Computer Journal

Desktop Publishing

A new use for personal computers

From First Draft to Page Composing

By Alan J. Wax

April 20, 1986

THE article on this page by Newsday business writer Alan J. Wax was not produced on the complex - and expensive - typesetting system of the newspaper he works for or even on the state-of-the-art desktop printers now available, but on the personal computer and other hardware in his office at home. He's had it a year or so and says all the price tags on that equipment today would add up to about $2,000 - not untypical for a home installation. Start reading his article here, and when you turn to the continuing page, you will see an example of some of the same article but printed on more sophisticated equipment, more expensive but not beyond the means of a small business or even well-funded nonprofit groups. Illustration- This example does not show desktop publishing "as good as it gets"; it was chosen to show what virtually the least-expensive equipment could produce.

A new and burgeoning field is emerging in personal computing: desktop publishing.

It's all been happening since Apple Computer brought out its Macintosh personal computer little more than a year ago.

With the introduction of the Macintosh, with its what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG or "whizzy-wig") display screen, Apple's LaserWriter printer and specialized software available from a handful of firms, individuals and organizations from businesses to schools to civic and religious groups now are able to produce professional-looking printed materials on their own.

With these tools, a user can bring in copy from a word-processing program; set it in various sizes and faces of display and text type; set different line spacing, column widths and placement, including complicated text-block shapes; work on several pages at a time and jump copy from one page to another, and coordinate the layout of any or all pages; insert rules, screens, grids, reverses and other design elements with relative ease; bring in graphics from drawing programs and stock-art disks, then scale and crop them; view the results on the computer screen; and print the finished pages in a range of quality that can equal that of commercial publications.

Demand for these tools has been phenomenal, according to Jonathan Seybold, editor-in-chief of the Seybold Report on Publishing Systems in Media, Pa. He noted that Apple, which shipped 12,000 LaserWriters last year, shipped three times as many in December as it did in August and that he's seen some estimates that the computer maker may ship as many as 40,000 in 1986.

The desktop-publishing concept had been tried earlier on other computers, but with only limited success on the Apple II and the Commodore 64. The main program available for this, The Print Shop by Broderbund, has only limited ability to integrate graphics and text.

A recent arrival on the scene, called The Newsroom, by Springboard Software Inc., and educational software producer, combines word processing and page layout with a clip art library for use on the Apple II, Commodore and IBM-PC. The output, however, is amateurish in comparison to programs available for the Macintosh--the "Mac," as it's fondly called by its growing cadre of users--together with special page-makeup software and a new breed of output devices--all designed so the user doesn't have to worry about buying a variety of incompatible devices, have provided the average person with the ability to create newsletters, advertisements, menus, flyers and virtually any other printed material with a professional, typeset look -- without the expense of going to a professional graphics artist.

This article, for example was produced on a 512K Mac utilizing version 2.1 of ReadySEtGo, a page-makeup program developed by Manhattan Graphics. It has been printed on both an Apple Image-Writer printer and on Apple's LaserWriter, a device that costs more than some Third World auto imports. But for those who are not overly particular that their output has a "computer" look to it, small businesses, clubs and non-profit organizations, for example, the output from an ImageWriter should suffice.

All told, a system such as the one I'm using now, which includes an ImageWriter printer, can be had for around $2,000, not including software - if you can find the same components (many have been superseded by upgraded, costlier models). Custom Computer Specialists, a Hauppauge retailer, offers Mac-based desktop publishing systems starting at around $8,000, but that includes the LaserWriter.

Ready Set Go! has a list price of $195 but can be purchased at a discount from some retailers. Earlier versions, which offered fewer features, may still be available - some mail-order firms were selling it recently for less than $70. The other major page-makeup programs are PageMaker, a professional program by Aldus Corp, which lists for $495, MacPublisher I ($99.95) and MacPublisher II ($149.95) by Boston Software.

