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Mac Perfect for Desktop Publishers

October 01, 1987|Richard O'Reilly | Richard O'Reilly designs microcomputer applications for The Times

Apple's Macintosh was everywhere at the Seybold Conference on Desktop Publishing in Santa Clara, Calif.

Desktop publishing is the term given to using a personal computer with, usually, a laser printer, to produce pages that combine various kinds of type styles, pictures and even photographs. The result is a look that otherwise would take a professional print shop to produce. (You can print such pages with a dot matrix printer too, but the quality suffers noticeably.)

Since the Macintosh was imbued from the beginning with the ability to display various typefaces and graphic images on its black-on-white screen, it became a natural platform for creation of the new desktop publishing industry and today has an enormous lead over IBM and compatible computers.

Indeed, conference organizer Jonathan Seybold, an expert on professional typography, told reporters at the Sept. 8-11 conference that the Macintosh is the obvious choice for anyone starting from scratch to buy equipment for desktop publishing. But those who already have IBM or compatible equipment can buy desktop publishing software for their machines as well.

Apple pretty well nailed down the full spectrum of desktop publishing with the announcement at the show that the leading mini-computer-based professional electronic publishing system, Interleaf, will be available shortly to run on the new Macintosh II computer.

Interleaf has found widespread use in the aerospace industry for producing complex and lengthy technical manuals and bid proposals. It has the ability to handle documents thousands of pages long and to easily update and reprint any of those pages. Its automated graphics abilities also are outstanding. It is also used to produce some yellow page directories.

Published by Interleaf Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., the new Macintosh version due out in November has virtually every feature of the minicomputer versions now available. The $2,495 price tag will limit sales, as will the expense of equipping a Mac II with five megabytes of random access memory (RAM) and a 40-megabyte hard disk to accommodate the program. But it is an obvious bargain compared to the $9,000 and up price tags for minicomputer versions of Interleaf software, not to mention the higher cost of the minicomputer workstations on which it runs.

Users with IBM and compatible computers who want to get into desktop publishing need not despair, however.

Among the many products shown for the IBM world was Ashton-Tate's new Byline software for the PC, which, at $295, can be used to produce simple but high-quality newsletters and reports. You won't get too fancy with Byline, but it easily creates multiple-column newsletters with photos or drawings on the page, or produces nicely typeset reports containing tables.

Among the program's strong features is the ability to tap into dBASE III Plus database files for data to be inserted into published documents.

It also automatically accepts documents written in various versions of MultiMate, WordPerfect, WordStar and XyWrite, maintaining the same formatting for margins, indentations, etc. Then, if you modify the text while in Byline, it automatically updates the original document to reflect the changes.

Byline also comes with its own text editor, so you can create a document from scratch without using other software. (You will need other software, however, to create any graphics images you want to include.)

Unlike many desktop publishing programs for IBM and compatible computers, Byline will run on machines that have as little as 384 kilobytes of RAM as well as those with a minimum of two floppy disk drives. But performance improves with more RAM and with a hard disk. A hard disk is required if you want to use it with dBASE III Plus files.

It's not coincidental that Ashton-Tate made Byline mesh easily with dBASE and MultiMate, by the way, since it also publishes those programs.

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