What is desktop publishing software?
Desktop publishing software (or DTP software) is software used in the process of creating editorial projects. The primary use of DTP is to lay out texts, images and graphics on a page and easily arrange these elements to create the preferred document. Born in the 1980s to create printed and PDF publications, today DTP software is also used to create electronic media, such as e-books and webpages. DTP software enables professional creation and management over the design of a document, and, if correctly used, a typographic quality.
DTP software is used to create both basic documents such as business cards, menus and brochures and more complex editorial projects like books, magazines, catalogs, and price lists. The type of documents you need to create affects your choice of software.
Which desktop publishing software should I choose?
Many diverse software options are currently available for desktop publishing, including the market leaders (professional software such as QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign), open source software such as Scribus, LaTex, and Libre Office Suite, and the two programs developed by Microsoft (Word and Publisher). Also available is Pagination.com, which is among the most effective desktop publishing software for composing text, data, and images into a complete editorial product. Pagination.com is one of the first cloud-based, automatic-database publishing solutions offered by the publishing market.
Each of these solutions is characterized by different technical features, performance, cost, ease of use, and availability.
Our reviews of the best DTP software
To help you choose the Desktop Publishing Software that is right for you, here is a brief description of several DTP software currently available:
- Adobe InDesign
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Publisher
- Libre Office Writer
- Libre Office Draw
InDesign is a professional-level desktop publishing software for Windows and Mac that was first produced by Adobe Systems in 1999. InDesign is the heir of Adobe PageMaker and can be used to publish every sort of editorial product (particularly books, magazines, and journals). Its main features are multilingual support, the advanced management of OpenType fonts, the capability to manage transparency effects, and its considerable integration with other products offered by Adobe Systems.
Returning the focus to a single document, a user can handle different page sizes, add text and paragraphs in multiple columns with easy-to-use tools, and screen and easily change the objects. Moreover, the software also allows the user to easily create interactive documents and multimedia proposals with audio and video elements.
Adobe InDesign supports exportation to the EPUB and SWF formats to create e-book and digital publications, such as digital magazines and suitable contents for tablets. Moreover, InDesign also manages XML, style sheets, and other markup coding to consent to the exportation of tagged text content for use in other formats and online.
The newest version of InDesign has several new designs, including “liquid” layouts or “responsive” designs that automatically adjust to become suitable to different devices and the ability to link to different content. The second change is important as it allows changes to be replicated across all formats so they don’t have to be input multiple times (reducing the possibility of error).
From the CS6 version onward, InDesign is sold as a monthly fee subscription so that an Adobe account can be activated. Rental of the licenses (so the software can be accessed from the Adobe Creative Cloud) allows selections among all the monthly options. In this way, the excessive cost that is often an obstacle to use of Adobe’s products overall has been overcome.
- Adobe InDesign is a so-called “heavy” software, and therefore wastes a lot of computer resources.
- It is also difficult to use and not suitable for beginners, who would need a more basic software that provided them with essential characteristics for a desktop publishing system
The workflow is simple and based on a folder-sharing structure. This solution allows you to manage and create perfect catalogs and price lists starting from a simple spreadsheet. Data, images, and layouts are uploaded on the system, then can be downloaded as complete documents a few minutes later, correctly paginated in InDesign or PDF format. These can be printed or shared online on desktop or mobile devices.
The automatic-database method of publishing optimizes the process for catalogs and price lists thanks to an online service, as the service can handle more of the common database formats (Excel, AS/400, SQL, TXT, e XML), then transform them into usable documents.
Pagination.com provides many different advantages compared to all other desktop publishing software:
- REDUCED COSTS
Database publishing costs are reduced by 80%
- REDUCED TIME
Catalog creation requires only a few hours, rather than weeks
- EFFICIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS
Automation guarantees the best precision in inserting and updating data
- AUTOMATIC UPDATES
Data and document are both automatically synchronized in the cloud system
- EASE OF USE
Shared-folder system doesn’t require any training.