Whatever the software, a Mac user can produce professional-looking layouts with text from a word-processing program and art work from graphics software, decorative elements such as black or gray blocks and rules, and even photographs (if an input device that can digitalize is added).

Also, you don't have to be an artist. There's a wide range of what is called clip art - "generic" standard pictures - available on disk. The drawing of the computer and printer on the first page of this article is from Simon & Schuster's Mac Art Department, one of many such programs on the market.

You don't even have to know page layout. Manhattan Graphics has introduced Desk Design, a collection of predesigned page layouts for use with the company's ReadySetGo program.

Users of IBM PC's shouldn't feel left out. Text-processing programs for the most-used personal computer and its various clones are forthcoming.

At December's Comdex computer show in Chicago, T/Maker Co. of Mountainview, Calif., introduced a program, Clickart Personal Publisher, which runs on the IBM PC, XT, AT and compatibles and can run various printers. And Aldus and Boston Software are planning IBM versions of their successful Mac programs. Skisoft Inc., also plans an IBM PC publishing package, and Xerox, long known for sophisticated electronic publishing systems, is going to to sell Ventura Publisher, a low-end, Mac-like publishing program made for the IBM PC by Ventura Software Inc. Other software producers are likely to follow. And don't forget old Big Blue itself, which plans to sell a $1,995 software package developed by Interleaf Inc. for the newly announced, technically oriented IBM RT.

Users of the IBM PC will be able to do something Mac users cannot: bring color to the field. But, the IBM and imitators have drawbacks in resolution (screen-image sharpness). "The IBM PC is not a good graphics machine," said Seybold, adding that an IBM user must choose from a bewildering array of peripherals to put together a publishing system. "It's just a holy mess," he said. On the other hand, the Macintosh can be used for desktop publishing right out of the box. The difference a few thousand dollars can make: the same copy that began this article but here printed on a LaserWriter.

"This has largely been an Apple phenomenon so far," said Seybold, noting that "it's really going to be this fall before it will hit the IBM PC world."

Apple's LaserWriter isn't the only professional output device on the market. Hewlett-Packard and Canon both manufacturer laser-based printers; while lower in cost than Apple's LaserWriter, neither offers the same level of sophistication or graphics ability, according to reviewers.

Similarly, QMS, formerly Quality Micro Systems, has a new low-end machine, called Kiss, which has a $1,995 list price, but early reviews said that at its best it emulates the graphics output of a dot-matrix printer. Xerox, too, has a laser printer, with prices starting at $4,995.

The machine that seems to offer the highest quality output, according to reviewers, is the Linotronic 100, a $29,950 device manufactured by Merganthaler, the long-time manufacturer of printing equipment best known for the old hot-metal Linotype.

With equipment prices like these, entrepreneurs have found a ready market. In some parts of the country shops have opened that for a fee, usually a few dollars per page, will run a customer's output through its laser printer. Among them is the McGraw Hill Bookstore in Manhattan.

For businesses, Seybold says, the advent of desktop publishing has provided a new means for justifying the cost of purchasing a computer, which he adds is good news for the PC industry, which ran out of steam in 1985. He said that if a firm keeps enough typesetting jobs in-house, such equipment can pay for itself.

Initial purchasers of desktop publishing systems were individuals and small businesses. Now, larger companies are getting into the act.

In the end, the experts agree, desk-top publishing gives more control over the information process to the person generating the information.

But to control it you must first learn how to use these new tools.

Designing the first page and making the necessary adjustments in type sizes and fonts, graphics sizes and placement and column width took this writer hours of trial and error. Still, the results were truly surprising.

And if all this isn't proof enough that desktop publishing has come into its own, the field now has its own special-interest magazine: it's called Publish! LaserWriter printout courtesy of Custom Computer Specialists Inc.

Illustration - Desktop publishing A new use for personal computers. This is an example of how a graphic can be incorporated into a page layout. Illustration - Illustration from an art disk.

Copyright Newsday Inc., 1986