Software for Desktop Publishing

Types of software used in desktop publishing for print and web

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 for print and the web 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 software arsenal. Within some of the four types of software are subcategories.

Anyone interested in producing designs and files for commercial printing or for publication on the web can benefit from the software mentioned here.

Word Processing Software

You use a word processor to type and edit text and to check spelling and grammar. You may even be able to format specific elements on the fly and include those formatting tags when you import text to your page layout program, simplifying some formatting tasks.

While you can do some simple layout work in your word processing software, it is best suited for working with words, not for page layout. If your intent 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.

Word processing software examples are Microsoft Word and Google Docs for Windows PCs and Macs and Corel WordPerfect for PCs.

Page Layout Software

Page layout software is most closely associated with doing desktop publishing for print. 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 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 consists of many 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

For print publishing and webpage design, a vector illustration program and a photo editor are the types of graphics software you need. Some graphics software programs incorporate a few features of the other type, but for most professional work, you'll need each one.

Illustration software works with scaleable vector graphics that allow flexibility when creating artwork that is to be resized or must go through multiple edits. 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 that is available for most platforms including 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 programs and other software for desktop publishing now 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.