RISC World

Budget DTP


13 : The Next Step

There is no doubt that !Draw and !Edit in conjunction with the outline font system can form the basis of a most effective low-cost DTP system. I have used it extensively to produce publications ranging from magazines and brochures to software user manuals. And I know of other Archimedes users who have made similar use of it.

Full-feature DTP software

DTP using !Draw and !Edit is, however, rather like a self-catering holiday. Everything works and is enjoyable enough, but sooner or later you hanker for the convenience of someone else to relieve you of the mundane chores! Probably you will end up by upgrading to one of the commercial full-feature DTP systems.

What improvements can you expect from such an upgrade? And how much of the ancillary software that you have amassed will still be of use to you then?

The answer to the second question is simple enough-all of it. All of your outline fonts, any clip art, any logos or other designs that you have created in !Draw or !Paint, your printer drivers and such utilities as !FontFX and !FontEd will be as useful to you then as now. !Draw itself will still be useful since it offers drawing facilities far more sophisticated than those in any of the DTP packages. All the DTP packages allow !Draw files to be imported and used as part of (or even the whole of) a DTP document.

Not only the software but also the experience you have gained on !Draw will be useful. All four packages, for example, will run on a 1 Megabyte machine, but memory may be very tight. Consequently such tricks as deleting the printer driver (you may need to delete it before you can even load the DTP application) and changing to Mode 0 to accelerate printing will still apply.

The answer to the first question is-many! There are two principal differences between DTP using a full DTP package and the "improvised" variety using /Draw and !Edit. Firstly, text handling is far simpler. There is no longer any distinction between text objects and text area objects. You can simply create a text frame wherever you wish to put text and type your text into it. The frame may contain a one line heading or a whole chapter of a book. Instead of typing in the text you can import into the text frame text files already created in !Edit or other applications. Full editing facilities are provided including a "search and replace" function. Indeed you can use a DTP package as though it were a sophisticated wordprocessor if you wish. There is, of course, a full choice of outline fonts and you can change fonts as often as you wish. All the packages allow you to highlight a passage and change it to a different font such as italic or bold or a different size. You could achieve the same using !Draw and !Edit, but it would be a far more complex sequence of operations involving the transfer of files between the two applications.

Secondly, frames normally "repel" other frames. If, for instance, you move a picture frame so that it overlaps a text frame, instead of simply covering it, or being hidden behind it, as would happen in !Draw, the text automatically reformats itself neatly around the picture frame. To achieve the same effect in /Draw and !Edit would involve the creation of several "columns" of varying sizes and their careful positioning around the picture.

Another feature is that the DTP packages allow you to save stylesheets set up for frequently used page layouts. If you edit a club, church or school magazine this is a most useful facility. They also allow you to define and save paragraph styles which specify the font, style, size, leading and degree of first-line indentation. Often you can change paragraph style at a press of a function key. All the DTP packages are true RISC OS applications fully conforming to the RISC OS philosophy with which you should by now be fully acquainted. All are object-based like !Draw. The "objects" are generally the frames which may be text frames or picture frames. Rules are also objects. The way in which pages are redrawn object by object will remind you over and over again of !Draw. All the DTP packages contain the facility to import sprites and !Draw files, but most will not accept !Draw files containing text areas.

Let's examine the four packages in sequence. The following are emphatically not complete reviews (unfortunately I was unable to obtain review copies of two of them) and so I cannot attempt to mention all the features of the packages. To do so would quadruple the length of this book! The reviews concentrate on the differences between the packages rather than the features they have in common.