desktop publishing

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishing, sometimes abbreviated as DTP, is a technique for preparing and printing professional quality products using microcomputers, software, and printers. Articles on the subject, presumably by authors who haven't tried to use the technique, still occasionally suggest that DTP is easy, fast, and cheap. Unless the product is a one-page flyer announcing a gutter-cleaning special, DTP is none of those things. It represents the latest level of automation in an industry that marked the dawn of modernity: typesetting.


The invention of movable type by Gutenberg dates back to 1450. This technology, therefore, had a developmental period of more than 525 years before the first microcomputers saw wide use in the mid-1970s. Many different kinds of fonts were designed and refined in this period in variants of which, today, bold and italic are well known to everyone. Terminology and rules related to type size (measured in points), kerning (the space between characters), and leading (the space between lines) developed. In 1884, almost exactly 100 years before the first DTP system introduced by Apple Computer, Ottman Mergenthaler introduced linotype, a technique that cast metal type on the fly, one line at a time, using brass patterns for characters; a person working a keyboard-type device selected the characters to be cast. A year later came Tolbert Lanston's monotype, capable of producing one letter at a time, also from raw metal. Monotype made it much easier to space characters in novel ways. Intertype, which came later, was another line-by-line typesetting system. In all of these cases, the cast metal could be remelted for reuse. These systems are still in use but are driven today by computerized interfaces.

The Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) began to be developed in 1960 and is available as International Standards Organization 8879:1986. SGML is a convention for embedding markers in text to be read and interpreted by typesetting programs. SGML is the progenitor of XML (Extensible Markup Language) and also of HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) the language underneath web pages. SGML was developed in order to automate typesetting and standardize formatting; it is widely used by the Federal Government.

In none of these systems leading up to DTP was page composition itself automated so that the insertion of photographs and other graphics was done at other points in the production process. Printing in true color still requires four passes through a printing press to put down yellow, cyan, magenta, and blackunless the printing process used is color Xerography and the closely related color laser printers.


Computerization of typesetting came before microcomputers themselves arrived. The first DTP systems were scaled-down versions of typesetting and composition software running on larger and much more expensive minicomputers. Operators sat facing multiple monitors and formatted pages using the same computer's services. These were effective and attractive systemsbut they cost a lot of money. No small business could afford such systems unless it was itself in the business of providing typesetting services.

Apple Computer introduced the first full-fledged micro-based DTP system in 1984 but did not effectively get it on the market until 1985; in the mid-2000s, therefore, DTP is just 15 years old. The three major components of the first system were the Macintosh computer, the Aldus PageMaker software system, and a LaserWriter printer with the embedded PostScript software developed by Adobe Systems. The user of this system could sit at the screen and, using a keyboard and a mouse, create a document on screen. As people later said: "What You See Is What You Get," WYSIWYG. At the click of the mouse, the image on the screen would come out on the LaserWriter printer. PageMaker was said to be incredibly easy to use, but not all those who actually used it in the 1980s would agree. The same is true of today's much more sophisticated systems.

Apple was the first commercially sold graphical computer. (Xerox pioneered the concept but did not take it to market.) The graphical interfaced required the use of complex geometrical techniques to render characters and images by vector graphics, namely by a description of drawing directions. Raster graphics, which are static images made up of dots, do not scale satisfactorily, but a vector description of a letter or a drawing can be executed at any scale with very fine precision. The PostScript language developed by Adobe was very compact and efficientit took up very little space on the printer; at the same time, it could render the picture of a screen perfectly. At this time technology to render color and advanced techniques for handling photograph were still in the future.


Some 15 years later and counting, DTP has reached a certain maturity. Many different software packages are on the market; Aldus PageMaker remains a factor, but the two leading producers in the mid-2000s were QuarkXpress and Adobe's InDesign. Adobe is also a leader in photographic manipulation (PhotoShop) and has become the de facto standard for web-based publishing using PDF, the Portable Document Format. Adobe Acrobat can be used to make PDF files; Adobe distributes the Acrobat Reader free of charge, used for reading (but not for editing or creating) PDF files. A PDF file printed on an appropriate device can, in fact, be a professionally typeset document if its preparer had the requisite skills. A competitive see-saw in the software market has been the rule. At present, David Blatner, a leading expert on both QuarkXpress and InDesign (he has written extensive books on how to use both) believes, according to a recent article in eWeek, that InDesign has the competitive edge. Such judgments, of course, are always merely snapshots at a given point in time.

