Desktop publishing

Desktop publishing
Scribus, an open source desktop publishing application

Desktop publishing (also known as DTP) is the creation of documents using page layout software on a personal computer.

The term has been used for publishing at all levels, from small-circulation documents such as local newsletters to books, magazines and newspapers. However the term implies a more professional-looking end result, with a more complex layout, than word processing, and so when introduced in the 1980s was often used in connection with homes and small organisations who could not previously produce publication-quality documents themselves.



Desktop publishing began in with the introduction of MacPublisher, the first WYSIWYG layout program, which ran on the original 128K Macintosh computer.  (Desktop typesetting, with only limited page makeup facilities, had arrived in 1978–9 with the introduction of TeX, and was extended in the early 1980s by LaTeX.) The DTP market exploded in 1985 with the introduction in January of the Apple LaserWriter printer, and later in July with the introduction of PageMaker software from Aldus which rapidly became the DTP industry standard software.

Before the advent of desktop publishing, the only option available to most persons for producing typed (as opposed to handwritten) documents was a typewriter, which offered only a handful of typefaces (usually fixed-width) and one or two font sizes. Indeed, one popular desktop publishing book was actually titled The Mac is not a typewriter.[1] The ability to create WYSIWYG page layouts on screen and then print pages containing text and graphical elements at crisp 300 dpi resolution was revolutionary for both the typesetting industry and the personal computer industry. Newspapers and other print publications made the move to DTP-based programs from older layout systems like Atex and other such programs in the early 1980s.

The term "desktop publishing" is attributed to Aldus Corporation founder Paul Brainerd,[2] who sought a marketing catch-phrase to describe the small size and relative affordability of this suite of products in contrast to the expensive commercial phototypesetting equipment of the day.

By the standards of today, early desktop publishing was a primitive affair. Users of the PageMaker-LaserWriter-Macintosh 512K system endured frequent software crashes,[3] cramped display on the Mac's tiny 512 x 342 1-bit monochrome screen, the inability to control letter spacing, kerning (the addition or removal of space between individual characters in a piece of typeset text to improve its appearance or alter its fit) and other typographic features, and discrepancies between the screen display and printed output. However, it was a revolutionary combination at the time, and was received with considerable acclaim.

Behind-the-scenes technologies developed by Adobe Systems set the foundation for professional desktop publishing applications. The LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus printers included high quality, scalable Adobe PostScript-fonts built into their ROM memory. The LaserWriter's PostScript capability allowed publication designers to proof files on a local printer then print the same file at DTP service bureaus using optical resolution 600+ ppi PostScript-printers such as those from Linotronic. Later, the Macintosh II was released which was much more suitable for desktop publishing because of its greater expandability, support for large color multi-monitor displays, and its SCSI storage interface which allowed fast, high-capacity hard drives to be attached to the system.

Although Macintosh-based systems would continue to dominate the market, in 1986, the GEM-based Ventura Publisher was introduced for MS-DOS computers. While PageMaker's pasteboard metaphor closely simulated the process of creating layouts manually, Ventura Publisher automated the layout process through its use of tags/style sheets and automatically generated indices and other body matter. This made it suitable for manuals and other long-format documents. Desktop publishing moved into the home market in 1986 with Professional Page for the Amiga, Publishing Partner (now PageStream) for the Atari ST, GST's Timeworks Publisher on the PC and Atari ST and Calamus for the Atari TT030. Even for 8-bit computers like the Apple II and Commodore 64 software was published: Home Publisher, The Newsroom and geoPublish.

During its early years, desktop publishing acquired a bad reputation as a result of untrained users who created poorly-organized ransom note effect layouts — similar criticism would be levied again against early Web publishers a decade later. However, some were able to realize truly professional results.

Once considered a primary skill, increased accessibility to more user-friendly DTP software has made DTP a secondary skill to art direction, graphic design, multimedia development, marketing communications, administrative careers and advanced high school literacy in thriving economies.[clarification needed] DTP skill levels range from what may be learned in a few hours (e.g. learning how to put clip art in a word processor) to what requires a college education and years of experience (e.g. advertising agency positions). The discipline of DTP skills range from technical skills such as prepress production and programming to creative skills such as communication design and graphic image development.