- WIDE CUSTOMIZATION
Service allows wide personalization in terms of layouts and file formats
- MULTI-CHANNEL STRATEGY
Finished documents will be ready for print, online, and mobile devices
Your free trial of Pagination.com can be based on customer data so that you can understand, in practical terms, the advantages of this catalog software.
If your editorial project is still under development, we can provide practical examples with respect to data, layout, and images.
QuarkXpress is a desktop publishing software for Windows and Mac OS created in 1987 by Quark Inc., with QuarkXpress 2016 being the current version.
The main features of QuarkXpress are optimal performance, the high degree of control over an element’s position on a page (0.001 mm precision), and a software that is greatly expandable with binary code modules developed by Quark or by a third party. Many advertising agencies have built editorial systems (customized environments for material management and semi-automatic pagination) based on QuarkXpress. Additional high points include advanced scripting functions and excellent stability of the software.
The recent versions of QuarkXpress have emphasized the development of web design, the creation of PDF documents, and XML support, disappointing customers who wanted broadening of and improvement in prepress functions.
- QuarkXpress is an expensive software
- Long time intervals between software updates.
The open source alternative to fee-based or purchased desktop publishing software is Scribus, created in 2003 by a team who also adopted the name. Scribus is based on a Qt library and has been developed in multiple platforms (Unix, Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, etc.) and multiple languages (including Italian). The last version is from 2016. Its ease of use, features, and professional approach make Scribus one of the most appreciated database publishing software programs, even for beginners. Examples of use include the production of newsletters, magazines, animated and interactive PDF presentations, posters, leaflets, and documents that require a flexible layout. Scribus has been also utilized to create complete books. It supports many different graphic formats, the SVG format, the CMYK colors, and ICC management of the colors and scripts in Python language (that is, macro programmability).
You can utilize preset templates, even if they are not perfect from a graphic point of view, or you can create new ones. The publishing procedures with Scribus can be resolved by shifting and dragging the elements inside the page, as you like. Created documents can be saved in the most popular text and image formats.
- The design and interface shown online by Scribus have been characterized as being graphically inaccurate.
- Scribus has an overly strict system with respect to font usage: invalid and corrupt fonts are automatically inactivated.
LaTex is a programming language used to create text. It is based on the typography composition TEX program. The most recent version is called LaTeX2ε. Leslie Lamport created LaTex originally in 1985; it is now owned by Frank Mittelbach.
LaTex is not known for being easy to use, even if many online templates and tutorials delineate the principal system’s guidelines. This complexity (and potential difficulty of use) is balanced by the excellent results LaTex yields. It offers programmable desktop publishing features and the possibility of automating most typesetting functions, including numeration, cross-references, tables and figures, page organization, bibliographies, and more.
LaTex is multi-platform (it runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac) and can work with every document type, even if it is very common in the academic world. In fact, it is very often used by physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, and engineers for the excellent publishing management of mathematical formulas (even Wikipedia uses LaTex to render formulas) and bibliographical references (due to the project BibTex). At some universities, theses are only allowed to be published with LaTex.
- The complexity of LaTex and the effort required to master it are considerable, but these are largely repaid by the results.
Word is a word processing program created by Microsoft in 1983. It is part of the Microsoft Office productivity software suite and it is available for Windows and OS X. Today, it is the most widely used software of its kind in the world.
Microsoft Word has been used to create, publish, modify, and print every kind of text, both for private and business use. With this program, you can format texts utilizing the toolbar and create visually pleasant documents without being an expert graphic designer. The software includes basic draw functions to create simple 2D and 3D forms and includes the WordArt function to create colorful titles with 3D effects. You can also insert images and photos into the document, then modify them with tools like black/white/saturation, cutting, and so forth. Mathematical functions can also be inserted, as with Excel.
For the most recent version of Microsoft Word, the Office Suite (which includes other programs such as PowerPoint, for presentation templates; and Outlook, for emails) is also sold by subscription with a monthly fee. One of the biggest drawbacks of Microsoft Word, its licensing fee, is overcome with this subscription format. In addition, Word offers the integration with OneDrive, so your job can be saved on the cloud as well as locally, for a greater collaboration and a better file management
- Despite its multiple features, Microsoft Word was not created to be an editorial or graphic publishing software; it will always be less powerful and efficient than other software applications that have been developed for professional purposes.
