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The following is my e-mail answer - with minor corrections - to a Feedback form submission sent by Lori in October 1998. I have included it as a general assistance info page for beginners in both DTP and Internet Web Page Design.
How Do I? - What Does It Do?
> Subject: Desktop Publishing & Internet HTML

comments: I am currently looking into doing some basic desktop publishing and webpage HTML input. Can I get guidance to know what hardware and software is best for me to purchase? I have received so many different suggestions (ie: use Macintosh to Use IBM based product). It would be so much easier to know what I need and what each item does. Anyway can you help or direct me. etc etc...

Dear Lori

Having been in the trade for so many years, also during the transition to DTP, and spent several recent years teaching apprentices and certificate students full time, I understand too well the dilemma you face - you are not alone - and many students have asked the same question for the same reasons.

First and foremost, a good technician can use what ever tools are available to him/her and not procrastinate over what they are used to... meaning, Mac or IBM, it does not matter. The DTP industry first had software for DTP on the Macintosh because the Mac was the first to have a true WYSIWYG GUI interface (first on the IBM as GEM, bought from Xerox, and refined by Mac!). Especially since Windows95, the market has taken to the Intel machines very well and it is growing quickly. It is just the old! Graphic Arts Yuppies and their siblings that insist that you have to have a Mac. I have created a lot of DTP for my own income on Intels, and taught on both. You go for what you prefer, and what suits your pocket... with the following in mind.

You will need three main types of software. Pagelayout, Painting and Drawing programs. Painting programs like Adobe Photoshop allow you to create or scan and modify Bitmap images (pictures). Drawing programs allow you to create complex outlined, and then coloured, objects using what are called "Vector"ised graphics (similar in methods to CADD programs). Pagelayout programs can be used to create multi page products like Newsletters, Magazines and Books, and Pagelayout programs accept objects from both Painting and Drawing programs onto the page plus include extensive layout controls for the inclusion of large amounts of text.

Again, most of the Yuppies will insist on your obtaining a Pagelayout program called Quark Xpress. Very expensive, it has some good controls that are not in another major program named Adobe Pagemaker. But PageMaker has some good controls that Quark does not. Corel Venturer now has excellent power also for general Pagelayout and large books, but can be perhaps a little more difficult to learn.

I note you mentioned basic DTP, so I could suggest a start on MS Publisher '98. With many automated features, very good pagelayout options are available to new and experienced users alike - very popular in the corporate office world.

When you arrive (if) at the high level of imagesetter output files for multi coloured printed works, then you would step up from MS Publisher to the other mentioned Pagelayout products very easily.

At a minimum level, allowing continued useability for further knowledge and complexity growth...

I would suggest Paint Shop Pro - version 5+ (no earlier), or Corel Photo Paint versions 7 or 8+ for your first Painting program. Get Adobe Photoshop if you can afford it.

Microsoft Publisher '98 for Pagelayout, or Adobe PageMaker version 6.5+ if you can afford it, for Pagelayout.

You cannot beat CorelDRAW for a basic to major Drawing program. It comes with plenty of extras and is easiest to learn of all the Professional drawing programs. CorelDRAW outsells others by a long shot. Adobe Illustrator is a professionals program a little more difficult to learn. There is very little else to consider in the way of drawing programs other than MicroGrafx Designer, and FreeHand which is very popular in Asia and Europe. Freehand is now probably on a par with CorelDRAW and Illustrator, and is very "friendly" to use.

For DTP you will need a Postscript Laser Printer for general output and proofing, and B&W artwork. Postscript is an industry standard interpreter that enables the output of complex DTP objects to ANY device that is also Postscript enabled.

Until you get into plenty of colour output, a colour proofing printer is very expensive to use, so do not get one just because it is "nice" to see pretty colours (not that it's definitive, but I am still to get/need one after around 9 years!).

For basic B&W DTP and general Web work, an "el cheapo" flat bed scanner will do just fine. Nowadays they hold the grey balance quite well and you will have little need for more than 400 Dots Per Inch true resolution.

As for computers, the prices of Intel 300Mhz CPUs is remarkably low now and I would not go below 266Mhz for late versions of software - preferably the 300Mhz+. For Macs that use a RISC CPU, you can reduce this clock speed by around 15% to 20%.

For todays Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) and systems software, running recent software versions, you need to start with 48 to 64 Megabytes of Memory. Bitmap images (scans and Painting program
images) gobble up memory very quickly, and you will soon progress to the need to drag and drop between several major programs running at once. Try for 64Meg ram if possible (later on possibly, for real complex work, 128 Meg of ram will be too little!)

Recent programs and systems software also gobble up a lot of memory, as they do with the Harddrive space. Do not start with less than 3.5 Gigabytes of Hardisk space, and have it partitioned into at least 3 virtual drives right from the start. DTP and Web work soon fills the remaining harddisk space - be warned!

For hours of continuous work, you will need a fast Video Card with 4 Megabytes of onboard video memory. For quick redrawing of bitmap images, very "busy" or complex Vectorised graphics and Pagelayout pages, a fast video card with 4 Meg ram is a must. Other wise the system will be distractingly slow for continuous work. DO NOT get the best "you Beaut" 3D game cards. Most are not made primarily for high speed 2D rendering and as such are a waste of money.

Use a minimum 15" monitor, and even at this small size, try to get used to using 1024X768 resolution. 17" monitors are really the base size for hours of DTP, but plenty of people use 15". With DTP work you need "true colour" colour rendering. This is more correctly called 24Bit colour. To get 24Bit colour at a resolution of 1024X768, you must have a minimum of 4Megabytes of Video Ram. Check when you buy the video card because not all video drivers (the video card/system software interface) will give you 24Bit colour at 1024X768 with 4Meg - if it won't, chuck it, it's rubbish!

Once you are set up for DTP (even basic as you put it), you have most of what you need for web page design. The tricks and knowledge you need to learn are very different to DTP, but once the basic principles of bitmap colour etc are learnt, web stuff is easy to pick up. Believe it or not, most HTML coding and or correction is performed with a simple text editor (and an installed browser of course). DO NOT consider starting with a WYSIWYG HTML editor, other wise you will soon be backtracking on the learning curve. Manual coding will soon teach what it is all about, what the "tags" and many "tag attributes" are, so that you can also EASILY read the code and make changes. Non of the WYSIWYG editors get it right, so have the common sense to do it and learn correctly first before moving up to using an advanced editor to ASSIST you (not do it all).

I strongly suggest that you do two or three short courses on DTP at your local TAFE college. It is probably worth while going to courses for a couple of the DTP software packages that you obtain, and make sure the courses are DTP orientated. That way you will (should) learn lots of extra stuff from the teachers experience.

So, I hope this all helps, and when reading stuff on my site, elsewhere, or from books, don't skip what you don't initially understand. All the generalisations and "snippets" will soon start to fall in place, and you can then review with an even better understanding from an idea of the big picture.


From time to time I insert an up-to-date copy of my log analysers "Browser and O/S" report page. You can view it here and return by your Back Arrow.

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