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Xerox Publishing Program Packed With Power

October 29, 1987|Richard O'Reilly | Richard O'Reilly designs microcomputer applications for The Times

One of the unfortunate facts of personal computing is that, typically, the more sophisticated the software, the more memory, disk storage and operating speed your computer needs to run it.

But Xerox Ventura Publisher breaks the rule. It is the most powerful PC-based desktop publishing program available for less than $1,000, yet it runs just fine on a standard IBM PC-XT or compatible computer with a hard disk and at least 512 kilobytes of random access memory, or RAM. These days, you easily can buy that sort of computer at a reasonable price.

Desktop publishing software lets you produce brochures, newsletters and even books that look like they were professionally typeset and printed. It all began about two years ago on the Apple Macintosh and has migrated to other computers. The Xerox Ventura software doesn't run on Macintosh, just on the IBM and compatible machines. It is a very powerful program, however, especially suited to putting out large publications.

If you've never tried producing a publication before, Xerox Ventura will help you learn how it is done. If you have prepared a publication manually, you'll quickly see how Xerox Ventura makes the task much easier.

There are fancy word processing programs available today that let you create multiple columns, multiple type styles (fonts) and pages with text and graphics. But Xerox Ventura gives you much finer control over the way the pages look than a word processor.

However, you must use a word processing program to create and edit the text that will be used by Xerox Ventura to lay out the pages. You also must use other software to create graphics--for instance, AutoCAD drawings, PC Paintbrush illustrations and digitized photos produced by scanner. Xerox Ventura even accepts Macintosh graphics files.

Xerox Ventura lets you place the various text and graphics files together in a publication designed to look virtually any way you want.

Unlike programs such as Aldus' PageMaker, which forces you to manually design a lengthy document page by page, Xerox Ventura automates the publication by letting you establish the basic look of either single or repeating pages with something called a "style sheet." It determines, for instance, how many columns of type will be on the page, the size and font of the type for the body text, subheadings and headings as well as the width of lines and boxes that separate text and graphics. Once the style sheet is set, you simply open up the appropriate text file and the type flows into the document from beginning to end.

To get you started, the program comes with 25 sample style sheets for books, brochures, magazines, newsletters, listings, press releases, proposals and technical manuals.

Creating a page with such a style sheet is very easy. First, display the text by calling up the file that contains it. You'll see the words in typeset form on your screen. Then call up the appropriate style sheet, and the text is nearly instantaneously rearranged on the page according to the instructions contained in that style sheet. Next, you have to "tag" each paragraph to tell the program whether it is body type or a heading or subheading or whatever. Each tagged block of text is then displayed as it will be printed on the page.

If you decide you want a different look, all you have to do is switch to another style sheet and the page is automatically redesigned in seconds. As you grow more expert, you can create new style sheets by modifying the sample ones or create your own from scratch.

Throughout the process you can view your progress three ways--the normal view, which shows about a half of a standard 8 1/2-by-11-inch page on your screen; reduced view, showing two full facing pages, and enlarged, which allows you to zoom in closer.

You can place an image anywhere you wish on the page. Simply put the cursor at the desired point (most easily done if you use a mouse) and define the size of the image. It's OK to lay a graphic on top of existing columns of text so that it straddles portions of two columns, for instance. The text will be automatically realigned to run around it.

If you place a scanned photograph on the page, you can enlarge, reduce and crop the image to fit exactly as you want.

Boxes, ovals, lines, circles and shaded shapes can be placed on the page using the simple graphics built into Xerox Ventura. Graphs can be imported directly from the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program.

The program automatically creates new pages as needed to accommodate any length of text, giving each new page the same characteristics as the last. The only real limitation on the size of publication you can create is the amount of disk storage.

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