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Using a Windows PC for Desktop Publishing



The plethora of software options has always been one of the standard arguments in favor of the PC over the Mac. In terms of desktop publishing, all the major desktop publishing software packages are available in Windows versions. The vast majority of the mid-level and consumer desktop publishing products are available only on the PC making it easier for non-designers to move up in the ranks without sacrificing their investment in PC hardware and software.

Desktop publishing and graphic design involve graphics-intensive tasks and Macs used to dominate in the speed at which they handled these tasks. Today's PCs have caught up and the speed differences are practically non-existent.

PCs dominate the corporate and consumer world. For those who need to maintain compatibility with those users, such as running the same office suites, email programs, proprietary software, and even games then having a PC will make that possible.

Older arguments in favor of the Mac center around its graphical interface as opposed to the text-based interface of the PC. However, Windows put a graphical face on the PC and with Windows XP the PC environment has caught up to OS X so that the Mac OS and Windows look and feel are quite similiar.


Some service bureaus and printers remain resistant to supporting PC files. With more professional designers who are also PC users flooding the market, it is inevitable that these holdouts will have to change with the times by acquiring Windows PCs and by hiring new workers or training existing workers in the handling of PC files. In the meantime, Mac users who must work extensively with commercial service providers do have an advantage in terms of compatibility and overall acceptance. This could also translate to cost savings for the Mac user because service providers unaccustomed to PC files may charge more for their handling.

For very high-end work where precision color-matching is absolutely required, the Mac may continue to have a slight edge.

In terms of cross-platform compatibility, Mac wins. Although there are programs that allow the PC to run Mac programs, at present, it generally works better the other way around.

The lower cost of PCs compared to Macs has been instrumental in the growth of the PC market. However, lower cost of the PC is generally only relevant for basic machines. To get the speed, storage capacity, and graphics capabilities necessary for most professional level design work will push the cost of the Windows PC closer to the cost of a Macintosh of comparable capabilities.

Some of the arguments against a PC are emotional or a matter of principle such as prejudice against Microsoft. Going with Apple and the Macintosh may be viewed as an act of rebellion against the norm of PC ownership. If it makes the user feel good, why not.

Where It Stands

The choice between a Windows PC and Mac for professional desktop publishing and graphic design work boils down to personal preference because either one can handle the work. Where possible, having both is an ideal, though costly, situation.

As for working with commercial service providers, the growing number of PC files submitted by both professionals and non-professionals will eventually force more and more printers to adapt to the PC platform. The PC-based designer may have to shop around a bit more and possibly work just a bit harder to insure that the files they prepare are problem-free so that the Mac-based service providers will have less trouble working with them, but these are good things.

The old standby arguments for why only a Mac will do for serious design work are no longer valid. Either one will work.

This document originated in 2003. While some of it still applies, here's a fresh look at the Mac vs. PC issue: Is Mac or PC Better for Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing?

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