Graphic designers already know why they need desktop publishing software. But what about everyone else? What can you do with the desktop publishing software and techniques if you aren't a professional designer? What if you can't afford the high dollar desktop publishing software used by the pros? Consider all these projects and the often much less expensive (even free) software options available to everyone. No design skill needed. For this list we're not including materials you might want to create if you have your own small business (such as business cards or brochures). These are desktop publishing projects primarily for personal use —including as gifts.
Things to give away or use as gifts such as greeting cards and calendars may seem obvious but you might be a little surprised by the home decorating potential of desktop publishing.
Greeting cards may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of DIY desktop publishing. Sure, you could send email greeting cards but not everyone uses the Internet (yes, really!). You could pop over to the store and pick up a ready-made card to cover virtually any occasion. But there's something much more special about a homemade card. Even if you start with one of the hundreds of predesigned templates the card is still your unique creation once you print it from your own computer. And if you need a highly personalized card that uses your own words and your own images, then desktop publishing is the way to go. And of course for something like a wedding invitation or a birth announcement, it does need to be personalized. Wouldn't you rather design a birth announcement once and print out multiple copies rather than hand write the details on store-bought announcements? Desktop publishing software can save time!
The software for creating greeting cards or invitations could be as basic as the word processing software you already own or even Windows Paint, the graphics software that comes with the Windows operating system. But if you want to use software that comes with tons of greeting card templates and walks you through every step of the process, consider specialty desktop publishing software that's specifically for greeting cards:
As a bonus, these programs often include templates for other print projects such as certificates, scrapbook pages, or business cards. And don't forget to make your own envelopes too.
Again, you can rely on the calendar on your smartphone or computer or go to the store for any number of decorative or hard-working calendar formats. But a calendar you make yourself is a special way to count the days. And a personalized family calendar is a great project you can share as a gift for all the family or for certain individuals to commemorate a significant birthday or anniversary. Use your own photos or scans of drawings by your kids. Put in family birthdays, weddings, and reunions. And when you've created a family calendar for one year, it's easy to up date for the following year. Change a few pictures, add new birthdays and you're done.
As for the software, there are dedicated programs that serve up a variety of templates that you can personalize a little or a lot.
Personalized calendars aren't just for family. You could make them as gifts for teachers, clubs to which you belong, or customers of your own home-based business.
Admit it, you've always wanted to write a book. Oh the stories you could tell! But is anyone going to want to read it? Will a publisher even give it a second (or first) glance? Maybe not. But that doesn't mean you can't go ahead and write it. Then publish it using desktop publishing software. Print out a copy for yourself, for your kids, for the guy across the street who keeps an eye on your house when you're on vacation. You don't need an excuse to publish your own book and you don't need a lot of money or a huge audience. Create a keepsake book of family history, a scrapbook of vacation photos, or a book of your own photos or poetry or favorite recipes.
For an especially lengthy or complex book or one you plan to distribute widely through various self-publishing methods you may need professional level desktop publishing software. If the cost is a concern, take a look at the free Scribus. But don't overlook the use of word processing software such as Microsoft Word for your book. For books that are more like scrapbooks or photo albums, consider scrapbooking software for Mac or Windows.
Did you know you can decorate your home using desktop publishing? Print up decorative signs or banners as party decorations or permanent decor. Make your own WANTED Poster for a child's room or as a gift for a friend. Print funny fliers to amuse your family and friends. You're not limited to letter size posters either even if printing from your desktop printer. Look for poster design software such as an Avery Poster Kit or explore the tiling options of your software or printer that lets you print larger posters on multiple sheets of paper that you tape or glue together.
In addition to posters, use your font collection and bits of clip art and desktop publishing software to create fun, funky, or beautiful labels for drawers and cabinets. Being organized doesn't have to be boring. I designed matching labels for baskets in my bathroom so I can tell at a glance what's in each one. The labels match the room colors. I've also made small, decorative reminder signs for turning off lights or keeping certain doors closed. Useful and pretty. Got some unsightly power cords hanging around? Add decorative cable labels.
You can use almost any kind of graphics software or desktop publishing software to design and print your posters and signs. You might want to consider the winner or one of the finalists in the About.com Readers' Choice Awards for Best Software for Personal Projects.