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Definition: desktop publishing


Using a desktop computer to produce high-quality printed output or camera-ready output for commercial printing. For simple layouts, desktop publishing may be accomplished with a word processor; however, books and complicated designs require a publishing program, such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. The term was more popular when personal computers emerged in the 1980s. Today, everything is created on a desktop or laptop computer for publication, whether for print, CD, DVD or online.

Beyond Word Processing
A desktop publishing program (DTP), also called a "page layout program" or "publishing program," provides complete page design capabilities, including magazine style columns, rules and borders, page, chapter and caption numbering as well as precise typographic alignment. A key feature is its ability to flow text around graphic objects in a variety of ways. Although word processing programs may offer some of these features, a desktop publishing program provides much greater flexibility.

The Final Layout
Text and graphics may be created in a desktop publishing program, but graphics tools are often elementary. Typically, all data are created externally and imported into the publishing program. Text is generally created in a word processing program, and graphics are created in a drawing, CAD or paint program. Photos are modified and enhanced in an image editor. See graphics.

Print or Publish Online
A laser printer may be used for final output, but shaded drawings and photographs print better on commercial high-resolution imagesetters. For transfer to a commercial printer, documents are generally saved as PDF or PostScript files. For Web publishing, PDF is the de facto format for user manuals, data sheets and other documents. See PDF.

It Was a Revolution
Desktop publishing dramatically brought down the cost of page layout, causing many projects to be taken in-house. Predefined templates for newsletters, brochures and other publishing tasks help novices do respectable jobs. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for a graphic designer who knows which fonts to use and how to lay out the page artistically.




Desktop Publishing this Encyclopedia
Previous versions of this database were desktop published in PageMaker. The faint grid lines are used to align text and illustrations, which cause the elements to "snap to" them when dragged close.