Software for Desktop Publishing

A rundown of the software used to publish both print and online media

Desktop publisher laying out and designing a webpage and mobile web page on a tablet with sketches next to him

 

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Desktop publishers and graphic designers typically use four types of software. These programs make up the core of a designer's toolbox. Additional utilities, add-ons, and specialty software not covered here can enhance the basic desktop publishing arsenal.

Anyone interested in producing designs for commercial printing or for publication on the web can benefit from the following kinds of software.

Word Processing Software

You use a word processor to type and edit text and to check spelling and grammar. You can usually format elements on the fly and include those formatting tags when you import text to your page layout program.

While you can do some simple layout work, word processors are best suited for working with words, not for designing a page layout. If your goal is to have your work commercially printed, word processing file formats are usually not suitable. Choose a word processor that can import and export a variety of formats for maximum compatibility with others.

Page Layout Software

Page layout software is closely associated with print and desktop publishing. This kind of software allows for the integration of text and images on the page, easy manipulation of page elements, the creation of artistic layouts, and multipage publications such as newsletters and books. High-end or professional-level tools include prepress features, while software for home publishing or creative projects often involves more templates and clip art.

  • Professional page layout software is dominated by Adobe InDesign, which is available for Windows and macOS computers. Other page layout software includes QuarkXPress for PCs and Macs, along with Serif PagePlus and Microsoft Publisher for Windows PCs.
  • Home publishing software includes special-purpose applications for calendars, T-shirt transfers, digital scrapbooks, and greeting cards. Home publishing programs that aren't limited to one purpose include The Print Shop and Print Artist for Windows PCs and PrintMaster for PCs and Macs.

Graphics Software

Print publishing and webpage design often require a vector illustration program and a photo editor. Some graphics software programs incorporate a few photo editing features, but for most professional work, you will need each one.

  • Illustration software makes use of scaleable vector graphics to create artwork that can be resized and edited through multiple iterations. Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape are examples of professional vector illustration software for PCs and Macs. CorelDraw is available for PCs.
  • Photo editing software—also called paint programs or image editors—works with bitmap images, such as scanned photos and digital images. Although illustration programs can export bitmaps, photo editors are better for web images and many special photo effects. Adobe Photoshop is a popular cross-platform example. Other image editors include Corel PaintShop Pro for Windows PCs and Gimp, the free open-source software available on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Electronic or Web Publishing Software

Most designers today, even those in print, need web-publishing skills. Many of today's page layout or other desktop publishing programs include some electronic publishing capabilities. Even dedicated web designers still need illustration and image-editing software. If your work is exclusively web design, you may want to try a comprehensive program such as Adobe Dreamweaver, which is available for PCs and Macs.