DTP systems are today available for every type of operating system, not merely Macintosh operating system (MacOS). Memory installed in computers and in printers, and disk drives in computers with many gigabytes of storage, make it possible to handle very large publications with many hundreds of photographs.

In the 1980s printers came with a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi) and handled 8.5 by 11 inch paper; and color printers were not available. In the mid-2000s printers in the price range of $4,500 and up come with minimally 600 and as high as 4,800 dpiwell above the most exacting commercial requirements. They also handle commercial-size sheets of up to 13 by 19 inches. And, of course, they print in full color. Printers in these categories are widely available, moreover, from producers like Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, and others.

For an investment of around $25,000, a small business can install a genuinely state-of-the-art DTP system. The investment may be justified if the company is selling typesetting servicesor such services are a necessary element of a larger business, e.g., manual preparation or publishing. Costs are significantly lower than in pre-DTP days; back in the early 1980s a single high-end printer could run $20,000. Nevertheless, the investment is substantial. It is also worth-while noting that DTP, in today's market, still excludes important elements of "finishing" printed products: this involves trimming, folding, sewing, stapling, binding, and packaging the brochure, book, magazine, manual, or whatever. High-end DTP is therefore no less a commercial decision today for the small business than before micros came with fancy layout software. To be sure, much less cost is involved in a workable DTP system capable of putting out attractive color brochures occasionally.


The broad expansion of small computers since the 1970s has been accompanied by a steady drumbeat emphasizing ease of use. In actual fact the industry has leapfrogged ahead in a competitive frenzy to gain or maintain market share and has not delivered on ease and rational perfection of its products.

This is the view taken by William R. Howard, writing in PC Magazine. Howard wrote: "Bah, humbug. My feelings of good will toward the technology provider portion of humankind took a dive during the holiday season. My computer just didn't perform many of the tasks that it should have done easily. In the realm of technology, even people who think they're smart can be brought to their knees." In documenting his tale of woe, Howard also touched on DTP. He wrote: "For my wife, I produced a photo book of our summer vacation The finished product was spectacular. The process was a horror show: Tiny on-screen work area, equally small page preview, limited page layouts that were too small to let you read the text, fixed photo aspect ratios, 38-character caption limits for vertical photos, no spell-checker. I spent close to 10 hours creating 30 pages; half that time was wasted dealing with the clumsy interface."

Almost no one actually engaged in DTP would disagree with Howard. Practiced at the professional level, DTP requires substantial skills acquired over a longer period of time. Skill sets rapidly age unless the art is continuously practiced. A business that only rarely uses DTP faces re-learning cycles each timefor a loss of efficiency. Sending the job out may be more cost-effective.

Professional level DTP requires the same know-how that the typesetters and page-designers of old also possessed. The difference is that operations that once required cutting, measuring, and pasting are done today by mouse. The software packages dutifully import from the past measurement system and terminologywhich must be learned. The great complexity involved in handling a document that may be on several overlaid "layers" (for colors, for pictures, for text of various kinds) mean mastery of sometimes baffling, uninformative, and unintuitive menu systems. Their meanings have to worked out gradually by trial and error. Manuals provided by the software producer rarely cover matters well, are rarely up-to-date, and, these days, may not come on paper. Operators are often required to buy and to use simultaneously several third-party references to solve a single problem.

These points are made in the cause of claritynot to imply that DTP does not have quite superb values for the enterprise that makes an effort to master and use it. DTP is truly excellent toolingespecially for those who come to DTP already skilled in the underlying arts of photo-composition, layout, and typesetting. Thus it enhances existing skill setsbut imposes training burdens on the small business anticipating ease of use. Therefore a commitment to this type of production, for these reasons, must be a deliberate and commercial decision reached, ideally, after thoughtful testing of alternatives.


