[From RISC User, May 1992]

Desktop Publishing on the Archimedes - DTP for all

Keith Powell reviews Bruce Goatly's new book.

This book, called Desktop Publishing on the Archimedes - DTP for all, is ideal for people who are contemplating desktop publishing (DTP), but it will also prove extremely useful to those who are already users. It initially assumes that you know nothing about the topic and the early chapters guide you towards suitable Archimedes hardware and applications.

If you are already using an Archimedes computer for DTP, the opening chapters will be of less interest to you, but the remainder of the book should prove a source of much useful information on all aspects of the subject. It has an index, but it is a book to be read (although not necessarily from cover to cover) rather than being a reference book. In fact, it is a particularly readable book and is difficult to put down. The author's humour occasionally surfaces to lighten a work that covers a topic about which he knows a great deal, has researched well and has much to say.

If you are well into DTP you will be quite interested to read how the three principal DTP packages on the Arc compare. The book claims not to be biased towards any one of these. Presumably in an endeavour to ensure. this, one chapter is devoted to practical examples of using all three. After explaining in detail how to prepare the same letter template with each of them in turn, there are worked examples showing the preparation of a business form with Acorn DTP, a school newspaper with Ovation, and a newsletter with Impression. However, a marginal bias in some chapters was probably unavoidable - an appendix explains how the book was prepared using Impression. The book is itself an excellent example of desktop publishing with the Archimedes.

You will certainly not read this 280 page book quickly. The font size is relatively small (10pt) and the side margins are narrow, resulting in a wide single column. The line spacing is not excessive (20% leading) so the pages are filled with long, wide paragraphs. These are separated by generous spaces and there are copious illustrations. Despite the vast amount of information contained in the book the effort of reading it is well rewarded, though space does not permit more than a fraction of the book's topics to be reviewed here.

The early chapters progress from typewriters used with scissors and paste via word processors to the three major desktop publishing packages for the Arc. Although written for new users, more experienced users will find in these chapters much practical information ranging from memory and font management to solutions to some of the problems encountered when extra fonts are added.

The strengths and drawbacks within a DTP context of 1st Word Plus, Pipedream 3, EasiWriter, Archimedes PenDown and Desktop Folio are listed before similar lists are presented for the major Archimedes DTP packages - Acorn DTP, Impression (both the prime and junior variants), and Ovation. The graphics capabilities of 1st Word Plus, Pipedream 3 and EasiWriter are examined in detail in a separate chapter, and yet another chapter covers in turn the capabilities of Archimedes Pendown and Desktop Folio for DTP work.

A very useful chapter is provided for those who wish to try DTP using only Edit and Draw, which are supplied with every Archimedes. It illustrates how to use Edit to prepare text with embedded codes which is imported into Draw. The text appears in columns which are then resized and suitably positioned around sprites and drawings. The technique to be used for subsequent text editing is explained, as is the way to avoid text clipping.

If you have dabbled with DTP or already have a DTP package then the chapter headed Essentials of DTP, which commences a third of the way through the book, marks the point from which the book will be of greatest interest. With detailed references to Ovation and Impression II, and occasional references to Acorn DTP and Impression Junior, it first covers DTP structures, frames, and master pages. The different approaches of the principal packages are then compared - the modal operation of Acorn DTP, the toolkit of Ovation and the context-sensitive operation of Impression which lacks drawing tools. The chapter contains a detailed example showing how text can be made to flow around an illustration with an irregular outline.

The preparation of text for import is described, a process which is essential for Acorn DTP, and which still has value with Ovation and Impression. The spelling-checkers of Impression and Ovation are covered as is Impression's abbreviation expansion dictionary.

Kerning and tracking are well illustrated as are some of the special effects which can be obtained with ancillary applications. Manual methods of preparing contents lists and indexes are presented, and the automated techniques of Impression are described.

There are frequent hints and tips. A particularly interesting one explains how to amend the !Chars and !CharSel applications so that the less-used Ctrl key rather than Shift causes the character under the pointer to be inserted into the text.

One piece of advice given concerning graphics effects is that you should keep your enthusiasm in check within the pages of DTP! Scanners and digitisers are also covered and there are descriptions of dithering and sampling.

Probably the most important part of the book is entitled Rudiments of Design. Excellent advice is given that a document's design should be eye-catching but not obtrusive and should never impose between author and reader. Starting from the pencil and paper stage, practical points are offered concerning the design decisions you must make when considering a new document. Cover design leads into single and double page formats and includes an amusing example of what not to do.

Advice on typographical design ranges from typographical chaos (using a multitude of fonts) to choosing fonts which work together. Recommendations are made on filling a headline rectangle the right and wrong way. The reduction of 'rivers of white' with hyphenation is interestingly illustrated, and techniques are presented for effective copy filling which will allow you to avoid 'widows and orphans'.

The book concludes with descriptions of printer types, duplication and finishing. Techniques are detailed which will allow you to prepare PostScript files for a printing bureau and separations for colour printing which incorporate registration marks. Lists are given of the advantages and disadvantages of photocopying, stencils, and offset litho.

If you have any interest at all in DTP but cannot afford to purchase this excellent book, avoid browsing through it in a bookshop or you will surely overstay your welcome.

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