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Richard Kane

 
 

Crash DTP Survival Course

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Before, I couldn't even kern "Desktop Publisher." Now I are one.

So there I was, in a mild state of panic, babbling semi-coherently at Adam over the phone. The manager of the Kinko's at which I work had decided to make the desktop publishing position official, which meant I could apply for it and try to escape boredom, bad hours, and poverty in a single stroke. Sadly, the extent of my desktop publishing ability was a general competency with the Mac combined with a working knowledge of Microsoft Word 4.0. Not exactly the foundation of an empire.

"So what's the problem?" Adam asked me. I explained that I had to learn PageMaker, FreeHand, and The Rules in approximately four days. "Don't worry about it," he said. "Come over tomorrow night and I'll help you out."

What sort of help could he give me, I wondered? A crash course without pause for sleep? Self-hypnosis tapes? Incriminating photographs of the interviewers? I arrived, curious, and he handed me... a book.

"This'll tell you everything you have to know," he told me. I looked skeptical. It was quite small, and a fairly sickly shade of green to boot. "Not everything you'll ever want to know to be a desktop publisher," he explained, noticing my expression. "Everything you absolutely must know if you plan to be one. No more, no less."

Damned if he wasn't right.

David Blatner, author of the "Desktop Publisher's Survival Kit," (Peachpit Press, ISBN# 0-938151-76-2, $22.95) has successfully compacted a wealth of vital information into a short, quick-reading volume. Despite the density of information, it is easy, often entertaining, to read, and David explains the concepts clearly and simply. The book is well-organized, covering a single major topic in each chapter and breaking down concepts within each topic into easily digestible chunks. One could say that David is the intestinal enzyme of choice for the novice desktop publisher, except that he might take it the wrong way. Major topics include:

  • Graphic files - different types, how they work, what they're good for

  • Fonts - similar issues

  • Word Processing - concepts, do's and don'ts, how-to's, and copy editing concepts

  • Typography - how to make it look good, and why you should make it look good

  • Styles and Codes - how to make your life a whole lot easier

  • Scans and Halftones - how they work, how to work with them

  • Color - different kinds, how it displays, how it prints

  • Printing - different output devices, setting up, dealing with service bureaus, and much, much more

  • When Things Go Wrong - what can go wrong, why it might, how to try to fix it, and The Strangest Bug He's Ever Seen (which you must see to believe)

  • Software - the book also comes with a disk full of handy utilities, and David explains what they are and why they're useful to you.

Note that the book does not give you instruction in any particular software package. It's not meant as a software tutorial or a manual. It explains the concepts that apply to the entire field, regardless of what software you use.

As far as I'm concerned, the Typography and Styles & Codes chapters are sufficient reason for you to buy David a lot of beer if you run across him. They were all I needed for my immediate concerns. I found a wealth of useful information in the other chapters of the book as well, with the exceptions of the Scans & Halftones and Color chapters, which I didn't read past their first pages. To me, at least, those subjects are far more complex than the others, and even David was unable to simplify them to the point where a total novice could understand them.

On the other hand, after three months on the job, I'm ready to go back and read those chapters. Not only will I now understand what they're talking about, but it's getting to the point where I need to understand that information. Yes, that's right; I got the job, and I can honestly say that I don't think it would have happened if not for the "Desktop Publisher's Survival Kit." Before, I was a measly weekend shift supervisor with no night life, no money, an old Apple IIgs, vast debt, and a cupboard full of Mission Macaroni and Cheese dinners. Now, I'm a desktop publisher with a Duo 210, lots of friends, a good social life, and enough money to brew a little beer on the side. I think I may be losing weight and gaining a deeper understanding of the cosmic truths as well.

Will the "Desktop Publisher's Survival Kit" do all this for you, too? There's only one way to find out.

Peachpit Press -- 800/283-9444 -- 510/548-4393
510/548-5991 (fax)

 

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