Professional publishing

The first popular desktop-publishing program was Pagemaker.

How Pagemaker arose

Pagemaker was invented in 1985 by Paul Brainerd, whoíd been a newspaper executive. Pagemaker ran on the Mac and used Appleís laser printer (the Laserwriter).

Pagemaker lets you combine words and graphics to form a newspaper page, including headlines, columns of articles, photographs, diagrams, captions, and ads, all on the same page. Pagemaker let you see the page on your computerís screen, while you moved the words and graphics by using your mouse.

According to traditional nerd jargon, such a program should have been called a "page-layout", "page-composition", or "computer-aided publishing" program. But to sell the program he coined a new term: he decided to call it a desktop-publishing program, because it used the Macís "desktop" screen to help publishing, and because it let you run your own publishing company from a desktop in your home without having to hire typesetters, graphic artists, and other outside help.

The Pagemaker program and the term "desktop publishing" both became instant hits. Many would-be authors, publishers, and designers bought Apple computers just for the purpose of running Pagemaker. They used Pagemaker to create newspapers, newsletters, reports, books, flyers, posters, and ads.

Most ad agencies standardized on using Apple computers and Pagemaker to create ads. Thatís why Apple computers became popular in the graphics-arts community. Even today, nearly every ad agency uses Apple computers, not IBM-compatibles.

At first, the IBM PC couldnít handle desktop publishing at all. Eventually, Windows (and a competitor called Gem) improved enough so that the IBM PCís screen could look Mac-like. Finally, a Windows version of Pagemaker became available.

Pagemakerís competitors

Competitors to Pagemaker arose. Now your main choices are Pagemaker, Quark Xpress, Frame Maker, and Ventura Publisher.

Hereís how they compare:

Pagemaker (for Mac & Windows) is the easiest to learn. Itís the best for handling graphics and short ads.

Quark Xpress is the best for handling text and fonts. Its Mac version is better than its Windows version.

Frame Maker (for Mac & Windows) is the best for organizing long, technical manuals.

Ventura Publisher is just for Windows, not the Mac. It was weak, but itís improving fast.


Pagemaker was published by Paul Brainerdís company, Aldus. In 1994, Aldus merged into a company called Adobe, which had invented many other desktop-publishing tools, such as Postcript (the font system used in Appleís Laserwriter), Illustrator (a draw program), and Photoshop (a photo-manipulation program). Then Adobe bought the company that made Frame Maker. So now Pagemaker and Frame Maker are both published by Adobe.

Ventura Publisher was published by Ventura, then by Xerox, then by Ventura again, and now by Corel (which also publishes Corel Draw and Word Perfect).

Quark Xpress is published by Quark, which is still independent.


Using desktop-publishing software can be difficult. Thatís why Pagemaker is often called "Pagewrecker", Frame Maker is called "Frame Wrecker", Quark Xpress is called "Quark Distress", and Ventura is called "Vultura": they can eat your offspring.


Like a word-processing program, a desktop-publishing program lets you type words onto the screen. But when you start using a desktop-publishing program, the first thing to do is divide your screen (and page) into boxes. Each box is called a frame.

In one frame, type a headline. In another frame, put a picture. (You can create the picture by using the draw tools that are included as part of the desktop-publishing program, or else import a drawing or painting or photo that you created by using some other graphics program.) In another frame, put a table of contents or an index. In another frame, put an ad. In another frame, put column 1 of an article. In another frame, put column 2.

You can link one frame to another. For example, you can link column 1 to column 2, so if you type an article thatís too long to fit in column 1, the excess will spill into column 2.

You can link a frame on page 1 to a frame on page 7, so if an articleís too long to fit on your newspaperís front page, it will continue on page 7. (Continuing on a far-away page is called a jump. Newspapers do it frequently. I wish they didnít!)

Master page

If most of the pages in your newspaper resemble each other, create a master page that shows how the typical page should look. On that master page, put frames for each column, and at the top of the page put a header that includes the page number and your newspaperís name & date (so when a reader rips out an article, the reader knows where it came from).

Special pages can diverge from the master.


The typical beginner makes the mistake of trying to be too fancy. Use just a few typestyles and frames per page, to avoid making your publication look like a disorganized cluttered mess.

Put enough frames on your page to add spice; but if you add too many frames, your publication will look chopped-up, dicey, as amateurish as an oil painting by a 2-year-old kid given his first paint box.

Adding some frames will make it look spicy,

But too many frames will make it look dicey.

Gentle control shows a master who knew;

Out-of-control shows a kid who acts 2.

Mozartís music was masterfully charming because its overall structure was simple, though it had a new subtle surprises. Imitate him.

Cheaper solutions

Unfortunately, professional desktop-publishing programs are expensive: about $500 each!

Kiddie pub

Cheaper, easier desktop-publishing programs have been invented, for kids and novices. The most famous is Print Shop, published by Broderbund.

Itís particularly good at creating greeting cards, posters, and banners. The first version was popular among kids using Apple 2 computers because it was amazingly easy to use, though the graphics it produced were low-resolution and crude. (I guess you call that "folk art".)

Itís been translated to the Mac, IBM PC, and most other computers, too. The newest versions produce graphics that are better (but still not good enough to pass as professional). Unfortunately, the newer versions are harder to learn.

Print Shopís price has been reduced to about $20 because nobody wants it anymore. Instead, folks want Microsoft Publisher.