There are two types of pages in desktop publishing, electronic pages and virtual paper pages to be printed on physical paper pages. All computerized documents are technically electronic, which are limited in size only by computer memory or computer data storage space.

Virtual paper pages will ultimately be printed, and therefore require paper parameters that coincide with international standard physical paper sizes such as "A4," "letter," etc., if not custom sizes for trimming. Some desktop publishing programs allow custom sizes designated for large format printing used in posters, billboards and trade show displays. A virtual page for printing has a predesignated size of virtual printing material and can be viewed on a monitor in WYSIWYG format. Each page for printing has trim sizes (edge of paper) and a printable area if bleed printing is not possible as is the case with most desktop printers.

A web page is an example of an electronic page that is not constrained by virtual paper parameters. Most electronic pages may be dynamically re-sized, causing either the content to scale in size with the page or causing the content to re-flow.

Master pages are templates used to automatically copy or link elements and graphic design styles to some or all the pages of a multipage document. Linked elements can be modified without having to change each instance of an element on pages that use the same element. Master pages can also be used to apply graphic design styles to automatic page numbering.

Page layout is the process by which the elements are laid on the page orderly, aesthetically, and precisely. Main types of components to be laid out on a page include text, linked images that can only be modified as an external source, and embedded images that may be modified with the layout application software. Some embedded images are rendered in the application software, while others can be placed from an external source image file. Text may be keyed into the layout, placed, or (with database publishing applications) linked to an external source of text which allows multiple editors to develop a document at the same time.

Graphic design styles such as color, transparency, and filters, may also be applied to layout elements. Typography styles may be applied to text automatically with style sheets. Some layout programs include style sheets for images in addition to text. Graphic styles for images may be border shapes, colors, transparency, filters, and a parameter designating the way text flows around the object called "wraparound" or "runaround."


With word processing

While desktop publishing software still provides extensive features necessary for print publishing, modern word processors now have publishing capabilities beyond those of many older DTP applications, blurring the line between word processing and desktop publishing.

In the early days of graphical user interfaces, DTP software was in a class of its own when compared to the fairly spartan word processing applications of the time. Programs such as WordPerfect and WordStar were still mainly text-based and offered little in the way of page layout, other than perhaps margins and line spacing. On the other hand, word processing software was necessary for features like indexing and spell checking, features that are common in many applications today.

As computers and operating systems have become more powerful, vendors have sought to provide users with a single application platform that can meet all needs.

With other electronic layout software

In modern usage, DTP is not generally said to include tools such as TeX or troff, though both can easily be used on a modern desktop system and are standard with many Unix-like operating systems and readily available for other systems. The key difference between electronic typesetting software and DTP software is that DTP software is generally interactive and WYSIWYG in design, while other electronic typesetting software, such as TeX, LaTeX and other variants, tends to operate in batch mode, requiring the user to enter the processing program's markup language without immediate visualization of the finished product. This kind of workflow is less user-friendly than WYSIWYG, but more suitable for conference proceedings and scholarly articles as well as corporate newsletters or other applications where consistent, automated layout is important.

One of the early and comprehensive reference books on the art of Desktop Publishing is Desktop Publishing For Everyone by K.S.V. Menon. This publication deals with virtually every facet of publishing and nearly all tools available as at the time of the publishing of this book in the year 2000. It is currently out of print.

There is some overlap between desktop publishing and what is known as Hypermedia publishing (i.e. Web design, Kiosk, CD-ROM). Many graphical HTML editors such as Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe Dreamweaver use a layout engine similar to a DTP program. However, some Web designers still prefer to write HTML without the assistance of a WYSIWYG editor, for greater control and because these editors often result in code bloat.

DTP applications

See also


  1. ^ Robin Williams, The Mac is not a typewriter: A style manual for creating professional-level type on your Macintosh (Berkeley: Peachpit Press, 1990), 11.
  2. ^ Stiff, Paul (13 September 2006). "The Stafford papers". The optimism of modernity: recovering modern reasoning in typography. Retrieved 27 December 2009. 
  3. ^ Thompson, Keith (8). "MacIntosh Layout Package Remarkably Fast, Powerful". InfoWorld 9 (23): 50, 51. Retrieved 2011-04-15. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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