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
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
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
The basic components of any DTP system consist of a desktop computer
system, printer, word processing software, and publishing software such
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
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.
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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.