|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DIVERS ★ THE DESKTOP PUBLISHER|DTP PAO)|8000Plus) ★|
|The Desktop Publisher (DTP PAO)||Applications Divers|
The newest contribution to DTP is from Database. With a title like "The Desk Top Publisher" and a price of under £30 you might be forgiven for thinking it is a cut-price version of some of the more expensive packages. In fact, it is an extremely well thought out and versatile program with just about every feature you might need for newsletter and broadsheet pagemaking, and it performs just as well as many of its pricier cousins.
The package comes with one disc (the program on one side and some clip art and alternative fonts on the other) and a compact wirebound manual. The examples on the cover of the pack are attractively and realistically laid out and avoid the every-typeface-except-italic-kitchen-sink approach which can look rather messy. The disc takes the best part of two minutes to load and indeed requires an empty M: drive to work with - if there's anything already lurking in there you get a screen instruction to erase it all and reload.
The system works by drop-down menus and a cursor pointer, and is designed very much with the mouse user in mind; there is an option, available any time by pressing [PASTE], on using the AMX, Kempston or Electric Studio mice, and the manual talks gaily of 'clicking' where hand-jobbers would say 'press [RETURN]'. Working exclusively with the cursor keys though really isn't much of a disadvantage, unless you're manipulating graphics or, in the extreme case, drawing freehand.
The first screen you see after the title shots is the main menu, showing graphics, text, page, font, filing and EXIT options. This is the base to which you return in between your jaunts into each area, the most important one being the Page Editor. Here your page is displayed full-size on the right-hand half of the screen holding all your graphics blocks (displayed as empty boxes) and your text blocks (shown as boxes filled with lines). You can move these blocks around at will, remove them (though they stay in the memory), map out new ones, or add ones from the memory. To get an idea of what the final page will look like, you can display the full page on the left hand half of the screen with the contents of each graphics block printed out, using the 'preview' option.
This Page Editor is probably the best and most distinctive feature of the Desktop Publisher and, unlike some systems it is intuitively obvious to use. The various boxes can be rearranged quickly, and the most likely combinations selected and saved. The short tutorial section in the manual takes you through these processes with some demonstration blocks and gives you a feel for the structure of the package very nicely. Any work on the boxes themselves is done in the Text Editor or Graphics Editor areas.
It's a snip
In the graphics editor you can select symbols and small pictures from the well-stocked cutouts page on the reverse of the program disc and incorporate them into your page - the manual only shows three-quarters of the selection, rather irritatingly. The complete range includes a telephone, several price tag borders, a gaggle of pointers, cars, lorries, animals, a complete PCW keyboard, the dove of peace and a lavatory.
Headlines are treated as graphics boxes and the text is inserted in a rather idiosyncratic way. You choose the font required in the graphics editor but have no choice as to the size; the dimensions of each character are determined on selection of 'text' from the tools option by marking out a rectangle to the size of letter desired. This inevitably ends up with the headline running out of box, so rather than find the optimum letter size by trial and error it's better to write a small headline and then paste it (stretching it automatically to fit in the process) into the appropriate box. Unfortunately the paste option is not very clearly described in the manual and a bit of trial and error may be necessary to get it right.
A slight drawback of this feature is that large letters (being small ones blown up) are rather jagged and 'blocky' and look a bit ugly in large headlines. But in recompense there is a wide variety of fonts to choose from - fifteen in all, including a stencil effect, a copperplate-like script and a typeface called intriguingly 'hobbit', as well as the standbys of Olde Englishe and the conventional serifed and unserifed typefaces.
Getting the write style
By moving to the text editor you can get to work on the writing and it is an easy matter to insert material either directly from the keyboard, from a previously prepared ASCII file, or a combination of the two by reading in and then editing. Your source file must end in .ASC though or it won't be recognised and won't appear on the list of files to choose from.
Unfortunately to fill those tightly demarked boxes of text with all your zappy prose is all too easy. The boxes are ultimately elastic and if the text you are funnelling in exceeds the limits of the box, the ever-accommodating text editor expands it in a flash with the message
There seems to be no way of confining the inflowing text to the size you marked out back in the page editor. This makes spreading out a long article brought in from another file into three columns rather laborious - the only way to do it would appear to be reading the entire article into each column box and editing out from top and/ or bottom until the 'window extended' message disappears. It's nice being able to edit preprepared text so easily but it seems odd to have to use it for this purpose.
There is a 'lock' function but this only works for cases where the incoming text is too short for the box, which otherwise shrinks like a sweater washed at the wrong setting.
There is a splendid choice of typefaces and styles for the actual body text of the document. Unlike the other DTPs on the market, The Desktop Publisher prints text using the ordinary printer fonts that LocoScript and CP/M use, rather than the coarser 'screen dump' type lettering. You can select 10, 12 or 17 pitch type and any of their double width options as your default, and within any piece of text you can toss in italics, bolds, centrings and underlinings. Although these can be selected via the menus it is easier to use the sequences familiar to LocoScribes involving the plus keys, 15!I and nB and so on. The codes don't appear on screen (they're stuck on to the first letter of the sequence so that erasing that letter will erase the style for the block as well) but the effects do - bold letters come out bold, underlined words underlined and italic letters are more or less italic on screen as well as on paper.
Whenever an action is to be taken, the appropriate menu (a list of graphics files when in graphics modes, text files in text modes, fonts available in font modes etc) flashes up and the required item can be chosen by moving the pointer and clicking.
When your blocks are all edited to your satisfaction, and moved around to the optimum arrangement on the preview page, you can print out - though you may find that some of those elastic text boxes are now overlapping madly, which will mean a trip back to the text editor and some juggling of words.
Overall this is a very good package, easy to use and to find your way round. It links up effectively with accessories like mice and digitisers. The pasting up process quickly becomes intuitive and it's easy to keep tabs on what is going where and how the page is coming along. Apart from the laborious way in which text has to be fitted into blocks if it comes in from external files, and the lowish quality of headlines, this is a package to be thoroughly i recommended, and at the price is tremendous value for money.