Blatner, David. Real World QuarkXPress 6. Peachpit Press. 22 September 2003.

Blatner, David. "Blatner: InDesign, Not Quark, Is the Future of DTP." eWeek. 22 June 2005.

Borden, Mark. "How Adobe is Pushing Quark Off the Page: When the leader in desktop publishing software got lazy, a nimbler competitor grabbed market share." Business 2.0. September 2005.

Howard, William R. "Tech humbug." PC Magazine. 22 February 2005.

"HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn." PC Magazine Online. 23 November 2004.

Hutchenreuther, Mark S. "Background Checks." Mechanical Engineering-CIME. December 2005.

Kvern, Olav Martin, and David Blatner. Real World Adobe InDesign CS2. Peachpit Press. 17 January 2006.

Lake, Susan E. L. Destop Publishing. South-Western College Publishing, 2006.

McGoon, Cliff. "Desktop Publishing: Communicators' Best Friend or Worst Enemy?" Communication World. November 1993.

"Quark XPress 7 to Offer Extra Design Edge." Printing World. 11 August 2005.

Rosenberg, Jim. "E&P Technical: Weekly's Waxer Runs Cold." Editor & Publisher. 1 February 2006.

Stonely, Dorothy. "Desktop Publishing Industry Evolves with Demand." The Business Journal. 17 March 1997.

"When DTP Came of Age." Print Week. 7 July 2005.

                                          Darnay, ECDI

views updated

Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishing (DTP) refers to the practice of producing high quality printed output, fully paginated and including graphics, using personal computers, page layout software, and printers designed to create near typeset-quality pages. The core technologies (the personal computer, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text processing, page description languages, and high-resolution laser printing) were developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the 1970s. However the particular configuration that launched the commercial phenomenon of desktop publishing in 1985 consisted of Apple Macintosh personal computers running Aldus Publishing's PageMaker page layout software, connected to Apple's 300 dpi Laserwriter laser printer with the Adobe Postscript page description language.

The emergence of DTP was a major event in the history of publishing technology because it allowed almost any small organization, even individuals, to easily and inexpensively produce hardcopy printed pages suitable for use as printing masters. These had the potential to be nearly comparable in aesthetic appearance and typesetting features to what had previously required far more costly, time consuming, and hard-to-use technologies, expertise, and workflows. Desktop publishing also positioned its users to take advantage of digital inputs, which was important as word processing became the routine method for document creation.

Historical Context of Communication Technologies

The social and technological significance of DTP can be best seen by placing it in historical context as an innovation in communication technology.

Many historians and anthropologists consider the emergence of writing to be an absolutely necessary condition for the legal, commercial, and religious systems that characterize "civilized" societies. Although writing had appeared by 2,000 b.c.e., few important innovations occurred for the next 3,500 years. This was the period of "scribal transmission," when texts were "published" by laboriously copying them by hand. A key advancement during these centuries was the development of phonemic (alphabetic) writing systems that were far easier to learn and use than previous word-based systems or syllabic systems. Other innovations included the development of paper and the codex book (rather than scroll), cursive script, and the development of social organizations to manage copying (such as the "scriptorium" of western medieval Europe). Despite these innovations, by the end of the Middle Ages books were still extremely rare and expensive to produce, publishing remained a sophisticated specialist practice, and writing and reading were rather rare abilities.

The dramatic emergence of printing press technology in late fifteenth-century Europe made it possible to reproduce texts far more easily, and with greater fidelity, than was possible with scribal transmission. The consequences of this invention radically affected all aspects of our social, political, religious, and cultural lives. Printing is now recognized by historians as perhaps the single most influential technological event for western civilization.

A Walk Through Mid-Twentieth Century Printing

Contemporary life involves an immersion in printed material: newspapers, magazines, textbooks, scientific journals, instruction manuals, technical documentation, charts, tables, contracts, receipts, business proposals, catalogs, junk mail, brochures, flyers, product packaging, and so on. But the production of the visually pleasing pages that support this flow of information has until very recently been an expensive and time-consuming process, requiring specialized expertise of many kinds and very costly equipment.