Like Print Shop, Microsoft Publisher can produce greeting cards, posters, and banners. Better than Print Shop, it can handle high-resolution graphics and tiny fonts well and produce professional-looking newspapers, newsletters, reports, business cards, and origami paper airplanes. It asks for your mood ("Would you like your publication to look jazzy or classical?"), then produces a terrific-looking document with fake words, which you replace with your own words. It lets you fine-tune your publicationís graphics and layouts by using your mouse and professional desktop-publishing techniques. Best of all, it comes with a terrific manual (training you in the fine art of desktop publishing) and costs just $70 from discount dealers.

Bill Gates, who runs Microsoft, liked the design of Microsoft Publisher so much that he took the head of the design team and married her!

Word processing

Recently, word-processing programs have grown to include lots of desktop-publishing features.

The first word-processing program that let you create frames was Ami Pro. Other word-processing programs have copied Ami Proís idea of permitting frames, so now you can create frames in Word Pro (which is Ami Proís successor), Microsoft Word, and Word Perfect. (But creating frames is still easier in Word Pro than in other word processors.)

If what youíre writing has a simple layout, with very few frames or graphics per page, you can use a word-processing program instead of a desktop-publishing program.

How I published this book

I wrote this edition of The Secret Guide to Computers by using just Microsoft Word. I got by with Microsoft Word instead of a desktop-publishing program because I kept my layout simple, with very few frames and graphics per page.

Graphics I clipped most of the graphics from the wonderful clip-art books published by Dover. Doverís clip-art books are available in most art-supply stores, and their illustrations are far superior to "clip-art CD-ROM disks", which contain just crude cartoons. To get a catalog of Doverís clip-art books, send a postcard to Pictorial Archive Dept., Dover Publications, 31 E. 2nd St., Mineola NY 11501.

Being a low-tech guy, I had my staff paste the graphics into my book by hand, by using rubber cement.

Rubber cement is faster than fiddling with scanners, image editors, and high-falutiní graphics commands in Microsoft Word and desktop-publishing programs.

The only major problem with rubber cement is that if I change my mind and edit the page, we have to paste the graphics in again. To avoid wasting time, we had to plan our work carefully and not paste the graphics in until the textís final draft was done.

If you use rubber cement, remember that long exposure to its fumes can cause cancer, so use it in a well-ventilated area and try not to get it on your hands.

To make a graphic smaller, I used my photocopier, which can shrink to any percentage.

Fonts For most of this book, I used just 4 fonts:

This font is called "Times New Roman". Itís from Microsoft. I used it for most of my writing. Itís therefore called my "body-text font". Unlike other Times Roman fonts, Microsoftís has the nice property: when working in small font sizes (such as 8-point), each digit is as wide as two blank spaces, and each period takes up as much space as one blank space. That makes it easy to keep the columns lined up! (Microsoft wants you to line up columns by using fancy features such as "tables" and "decimal tabs", but pressing the space bar is simpler.)

This font is called "Lineprinter". It comes with all Hewlett-Packard Laserjet printers. Itís monospaced. I used it to imitate computer output.

This font is called "Arial Black". Itís from Microsoft. Itís an extra-bold version of Arial. Itís big, black, and ugly. Itís so monstrous that it stands out on the page. That stand-out quality is why I chose it. In fact, it stands out so much that I shrunk it to prevent it from overwhelming the page. For example, in the middle of 10-point Times New Roman, to emphasize a word I used 9-point Arial Black. If I were to set ALL my headlines in Arial Black, Iíd look like a big, ugly, pompous ass, soÖ.

To lighten things up and show Iím a regular fella whoís light-hearted and funny, I used this funny font, called "Comic Sans MS". Itís from Microsoft. I used it at the top of each section. I put a box around it to give it greater emphasis, since it isnít black enough to draw attention unboxed.

Typical text is Times New Roman 10-point (with 11-point line spacing, so thereís a 1-point gap between lines).

Small text (like youíre reading now) is typically Times New Roman 8-point (with 9-point line spacing), boxed, and shaded 5%. Monospaced computer output (like this) is Lineprinter 8Ĺ-point. Emphasized words (like this) are Arial Black 7-point, 9-point, 11-point, or 14-point, depending on importance. Big headlines (like the headline "Cheaper solutions" at the top of this page) are Comic Sans MS, 20-point, boxed, and shaded 12.5%.

For gigantic headlines at the beginning of each chapter, I used gigantic fonts (usually 48-point) supplied by a company called Formatt.

Each Formatt font is fascinating (much more interesting than its famous competitor, Letraset) and comes on a sheet (available in art-supply stores). You cut Formatt letters from the sheet by using an Exacto knife. The sheet has a background thatís transparent and semi-sticky, so you can easily reposition the letters if you make a mistake.

For the headline at the top of the Communications chapter (page 204), I used a 51-point font called Dino Slay, which came on a CD-ROM disk called Kid Fonts & Icons, published by Softkey. That disk is cheap and widely distributed. I got it at my local supermarket for $12.99 while buying groceries!

Dimensions To squeeze as much info as possible onto each page without clutter, I set my left and right margins at .5", top margin at .3", bottom margin at .6" (to leave space for the footer), and distance between columns at .3".

The typical page contains 2 columns, each 3.6" wide. When I needed a wider column (to hold a wide table or graphic), I widened the column to 4.8" instead, so the pageís other column shrunk to 2.4". On a few pages, I used 3 narrow columns, each 2.3".