Microsoft Publisher 98

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Type of Product    
Microsoft Publisher 98 is a desktop publishing program for small or home-based businesses, students, nonprofits, and families. Users can create newsletters to flyers to greeting cards to Web sites. There are step-by-step wizards and templates that make it easy to create publications and Web sites even if you have no design experience. Design Sets and Color Schemes enable you to create a consistent look across a wide variety of printed material. And there are a variety of Help features if needed. The program was introduced in 1991 and more features have been added with each version to make it easier to use and more efficient. With this upgrade, Microsoft has added impressive design and editing improvements that make desktop publishing a snap with Publisher. Price: $79.95 with a $20 rebate for upgrades. Web site
User Level    
This program was designed for beginner PC users who have little or no experience in design, desktop publishing, or computers in general. The wizards and templates really make it a no-brainer to produce documents. And anyone at all familiar with Microsoft Office or Word will have no problem as Publisher looks even more like Office than ever, and has included more of its features such as the on-the-fly spelling correction used in Word; multilevel undo; the same toolbars; and an animated assistant that some people love to hate. Intermediate users should appreciate its Web features.

What about advanced users? I don't know about all advanced users, but I can relate how I use the program. Have you ever ever had that desktop publishing job that the client wanted like yesterday; you didn't have time for the job; you didn't want to start from scratch to design it in Photoshop or Pagemaker; you didn't want to sort through all your CDs for the right graphics and fonts; the client didn't know what they wanted, exactly; you didn't know either and therefore had difficulty starting the project; it wasn't a job that demanded the detail or expertise that you would want for Vogue Magazine; and you had computer block: you just sat there and stared at a blank screen. Well, that happened to me recently. All the information I had was that they wanted a flyer that was cute and cuddly for a home nursery for babies; I thought about Microsoft Publisher. I used a predesigned publication and the wizard to get me started. I then went in and made changes to certain features. There were enough graphics available in Publisher that I had no problem finding cute and cuddly images. I started to enjoy the job. I was happy with the finished product and so was the client.

I find Publisher also useful for clients who have small jobs; little money; want inexpensive color documents; and want to use predesigned paper such as from Paper Direct. Publisher includes a variety of predesigned documents using paper from Paper Direct that help you produce professional looking color documents in no time that can then be inexpensively xeroxed.
New Features    
  • Support for Creating a Wide Variety of Publications--Users can automatically create newsletters, flyers, brochures, postcards, Web sites, forms, letterhead, business cards, envelopes, signs, greeting cards, invitations, calendars, specialty items such as menus, banners, labels, awards, gift certificates, advertisements, programs and more.
  • Flexible Wizards--Guide a user through step-by-step instructions to set up publications, then provide the flexibility to make global changes at any time during the creation process.
  • Design Sets--Consistent sets of professionally designed looks to be applied across all of a user's marketing materials, from letterhead and brochures to Web sites.
  • Catalog--The catalog is an easy-to-browse starting point for more than 1,600 all new, professionally designed publication templates.
  • Color Schemes--Over 60 professionally coordinated sets of colors that can be applied to any publication. Completely customizable so users can create their own scheme.
  • High-quality Content--More than 10,000 pieces of clip art, 1,000 pieces of specially designed Web art, 175 fonts, 1,500 photographs, 350 Design Gallery elements, 40 sounds and more than 340 animated GIFs.
  • AutoConvert--Automatically reformats a publication to a new size, layout or publication type with the click of a button.
  • Automatic Copy Fitting--Automatically resizes text to fit the layout space provided.
  • Smart Objects--Automates and simplifies tasks by intelligently assessing the user's need or intent and completing that task.
  • Web Sites--Create a multipage Web site using the Web Site Wizard, or start from scratch or convert an existing newsletter or brochure to a Web site. Add predesigned forms, animated GIFGs, specially designed navigation bars and your own HTML code.
  • Consistency with other Office Applications--Publisher 98 looks and works like Microsoft Word, so it's easy for users to get up and running quickly. Publisher 98 includes Office Assistant, AutoCorrect, Background Spelling and Spell It features.

The program is easy to install. You can choose the typical install which will select all the fonts and graphics needed to create the publications in Publisher's Catalog, or a custom install where you can select additional fonts.

The interface is organized and intuitive. Publisher's Catalog is the entry point to any publication. You can easily visually browse through all of the templates. There are four tabs: Publication by Wizard, Publication by Design, Blank Publications, and Existing Publications. You can start a publication in several ways: by choosing a publication wizard type, such as a brochure, newsletter or Web site; by choosing a publication design, such as a business or special event or holiday DesignSet; by choosing to start from a blank publication already set up to the page format of your choice; or by opening an existing publication. After selecting a publication template, Publisher then launches the wizard for that template to step you through the creation.

Zoom tools allow you to zoom in and out from actual-size to full-page views, or in small increments. Special cursors display the word move or copy so you know what you can do with the current selection. Formatting options appear on a panel to the left, which you can close if needed. Help appears in either one or two panels on the right. I thought the help features were excellent. Even though when the Help panel is open, it takes up significant room on the screen, it allows you to read the instructions and perform them step-by-step simultaneously as you read them. You can then close the panel if you need a larger screen to work with. Publisher 98 now has the Office Assistant which you either love or hate. It is an animated image that you can click on for immediate help. For beginner users it can be a useful tool, and for those users who find it a nuisance, it can be closed at any time. The Assistant moves out of the way of important information such as dialog boxes; disappears from the screen during space-intensive operations; and if unused for five minutes, shrinks to its smallest size to provide maximum working space.

The Publisher 98 interface now includes Office Command bars that are easy to customize. You can drag and drop toolbars onto existing menus or create custom toolbars. They include menu controls as well as feature icons. The menu controls invoke drop-down menus and provide you with several more options such as tear-off menus and shortcut menus.

