

The newest kid on the DTP circuit, InDesign 1.5 offers a wide variety of features, complex page assembly, and first-rate drawing tools for experienced publishing gurus.

Unlike its rival QuarkXPress, InDesign is Internet-aware; we readily created documents for the Web in both HTML and PDF (Adobe Acrobat) formats. Not surprisingly, InDesign offers tight integration with Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator. Likewise, its interface follows the Adobe dockable-palette model and permits only modest user configuration.

The absence of any tools for book compilation, Lists, and indices makes InDesign a pain to use for Long documents, though otherwise the program is built for power publishing-layers, drawing tools, complex text wraps, spreads, bleeds, and automatic trapping are all here.

For the finicky studio pro, InDesign1 offers a multiline composer that Looks ahead several Lines to determine the best way to create optically pleasing text. You’ll also find optical kerning and margin alignment, making InDesign a standout for text composition.

The professional design crowd–especially users who work with relatively short documents– Will adore InDesign for its ultradeluxe features and Quark-beating $699 price.

[up arrow] Flexible design features; fair price [down arrow] Few tools for too long documents

QuarkXPress 4.1 HOC RATING: 7

Unquestionably, QuarkXPress 4.1 (commonly known as Quark) is for the Layout specialist. You won’t find wizards, configurable palettes, or instant publishing features here, but you will find superb color management and exquisite type control.

Most features in Quark are accessed via floating palettes. Although the interface is streamlined, it Lacks the context-sensitive help and personalization that are standard in other packages. Likewise, Web page designers won’t find any HTML publishing features–a serious omission in Light of the competition’s attendance to the Internet.

Graphics experts will find much to Love, including the ability to run text around both sides of an object, as welt as convert text to objects and fill them with images. However, there are no Layers as in the Adobe products here.

Although Quark’s Long-document tools pale next to those of Ventura Publisher, we were able to compile multichapter books, tables of contents, and indices. Quark also neatly synchronized style sheets across books and automatically updated page numbers in our documents.

For commercial print media, QuarkXPress is a standard. But its $849 price tag makes it a costly, Limited choice. We hope the upcoming 5.0 release addresses some of these issues.

[up arrow] Industry standard; great type control [down arrow] Pricey; no Internet features

Adobe PageMaker 6.5 Plus HOC RATING: 9

Before InDesign, PageMaker was Adobe’s professional DTP offering, but now it’s targeted at the mainstream business market. Forget the marketing hype, however; PageMaker 6.5 Plus remains a sophisticated product. Tabbed palettes are used to create and edit specific functions, such as Layers, URL tags, colors, and styles. This version has searchable clip art, a template browser, and a Microsoft Office-style button bar to access file, formatting, and Layout tools.

PageMaker rejects the frame concept–we placed text and graphics anywhere without being bound inside containers (you can use frames if you want to). And the Story Editor–a feature InDesign sorely Lacks–is handy for editing text. PageMaker even has a plug-in for generating tables of contents and a multichapter book function for formatting Long documents.

Despite some shortcomings, we think this program successfully bridges the gap between wizard-driven and professional DTP. You even get a decent number of extras for PageMaker’s relatively Low $499 price, including Adobe Photoshop LE, templates, clip art, and photos. We think PageMaker 6.5 Plus is the perfect toot for creating slick, attractive business documents.

[up arrow] Feature-rich; relatively inexpensive [down arrow] Business users will need more hand-holding

Corel Ventura 8 Publisher HOC RATING: 8

Like all Corel products, the $695 Ventura Publisher comes bursting with Lots of extras-including WordPerfect 8, Photo-Paint 8, Database Publisher, and countless clip art images, fonts, templates, and utilities. With all this plus built-in features for editing text, bitmapped images, and vector graphics, Ventura is one DTP program that can stand by itself.

We easily found our way around the customizable interface, which includes a tabbed Navigator palette for viewing components Like master pages, tables of contents, cross-references, and macro scripts. The program has terrific type control, including the ability to fill text with images, and the best drawing tools we’ve seen in a DTP program.

Local output was flawless to both our printers, although Ventura wouldn’t be our first choice for home-based workers who outsource their printing–the program’s PostScript output can lock up commercial image-setters, so you’ll want to send PDF files to your printer instead.

Nevertheless, if you are Looking for a complete package that can take care of all your in-house publishing needs, Ventura offers plenty of friendly, feature-packed bang for the buck.

[up arrow] Lots of extras; excellent type control [down arrow] Expensive; not the pro standard

Corel Print Office 2000 HOC RATING: 7

Although it uses the same template model as Microsoft Publisher, we didn’t find the $99 Corel Print Office 2000 as easy to use.

The interface is made up of a Project bar and the main workspace. To perform any action, we had to drill down through a series of folders and pages in the Project bar, then sometimes drill back up to make changes. This proved cumbersome and time-consuming.

