Software for Desktop Publishing

The Types of Software Used in Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishers and graphic designers for print and web use four general groups of software. These types of 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 general groups of software are sub-categories.

Microsoft Word 2010 Box Shot and Sample Template
Microsoft Word 2010 Box Shot and Sample Template. Microsoft Word 2010 Box Shot and Sample Template; Box shot courtesy of PriceGrabber

You use a word processor to type and edit text including spell checking and grammar checking. 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 layout work in your word processor software, it is best suited to 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: Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, AbiWord, Apple Pages More »

Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear
Adobe InDesign CS4 with open document. Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear

Page layout software is most closely associated with doing desktop publishing. This kind of software allows for the integration of text and images on the page, easy manipulation of page elements, creation of artistic layouts and multi-page publications such as newsletters and books. High-end or professional-level tools include prepress features, while software for home publishing or creative projects involve more templates and clip art.

Professional page layout software is dominated by Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress for PC and Mac. Other page layout software for PCs includes Serif PagePlus and Microsoft Publisher.

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, PrintMaster and Print Artist.

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Graphics Software

Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear
Adobe Photoshop CS4 with photo open for editing. Adobe CS4 Screenshot by J. Bear

For print publishing, 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, CorelDraw and Inkscape are examples of 

Photo Editing Software, also called paint programs or image editors, work with bitmap images such as scanned photos. Although illustration programs can export bitmaps, photo editors are better for web images and many special photo effects. Photoshop is a popular example. Other image editors include Corel PaintShop Pro and Gimp.


Adobe Dreamweaver CS5
Adobe Dreamweaver CS5. Adobe Dreamweaver CS5; Image courtesy of PriceGrabber

Most designers today, even those in print, need some 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. More »