Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 136 / DECEMBER 1991 / PAGE 94

Ventura or PageMaker? (Ventura Publisher 3.0 for Windows, PageMaker 4.0)(column) (Evaluation)
by Robert Bixby

Which is better: Ventura Publisher 3.0 for Windows or Page-Maker 4.0? When earlier versions of these products were available and Windows was much less a force than it is today, the corect answer to that question was a courageous "It depends." What it depended on was whether you had Windows and whether you were publishing or doing page makeup.

If you were creating books or newsletters, certain features of Ventura Publisher were particularly suited to your work. For more fanciful jobs, such as creating posters or making up individual pages (like the opening spread of a magazine article), PageMaker was the clear winner, having so many design features Ventura lacked or that were easier to use. And then some people were more tolerant of GEM (the operating system shell under which the original Ventura Publisher ran) than others.

Now that even Digital Research seems to be accepting the fact that GEM will eventually be relegated to the slag heap of history, Ventura has made the transition to Windows. However, its makers pledge to continue supporting the GEM version--they claim it's the only viable alternative for those who are interested in top-of-the-line desktop publishing using only DOS.

To test these products, I put together a series of 32-page books. My resulting impression is that PageMaker makes much better use of of Windows resources (no surprise there--PageMaker was available for Windows for years before Ventura Publisher was).

PageMaker formats faster and prints faster (by a wide margin), and its editor makes simple text editing much easier to do than in Ventura. I also liked PageMaker's interface better. It allowed freer movement among pages.

Most of the problems with Ventura Publisher for Windows have to do with the fact that it isn't as mature a product as PageMaker. For example, the odd and even printing option in the Print, dialog box doesn't work. Ventura paid little attention to the set-up and has always balked when Setup specifies portrait printing and the Page Setup dialog box specifies landscape printing. If I don't go back and make the chane in Ventura Publisher (and even sometimes when I do), the program will crash immediately after printing. And if I don't think to save my most recent changes, I'll lose them.

Ventura Publisher has one distinct advantage, however, that overcomes all the disadvantages: While PageMaker combines all the data necessary to generate a document into a single file, Ventura Publisher maintains all of its files separate from one another.

This is a significant advantages; it allows you to edit in the word processor or text editor of your choice. Any changes made in the text will be instantly reflected in the Ventura document without the end for further importing or cutting and pasting.

You can really appreciate this feature when you need to update a document with an outside application. For example, suppose you're confronted with the task of creating a newsletter, the back page of which lists the top sellers of a company's inventory. The file that makes up the back page can be the product of a database that's programmed to spit out the names, descriptions, and prices of products that have shown the most activity in the past 30 days.

Most databases can be programmed to print out text, such as the text you might find in a form letter. By telling the database to print to file the format tag for the product name, the product, the tag for the description, the description, and so on, you'll end up witha perfectly formated text file, ready to be printed with Ventura Publisher.

You file can be used by either version of Ventura Publisher--GEM or Windows. Each time you generate a newsletters, it will contain the latest information provided by your information or inventory program.

In my experiment wit formating books, I saved time in Ventura Publisher by making a master disk with copies of all the style sheet and chapter files and then using a different text file for each booklet. If you create a number of similar products, this is a very efficient way to handle the task.

After all was said and done, I ended up appreciating PageMaker's slickness and speed, but valuing more highly Ventura's open design.