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What is Desktop Publishing Software?

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A page layout created in desktop publishing software; All the FAQs: Career & Business | Software | Design & Layout | Graphics | Type & Fonts | Prepress & Printing

A-Z Really Big List of Desktop Publishing Software
Question: What is Desktop Publishing Software?
Desktop publishing software is a tool for graphic designers and non-designers to create visual communications (brochures, business cards, greeting cards, Web pages, posters, etc.) for professional or desktop printing as well as for online or on-screen electronic publishing.

Programs such as Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, QuarkXPress, Serif PagePlus, and Scribus are examples of desktop publishing software. Some of these are used more by graphic designers. Others are used more by office workers, teachers, students, small business owners, and non-designers.

Answer: The term desktop publishing was originally coined to describe Aldus (now Adobe) PageMaker and among professional designers refers primarily to high-end page layout software applications including Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress.

Desktop Publishing Revolution Increases Software Options

However, an explosion of consumer programs and the associated advertising hype stretched the use of "desktop publishing software" to include sofware for making greeting cards, calendars, banners, and other crafty print projects as well as all the peripheral programs for handing fonts, graphics, and later Web design. It also resulted in a wider range of low-cost, easy-to-use software that didn't require traditional design and prepress skills to understand and use.

Desktop Publishing Software Becomes a "Catch-All" Phrase

Other applications and utilities often lumped into the "desktop publishing software" category are better classified as graphics, Web publishing, or presentation software, and any number of utilities and plug-ins for specific related tasks such as color calibration, font management, or imposition. The DTP software lists below are those that do the core task of desktop publishing - composing text and graphics into page layouts for publishing.

Desktop Publishing in the 21st Century further expands the meaning of desktop publishing and thus broadens the definition of desktop publishing software to include software for Web design and other forms of visual communications beyond print design.

Who Makes Desktop Publishing Software?

The main players in the field are Adobe, Corel, Quark, and Serif with products that stick close to the original use of desktop publishing software for professional page layout. Additionally, Microsoft, Nova Development, Broderbund and others have been producing consumer or print creativity and business desktop publishing software for many years. Xara is increasingly topping the lists with their hybrid graphics/page layout software.

Adobe makes many software packages used by designers. You've probably heard of Photoshop, for example. But these other programs are not page layout software applications for print publishing. They are graphics software, Web design software, programs for creating and working with the PDF format, such as Adobe Acrobat, and other related software tools. The primary desktop publishing software or page layout software applications are:

Corel is best known for its graphics suite that includes CorelDRAW and Corel Photo-Paint. In the past it has produced creative printing or home publishing programs used for desktop publishing too but the primary page layout software from Corel is:

Microsoft produces Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and various consumer graphics and creative printing programs used alone or in conjunction with other applications to do some form of desktop publishing. Their entry into page layout for print is:

Quark has other software but the one most closely associated with desktop publishing is QuarkXPress and its many XTensions (produced by many third party vendors) that enhance and expand the basic capabilities of QuarkXPress.

Serif produces a suite of applications for graphics and Web design but the core desktop publishing software application is:

Broderbund produces a number of design and publishing programs in the consumer desktop publishing arena. Although some users do use these programs as freelance designers, the programs are not typically considered professional or high-end tools. The primary audience for Broderbund creative printing software are individuals wanting to create personal projects and some small business owners. The two titles most closely associated with desktop publishing are:

Xara Group has been making software since 1981. The current Xara product line combines print and Web graphics and design capabilities.

  • Xara Designer Pro (2011 About.com Readers' Choice as Best Desktop Publishing Software)
  • Xara Photo & Graphic Designer

Specialty programs primarily designed just for greeting cards, calendars, or other specific print tasks are also frequently changing names, changing hands, and changing focus. These include programs such as Calendar Creator and Scrapbook Factory.

Types of Software Used in Desktop Publishing

In addition to the sometimes fuzzy division of desktop publishing into professional, home, and business categories, there are other types of software closely associated with desktop publishing. Of the four types of software for desktop publishing, the Page Layout category encompasses the programs also known as desktop publishing software. The others are specialized or auxilliary tools used in desktop publishing. But the lines are blurred. Much of the best design software is used for both print and Web and sometimes doubles as both page layout and graphics software or creative printing and business software or other combinatons.

For the most complete list, see the A-Z Really Big List of Desktop Publishing Software.

All the FAQs: Career & Business | Software | Design & Layout | Graphics | Type & Fonts | Prepress & Printing

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