Desktop publishing

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Desktop publishing (abbreviation DTP ; English for "publishing from your desk") is the computer-aided set of documents that consist of texts and images and are later used as publications , such as books, brochures, magazines or catalogs. A workstation computer (PC) with a graphical user interface (GUI), software for the visual creation ( WYSIWYG ) of a layout and the output of a digital print template to a printer or print shop are at the center of the DTP, which is based on graphic design .

The term comes from the comparison to the conventional technologies of the prepress stage , i.e. for the creation of templates for printed products (print media), which mostly consist of several successive work steps using photographic techniques and have been almost completely replaced by digital DTP processes since around 1992.

Desktop publishing and typesetting are different from word processing .


Applications for desktop publishing are primarily designed for the layout, i.e. the design , as well as the production of print products. All design elements have the same priority, regardless of whether they are images, graphics, texts or symbols. A user therefore handles many freely positionable content frames for "layout objects", which can be both text bodies and picture frames. In this way, both individual products and templates for uniform product lines can be created.

In contrast, text processing in the classic sense - hence the name - is a text in the foreground and its design and the addition of non-text elements such as images only in the background. A word processor document always contains a primary body of text as a content frame, the position and size of which depends on the paper format and margins set. Word processors can manage documents in a complex way and, for example, combine partial texts into larger documents, automatically create tables of contents including page numbers or link documents with address databases to form mailers . They are also designed to use different texts in templates with predefined formats in order to achieve a uniform appearance, for example in the sense of a corporate design .

In general, DTP applications offer more options for the design of complex pages, such as the flow of text over several text bodies, as well as for dealing with graphics and color, especially for professional print output, while word processors are designed more for input and for the design of longer running texts .



A preliminary stage of desktop publishing in the 1960s and early 1970s were photo typesetting systems using mainframe applications, which enabled text to be captured and graphics space to be determined in a rudimentary page description language using punched tape . These punched strips were fed into an exposure computer with rapidly rotating disks, on which the writing in circulation was appropriately “shot” by flash light, exposed on film and used to create printing forms for gravure printing, for example. A well-known manufacturer of such systems was, for example, Harris Intertype from the USA, whose exposure computer could be controlled with a special 6-channel punched tape (similar to a teleprinter ). Such systems enabled the efficient typesetting of large weekly magazines such as Quick , Neue Revue and the first few years of the German edition of Playboy . After the texts and images had been broken up into pages , long print runs were produced in a short time using the rotogravure printing process . As a result, photo setters at fast workplaces using punched tape control were the first desktop publishers with a photographic film intermediate stage.

DTP on the PC

Around 1985 the companies Apple , Adobe , Aldus and Linotype introduced the desktop publishing we know today, thereby submitting Johannes Gutenberg's invention ( typesetting and printing with movable letters) to a completely new technology for the first time in over 500 years. The first programs used were Ventura Publisher and PageMaker , Quark entered the new market in 1987 with QuarkXPress .

Adobe contributed the PostScript page description language , Aldus the first layout program with PageMaker, Apple the first fully graphics-oriented computer (Macintosh) and a PostScript-capable laser printer ( LaserWriter ). Linotype supplied the first PostScript fonts and the first PostScript-compatible imagesetter .

In the early days, the quality of the printed matter created with the help of desktop publishing was clearly inferior to that of conventional methods. This was mainly due to the poor resolution of the printer, which often barely exceeded 230 to 300  dpi . That is why many people dismissed the DTP as a gimmick in its early days. Even today, DTP is often used to describe publishing by laypeople. That's why people like to talk about electronic publishing instead . Strictly speaking, this term should only be used for the publication of electronic media (e.g. websites on the Internet , CD-ROM , DVD , e-books , etc.).

In the relevant industry, prepress and advertising agencies , the terms typesetting ( typography ), EBV (electronic image processing) and ( computer ) graphics are usually used again today. In addition, there are new types of requirements in the overall media context that also have to do with the multiple use of data that has been created once . ( See also: Cross Media Publishing , Database Publishing , Color Management .)

A major advantage of DTP: Works or articles written by an author on the PC and saved as pure text without any formatting no longer need to be completely re-entered by the "typesetter", but can be entered as a text file directly in the special layout Programs such as Quark XPress or InDesign can be read in and formatted according to the typographical publisher's specifications. The spell check of these programs also takes over a large part of the “mechanical” proofreading, but the “last resort” remains the human being.

For some time now, DTP has been revolutionized through the use of so-called editing systems . Larger publishers and companies in particular are increasingly using such systems to create print media , web content or technical documentation. With the help of the editorial systems, the DTP process can be highly automated. Editorial systems were already developed in photo typesetting and have been continuously maintained since then. Systems that involve the customer in the production process are also known as customer publishing .


Extended possibilities of the software such as ligatures and widthless connectors , line drop , old style figures , recognition of whores' children and cobbler boys , etc. distinguish DTP from word processing and text typesetting. Classic DTP is still based today on the demanding lead type and therefore requires appropriate qualifications and a correspondingly long training period. As a result, the market reacts very slowly, program changes are comparatively rare and end users rarely accept all versions. In contrast to other computer branches, the DTP area was already seen as "largely saturated" in 1996 and growth potential was instead foreseen in "online publishing".

Dominant programs

In the early years, PageMaker and Ventura dominated the market for WYSIWYG DTP systems, which were ousted by QuarkXPress as the market leader with a quasi-monopoly in the mid-1990s . InDesign has now dominated the market.

Other DTP programs

None of the other programs play a significant role in the market. Even Microsoft did not succeed in placing its Publisher product competitively.


The minimum configuration of suitable hardware and software for a DTP workstation includes


  • Ulrich Schurr: prepress know-how for graphic designers . dpunkt, Heidelberg 2011, ISBN 978-3-89864-391-7 .
  • Uwe Baufeld, Hans Rösner, Jürgen Scheuermann, Hans Walk: Transferring and printing information . 13th completely revised and expanded edition. Verlag Beruf + Schule, Itzehoe 1998, ISBN 3-88013-560-6 .
  • Joachim Zischke: The desktop publishing book. Everything about programs and systems. Markt & Technik Verlag AG, Haar near Munich 1987, ISBN 3-89090-492-0 .
  • Joachim Peters: Desktop Publishing - What's Really Good ?: Analyzes, experiences, environment, hardware, software, Brainware , Arthur D. Little International, 1988, ISBN 978-3409960748

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Desktop Publishing and Word Processing. In: Computer Graphics Companion. Hoboken: Wiley, 2003. Credo Reference. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  2. See the review: Jürgen Siebert: The hour of birth of desktop publishing. August 26, 2010. Retrieved August 26, 2010 .
  3. a b Desktop Publishing. In: Encyclopedia of Computer Science. Hoboken: Wiley, 2003. Credo Reference. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
  4. ↑ The German desktop publishing market will not boom., IDG Business Media GmbH, Munich, January 19, 1996, accessed on January 14, 2017 .
  5. InDesign and Quark are market leaders on
  6. ^ Distribution and market leader at the Linz Art University