The steam operated presses and "hot type" of the nineteenth century gave way to phototypesetting and computer composition by the mid-twentieth century. However, the publishing process of the 1970s and early 1980s was still an extremely complicated and expensive process.

Consider for example a relatively simple book with black and white line art. Designers prepared written specifications for typography and layout. These were delivered to editors who, perhaps after several revision cycles, used them to "mark up" typewritten or word-processed manuscripts. The marked up copy then went to a "composition house" where computer compositors entered, usually by hand, texts and formatting commands into computer files in order to implement the instructions expressed in the markup.

Next, in a separate step, these files were "batch" processed by composition software to create data files in the specific language used by a particular phototypesetting machine. Samples of the phototypesetting (imaged on film) were sent back to the compositor and editor for approval. Note that with no previewing capability, this was the first opportunity the compositor had to see the actual visual effects of the formatting codes.

When samples finally appeared correct to the compositors, they were sent back to the editor who verified that they met the original design specifications. Several iterations might be involved, and given the nature of the process, even the purely mechanical part of the iteration could take as long as twenty-four hours, especially if either composition or typesetting were outsourced to another company, which was quite a normal procedure. Moreover, if several computers were involved (e.g., the copyeditor's computer, the composition computer, and the typesetting computer), removable media such as eight-track tapes had to be prepared and delivered physically.

Once the samples seemed to be correct, a complete set of "galleys" (un-paginated formatted text) were produced, along with sets of captions, page numbers, running titles, and other features needed to make up the printed page. All of these, along with needed artwork, were sent to "paste-up" specialists who used razor tools, paste, and hot wax to physically compose each individual page on special "paste-up boards" by cutting the galleys of type into columns and pages, adding the artwork (prepared separately), and adding the individual running titles, page numbers, captions, etc. Indexes, in-text references to pages or numbered figures, variable running titles, and other page-based apparatus could not be constructed until pagination was known, so they could only now be composed by the compositors and processed by the layout artists. The completed paste-up boards (called "mechanicals") were then stacked and transported to the printer. From these boards were created printing plates.

Corrections or changes required time-consuming repetitions of this process, and, in particular, any changes that resulted in a change in pagination were enormously expensive. The final product could not be easily revised, updated, or repackaged for other uses or for other delivery formats, whether analog (anthologies, abridgements, new editions) or digital (CD-ROMS, databases, e-books, web pages).

While it is true that systems were eventually developed that allowed text to be composed into pages interactively and previewed in a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) environment by the compositor, these were expensive, typically could not accommodate artwork, and in any case were not widely used, even by the early 1980s.

The Emergence of Desktop Publishing

In the mid-1980s, a revolution occurred which radically changed the publishing process. This change was the result of two things, each itself a combination of recently developed hardware and software:

  • WYSIWYG page layout software running on a personal computer;
  • a high resolution all-points-addressable matrix printer with high-function page description software.

The revolutionary personal computer was the Apple Macintosh. The page layout software was PageMaker, released by Aldus Publishing. The printer was the Apple Laserwriter, and the page description software was called Postscript, by Adobe. The marketing of these components in 1985 marked the commercial debut of desktop publishing.

Problems with Desktop Publishing

This new, widely accessible, generally affordable technology for mass producing typeset-quality pages, complete with graphics, offered many improvements over previous technologies. However DTP also brought with it some problems.

Quality Concerns.

The low cost of equipment and the ease with which software could be learned seemed to suggest that anyone who could acquire and operate the tools could create and produce typeset-quality pages. The graphics specialists who knew how to design pleasing pages were rapidly replaced in many organizations by clerical workers or by professionals in other disciplines whose chief qualification for desktop publishing was their expertise in operating an office computer. Because it was assumed that DTP software could be implemented with little or no training, organizations eliminated whole departments and discarded traditional processes of design and production.

