Print Shop Deluxe. (desktop publishing software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
Leave it to Broderbund to flatten the learning curve--never before has creating professional-quality letterhead and fliers been so simple, so dynamic, so colorful. Leaving full-fledged desktop publishing contemporaries to pick the bullets out of their teeth, Print Shop Deluxe cajoles your PC and printer team into becoming a modern-day printer's devil.
Before you set your sights on a sideline career, however, note the power requirements here. Broderbund recommends a 386SX for its publishing heavyweight--the 8-bit days of the earliest Print Shop can now head for the recesses of memory. A hard drive goes without saying, of course. After you add on the business and sampler graphics packs, you begin to speak of storage in megabytes, on top of the Windows files you'll probably already have installed. Still, with Stacker in place, Print Shop Deluxe performance suffers no degradation, and the cost in storage is more than offset by the joy of mixing and matching graphics.
Once you sit down with Print Shop Deluxe, expect to stay awhile. Not that the program forces perusal of the outsize and astute manual, but rather, the sheer number of options can lead to giddiness. Text may fade from barely perceptible gray to 300-dpi black; borders, outlines, and drop shadows can surround graphics blocks, lines of text, or even single letters; libraries of new graphics await. Just choosing the elements for a simple sign can lead to an hour-long debate over the merits of headlines versus rectangular graphics. Fortunately, numerous layouts, thoughtfully provided, can alleviate much of the trepidation. Just click on a filename--or use a combination of cursor keys and the Enter key if you don't have a mouse--and a ready-made page appears. You just select the appropriate graphics and text for the empty blocks.
How do you know what goes in a particular block? Each contains an icon. The T icon stands for text; the bear for images. You'll find yourself presented with blocks for column graphics, square graphics, row graphics, and ruled lines. Each of these sports a minilibrary of its own, so the number of visual possibilities grows tremendously. You may alter the properties of these blocks and their resident images via a small onscreen menu--resize, flip, add color, drain color, change color, rotate, shuffle objects forward or backward. These options apply to all text blocks as well.
What might you do with Print Shop Deluxe? Besides the aforementioned letterhead and signs, you'll want to try banners, greeting cards, and versatile calendars. You could even run the export utility to transfer a graphic to another type: EPS, CGM, PCX, or TIF. Tweak the graphic with a paint program before using it in a desktop publishing package of your choice, and then build a sign or memo there to transmit via fax card.
Images on tap run the gamut from balloons to butterflies, Celtic weavings to the Star of David. You can browse a series of graphics specially designed for insertion beneath initial caps for eye-catching text: Victorian, Incan, French, and modern, among others. The square graphics include pumpkins and bunnies, angels and Adirondack chairs; the column graphics, by nature tall and thin, offer lightning bolts and filing cabinets, pillars and pens. The effective and gorgeous borders put the finishing touch on small signs and do-it-yourself notepaper, and almost everyone will find something appropriate in the range of styles available.
Of course, no printing package can look as good on paper as it does onscreen, but Print Shop Deluxe comes close. A laser 150-dpi bon voyage card left no room for complaints with its superb gray scaling and TrueType fonts text output--very few jaggies. Color printing, the biggest selling feature of the package, likewise tends toward excellence; many laser-printer devotees may well come to envy color ink-jet owners, thanks to this product. As always, printing requires patience, and with multiple text and graphics blocks to collate, expect some time to pass before you see the final copy of your work.
In all an exciting product, Print Shop Deluxe provides the solution to your home and small business printing needs. Paired with a respectable printer, this program promises to announce your bake sales, attend your grand openings, express fond farewells, and keep you on schedule. What more could a big-time publisher on a small-time budget ask for?
Editor's note: After this review was written, Broderbund announced that an upgrade for Print Shop Deluxe--version 1.2--will be available in April. New features will include import capability, allowing the program to import files from other programs; faster screen rendering; and an onscreen preview for fonts.