Desktop Publishing can be a solution for all sorts of projects. Anywhere you need a professional presentation of the content you have.

It’s particularly ideal for one-off documents. But it can actually be utilised in all kinds of situations – to create magazines and newspapers, brochures and marketing materials.

If you’re currently wondering whether to buy Desktop Publishing software, whether to build an in-house team, whether to outsource your current project or about the purpose of DTP in general, you’ve come to the right place:

What is Desktop Publishing?

Desktop Publishing software (DTP) was originally created to design printed documents. Before DTP tools existed, the typesetting of printed documents was a little arduous, to say the least.

With their advent, the design and creation of print media became a whole lot cheaper and easier. Since that time, the use of DTP has also expanded into the digital design space. It now encompasses everything from the design of infographics to website design.

What is desktop publishing used for?

Desktop Publishing packages are often used to produce physical media such as newspapers, magazines, marketing materials, point of sale displays, product packaging designs, business cards, and outdoor signs. In the digital space, they are used to create things like web pages, GUI (Graphical User Interfaces) and e-books.

These days, companies use DTP packages over old-fashioned word processing software like Microsoft Word because they offer:

  1. Enhanced appearance for all produced documents
  2. Increased productivity
  3. Easy customisation of all kinds of projects
  4. Minimised production costs
  5. A way to manage presentation as well as content

The advantages of DTP

1) Handles far more graphical elements than a word processor

Word processing software certainly has its place. But Desktop Publishing software has taken over from it in almost any project where different fonts, pictures, layout and graphics are going to be involved.

In fact, the more elements that are going to be included in a piece, the greater the advantages of using DTP software over a word processor. Projects which include a large number of graphics and pictures will particularly benefit.

2) Frame-based

A sizeable part of the advantages of Desktop Publishing packages, even the basic Microsoft Publisher, is that they are frame-based. This means that frames of text or images can be moved over, around and on top of one another and rescaled with ease.

The ability to easily move frames around to view their impact when placed in a different layout or with different spacing really comes into its own when DTP software is used to create projects like magazines and newspapers.

3) Easy import

Text and graphics can also be easily imported from outside sources. You can bring together disparate elements such as:

  • Images from a scanner
  • Frames shot by a digital video camera
  • Text written in a word processor
  • Graphics created using your favourite drawing software

4) WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG stands What You See Is What You Get. This acronym refers to the fact that, with DTP software, what you see on the screen will be what the final document looks like in printed form.

If you’ve ever created a project as a Word file and then printed it out only to discover a huge disparity between what it looked like on the screen and what it looks like in your hand, you’ll understand why this is so important for professionals.

This means that a page layout can be easily optimised and enhanced without needing to see it on paper. The WYSIWYG aspect of DTP puts professionals who use it well ahead of their counterparts struggling to cut and paste elements using a word processor.

5) Automatic restructuring

Many DTP software packages can be set to automatically restructure other elements around a frame which has been moved.

Want to see if a snapshot looks better in the corner of a paragraph with the text wrapped around it? No problem. Doesn’t look good in the new position? Reverse the change.

You can also set text to flow under a frame or have it keep a set space from a frame boundary, or have an image positioned uniquely within a frame. This gives you a great deal of flexibility in the final appearance of a document or page.

Marketing materials such as brochures, flyers and catalogues, in particular, hugely benefit from the use of DTP tools in their creation. Because these tools offer an easy way to adjust the spacing, colours and contrast of a document, its appeal can be edited or altered to meet the preferences of any given audience.

6) Work in columns, frames and pages

Unlike most word processors, you can also easily create columns as well as frames and pages. Text will automatically snake (the technical term for flow) from one column to the next, again making DTP ideal for creating newspapers and magazines.

Kerning is the technical term for editing the space between letters. Different fonts and even different pairs of letters require different spacing for comfortable reading. The best DTP software allows easy individual control over kerning so that larger headings and titles, as well as other text elements, can be perfectly aligned and adjusted for impact and readability.

The disadvantages of DTP

1) Expensive tools

One of the main disadvantages of Desktop Publishing is the relative expense of the tools themselves. Many companies baulk at the costs of purchasing specialist software such as QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, FrameMaker or Illustrator.

Outsourcing to professionals is frequently the way that a company will choose to overcome this problem.

2) Lack of large scalability

Another disadvantage of DTP is that it sometimes struggles with very large-scale, highly complex projects.

That’s because these projects frequently require paying attention to more than just the presentation and content of a project – the two areas which DTP software handles so well – in order to cover:

  • The overall structure of a project, including things like section levels and connections between related documents in multiple projects
  • Reusing content in other projects
  • Keeping the different types of output a project requires consistent
  • Online and offline storage and distribution

In recent years though, many of the market-leading DTP tools have started to include these features in what they offer.

How to get the best out of your desktop publishing specialist

Whether they are part of your in-house team or a company to which you’re outsourcing the project, getting the best out of your Desktop Publishing means leaving it in the hands of a specialist.

As when using any specialist, clear communication with the person responsible is going to be vital if you want the best outcome. When it comes to DTP, this includes discussing:

  • How the overall project will be managed
  • Your goals for the project
  • The design software which will be used
  • The fonts which will be used (taking into account the best fonts for each language that your material will be published in)
  • When the latest source files will be sent to you (this should be at the end of each update)

Desktop publishing – double down on your communication

You might also consider providing any outside professional with examples of previous work which you want your current project to link to in terms of themes or style or any kind of general brand or style guides you may have produced.

When Asian Absolute handles DTP for our clients, we almost always actively ask for examples and guidelines such as these. Because we know how much they can enhance the suitability of the final project.

This is a case of more definitely being more. By establishing strong lines of communication with your Desktop Publishing company or in-house team, you ensure that the final version of your project has the powerful or subtle impact, cohesive design and smart use of colour, spacing and contrast that you were looking for.

Does your latest project call for Desktop Publishing expertise?
From our offices on five continents, Asian Absolute expertly handles DTP in multiple languages for clients in every industry.
Talk to us today. You can get a free, no-obligation quote or more information at any time.