Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 158 / NOVEMBER 1993 / PAGE S13

18 practical hints and tips for DTP work. (Compute's Getting Started With: Desktop Publishing)
by Tony Roberts

It seems as if there are a million things that can go wrong on any desktop publishing project. The following tips will help keep you on track.

Use Typesetter's Quotation Marks

Many inexperienced desktop publishers advertise their inexperience by using inch marks (") for quotation marks ("") and foot marks (') for apostrophes ('). To give your publications a professional look, use real quotation marks.

In most typefaces, characters 146 and 147 are single open and close quotation marks, and characters 148 and 149 are double open and close quotation marks. Some applications, such as PageMaker 5.0 and Word for Windows 2.0, let you automatically convert standard keyboard quotation marks into the proper typesetter's marks. In most other Windows applications, you can insert these characters by typing in character codes on the numeric keypad or by running Windows Charmap utility and copying the appropriate characters to your application.

Plan Publications With Your Printer

Before getting serious about designing your brochure or newsletter, pay a visit to the printer who will be working with your final output. It's best to achieve an early understanding of what the printer expects of your and vice versa. Every printer I know has dozens of stories about desktop published material that had to be reworked before it could be printed.

So before you invest too many hours in a project, show it to the printer and make sure that your end product will be in a format that meets printing specifications.

Follow Style

There are two kinds of style to be concerned about in any publishing project: paragraph style and content style.

Most DTP packages and word processing programs with DTP capabilities allow you to apply paragraph styles. These styles define the way the type looks on the page--what font it is, what size, and so on. If you get into the habit of assigning styles to paragraphs rather than formatting each paragraph individually, you'll be able to make changes to your document more easily.

For example, if you decide to use a new font in your publication, all you have to do is change the font specification in the style definition for your basic text, and every paragraph based on that style will be updated.

Whereas paragraph styles help create a consistent look for your document, content styles help create a consistent tone. Content style has to do with spelling, capitalization, and word use.

To maintain consistency in content, create a style sheet for your publication. As you edit your document, you'll make decisions about how to spell or capitalize certain words. Jot these down on the style sheet and pass the it along to anyone who reviews the document. By making everyone aware of style decisions, you minimize changes that undo your careful work.

Proofread Again and Again

Even the most carefully edited publications have errors, but the blatant ones should be eliminated. Double- and triple-check phone numbers and addresses, and verify the spelling of all names. Use the spelling checker, but be sure to read the copy as well. A spelling checker won't bat an eye at the phrase "It saw a dark and stormy knight," even if you really meant "It was a dark and stormy night."

Print On Both Sides

Printing on both sides not only saves paper, it creates more readable reports and manuals.

The trick is to print the odd numbered pages first, then the even numbered pages. Check to see whether your software includes an option for printing odd or even pages. If it does, you're in luck. If you're printing to a laser printer, configure it so output is stacked face up. Select odd pages and print.

Collect the printed pages, noting which edge is the leading edge (the edge that came out of the printer first). Turn the pages over and place the pages back in the paper tray, making sure that the leading edge will again enter the printer first.

Return to your software, select even pages, and print again.

Running paper through your printer a second time can lead to paper jams, especially if the paper you're using tends to curl. Check the paper package for instructions about which side of the paper should be printed first to avoid excess curl.

Another problem you might encounter is smudging along the leading edge of your pages. If this occurs, manually feed the even pages through the printer rather than placing the pages in the paper tray.

Create a Booklet

With DTP software and a laser printer, you have all you need to create great 8 by 5 inch booklets. You print two pages on each side of regular 8 by 11 inch paper, then fold them in half to form the booklet. It's tricky to get the text in the right order, but once you understand the secret, you can create employee handbooks, family histories, or whatever. Here's how to do it:

Set up a page using the landscape orientation with borders of an inch on all sides. Create two columns for your text, leaving a two-inch border between them.

Because you'll be printing two pages on each side of each sheet of paper, your booklet must contain some multiple of four pages. This example shows how to set up an eight-page booklet, but the same rules apply to larger projects.