Without a framework of policies and procedures to oversee the use of DTP tools, the result was very frequently a loss not only of visual quality (the "ransom note" effect one gets from ugly combinations of fonts and bad composition practices), but alsoand much more importantlya loss of accuracy and effectiveness of the printed materials. Ironically, many organizations discovered that the money-saving potential of DTP tools actually led to an overall loss of efficiency, as tasks that had once been done by professional designers became time-consuming additions to the workload of people with other primary responsibilities.

Information Management Concerns.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s another major revolution in publishing was underway. The "descriptive markup" approach organized digital documents into structures of logical components (such as chapters, sections, titles, paragraphs, lists, block quotations, and other similar items), and then separately associated formatting rules with each type of component. This approach turned out to have many advantages over directly inserting formatting codes into the document, making it easier to create documents, globally alter formatting, support information retrieval, print on a variety of output devices, convert to different file formats, or customize output for a variety of purposes. Documents created this way could be flexibly repurposed for different products and delivery systems. This way of managing a document as a database is based on fundamental principles of information management.

The creators of desktop publishing systems rarely reflected these insights, however, preferring instead to focus on the intuitive ease-of-use and composition capabilities of the software. As a result, early DTP products were generally far less versatile and functional than they might have been. It was hard to import data easily from other more structured formats. Even more significantly, it was difficult to use content that had been processed by DTP systems for anything other than the original intended printed products: DTP files could not be easily repurposed for delivery on CD-ROMs (compact discs-read only memory) or the web, for instance, or accessed by information retrieval tools, or imported into databases, or integrated with emerging networked information systems.

Today these problems are being addressed. In particular, the descriptive markup approach to creating and managing content is increasingly integrated with DTP tools and practices, due in part, perhaps, to the recent near-universal acceptance of XML as the standard language for describing publishing content. It is now recognized that the production of effective high-quality publications requires carefully thought-out processes and compliance with fundamental principles of information management. There is no substitute for expertise and carefully defined systems. And there is no substitution for principles and best practices.

Desktop publishing is now common in business, government, and education. It continues to be based on the same basic components found in the original configuration of 1985: high-resolution all-points-addressable matrix printers, personal computers, interactive page-layout and graphics software, and page description printing softwareeach easy-to-use, powerful, and relatively inexpensive. The challenge now is to integrate desktop publishing into the wider process of creating, managing, and delivering information in the networked world.

see also Document Processing; Integrated Software; Markup Languages; Technology of Desktop Publishing.

Allen Renear

Internet Resources

About Desktop Publishing for All Platforms. <>

"The Ultimate Electronic Publishing Resource." <>

views updated


Before 1985 the process of creating and publishing a professional-looking document was quite different from what it has evolved into since that time. Before the invention of the laser printer and then in 1985 desktop-publishing software, the publishing process involved numerous professionals performing various taskstypically in a variety of locations. Writers and editors created the text for a project; designers and artists created the layout and necessary photographs and other artwork; typesetters created galleys of finished type that then had to be cut and pasted into place on an art board; camera operators, "strippers," and other printing professionals produced negatives, flats, and printing plates; press operators printed the finished project.

All that changed significantly with the advent of laser printing and desktop-publishing software. Aldus Corporation founder Paul Brainerd coined the phrase desktop publishing to refer to a new publishing processa combination of technology that now allowed the functions of writing, editing, designing, typesetting, illustrating, formatting, and printing a document to be accomplished by one person (if desired) working at one locationhis or her own desktop!

The process of desktop publishing can be accomplished with word-processing software or with sophisticated desktop-publishing software. Desktop publishing includes projects printed on desktop printing equipment (black-and-white laser printers, ink-jet printers, and color laser printers) as well as those prepared in electronic form for final printing on high-end commercial printing presses. The use of personal computers (PCs) has become so widespread that the traditional publishing process described earlier is obsoleteand rarely seen. Essentially, all professional printing projects are created on PCs with word-processing or desktop-publishing software (or both).

