The History of Desktop Publishing

From PostScript to Publisher these are the highlights

Stacks of newspapers with laptop

  Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Several events of the mid-1980s, including the development of Aldus PageMaker (now Adobe PageMaker), ushered in the era of desktop publishing.

It was primarily the introduction of both the Apple LaserWriter, a PostScript desktop printer, and PageMaker for the Mac that kicked off the desktop publishing revolution. Aldus Corporation founder Paul Brainerd is generally credited with coining the phrase, "desktop publishing." 1985 was a very good year.

Brief Timeline

  • 1984 - The Apple Macintosh debuts.
  • 1984 - Hewlett-Packard introduces the LaserJet, the first desktop laser printer.
  • 1985 - Adobe introduces PostScript, the industry-standard Page Description Language (PDL) for professional typesetting.
  • 1985 - Aldus develops PageMaker for the Mac, the first "desktop publishing" application.
  • 1985 - Apple produces the LaserWriter, the first desktop laser printer to contain PostScript.
  • 1987 - PageMaker for the Windows platform is introduced.
  • 1990 - Microsoft ships Windows 3.0.

Fast forward to 2020 and beyond. You can still buy Hewlett-Packard LaserJets but there are hundreds of other printers and printer manufacturers to choose from as well. PostScript was at level 3 while PageMaker was at version 7 but is now marketed to the business sector.


In the intervening years since PageMaker's introduction and purchase by Adobe, Quark, Inc.'s QuarkXPress took over as the sweetheart of desktop publishing applications. But today Adobe's InDesign is firmly planted in the professional sector and wooing over many converts on both the PC and Mac platforms.

While Macintosh is still considered by some to be the platform of choice for professional desktop publishing (that is changing slowly), dozens of consumer and small business desktop publishing packages hit the shelves in the 1990s, catering to the growing legions of PC/Windows users.

Microsoft Joins the Crowd

Most notable among these low-cost Windows desktop publishing options, Microsoft Publisher and Serif PagePlus continue to add features that make them more and more viable as contenders to the traditional professional apps. Desktop publishing in the 21st century has seen a change in the way we define desktop publishing including who does desktop publishing and the software used, even if many of the original players remain.

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