Top 10 desktop publishing utilities. (Buyers Guide)
by Bill Harrel
Page layouts consist of several elements, such as text (fonts), graphics (charts, graphs, and clip art), and photographs. Some DTP programs, such as PagePlus and Microsoft Publisher, come with a small selection of fonts and graphics. And some, such as PagePlus, Microsoft Publisher, and Express Publisher, have limited font special effects and graphics editing capabilities. No DTP program comes with everything.
To round out your DTP arsenal and to create quality publications, you'll need graphics, photographs, and fonts. Listed and described below are the top 10 graphics and font utilities. Depending on what you plan to publish, one or two of these packages can be a great help, even invaluable.
Draw programs allow you to create vector graphics or drawings. The two listed here, CorelDRAW! and Micrografx Graphics Works, also let you create charts and graphs, as well as edit bitmaps. They come with thousands of clip art images and hundreds of fonts, making both superb values.
The most popular PC draw application, CorelDRAW! is a powerful, easy-to-use draw program. It also provides the bitmap editing, scanning, charts and graphs, 755 TrueType and Type 1 fonts, and 18,000 pieces of clip art.
The truly great thing about CorelDRAW! is that you may not need any other utilities.
Micrografx Graphics Works
While Graphics Works lacks some of the more complex, high-end features found in CorelDRAW!, it's certainly a value at $395. For the small business that needs quality graphics editing and creation without getting bogged down, Graphics Works is a strong alternative.
With Graphics Works, you get PhotoMagic, a photograph editor; Windows OrgChart for creating organization charts; WinChart, a charting and graphing program; and SlideShow, the standard slide show module included with the Micrografx high-end packages, Designer and Charisma. There's also a clip art indexing and viewing utility for managing the 10,000 clip art images that come in the package, as well as a photo index and view utility.
Note: You'll need a CD-ROM drive to access the bulk of graphics and fonts in both CorelDRAW! and Graphics Works.
Formally known as paint programs, these programs edit bitmap graphics. The most common bitmap graphics are photographs. The two listed here--ZSoft's PhotoFinish and Adobe Photo-shop--are two of the best in the business.
PhotoFinish concentrates on quality image editing without a long learning curve, and it hits the mark. It lacks some of the high-end prowess, such as user-defined filters and support for third-party special-effects enhancement plug-ins, but it makes up for them with a couple of automatic features you can't find anywhere else. For instance, AutoScan allows you to slap an image on the scanner bed (or swipe the hand scanner over it) without worrying too much about whether the picture is straight, or whether you properly set the contrast and brightness. AutoScan automatically de-skews the image and makes the optimal adjustments. It works surprisingly well.
Auto Enhance, another automatic feature, does wonders for existing images. It automatically deskews, crops, and adjusts saturation and contrast. It even removes spots with a mouse click. This is ideal if you don't have the time or inclination to learn how to do these tasks manually.
For an entry-level program, PhotoFinish isn't lacking in strong image editing features. There are several brush tips and mask and fill options. It comes with a collection of stock images. There are 50 in the box, and you get another 150 when you register. The images, ranging from sports scenes to business equipment, are of good quality.
The Windows version of Photoshop is the image-editing package of choice for professional desktop publishers. In addition to being a powerful image editing package, Photoshop has some features that make it easier to use.
Users unfamiliar with digital darkroom software may find this feature-rich program daunting. But it's surprisingly easy to learn. For photograph editing software veterans, this is the program you've been waiting for. Adobe Photoshop takes photograph editing on the PC to new heights. This is the premier image-editing program for desktop publishing.
Windows comes with a limited font selection. Some DTP packages--PagePlus, Express Publisher, and Publisher, for example--bundle a few more, but desktop publishers can never have enough fonts. There are hundreds of typeface packages available. These are two of the best. One is a TrueType package, the other Type 1.
TrueType Font Pack for Windows
This is a collection of 44 high-quality TrueType fonts. It has several serif and sans serif business typefaces and a few display fonts. This package works well with all Windows applications.
