Easy Does It

Designing Times

Though templates are important to getting started, the true BODY of an easy-to-use desktop publishing program is whether you can create impressive designs quickly and easily.

Once you've chosen the basic look of your document--whether it's a business card or a newsletter--you'll probably want to add your own touches, such as a fancy font, a splash of color or a unique design element. That means your publishing program must be easy to navigate and have straightforward tools for getting you from point A to point B.

To fully BODY both programs' useability, I created a flier, complete with a color background and coupon, from scratch. Here are the results:

Using Home Publisher, I opened a blank page and laid out a headline, an image and a coupon within 15 minutes without ever consulting a manual or using help files. I easily added color to both the fonts and the background using the Spot Colors tool box. Creating the coupon was a cinch, too. I put an element box where I wanted it and added a colored, broken-line border. I could then easily re-size the coupon by using a dragging tool or going into a menu called Object Info and inputting specific measurements for the box.

My biggest complaint about Home Publisher is its lack of a "magnifying glass" tool on the on-screen toolbar. This is a common feature on most desktop publishing programs' screens that lets users hone in on a specific element. For example, if you were creating a disclaimer on a coupon in small type, you might want to see it up close for better viewing. Home Publisher will let you do this only through a pull-down menu.

Next, I tried creating the same flier with Ready, Set, Go. Unfortunately, the results were drastically different. Fifteen minutes later, I was still struggling to figure out how to view background colors. Although the pull-down menu told me I had added color to various text boxes, it didn't look that way on screen. I had similar problems when creating the coupon line. I selected a broken line from the pull-down menu, but nothing happened. After consulting the manual, I still couldn't figure out how to complete this very basic design step.

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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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