Northern Neck Computer Users Group
Microsoft Publisher 98
Reviewed by Ann Thompson
Among popular desktop publishing programs, Microsofts Publisher98 is known for its simplicity and versatility in making professional looking newsletters, flyers, brochures, Web sites and more. The fourth version of Publisher released in March 1998, will be updated later this year as part of Microsoft Office 2000.
Microsofts Publisher98 is available only for the Windows family. It runs with Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT, but not Windows 3.1. It is packaged as both a stand alone and as part of Version 2 of Office 97 Small Business Edition. Included with Publisher98 are such enhancements as: a gallery of 175 fonts; a clip gallery of 10,000 graphic images; Microsoft Photo Editor for customizing and manipulating photos; and Microsoft Draw and WordArt for creating logos and other designs.
There are many similarities to MS Word where text editing and formatting are involved. Publisher 98 even includes the familiar Office Assistant. Other features found in Microsoft Office products include on-the-fly spelling correction, multilevel undo and similar toolbars. Publications are saved by default to C:\My Documents like other items created with Microsoft software.
Publisher opens to the Publications Catalog. This dialog box allows users to work on a existing publication or start a new one. Options appear on tabs across the top of the window. The first two tabs are Publications by Wizard and Publications by Design. The first step for most Publisher projects is choosing an appropriate design template from more than 1600 choices in the Catalog. These combine with more than 60 color coordinated Color Schemes or users may create a custom color palate of their own. Then by running a corresponding Wizard to customize and save the design, the user is guided through the steps necessary to create the publication. This leaves only the remaining task of adding the user's words to the design. In addition to the traditional pointer, Publisher98 comes with two other self-explanatory unique pointers for use in editing. One of these is a truck with the word "move: on it and the other is a two-way arrow with the caption, "resize".
The first tab in the Catalog window organizes templates by type of publication: newsletters, brochures, business cards, etc. The second tab groups together templates for publications as a set so they share a similar appearance. This feature is new with Publisher98. Matched sets allow for coordinating such items as flyers, a banner and a web site all announcing the same event or using a companys logo on business cards, letterhead and envelopes. Uniformity of colors, images and fonts is maintained throughout all the publications treated as an integrated set.
Publisher98 provides 23 categories of templates in the left pane of the Catalog Window. For individual template categories such as business cards or certificates, subcategory selections are displayed in the right window pane. These include large icon-size images for plain paper with PubPublisher artwork plus layouts designed for use with specialty papers from PaperDirect. Deviate though from these existing designs, and Publisher98 becomes less user-friendly.
To help novices, Publisher98 includes a Design Checker which looks for obvious errors such as overlapping frames and misaligned objects. It also includes a real-time spell-checker.
Todays software seldom includes a User Manual which is also true of Publisher98. Included is a small companion book which has an excellent overview of desktop publishing, design considerations and a glossary of terms. Even though the software Wizards and User Assistant are helpful, some form of tutorial or overview of the features in Publisher98 would be a welcome addition. Such things as creating and then saving a template before adding text are not altogether obvious. The same is true initially for the distinction between the tabs Publications by Wizard and Publication be Design.
Overall, Publisher98 is easy to use. The hundreds of professionally created designs, that can be modified easily for individual needs, makes it an ideal choice for most who need basic desktop publishing applications.
Stated System Requirements:
Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0 CD-ROM drive (no floppies available)
Minimum: 12 MB RAM, 110 MB DX2 or Pentium, 110 MB free space on hard drive
Pentium 133 or faster
Availability: Microsoft packages Publisher98 alone on CD or as part of its Office 97 Small Business Edition.
Price: (list) $99.95, (street) $85.00 (stand alone version)
A $20.00 rebate was offered for purchases made through March 31, 1999 for users of previous versions.
Http://www.microsoft.com/publisher for product enhancements and assistance. Clip Gallery Live is updated monthly and is available as a free download for all users. Http://www.microsoft.com/support for online support.
Microsoft offers unlimited no-charge support for usability issues, including product features, menu commands, formatting, setup, and other user-interface issues, and two no-charge support incidents for assistance with issues when developing for Microsoft Office applications.