- Microsoft Word is very versatile for a beginning program due to its multiple features, but perhaps not the easiest software to use for the less experienced.
Publisher is the desktop publishing software of Microsoft Office suite; it was created in 1991 and is now on its 2016 version.
Publisher is considered an entry-level software (not specifically professional) and is different from Word because it is more oriented to graphics than to text. Microsoft wanted to create an easy software that was an alternative to the classical professional applications. In fact, it is oriented for use at a company without an internal graphic designer, at which all materials are created without specialized knowledge in the graphic design field.
Publisher gives you two work possibilities: you can start from a blank sheet or choose one of its templates, which are divided into categories (brochure, letterhead, postcards, calendars, leaflets, labels, etc.). The templates are original and graphically attractive. A large variety of editing tools exists, and one can add or remove words, colors, effects, and so forth.
Other positive features are the large working area, designed to make every operation easy, and the wide range of supported formats. Moreover, like Microsoft Word, Publisher can be integrated with OneDrive so your job can be saved on the cloud.
- Like Microsoft Word, the multiple features make Publisher a versatile, multifunctional software, but perhaps not easy to use for someone who is a beginner.
LibreOffice Writer is the open-source word processor component of the LibreOffice suite. Born in 2010, Writer soon became a viable alternative to Microsoft Word, thanks to its similar features and because the whole suite can be downloaded free.
LibreOffice Writer can open and save different kinds of document formats, such as Open Documents (the default format), Microsoft Word’s .doc and .docx, and HTML. It is also capable of exporting documents as PDFs.
The software allows you to project and create text documents with the classic features of a word processor: text formatting, spelling and grammar checker, synonyms, hyphenation, index creation, calculation functions, etc. With LibreOffice Writer, you can customize your document layout using different pre-set templates or create one from scratch to save your personal preferences. In the same way, you can create and apply styles to the paragraphs, individual characters, frames, and pages.
As a desktop publishing program, LibreOffice Writer contains various publishing and drawing tools to create documents such as brochures, newsletters, and circulars. Some of its publishing features include: formatting documents with multi-column layouts, inserting text frames, images in various formats (e.g., JPEG and GIF), graphics, tables, and other objects. Moreover, with the drawing tool, is possible to create drawings, lines, graphics, and legends for your document.
- As is also true of Microsoft Word, Writer wasn’t born as an editorial and graphics publishing program, but as a word processor. So, despite its many desktop publishing features, the software won’t allow you to create complex editorial projects, only pretty simple layouts.
LibreOffice Draw was born in 2010 as LibreOffice Suite’s desktop publishing arm, mainly dedicated to drawing and composition. This software is most often used to create technical drawings and graphic designs such as posters, flyers, and brochures.
LibreOffice Draw is an entry-level program, not one specifically designed for professionals, yet its wide range of features allows users to achieve good graphics results. The user interface is simple and intuitive, easily enabling users to access to the major features related to text, image, and graphics creation and editing.
Like most graphics composition programs, Draw uses layers, so the various elements (images, shapes, text) are automatically placed in different layers, leaving them free for reorganization, bringing an object to the foreground, or putting it in the background, among other elements.
The program’s tools allow users to create various technical drawings, such as lines, polygons, freehand curves, flowcharts, organization charts, network diagrams, and much more. Draw can also import images and graphics from the most common formats, such as BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WMF, and export files in Flash (.swf) format. Finally, LibreOffice Draw can also serve as a PDF editor.
Similar to Microsoft Publisher, LibreOffice Draw allows you to work either starting from a blank sheet or to choose one of its many pre-set templates.
Draw can be downloaded free alongside the LibreOffice Suite, and this characteristic, with its easily accessible features, has made LibreOffice Draw a widely used program in the academic and business environments.
- Draw is a valuable program for creating graphics and technical drawings, but if you need to create a more complex editorial project, you will encounter some limitations on the graphic level and in the final rendering stage.