As a result, desktop publishing is taking on a new meaning. Rather than referring to the process that was such a revolution in 1985 or even to the type of software used to produce a project, the term is now generally used to refer to the type of document produced. Generally speaking, desktop publishing refers to a "designed" document that effectively integrates type and visual elements for printing either on desktop-printing equipment or on traditional or digital professional-printing equipment. Thus, desktop publishing could be summarized simply as the combination of design principles, type, and visual elements into a professional-looking document. By contrast, word processing refers to such basic text-intensive documents as business letters, memos, and reports created with word-processing software that facilitates efficient entry, editing, and layout of the text.

The term desktop-publishing software refers to PC programs designed to facilitate professional document design and creation. Also referred to as page-layout programs, Adobe InDesign, Adobe FrameMaker, QuarkXPress, and Corel Ventura were the leading professional-level desktop-publishing programs in the early twenty-first century. In addition, Adobe PageMakerproducing basic documents such as brochures and newsletterswas targeted to business, education, and small- and home-office users.

Desktop-publishing software targeted to small- and home-office users included such programs as Microsoft Office Publisher and Serif PagePlus. Another category of desktop-publishing software is home-publishing and specialty programsprograms not considered to be serious desktop-publishing programsdesigned for home users to create such projects as calendars, greeting cards, business cards, and fliers. Such programs included Print Shop, PrintMaster, Calendar Creator, and Greeting Card Factory.


Understanding the essential differences between the functionality of word-processing software and that of desktop-publishing software can help an organization or individual make a good choice between the two types of software for use in creating desktop-publishing projects.

Both word-processing and desktop-publishing programs include basic word-processing capabilities such as these:

  • Copy, cut, move, and paste functions
  • Spell-checking
  • Find-and-replace functionality
  • Automatic generation of tables of contents and indexes
  • Styles for formatting characters and paragraphs
  • Tables and columns

Despite the inclusion of such features in desktop-publishing software, word-processing software is nearly always a much better choice for basic word processing, as it allows the user to focus more on editing and developing content efficiently than on creating the document layout and implementing design elements.

Where word-processing and desktop-publishing programs begin to differ most noticeably is in the way the programs handle the integration of graphical elements and text elements. In word-processing software, all the text of a document is treated as one long "string" of words running through the entire document. If a new paragraph is inserted on the first page of the document, all the text in the document (and often the graphical elements as well) typically moves down by the length of that inserted paragraph, and the text on the last page of the document may even move to the top of a new page that is automatically added to the document. Even if the document contains sections, chapters, or other "unmovable" breaks, the insertion of the paragraph on the first page can significantly alter the layout of the entire document.

In most word-processing applications (basic documents such as letters and memos), this string of text running through the document works just fine, because the document is not layout- or format-intensive. Likewise, designed documents that do not include extensive graphical elements and that are not adversely affected by the flow-through-text effect of word-processing software can often be created more easily in word-processing software than in desktop-publishing software.

On the other hand, when documents are carefully designed and formatted to integrate text and graphics in specific ways on each page, the string effect of word processing can be frustrating and inefficient. That is where desktop-publishing software is much more effective.

Desktop-publishing software is designed as a page-layout tool, meaning that its emphasis is not on processing words but on laying out and integrating textual and graphical elements in a document. Text is generally placed in a desktop-publishing document in text boxes or "frames" that can be positioned in exact locations on specific pages. A "story" or unit of text (such as an individual article in a newsletter) may be broken into several frames in a document, and the text will "flow" like a string through these framesbut the frames retain their original sizes, shapes, and positions, and graphical elements are not moved or otherwise affected.

If the addition of a paragraph to a story pushes text through the associated frames and causes the text to exceed the capacity of those frames, the user is warned that some text is not "placed" and must be positioned or placed by the user. But the overall document layout is not affected by the new text as it can be in word-processing software. In short, the desktop-publishing-software user has greater control over the layout of document elements than does the word-processing-software user.


Functions and features that are typically present only in desktop-publishing software and that therefore set desktop-publishing software apart from word-processing software include the following:

Grids and guidelines:

Document layout is facilitated by nonprinting guidelines and underlying document grids. Graphical and textual elements placed in the document may "snap" to these guidelines and grids to ensure alignment with other document elements, creating a more-professional, consistent look in the document.