Once we got the hang of the interface, however, Print Office’s features proved quite versatile. Oddly shaped text boxes, beautiful color fills, and multiple drop shadows were easy to apply. If we right-clicked on a picture, we could send it to the included copy of Corel Photo House to add effects and optimize it for the Web.

For some reason, the CorelCentral address book/organizer is included, but we couldn’t perform mail merges with it as we could with Microsoft Publisher.

You can easily create professional-looking brochures, Web pages, business cards, and other basic publications with Print Office 2000, but the program’s awkward interface left us looking for another desktop publisher.

[up arrow] Elegant effects; attractive results [down arrow] Difficult to use; poor use of extras

Microsoft Publisher 2000 Deluxe HOC RATING: 8

Taking templates to the extreme, Microsoft Publisher is more Like one big wizard than a traditional page layout program. To create publications, you simply pick your publications type from a List, choose a style, and the program generates a template for you. The templates are grouped into design sets; if none appeals to you, there are blank ones to get you started.

Once you have a publication on the desktop, a Wizard bar helps you set a color scheme, add a Logo or clip art, or change the basic design. When you’re ready to print, Publisher can save the document as a Web site, or package it to send to a service bureau or another computer.

All of the above is standard consumer fare, but smart, helpful tools for business publishers are everywhere. We quickly added animations and background sounds to a Web site, constructed complex tables, performed mail merges, designed our own mastheads, and even saved documents in Pocket Word format. Amazingly, Publisher supports advanced features such as process-color separations and automatic and custom trapping.

At $99 alone or $129 with Microsoft’s Picture It image editor (the Deluxe bundle we tested), Microsoft Publisher is a deceptive bargain. On the surface, it’s a friendly DTP program for beginners, but underneath it contains features you’d expect to find in a professional package costing three or four times as much.

[up arrow] Top-of-the-line DTP tools; easy to use [down arrow] More expensive than the competition


Why trot your unpublished electronic documents down to the local service bureau when you can send files to an e-printer?

At We Print Today ( you can order rubber stamps, signs, and engraving services online, as well as printed letterhead, forms, business cards, and other office products. Or you can ask for a quote for custom designs, using a convenient form with drop-down lists for paper type, size, ink color, and binding.

Kinko’s ( offers a wide range of printing services and business products. You can use your own artwork or play with LiveDesigner, an interactive wizard that asks you a series of questions about your business and then generates a selection of printed pieces based on your criteria.

The iPrint Web site (www. offers Design Studio, which lets you select a design and customize its fonts, color, graphics, object positioning, and so on. You can save your work in progress and come back later to purchase your finished product, if you like. This site also offers some gorgeous full-color pieces. Of course, if you have your own designs and specifications, iPrint can provides custom printing services.

There are hundreds of printing services and service bureaus to choose from–you should compare price, shipping cost, the ability to accept electronic files, turnaround time, and satisfaction policy before you pick a printer. For handy information about choosing and working with service bureaus, check out’s Graphic Design Web site ( This site features articles on design considerations, font issues, definitions, tips, and do’s and don’ts that you should explore before placing an order. It also is home to dozens of free fonts, portfolios, tutorials, and advice from professional graphic artists.



ADOBE INDESIGN 1.5 $699 Adobe Systems Inc.


QUARKXPRESS 4.1 $849 Quark Inc.


ADOBE PAGEMAKER 6.5 PLUS $499 Adobe Systems Inc.




COREL PRINT OFFICE 2000 $99 Corel Corp.


MICROSOFT PUBLISHER 2000 DELUXE $129 Microsoft Corp.




ADOBE INDESIGN 1.5 Win 95/98/NT 4.0, 48MB RAM,

130MB hard disk space, Pentium

II processor (Windows); Mac OS

8.5 or Later, 48MB RAM with

virtual memory, 120MB hard disk

space, PowerPC processor (Mac)

QUARKXPRESS 4.1 Win 95/98/NT 4.0, 12MB RAM,

30MB hard disk space (Windows);

Mac OS 7.1 or later, 10MB RAM,

14MB hard disk space (Mac)

ADOBE PAGEMAKER 6.5 PLUS Win 95/98/NT 4.0, 16MB RAM,

140MB hard disk space, Pentium

processor (Windows); Mac OS

7.53 or Cater, 9MB RAM,

26MB hard disk space,

PowerPC processor (Mac)


75MB hard disk space, Pentium


COREL PRINT OFFICE 2000 Win 95/98/NT 4.0, 16MB RAM,

110MB hard disk space, Pentium

processor (Windows); Mac OS 8.5

or later, 32MB RAM with virtual

memory, 100MB hard disk space,

G3 or G4 processor (Mac)


127MB hard disk space, Pentium


COPYRIGHT 2000 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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