Teaching an old dog repurposing

This week PageMaker proves it has life left with the arrival in New Zealand of version 7. The new release seems to nod toward the Microsoft Office dominance of the business desktop.

In 1985 the term “desktop publishing” was coined with the introduction of Aldus PageMaker. This pioneering page design software has survived 16 years, but Adobe appeared to put it on the shelf when it produced its serious page-layout application, InDesign, two years ago.

This week, however, PageMaker proves it has life left with the arrival in New Zealand of version 7. The new release seems to nod toward the Microsoft Office dominance of the business desktop.

With PageMaker 7, as with Acrobat 5, Adobe seems to want to sidle its Postscript-based products up next to Microsoft, but without being seen to really hold hands. This upgrade really seems to be a repositioning of the old DTP workhorse into the business application market, but sadly appears to be not much more.

Apart from making the latest versions of its own products (Illustrator, Photoshop, Acrobat — but not InDesign) actually work in PageMaker, the only significant changes from 6.5 are its Microsoft Publisher 97 to 2000 filter, a Microsoft-style toolbar, new templates and clipart, and a rather clunky data-merging capability.

But I can’t knock PageMaker. Compared with Microsoft Publisher, it is a stable and respectable publishing program. If you turn up to your commercial printer, disk in hand, they will not throw up their arms in despair. And you can move all your old Publisher files into PageMaker with its new import capability (as long as you don’t have a Mac).

Microsoft attempted to address its printing problem in the 2002 version of Publisher, with printing and previewing of separations with up to 12 spot colours.

But Publisher’s PostScript font and graphic support really doesn’t compare to the stability of the old workhorse.

Both products offer easy repurposing of documents for the web, as long as you’re not fussy about “clean” code or economical file sizes. Publisher seems to produce an accurate reproduction of the document as HTML as opposed to the considerable liberties PageMaker takes with your layout, but don’t be fooled.

The Publisher document may look fine in Explorer, but it may not even work in Netscape, owing to a lot of Microsoft’s own XML-based code.

Only PageMaker will create PDF documents, with Acrobat Distiller 5 included in the box. But beware: if you are using the full version of Acrobat 4, Distiller 5 will wipe your Acrobat 4 installation.

If cost and ease of use is the main factor in your choice of an office publishing application, then Publisher 2002, with its templates and wizards and $359 street price, is probably for you. But a versatile, reliable and professional-quality application comes at a price: PageMaker 7 is $1575 on the street. If you are upgrading from PageMaker 6.5, you will be paying $247 for some new filters, so consider how much you really need them.

Canning is an Auckland graphic designer.

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