Type On Call
This is a CD-ROM containing the entire Adobe Type 1 font library, which requires Adobe Type Manager (ATM) or another type manager to use in Windows. The fonts are encrypted; you pay for them as needed. To unlock them, call Adobe and give your credit card number. You're then given a code that unlocks the font files. This is a great way to have almost any font you could ever need at your disposal whenever you need them.
Font Special Effects Packages
Font special effects packages allow you to manipulate type to create fancy headlines, logos, and other graphics. Most draw programs also have these capabilities, but the programs listed here are inexpensive and easy to use.
Bitstream's MakeUp is by far the most versatile special effects program. It provides a wealth of special effects rivaled only by CorelDRAW! and other high-end draw programs. In some areas, such as automatic embossing and the ability to work on more than one document at a time, MakeUp beats CorelDRAW!. MakeUp is also easy to figure out.
The program sports a wealth of fill and line options, including predefined gradients. The drawing tools are extensive; and you can import clip art, which greatly enhances the types of drawings you can create. Embossing and 3D extrudes, like most other functions, are done with the click of a mouse. If you don't like the defaults, intuitive dialog boxes help you tweak effects to your taste. And there's a Picture Library, or image cataloger, that lets you create templates and select them later from thumbnails.
Like MakeUp, TextAppeal supports Type 1 and TrueType fonts. It comes with a collection of 13 Type 1 fonts. However, most are duplicates of the TrueType fonts that ship with Windows 3.1. Also, since the font outlines are Type 1, you'll need ATM (TextAppeal ships with ATM) or another Type 1 font manager to use them--unless, of course, you use a font conversion utility such as FontMonger or AllType to convert them to TrueType.
TextAppeal broadens the program's possibilities by allowing you to import clip art into your drawings. You also can create templates, or Custom Tools, which makes multiple drawings of a similar nature a snap. You can assign Custom Tools to the toolbox for instant access. The program ships with about 50 useful templates for swirling text and creating interesting logos, headlines, and banners. There are even a few newsletter nameplates. There's also a strong palette of drawing tools--line, circle, rectangle, star, and polygon--to embellish your drawings.
Clip Art Packages
Some DTP packages include a few clip art images. Draw programs come with several thousand images. If you do a lot of desktop publishing, you can never have enough clip art. The following clip art packages are some of the best.
T-Maker markets three types of graphics collections: black-and-white EPS art, black-and-white PCX collections, and color WMF and EPS graphics for presentations. All three types are good, but the most impressive are the monotone EPS collections. These images are well-drawn and shaded, particularly the ones containing blends, graduated fills, and other halftone screens.
There are five EPS collections. Business Art contains more than 200 images of computers, business equipment, people in business settings, transportation, occupational symbols, and others. Illustrations is a potpourri of 175 graphics, including business images, maps, food and drink, people, and lifestyles. Animals & Nature includes more than 150 images of domestic and wild animals, nature scenes, bugs, trees, and dinosaurs. In addition, these collections contain some of the best black-and-white animal pictures around. Sports & Games contains about 180 images, including some uncommon ones, such as lawn and board games. Symbols & Industry has over 260 common symbols and industry-related graphics.
Clipper has been used by print shops and advertising agencies for many years. A little over a year ago, Dynamic Graphics made the same quality images available to electronic publishers in EPS and TIFF formats. Like Clipper, Electronic Clipper is available only through subscription, for $67.50 per month. And you must subscribe for at least one year. This may sound steep, but this is good clip art. Electronic Clipper has something for all publishing tasks--from flashy, high-tech, modern art for hard-hitting, attention-grabbing ads or brochures, to subtle, hand-drawn, home and nature scenes.
Each month you receive several high-quality drawings and a few gray-scale photographs. With the first month's package, you also get a binder to keep your disks and hard copy indices in and a copy of image-QUEST, DynamicGraphic's clip art indexing and retrieval utility. Some of the images are seasonal, but they come early enough so you can plan ahead. The July issue, for example, contains Christmas and New Year's material. Each month you also receive a copy of Electronic Clipper Options, an informative newsletter with hundreds of ideas for using the images, as well as tips for printing and editing them.