Guide to the Different Types of Graphics Software

Page layout software

Page layout software is used to combine graphics and text to produce a document. Usually, these documents are intended to be printed, but they can also be slide show presentations or Web sites. This type of software is not the focus of this site, but I want to touch on it briefly because it is closely related to graphics software.

Word Processors

Word processors, as the name implies, have an emphasis on working mainly with text. In recent years, however, word processors have made significant changes to incorporate graphics tools in the software. Word processors can now be used to combine text and graphics for many documents such as brochures, booklets, flyers, and postcards.

  • Microsoft Word
  • Corel WordPerfect

Publishing Software

Publishing software, also known as desktop publishing software, can also combine text and graphics but the tools in this breed of software are much more sophisticated. Desktop publishing software offers tools for precise control over text and graphics placement, leading, kerning, and some image editing functions. High-end desktop publishing software has the power to handle layouts for books, magazines, and other large publications. When desktop publishing software first emerged, the only products available were expensive, high-end publishing packages. More recently, the low-end desktop publishing market has exploded with products intended for small businesses and home users (SOHO).

  • High-End Publishing Software
  • SOHO Publishing Software
    • Adobe InDesign
    • Corel VENTURA
    • QuarkXPress
    • Adobe PageMaker
    • Microsoft Publisher

Illustration Software

Illustration software, although not technically considered layout software, is also beginning to incorporate more and more word processing and text manipulation features. Many of the illustration programs have the ability to flow text, check spelling and grammar, and adjust kerning and line spacing. It's becoming more common to use illustration software for page layout on smaller projects such as postcards, greeting cards, brochures, business cards, letterhead, and small booklets.

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDRAW
  • Macromedia Freehand

Creative Printing Software

Creative printing software is a market that has boomed recently as inkjet printers have become more affordable. This software is specially designed for creating greeting cards, postcards, business cards, signs, posters, t-shirt designs, and other crafts. As with all page layout software, they allow you to combine text and graphics in a single document, but the tools in this breed of software are often more specialized. You probably won't find tools to adjust line spacing and kerning... what you will find are a number of fun special effects such as curved and outlined text, image shaping and distortion, and possibly some limited image editing functions.

  • Print Artist
  • The Print Shop
  • PrintMaster
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Harvard Graphics

Presentation Software

Presentation software is designed for creating on-screen presentations, reports, overhead transparencies, and slideshows. Like all the software mentioned above, it allows you to combine both text and graphics in a single document, but the final output is not always intended for printing.

Like creative printing software, presentation software offers limited text editing and manipulation with an emphasis on special effects, and possibly some basic image editing functions. Presentation software is unique in that you will almost always have functionality for working with charts and graphs. Also, most of this type of software allows you to incorporate multimedia into your documents.

Web Publishing Software

Another development in recent years that is common among all the types of software above, is the ability to publish your work on the Internet. Just about every genre of software available today is adding built-in Internet tools. The low-end software will have the basics such as sending your files through e-mail or creating animated greetings; some may have basic Web page creation tools. The high-end software will have more sophisticated Web publishing tools for exporting to HTML or PDF (portable document format). And of course, there are many dedicated Web publishing programs. As you can see, the lines that distinguish the various types of layout software are beginning to blur. I hope this article has helped you to understand the differences between them, and how they all fit into the world of graphics software.

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