Where Is Desktop Publishing Used?

Desktop publishing thrives in home and office environments

Pre-adolescent boys using digital tablet in classroom

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When desktop publishing began in the 1980s, it was intended to change the way professional graphic designers worked by transitioning from mechanical layouts to digital files.

Currently, people identify desktop publishing as work done at home or office on desktop computers. That work is then printed on a small home or office printers, or it is sent to a commercial printing company for output. 

Desktop Publishing Changed an Industry

Because the early DTP software (beginning with Aldus PageMaker) was easy to learn and ran on inexpensive desktop computers, people who had never produced a page layout could — for the first time — generate their own digital files for brochures, business cards, forms, memos and other documents that had previously required a skilled graphic designer running high-end software on expensive equipment.

Desktop publishing software soon spread to the workplace, and businesses began to expect employees to use Microsoft Word, Publisher, Pagemaker or other user-friendly software to generate many of the documents that had previously gone to advertising agencies, commercial print shops, and graphic designers. When the web became ubiquitous, employees were also expected to build and maintain websites.

Meanwhile, in professional commercial printing companies and ad agencies, skilled graphic designers were also transitioning to digital production, using high-end retail software like QuarkXPress or proprietary software on expensive equipment. There was and still is a need for those skilled designers for high-end brochures, complicated color printing, and large press runs. 

Desktop Publishing in the Workplace

The ability to work with page layout or word processing software in the workplace is a skill that many employers find attractive. The HR employee who can set up and generate forms to onboard new employees, the manager who can design and print out an employee handbook, and the sales manager who can format and print sales reports or direct mail pieces all bring strength to their roles that someone without desktop publishing skills can't bring.

Any workplace that has desktop computers has the potential for handling some of its own design and print work. Including skills in this area or indicating a comfort level with computers on a resume may make that resume stand out from the competition.

Examples of typical items that businesses set up internally and either print or send out to a commercial printer include:

  • Brochures, flyers, and posters
  • Booklets
  • Newsletters
  • Business cards and letterhead
  • Forms
  • Financial documents
  • HR documents
  • Invoices, inventory sheets, memos, and labels

Office workers may also use software to design slideshows and handouts or publish a blog or website. It is a rare office that doesn't produce some of the products in-house that used to go to professional designers or commercial printers.

Desktop Publishing in a Home Environment

Desktop publishing in the home is usually limited to small-run print projects for the family. Any family with a desktop computer, software and a printer can produce many projects. Examples include:

  • Greeting cards
  • Iron-on transfers
  • Candy wrappers
  • Postcards
  • Digital scrapbooks
  • Decorative labels
  • Family calendars

Other Places Desktop Publishing Thrives

In addition to business and home use, desktop publishing also exists in:

  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Copy Centers
  • Clubs and organizations
  • Sports teams

There are very few places that desktop publishing hasn't made an appearance.