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Software Tips

Simple guidelines that work most of the time

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Newsletter in Microsoft Word

You can do a newsletter in Microsoft Word (such as the one shown) but in some cases a page layout program might be a better choice.

These aren't hard-and-fast rules or formulas but they are tried-and-true guidelines that hold true most of the time.

Using a word processor

Using a word processor will not save time; it will only increase quality. The time you save in retyping is canceled out by the time you spend making tiny revisions. Word processing software is extremely good with text — checking spelling, marking revisions, making changes across large amounts of text material.

Using a page layout program

Using a dedicated or high-end page layout program will not save time; it will, however, increase quality. The more options the program has, the more time it takes to learn but the more options you have for fine-tuning your layout and type. Page layout programs also make it easier to try out new and different layouts. Page layout software is extremely good for rearranging text blocks and images.

Which Type of Program Should You Use?

If it's all text, nothing but long blocks of text, a word processor such as Microsoft Word makes sense. It can still do some decent text formatting. But what if your document also contains photographs, charts, or line drawings? Do you have to switch to a page layout program?

3 reasons to use a word processor:

  1. If your document doesn't require a fancy layout such a multiple columns, pull-quotes, elaborate text wraps, and extensive typographic control then a word processor works fine. Letters, invoices, memos, simple price lists, and even lengthy technical reports don't generally require the advanced layout and typographic features of professional page layout software (such as QuarkXPress or InDesign or PagePlus).

  2. If you have collaborators, chances are they are using Word or some other word processing software that can easily exchange text files without a lot of technical know-how. It's easier to compile contributions in a common format. With page layout software chances are you are the only one with that software and the only one able to use it for editing the document. To share the page layout file for proofreading you would have to convert it to a PDF.

  3. Although today's word processing software is quite sophisticated, it does generally have a lower learning curve than professional page layout programs. You can spend more time formatting your text and inserting graphics and less time learning how to use the software.

3 reasons to use a page layout program:

  1. If your document requires complex layouts (such as some newsletters), unusual or non-standard size or shape, or you want to take advantage of the finer, more precise typographic and image controls found in page layout software then import your text from the word processor into a program like QuarkXPress, InDesign, PagePlus, Publisher, or Scribus.

  2. If your document is more art and less text, page layout programs provide more flexibility and integrate well with professional graphics software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. It's also generally easier to move images (and text) around in page layout software.

  3. For professional offset printing, a properly prepared digital file from a page layout program is almost always required. Some printers can work with word processing files but it can add to the cost and the results may not be as good.

Dig Deeper

Do you primarily use word processing or desktop publishing software? There's room for both. Read Word Processing vs. Desktop Publishing. There are 4 main types of software used in desktop publishing. A word processor and a page layout program are two of them.

Also see these Simple Guidelines That Work Most of the Time on color, business, newsletters, and more.

Readers Respond: What Desktop Publishing / Graphics Software Combo Do You Use?

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