Place reference numbers as shown in the diagram in the margin below each of the columns on each page. These numbers refer to the actual page numbers of your assembled booklet.

Since this is an eight-page booklet, the total of the page numbers on each spread in your layout program will total nine, or the number of pages plus one. The first spread has pages 8 and 1, the second spread 2 and 7, the third 6 and 3, and the fourth 4 and 5.

The even numbered pages always go on the left hand side of the page layout.

Next, lay in your copy so it flows according to the reference numbers. Add headers, footers, and illustrations. Before you print, remove the reference numbers.

To print the booklet, follow the instructions for printing both sides of a page. Assemble the booklet yourself or take the master pages out for duplication.

Make a Greeting Card

If you have a program with the ability to rotate text and graphics, you can create your own greeting cards and invitations.

Divide a page into quarters as shown in the illustration. The cover of your card goes on panel A, and the main inside message goes on panel C. Normally panels B and D are left blank, but feel free to use the space if you need it.

Anything that goes on panels B or C needs to be rotated 180 degrees.

Print the document, fold it in half, fold it in half again, and your card is finished.

With some colored paper, a few fonts, and some clip art, you'll be able to crank out birthday invitations that will please any 10-year-old.

If your software won't rotate text and graphics, do the rotation in a graphics program and import the results to your main document.

Double Your DPI

If you're setting up type for business cards on your computer, and you want a extra resolution without the cost of high resolution output, print your cards on your laser printer at twice normal size, then have your printer photographically reduce the output to the proper size. If you printed at 300 dpi, the camera will compress it to an effective 600 dpi.

Don't Double Space

If you want to create professional-looking documents, break the habit of double spacing after periods. Double spacing after sentences is a throwback to the old monospace typewriter days where the extra space provided visual relief.

Type created using proportional fonts doesn't need that extra space, especially if the text is justified. Typesetting software justifies text by adding variable amounts of space between words and letters to make the lines fill out. If you examine a line of typeset text, you'll notice that while the spaces between words may be different from line to line, they're uniform on any single line. A double space after a sentence will interrupt that uniformity.

Use High Resolution Output

If the output from your laser printer isn't good enough for a particular job, arrange for high resolution output from a service bureau. High resolution output offers the best quality for jobs that contain photographs or screens, which don't render well on a laser printer.

The service bureau will offer you a choice of RC paper or film output. Check to see which your printer prefers, but chances are film is the way to go. If you use RC paper, the printer will photograph your job to make a negative. Then the printer will use the negative to burn the printing plate. If you get a film negative from your service bureau, the printer can skip the camera work.

Many quick printers have difficulty photographing screened areas without loosing detail. If you give them film, they won't have to worry about their camera holding the screens.

Make Your Photos Sharper

There's a way to sharpen up those fuzzy photos coming off of your laser printer. Most 300 dpi laser printers default to a 53 line per inch halftone screen. However, you'll get more pleasing results if you can bump the setting up to about 72 lines per inch.

Check your software to see whether it allows this option. In PageMaker, for example, select the photo, then select Elements and Image Control. Then make the change in the resulting dialog box. In PhotoStyler, the settings are changed via the Page Setup dialog.

Make the Perfect Scan

Scanning photographs is tricky work. Follow these guidelines to get the best results.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that scanning at high resolutions will give you the best result. All you'll be doing is acquiring data that your printer will end up discarding. To determine the optimum scanning resolution for grayscale photographs, multiply the halftone screen lines per inch (lpi) by 1.5. For a laser printer, the halftone lpi is typically 53 (unless you bumped it up to 72 as suggested in the previous tip). High resolution imagesetters typically default to 133 lines per inch.

So, for high resolution output, multiply 133 by 1.5, and you'll get 199.5. This suggests that scanning at 200 dpi will give you the best results. If you're scanning for your laser printer at its default setting, there's no need to scan at any higher resolution than 100 dpi.

Scanning at unnecessarily high resolutions creates huge files that drastically slow printing time and consume valuable disk space.

