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Although these programs claim to make desktop publishing easy and painless, beginners still need some guidance before they'll be able to create interesting documents.

To meet the novice user's needs, Home Publisher includes a function called AutoCreate. With more than 50 AutoCreate templates, Home Publisher gives users easy-to-follow layouts for creating fliers, brochures, labels, business cards, newsletters and more.

Upon opening Home Publisher, you'll be greeted with a window that asks you to choose whether you want to design your own publication or let the program "AutoCreate" one for you. Choose an AutoCreate template, and Home Publisher will prompt you to select from a number of styles, such as Modern, Traditional and New Wave, all of which appear in a small (though somewhat difficult to view) window.

Home Publisher then asks you to help in the publication's creation by adding text and graphics to the template. If you're designing a newsletter, for instance, you may have already written the copy in your word processor. Home Publisher guides you through the steps of retrieving and inserting the text in your new document and also helps you place graphics, such as logos or photos, that have been scanned into your computer. If you're designing, say, letterhead or business cards, Home Publisher lists elements you may want to include, such as your name, company name, address, phone number and fax. This way, you can input the text in an easy-to-use format before it's laid out on the template.

In contrast, Ready, Set, Go opens to a blank page. You can either start a publication from scratch--not an easy task if you've never done desktop publishing before--or open a template file. This makes Ready, Set, Go somewhat less beginner-friendly. Still, the template folder is full of interesting documents to choose from, including an entire catalog design with 11 different ad layouts and a front and back cover. In fact, the templates tend to include more complex designs than Home Publisher's.

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This article was originally published in the October 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Easy Does It.

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