Bits and pieces. (desktop publishing) (Column)
by Robert Bixby
I appreciate the time and effort of all those who responded to what I now think of as "the ox column" (COMPUTE, October 1992). There are few issues more central to computing than desktop publishing and few issues of greater concern to desktop publishers than censorship. I think I gave a few readers the mistaken impression that I was speaking out in favor of pornography. In fact, the column made the case that pornography is an inevitable outgrowth of the same right to free speech that provides our culture with great literature, that you can't have one without the other, and that it is a small price to pay. There are plenty of places in the world where you can risk your life by publishing either great literature or pornography. I, for one, am proud and grateful to live in one of the few nations where tolerance is the law of the land.
On a completely unrelated matter, I received a letter from a woman in the Bahamas asking for more details regarding my wife's grandfather's book. Long-time readers of this column will recall that my wife and I undertook to typeset and publish a book of memoirs of John Russell Beal, her family patriarch (COMPUTE, May 1992). The letter writer intends to publish a book about the Church of England in the Bahamas and wanted to know what software I used and what book on desktop publishing I would recommend.
I used Ventura Publisher 2.0 to typeset the book. I have a special regard for Ventura over many other products because it leaves the text of your publication in a simple text file that can be edited with any word processor or text editor. Its tags are easily inserted from the word processor, allowing you to do all your chores in the lightning-quick environment of a DOS word processor, usually with a simple search and replace. Page-Maker took a giant step forward when it incorporated a simple text editor in the program, but I can do much more with a word processor than with PageMaker's text editor. Sorry, Aldus; I still prefer venerable old Ventura.
Truthfully, though, since I finished work on the book, word processors have taken so many strides that I believe I'll simply use Ami Pro or Word for Windows to do my next major book project. I publish a small literary magazine partly because of a love of literature and partly to have an excuse to use all the desktop publishing hardware and software that comes my way. I pasted up the last two issues using only Word for Windows and ended up with a very short list of complaints. If all you're doing is a book made up primarily of text (really one of the simpler projects you could undertake), a word processor will probably fill all of your needs. Ami Pro even has an image editor that will let you adjust the brightness and contrast of gray-scale images.
The best book on desktop publishing--and on publishing in general--is The Chicago Manual of Style. It's the manual we use at COMPUTE and the one I use at home. It contains an exhaustive review of all those troubling questions that never arise unless you remember that your work will be in print for everyone to see. But even more important, it has a chapter on assembling a book, section by section.
There are a handful of excellent books on desktop publishing and design, including Roger C. Parker's best-selling Looking Good in Print (Ventana Press).
Another way to make sure you put your book together right is to find a book whose design you admire and emulate it. Most book designers get into the game because they admire the work they've seen on the shelf. As much as a painting or a sculpture, a book can be a real work of art.
Finally, almost as soon as my column on desktop typesetting went to bed (COMPUTE, January 1993), LaserMaster came out with yet another amazing product. Using the brand-new Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 4 as a platform, LaserMaster now produces plain paper typesetting at 1200 dpi. The WinJet 1200 is an add-on for the 600-dpi LaserJet 4 that includes 50 TrueType fonts, a PostScript interpreter, and a superfast video interface. Its price is $995 (plus the cost of the printer). Call (800) 365-4646 for more information.