Once the scanning is complete, use the controls in your scanning software to lighten or darken the image as necessary. When your images are printed, they'll darken up some, so make your images a little lighter than is pleasing to your eye.

Note that this rule doesn't apply to black and white line art, which can benefit from higher scanning resolutions.

Odd Fractions? Follow This Recipe

Some projects require special characters. For a first-class look, make your own. Let's say your cooking club is preparing a recipe book. You'll need several unusual fraction characters. Typical fonts have the and fractions, but you'll also need 1/3 and 2/3.

Try using a program such as Ares FontMonger (Ares Software; 415-578-9090; $149.95) to create a custom font with the characters you need. FontMonger, which allows you to draw your own characters, also includes a fraction-making feature.

If you don't have access to a font editing program, you may be able to simulate a fraction by putting the numerator in superscript type and the denominator in subscript type. The size of the characters in your fractions should be about 60 percent of the size of the surrounding type. If you're working with 10 point type, set the fraction characters to 6 points. Align the baseline of the denominator with the baseline of the regular text.

Stretch Your Color Dollar

If you're working with a limited budget, you may think you're stuck with black ink on white paper.

Not so. Look for a printer that offers color printing specials; for example, one printer runs red free on Monday, blue free on Tuesday, and so on. By accommodating your printing schedule to your printer's, you essentially can get a two-color job (black and another color) for a one-color price.

Choose Your Paper Carefully

Paper makes a statement. By its look, feel, and color, it says something about your project. The selection in both traditional and recycled papers is immense--and can be overwhelming. You may need professional advice from a graphics designer or printer. Look for papers that enhance your message. Paper as smooth as a baby's bottom and as fine as silk may be just the thing for invitations to an elegant business dinner. One of the recycled papers sporting pulpy flecks creates a relaxed and natural tone that, when used on company letterhead, can do wonders to create a more accessible, yet still sophisticated image for the firm.

One tip to remember when choosing papers: Paper absorbs ink, and so, the color of ink used can change the appearance of the paper. Use this to your advantage. Gray paper comes to life in a brochure when blue ink is used instead of black. Also combining the gray paper and blue ink creates the effect of a two-color brochure--but you only have to pay for one-color printing.

Line Up Those Numbered Lists

Numbered lists are great to use when describing procedures. The only problem is that it's tough to format them so the numbers and text line up nicely, especially if you have a mixture of one-, two-, and three-digit numbers.

To get perfect alignment, create a hanging indent and set two tab stops.

First, set up a hanging indent so the first line of text is flush left and subsequent lines are indented 2 picas. (If you're using large type, increase these settings.)

Next set a right tab at one pica and a left tab at two picas from the left margin.

When you compose your numbered items, press the Tab key, enter the item number, and enter another Tab. Then type the text for the item.

The numbers will line up correctly no matter how many digits they contain, and the text will align neatly throughout.

Master Your Fonts

Every desktop publisher loves fonts, but eventually the font collection grows so large that it's impossible to manage. Also, large numbers of fonts installed on your system can cause software performance to degrade.

The trick is to install only a few fonts at a time, but to do this manually would be impossible. Specialized font management software, such as Ares FontMinder (Ares Software; 415-578-9090; $79.95), can handle font glut with ease.

FontMinder allows you to create FontPaks which can be installed and uninstalled with a single motion. I create a FontPak for each newsletter project I work on. When I start work on another issue, I drag the appropriate FontPak to the list of installed fonts. When the project is complete, I drop the FontPak into the disposal bin.

DTP Pizzazz

If some of your DTP projects are short run--less than a hundred copies or so, you can really make a splash by picking up some of the preprinted custom papers designed for laser printer use.

Paper Direct (800-272-7377) provides a host of paper styles that you can easily turn into eye-catching brochures. Some of the papers come prescored for easy folding, and others include preperforated tear outs for return mailers or Rolodex cards.

These fancy papers aren't cost effective for large runs, but for small projects, they pack a punch. For maximum impact, personalize each brochure with the recipient's name.