All the features in Publisher are too numerous to describe, but below is a discussion of those features of Publisher 98 that I felt were useful. I have already listed some of them in the New Feature section, but I have included additional material for beginner users who could use more detail.

Flexible Wizards
The new wizard model guides you through setting up your publications with step-by-step instructions, and you also have access to the wizard to make global changes at any time during the creation process, even after the publication is complete. Changes appear immediately in your document, and you really can adjust every detail of your publication. For instance, you can choose the Flyer Wizard and the wizard will help you select a layout, a color scheme, and personal information. You also have the option to add phone tear-offs, coupons, order forms, logos, and more. You document will be created by the wizard with dummy text and sample graphics. Then you just click on a text field to insert your own text, or click on a graphic to bring up the ClipArt gallery to choose an image. You can also use a scanned image.

Design Sets
Small or home businesses can look professional and project a consistent image with Design Sets which are "looks" that can be applied across a user's marketing materials--from business cards and brochures to Web sites, forms, gift certificates, letterhead and more.

Personal Profiles
Publisher 98 automatically builds a Personal Profile for you while you work by remembering the name, address and phone information that you enter into a publication and automatically uses that information for all subsequent publications. Your logo and Color Scheme can also be saved in a Personal Profile. You can have up to 4 different Personal profiles for different publication needs.

Background Spelling, Spell It and AutoCorrect
Publisher 98 now incorporates these features just like in Microsoft Word. Spell It redefines the task of checking spelling by automatically checking a document as you type. Spelling errors are noted with wavy red underlines within the publication. You can click on the flagged word and select the correct spelling from a context-sensitive shortcut menu. If you already have Word installed, Publisher uses Word's dictionary, saving space on the hard drive. AutoCorrect corrects common typing errors as a user types.

Smart Objects
This feature saves you time by anticipating the task you want to accomplish and automating and completing or simplifying it. There are more than 20 smart objects. For instance, one smart object automates flyers with phone number tear-off sections; users enter information into one tear-off panel and Publisher automatically copies that information to the rest of the tear-off panels. If you change the name of a Web page, Publisher automatically updates the title and navigation bars on all the appropriate pages.

Editing Features
Automatic copy fitting allows you to insert headlines, subheads, sidebars and captions automatically to fit their layouts. Publisher will automatically resize the text to fit the space provided. Other new features found in high-priced design packages have been added, such as embossed, outline, and shadow text effects; drop caps; apply gradient-fill and custom-rotate options; and you can divide table cells diagonally.

Design Features
In Publisher, you can select design features such as lines, shapes, WordArt, and the Design Checker, which alerts you to design defects.

Logo Creation Wizard
Publisher 98 designs include a logo place holder. There is also a Logo Creation Wizard which includes 10 designed logo styles, and additional design guidance for you to experiment with to create your own look. You have many options in choosing a logo design. At any time, you can easily change the design, add a different graphic, change text, and add more lines for other information.

Design Gallery
This Gallery includes a collection of coordinated elements such as mastheads for newsletters, text styles for pull quotes, or different looks for tables of contents. These elements can be mixed and matched to create one-of-a-kind documents. Publisher 98 has expanded the Design gallery to include 13 new categories. You can add you own elements to the Gallery for easy retrieval.

Clip Gallery
This Gallery includes tabs and previews for clip art, images, sounds and motion clips. All contents are indexed for fast searching and easy retrieval.

Web Site Wizard
You can create Web sites that have the same appearance and style as your printed publications. The process is fully automated and you don't need to write HTML tables. The wizards helps you select the Web site design, add text, hyperlinks, or design elements, and change backgrounds. The Web Publishing Wizard then walks you through the steps of posting a site to the Web. You can also convert a brochure or newsletter to a Web site with Publisher 98. Publisher automatically rearranges all the information into a Web site, complete with hyperlinks. You can also reverse the process by starting in a Web site and use the same information for printed material. You work with the same tools and assistance for both printed material and Web site design so there is no time lost in learning a new program.
Personal Comments
When I started this review, I had not intended to make it a Review of the Month. I was familiar with previous versions of Microsoft Publisher and looked forward to the new review. As I tested each new feature, and I did use all of the additions, I decided to use it as the monthly choice. Of course, if you want to create your own distinct publications, you can use Adobe Pagemaker or Corel Ventura. But that does not diminish what Publisher can do. It is an excellent program for beginners. For know-nothings who want to create dependable results, it will walk you through each step. There is no retraining for users who upgrade, and new users who are familiar with Word or Excel will find the package effortless. It is well-organized; includes an abundance of desktop publishing features as well as word-processing features; has visual elegance; and advanced formatting and convenience make it worth consideration by design professionals. Pagemaker or Ventura can be overkill for some design jobs, and Microsoft Publisher 98 is a handy program to have around for those types of jobs that I described in the User Level section. With Publisher 2000 in a beta version, you should be able to purchase Publisher 98 for a price that would make it a nifty Christmas stocking stuffer.
Wish List    
  • Ability to view more than one page at a time.
  • Ability to change the four default profile names and create a profile from scratch rather than from typing it into a document.
  • Electronic form feature for Web pages could be improved.
  • More business-related templates and images.
  • Better anti-aliasing features.
  • Ability to manual kern text.
System Requirements    
Processor: 486 or higher
Operating System: Windows 95 or Windows NT Workstation 4.0 or later
Memory: 8MB for Windows 95 and 16MB for Windows NT
Hard Disk Space: Typical installation 109MB; minimum installation 24MB
CD ROM drive
VGA or higher resolution video adapter; Super VGA, 256-color recommended

Graphics: DeMorgan WebSpice 1,000,000 Page Design Edition
Web Page Editor: Symantec Visual Page