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Design Software

Best Design Software for Creating Print or Web Projects

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With the right design software you can create almost any print or Web project imaginable. For print projects you generally need word processing, page layout, and graphics applications. For the Web, some of those same programs work but there's also specialized Web design software as well. Creative printing programs feature clip art and templates for a variety of home, school, and office projects. Discover what specific design software works best for each use.

Professional Graphic Design Software

Get individual programs or choose one of the Adobe Creative Suite bundles.
Adobe Creative Suite; Adobe, Inc.

Graphic design software and desktop publishing software are essentially the same thing. The primary difference is that the desktop publishing category includes some consumer level programs not typically used in professional graphic design. Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress are two of the main players in this field. These programs are geared toward producing documents for commercial printing and high-end Web publishing. Both freelance and in-house graphic designers and businesses use graphic design software.

Identity Design Software

Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear
Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear

Identity systems encompass logos, letterhead, and business cards, and spills over into other areas such as business forms, brochures, and signage as well. Although there are specialized programs available for all these documents -- most geared toward small businesses -- most of these materials can be easily created in almost any design software. For logo design, look specifically at illustration software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW.

Creative Print Design Software for Mac

Print Explosion Deluxe 3 Mac Image courtesy of PriceGrabber
Image courtesy of PriceGrabber

For Mac users, sometimes there are fewer choices in desktop publishing software but it's getting better. Most any program, including the high-end design software, can handle calendars, greeting cards, posters, newsletters and other creative printing. But with these specialized creative print design software you get more ease-of-use, lots of templates for crafty projects, and fun clip art and fonts to go along with it all.

Creative Print Design Software for Windows

PrintMaster Platinum 18
PrintMaster Platinum; Broderbund

Although you could create scrapbooks, calendars, iron-on transfers, and other creative printing projects with almost any desktop publishing or graphics software, specialized creative print design software makes the process easier and faster, and usually costs less. These programs typically include templates and artwork specifically tailored to each type of project.

Web Design Software

Adobe Dreamweaver CS5
Image courtesy of PriceGrabber

Many of today's page layout programs for print have Web publishing features as well. But are they the best tools for the job, or do you need a program specifically for Web design such as Dreamweaver, Homesite, Expression, or Frontpage? Adobe Creative Suite includes two editions geared specifically for the Web that give you Dreamweaver along with various tools for Web graphics and animation.

What programs do potential employers expect you to know how to use? Use this questionnaire to determine the best Web design software for your needs or browse this comprehensive listing of HTML text editors and WYSIWYG editors for Mac, Windows, and Unix/Linux.

Free Design Software

Scribus
Scribus Screenshot from scribus.net

There are many reasons to consider using free design software beyond just the cost-savings. Programs such as Scribus, OpenOffice, and even the free version of PagePlus are powerful programs, often comparable in features to some of the most expensive applications from Adobe or Microsoft.

Font Design Software

Typography
Fonts; J. Bear
From the standard of Fontographer to up-and-coming contenders and specialty font editors for beginners and pros, font design software lets you make your own fonts. Some programs are aimed at professional type designers while others let anyone turn their handwriting into a font, apply special effects to a basic font, convert fonts, or add special characters to an existing font.

Buying & Using Design Software

Using PageMaker for Desktop Publishing
Use design software for desktop publishing; J. Bear
In order to do your job effectively, you want to choose the best print design software. But design software is often very, very expensive. There are several ways to save money on design software without turning to illegal copies. The creative printing titles generally cost less than the professional graphic design software. The free software is quite powerful too. You may qualify for academic pricing. Using older versions can save money and often do exactly what you need.

Whatever approach you take to choosing your design software, to really get your money's worth you need to learn how to use it. There are training avenues suitable to all learning styles.

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