1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

How To Learn to Use Desktop Publishing Software


Desktop publishing software doesn't work in the same way as word processing software. It's different from graphics software. From setting up a basic document to complicated arrangements of text and graphics, learn how to use desktop publishing software by following this step-by-step plan.

Step 1 applies to anyone who is new to using page layout programs. Steps 2 and 8 apply to everyone. Pick and choose from among steps 3-7 to find the learning techniques that work for you.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: As long as it takes to learn the desktop publishing software terminology, features, and tasks

Here's How:

  1. Speak the language.
    There are some basic similarities in how most desktop publishing page layout applications function. The tool names, icons, and keyboard commands may differ, but most desktop publishing programs share certain common characteristics, some of which are substantially different from how word processing / office applications and graphics software works. Familiarize yourself with basics of:

  2. Read the manual.
    It varies, but software manuals, help files, or users guides can be useful learning tools. Refer to the users manual (printed book or online help files) to learn how your specific desktop publishing software names and implements the basic tools referenced in step 1. Look for useful charts of keyboard shortcuts and explanations for some of the more obscure icons and buttons. Get explanations of basic features and some technical advice.

  3. Buy a book.
    Most major software programs have a variety of third-party books that teach both beginner and advanced use of the program. These books may include hands-on exercises and supporting material on CD-ROM. It can be helpful to have multiple books on a single program, such as a getting started overview and an in-depth reference manual. Learn how to choose a desktop publishing software book.

  4. Take a class.
    Whether it's a class at your local community college or traveling series of workshops from a major training company, look at class size, supplied textbooks or handouts, and access to a computer when determining if it will meet your needs. In addition to the interaction with others, a big benefit of many such workshops is the expert instructors. Some instructors may also be authors so if you enjoyed their book, it may make the conference more enjoyable -- or vice versa.

  5. View a video.
    Training videos and CDs provide visually-oriented desktop publishing software training. These can be a cost-effective alternative to classroom instruction if you like to be able to see someone demonstrating tasks and have the ability to replay tasks over and over again. Desktop publishing training videos / CD-ROMs are often comparable in price to some of the big book/CD-ROM titles now offered for the major software packages.

  6. Learn online.
    This Desktop Publishing site and the entire Web is full of desktop publishing software tutorials - many are free. Tips, tutorials, and complete classes are plentiful for the major desktop publishing software programs such as QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe PageMaker.

  7. Interact with other users.
    For troubleshooting advice or learning how to do specific basic or advanced tasks, the expertise of others is just as valuable as a book, a video, or a workshop. Local users groups, online forums, and email discussion lists allow you to ask questions and get advice from other users of the same desktop publishing software. The About Desktop Publishing forums are one such place for online learning.

  8. Learn by doing.
    Reading a book or watching someone else use the software is not the same as doing it yourself. Hands-on lessons and projects allow you to get experience using a program to create the same types of projects you normally use desktop publishing software for. The more you use your desktop publishing software, the more you learn about how it works. Browse a selection of graphic design portfolio projects and use them to learn to use your desktop publishing software.

  9. Get Certified.
    Among other considerations, desktop publishing software certification training can help you do work faster and more efficiently by increasing your design and software proficiency. Even if you don't need the certification, the structured instruction can help you learn to use your desktop publishing software faster and with fewer trial and error setbacks.


  1. Make an appointment for learning.
    Beyond any formal classes or scheduled workshops, schedule time in your day and week to use specifically for reading books or manuals, viewing videos, doing tutorials and hands-on exercises in the software, and just clicking on the tools to see what happens.

  2. Give yourself plenty of time to explore and experiment.
    Learning to use desktop publishing software while also facing a project deadline is a recipe for disaster. Allow yourself sufficient time to learn your way around the interface and get practice using the software on non-critical tasks before trying to use it on important or time-sensitive projects.

What You Need

  • Desktop Publishing Software
  • Users Guide
  • Software Books
  • Software Training Videos
  • Software Classes
  • Desktop Publishing Software Tutorials
  • Desktop Publishing Discussion Forums
  • Desktop Publishing or Graphic Design Projects

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.