Comparing Platforms

Comparing DTP platforms: Which One is the Best?


Choosing a software company for all your business needs is much like picking a brand of computer, a car company or appliance favorite. Many times, the chosen company is one you are already familiar. Your first car is often the same make as your parents owned.

Desktop publishing (DTP) platforms are numerous. Wikipedia lists nearly 30 different packages. Some are simple, free downloads, some only make flyers or two page brochures and others cost hundreds of dollars and require many hours of training to use. Picking the best one for your needs may be based on what is already installed on the business computers. Microsoft and Adobe are probably the biggest players in this digital design field. I will focus on four of the most common ones, highlighting pros and cons of each.

Microsoft Publisher Logo

Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft is not going to be left out of the design market so they introduced Microsoft Publisher. It is available for both Windows and Apple computers and sells for about $129, or if you purchase Microsoft Office Professional, it is included.

As far as DTP goes, the Website “Top 10 Reviews” gives it good marks. The ability to add images, use pre-designed templates and manipulate text for a professional looking product is not hard to do. Since it is made by Microsoft, if you are already familiar with Word, the software is easy to learn.

Files can be output as Portable Document Format (PDF) that can be read by just about anyone. It also includes spell and grammar checks.
The only cons identified are that templates and fonts are limited. But more can be freely downloaded from the Internet.

Apple Pages Logo

Apple Pages

To counter the Microsoft programs, Apple has developed its own versions of the Office products that can also be used for DTP. Apple Pages is also available for $10 from their app store so you can write and edit text on an iPhone or iPad.

Pages are part of a package called iWorks and sells for about $79. It is a basic design program, allowing for images to be inserted and placed anywhere within the text. You can also open Microsoft Word files into it as well as charts and tables produced in the iWorks programs.

The obvious cons are it is only available for Apple computers and the low price means it is limiting in producing anything more complicated than a newsletter.

Adobe InDesign Logo

Adobe InDesign

Probably the dominant program available for DTP use is Adobe’s InDesign. It is a full-featured page layout program and is available for both Windows and Apple platforms. Adobe bought it from Aldus and the program was called Pagemaker for many years. In fact, it was the first desktop publishing program launched in 1986.

InDesign is capable of producing documents ranging from a simple one-page flyer to a 300-page book. The page setup allows the designer to set the page sizes, margins and facing pages. Images can be imported and manipulated inside the program, numerous graphic files are supported and formatting text has unlimited potential.

Adobe has also introduced monthly subscriptions for $49 that allows the owner to download any of its products for the one low price. Or the product can be purchased individually for about $600.

Quark Xpress Logo

Quark Xpress

This DTP program has been around for 25 years and was once the giant among layout designers and periodicals. It can do all the same things InDesign can with images, text and other graphics. Some designers prefer it because it has superior graphic ability.

Photos brightness, hues and other color features can be edited in Quark and filters can also be applied.

The main drawback is the ease of use. Unless you are very familiar with page layout programs, Quark is not intuitive and some designers find it hard to learn and use.

Before buying a layout program, consider what it is you want to make and who is going to do the design. For simple projects like business cards, flyers or small brochures, DTP software packages under $100 are probably what you need.

Websites such as “Top 10 Reviews” take a look at many programs and compare features, costs and ease of use. Once you determine the budget and what you are going to do with it, the next step is only a click away.

– ArtworkAbode

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