Desktop Publishing in the Modern Office

Many office workers need desktop publishing skills to do their jobs

Illustrator in front of a computer using illustration pad

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Before the 1980s, any company that wanted a form or publication designed — interoffice forms, direct mailers, employee manuals, newsletters or any of the other printed publications that businesses need to do business — sought the services of a professional graphic designer, an advertising agency or the in-house design department of a commercial printing company — all of which used expensive, difficult-to-learn proprietary software that required powerful computers to run.

When desktop publishing first made an appearance, it did so in the form of Aldus PageMaker (later Adobe Pagemaker), which was affordable desktop publishing software that could run on relatively inexpensive desktop computers. Because its learning curve was approachable to novices, soon anyone with a standard desktop computer and the software could make their own newsletters and other publications. 

Desktop Publishing Software Is a Communications Tool

Originally, desktop publishing software was intended as a way to enhance and modernize the way graphic designers did their jobs. However, over the years as design and communication methods changed, so did the role of desktop publishing software. Before the explosion of the World Wide Web, desktop publishing software was exclusively a print communications tool. It was also used to prepare digital files for commercial printing. As more and more individuals and businesses communicated digitally, graphic design and desktop publishing software grew to meet those communications needs.

Desktop Publishing in the Office

No longer exclusive to graphic designers, desktop publishing software is found in offices on the computers of employees who know nothing about the ins and outs of graphic design. Today's employers often expect employees to crank out employee newsletters, create interoffice memos and business forms, generate PDF manuals, design web pages and do a multitude of print and digital communications tasks that were once put into the hands of graphic design firms or in-house design departments. Office managers, salespeople, assistants, HR staff and others all handle some aspects of desktop publishing because desktop publishing software and powerful word processing software allow those office workers to do that part of their job.

Modern desktop publishing software is a technological tool for improving communication, delivering information and saving time. It allows businesses to create pieces for marketing and internal communications quickly and efficiently.

Typical Office Forms and Publications

Although Pagemaker is no longer around (it was replaced by Adobe InDesign), many computers ship with some sort of page design software. You'll find Microsoft Publisher on Windows computers and Apple's Pages on Macs, both of which ship with business templates to simplify the creation of a document from scratch. Microsoft Word is a standard in most offices, and it too has templates available specifically for business use. Some of the many projects that employees handle that were once outsourced include:

  • Employee newsletter
  • Company website
  • Employee manual
  • Employment forms
  • Direct mailers
  • Invoices
  • Quote forms
  • Financial reports
  • Project proposals
  • Flyers
  • Certificates
  • Company brochure

Companies still need talented graphic designers for their high-end or complicated print and web projects. Those designers bring skills to the table beyond the operation of a software program, but many projects can be handled competently in-house. 

The Importance of Desktop Publishing Skills for a Job Seeker

Among the skills that many job seekers in modern offices are expected to have is familiarity with desktop computers. In addition, a job candidate's knowledge of Microsoft Word, any page layout software program and web design software is valuable to potential employers. Include these skills on your resume to enhance your perceived value to an employer.