Express Publisher. (Express Publisher 2.0, desktop publishing software) (Evaluation)
by Richard Rapp
Because of their high cost and hefty hardware requirements, many desktop publishing packages seem impractical to average users. Power Up Software's Express Publisher 2.0 may change that. Geared toward the nonprofessional desktop publisher, Express Publisher nevertheless compares favorably to the leading DTP programs, and it costs less, too.
PowerUp Software has added many new features to this upgrade of its popular entry-level program. The most noticeable, the TextEffects module, allows you to perform advanced text manipulations such as forcing text to fill a polygon, bend along a curve, run along an angled line, or grow or shrink from one character to the next. The TextEffects module also controls the text's justification, kerning, and character spacing.
Express Publisher doesn't skimp on typefaces. Version 2.0 includes five new "instantly scalable" typefaces, bringing the total to eight. You can scale the fonts on the fly in one-point increments from 6 to 144 points.
On-the-fly scaling eliminates the tedium of finding and loading each size and style of font you plan to use the way you do with bitmapped fonts, and it makes all sizes and styles continuously available. Express Publisher can also use standard LaserJet fonts, including HP soft fonts, Bitstream fonts, Micrologic MoreFonts, and AGFA Compugraphic's Express Fonts collections.
Express Publisher excels in its handling of high-resolution graphics. It supports all of the most popular graphics formats, including CGM, TIFF, PCX, EPS, GIF, ART, IMG, and more. The software includes a clip art library and provides many advanced features, such as cropping graphics and scaling them either manually or by fixed percentage.
With its emphasis on novice DTP users, Express Publisher succeeds in ease of use. Using a standard point-and-click interface, a true WYSIWYG display, and a newly expanded online help system and tutorial, this program gets the beginner up and running as quickly as possible. The design makes it easier for occasional users to remember how to operate the software after not using it for awhile. Especially valuable, the help system reduces to a bare minimum the need to refer to the manual.
After reading the promotional literature that accompanied my review copy f the program, I decided to put its ease-of-use claims to the test. Just over two hours of trial and error later, I had successfully installed the program and produced a sharp, two-page, newsletter-style document with a logo and with text wrapped around an irregularly shaped graphic image--without once opening the manual. Beginners should have no problem learning to use this program.
Express Publisher contains many features designed to make page layout easier. First, a true WYSIWYG display accurately depicts the appearance of the printed page, eliminating much of the guesswork involved in correctly placing design elements. Second, editable zoom-in and zoom-out modes give you a view of either the entire page at once or a small portion of it in detail. Third, the alignment tools allow you to align an object either relative to another object or to a predefined grid. This helps keep your rows and columns straight. Finally, the program supports the design and printing of pages in both standard and landscape perspectives.
Express Publisher contains numerous additional features, making it one of the most powerful entry-level DTP packages on the market. These features include support for PostScrip printers, automatic hyphenation, automatic screen refresh and text rewrap, the ability to save any part of a document as a PCX image, and the ability to fax a document directly to fax a document directly from memory using the Intel Connection coprocessor.
Like any software, Express Publisher has its limitations. Most notable of these is its 32-page-per-document limit, essentially restricting Express Publisher's use to making short brochures and manuals. To produce a longer document, you would have to divide it into several files--a complicated process at best.
Express Publisher also lacks some of the advanced features of its more expensive cousins, such as automatic table of contents and index generation. Considering the modest requirements of the intended audience, however, such limitations shouldn't be too confining.
All in all, Express Publisher offers very good value for the money. Simple to learn, easy to use, and packed with features, this friendly program imparts more power than most users will ever need. For those who have only an occasional need for a desktop publishing package but value professional results, Express Publisher promises outstanding service.