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Desktop Publishing (DTP) Essay, Research Paper


Desktop publishing (DTP):

Combining text and graphics into documents such as books, magazines, brochures,

and manuals by using a computer system, special software, and high-resolution

output devices.


Desktop publishing, which uses computer technology and specialized software

to produce graphics and text for documents, has been one of the fastest

growing segments of the computer industry since its introduction in the

mid-1980s. Today, desktop publishing systems are used world-wide to produce

a variety of printed documents, ranging from the simplest brochures to

complex, four-color publications.

The term desktop publishing is often attributed to Paul

Brainerd, who in the early 1980s developed the PageMaker

program for Aldus Corporation in Seattle, Washington. PageMaker was

designed for the newly released Apple

Macintosh, which featured a graphic user interface that allowed documents

to be created and viewed on-screen as they would appear when printed.

Although other text and drawing programs were available for the Macintosh,

PageMaker was the first program that allowed the easy integration of text

and graphics into a single document. It also provided the interface for

printing out documents on Apple’s LaserWriter, which used technology

similar to photocopiers to produce printed materials far advanced in quality

from the dot-matrix printers of the time.

At the time, most documents were prepared for printing using the "cut

and paste" method. Text was inputted into machines called typesetters,

which used laser or photo devices to create galleys—long, vertical

strips of typeset sentences. The galleys were then cut apart and pasted

onto pre-formatted layout boards, which also contained any graphics or

photos that were to be included in the document. When completed, these

boards, now called "camera-ready art," would be sent to a composing

room, where they would go through several more steps to produce the final

printed product.

The combination of a computer and software that allowed users to compose

complete documents without cutting and pasting, and a printer that could

produce documents that rivaled phototypesetting in quality, revolutionized

the graphics and printing industry almost overnight. It eliminated many

of the manual steps previously necessary to prepare materials for printing,

and allowed for the easy manipulation of both text and graphics when changes

were necessary. Although many in the printing industry were skeptical

of the new technology at first, it became clear there were compelling

advantages to using DTP systems in many situations.

The desktop publishing

industry is today a multi-million-dollar business—much of it being

conducted out of home offices by graphic designers and writers who embraced

desktop publishing early on as a viable adjunct to their other skills.

Although systems using Apple Macintosh technology still dominate the high-end

graphics market, improvements in the Windows operating environment have

made personal computers a viable component of many DTP systems as well.

How DTP Works

Producing documents using desktop

publishing systems involves multiple steps and various types of software

and equipment.

The basic components of any DTP system consist of a desktop computer

system, printer, word processing software, and publishing software such

as CorelDraw,

PageMaker or QuarkXPress, a system

similar to PageMaker developed by Quark. Although

not vital components, most DTP systems also include drawing and photo

manipulation programs such as Adobe’s Photoshop

and Illustrator

or Macromedia’s Freehand,

and a scanner for reading photos and other art. Some systems may also

include video digitizing hardware and software as well as electronic pens

and graphic tablets for creating illustrations.

These elements are used to create original text and illustrations on

the computer, which are then exported to the desktop publishing software.

The publishing software then combines the text and graphics into an on-screen

display, resembling a document page, which allows the user to see a draft

of the finished product. The desktop publishing program also can be used

to further refine both text and graphics, including changing the size

and style of the text and resizing or manipulating graphics.

Finally, the finished document is either printed out on a laser printer

or saved to a diskette for later output. Some documents, due to their

size and complexity, are stored on high-capacity storage systems or transmitted

electronically to service bureaus, where they are reproduced in the necessary

format for printing.

A key element in any DTP system is the desktop publishing software program.

They range from simple to complex, and there are programs available for

users at any skill level and budget. PageMaker and Quark XPress are the

preeminent applications for larger, more complex documents such as newspapers,

magazines and newsletters; however, simpler, less complex programs such

as PrintShop Deluxe, which feature easy-to-use, pre-configured layouts

for greeting cards, banners, flyers and the like, are favored by many

families and other home users.

Some of the necessary features of any DTP program include multiple type

sizes and styles—called fonts—as well as the ability to import

text, graphics and photographs and to create documents with multiple columns

and various formats. Higher-end DTP software allows users to wrap text

around odd-shaped graphics, distort text and other elements to create

bold graphics, and produce color separations for printing. Other desirable

features include document templates, which contain pre-formatted layout

and typestyle information for a variety of publications; kerning, which

allows precise manipulation of type; and on-line spell-checkers and thesauri.

Until fairly recently, there was a distinct difference between application

programs for word processing and programs used for desktop design and

publishing. However, many word processing programs now include a number

of desktop design elements, such as templates, multiple-column layouts,

advanced text manipulation and graphics importation, making them useful

for producing such items as flyers, brochures and simple newsletters.


"Desktop Publishing," Microsoft Encarta.

Copyright 1994, Microsoft Corporation, Funk & Wagnalls Corporation.

Kleper, Michael L. The Illustrated Handbook of Desktop

Publishing and Typesetting, 2nd Edition. Windcrest Books, 1996.

Weiner, Ed. Desktop Publishing Made Simple. Doubleday,


Roebuck, Lucas. "The Second Decade of Page Wars:

The Battle for Desktop Dominance." ComputerEdge Magazine,

February 24, 1997.

Beals, Stephen. "Will Apple Hold Onto the Graphics

Market?" ComputerEdge Magazine, February 24, 1997.

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