Layout applications – also known as desktop publishing software – are the applications a designer uses to layout a magazine, book, newsletter or any number of other print projects. Superficially, it may look much like a word processing application, but it is an entirely different animal. You won’t find outline support, grammar checking and other authoring tools that are so useful when writing your story, but you will find the tools that add all the design pizzazz readers expect in a magazine or graphical book.
These applications are handy for many family history projects. The most common is the newsletter with all its columns, precisely-placed photos and other design elements. They can be quite useful for many family history publishing projects because they can handle the complex formatting they often require. A family cookbook is one good example. Reunion programs and souvenir booklets can really shine with a bit of layout magic added. Thanks to these apps, you can also construct things like a group chart that crosses a two-page spread or use a photograph as the background to your text. You can combine photos, color and graphical elements to lead the reader’s eye to the content you want them to read. Yes, all this requires effort, but the result can be quite stunning.
These apps are great for smaller projects too. From business cards to greeting cards to reunion flyers, a layout application can serve many purposes.
Although professional apps such as Adobe’s InDesign are way above most budgets, there are several good, affordable options that will serve the family publisher well. Here’s an overview.
Mac users can take advantage of these applications:
- Pages [$19.99] offers both a word-processing mode and a page layout mode so it can serve as both an authoring and layout platform. Note that you will still be working with two separate documents – the manuscript and the layout – and copy/pasting the manuscript text to the layout document.
- iStudio Publisher [$17.99] is a full-featured layout application that includes support for exporting to ePub format. I don’t believe iStudio supports images in ePubs yet.
Layout options for Windows users include:
- Serif PagePlus X6 [Download] [$99.99] offers the ability to create interactive PDF forms and include active media like audio and video in PDF documents. It will also export projects to both Kindle .mobi and ePub formats. There is a Serif PagePlus Essentials [Download] [$49.99] edition with fewer features.
- Microsoft Publisher 2010 (2 PC / 1 User) [Download] [$116.84] can be purchased as a standalone application or as part of the Microsoft Office Home & Student 2010 [Download] [$121.18] package.
In addition, the open source Scribus application is available for Windows, Mac and Linux systems.
Does design and layout sound too intimidating? Take a look at Robin Williams’ delightful primer, The Non-Designer’s Design Book. It’s a fun book full of useful information and great examples.