Printing-industry measurements:

Although type size is measured in points in both word-processing and desktop-publishing software, word-processing software typically uses inches for all other measurements. In desktop-publishing software, units of measure more common to the traditional printing industry are used for greater ease and accuracy. For example, indentations and margins may be set using picas and points rather than inches. (One pica is 12 points, and 6 picas is an inch. Thus, an inch is 72 points.) A margin of three-quarters of an inch would be designated as 54 points or, more typically, 9p0 (9 picas and 0 points). A line height of just over one-sixth of an inch could be designated either as 14 points or as 1p2 (1 pica and 2 points).

Sophisticated typographic control:

Desktop-publishing programs often have very sophisticated typographic control that results in the most professional typesetting possible. For example, individual character widths and heights can be expanded or condensed as needed, and line spacing and word spacing can be set to custom specifications. The appearance of fully justified text (text lines that are either "stretched out" or "compressed" to make them all exactly the same length) is enhanced by multiline "composition" rather than single-line composition typical of word processing. That is, the desktop-publishing software evaluates multiple lines of type at a time to determine the optimal places to break each line for the most-pleasing overall look of a paragraph.

Other advanced features:

Desktop-publishing software may include such other advanced features as book and chapter management, built-in manipulation of graphical elements (such as the addition of key-line borders, drop shadows, rounded or beveled corners, and feathered edges), text set on a curved line, and easy overlapping or "wrap-around" of graphical and textual elements for the desired effect.


An experienced word-processing operator can probably learn to be proficient in using desktop-publishing software fairly quickly with the right training. Most people find that the learning curve for desktop-publishing software is much steeper than it is for word-processing software because of the advanced features of desktop-publishing software.

One of the most-useful practices for effective use of desktop-publishing software is that of using both word-processing and desktop-publishing software in the overall process of creating a desktop-publishing project. Since word-processing software is especially suited to entering, editing, and collaborating with others on the basic copy or text of a project, it should generally be used to complete those copy-intensive tasks. Then, when the copy is completely edited and ready for layout and formatting, it can be imported into desktop-publishing software, where it can be laid out on the page along with graphical elements much more efficiently because of the advanced page-layout functionality of desktop-publishing software.

see also Information Technology; Software


Conover, Charles (2003). Designing for print: An in-depth guide to planning, creating, and producing successful design projects. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Hinderliter, Hal (2003). Desktop publishing primer. Sewickley, PA: GATFPress.

Lake, Susan E. L. (2006). Desktop publishing (2nd ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

Ray L. Young

views updated

desktop publishing (DTP) The use of a computer system or workstation together with a page printer to perform many of the functions of a print shop. These include page layout and design, the choice of font, and the inclusion of diagrams and pictures. DTP software normally produces its output in a page description language that is then interpreted by the page printer to the best of its ability. The DTP program can take its input from, for instance, text files from word processors or text editors, pictures from graphics programs, or digitized images from scanners. Pagemaker, Framemaker, Ventura, QuarkXpress, and InDesign are examples of DTP software.

The distinction between DTP and word processing is becoming less marked as each new version of word-processing software contains features formerly only available in DTP packages.

views updated

desktop publishing, system for producing printed materials that consists of a personal computer or computer workstation, a high-resolution printer (usually a laser printer), and a computer program that allows the user to select from a variety of type fonts and sizes, column justifications, page layouts, and graphics libraries and often includes support for document creation and editing. Desktop publishing enables a small business or an individual to produce professional-quality materials on the premises inexpensively and quickly without the need for outside typesetting or printing facilities.

views updated

desktop publishing (DTP) Use of a computer to prepare text and pictures for publication. The technique uses computer programs, such as QuarkXpress, that display documents on the computer screen. The operator controls the type font, size, line length, and column organization of text, and incorporates scanned images if necessary. The result can be output in forms ready for conventional printing and publishing.

views updated

desk·top pub·lish·ing (abbr.: DTP) • n. the production of printed matter by means of a printer linked to a desktop computer, with special software. The system enables reports, advertising matter, company magazines, etc., to be produced cheaply with a layout and print quality similar to that of typeset books, for xerographic or other reproduction.