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What is Desktop Publishing? – DTP Uses and FREE Programs


What is desktop publishing? We have probably all heard of it, but what is it exactly? Desktop publishing (DTP) is the production of page designs with your computer using a special DTP software that integrates text and images.

The first DTP software was released in the mid-80s and desktop-publishing skyrocket from there. In the early 90s desktop publishing had almost completely replaced previous technologies used for that purpose.

While in the 80s and 90s desktop publishing was almost exclusively used by professionals and for print, now it is also used for digital products, such as e-books, websites and much more.

Today, thanks to better devices, faster internet connections and cloud solutions, basically everyone can use desktop publishing technology. Some DTP programs are even available for free online, no installation needed.

In this article we tell you everything about DTP software functions, free and paid desktop publishing software and what DTP- software is used for.

Desktop Publishing uses

Desktop-publishing software can be used to create the layout for a wide range of different publications, such as:

  • newspapers and magazines
  • brochures, posters, flyer, leaflets and catalogues
  • books and e-books
  • PDF
  • Web pages
  • banner
  • newsletter
  • design of resume


DTP Free programs

In addition to professional desktop publishing programs, there are many free options available online and offline for those on a budget or just starting out in graphic design. For those who don’t need all the bells and whistles of a professional-grade program, there are plenty of free alternatives that can handle basic DTP and graphic design tasks. Whether you’re a student, a hobbyist, or just looking to save some money, free DTP and graphic design programs can provide a great starting point for creating flyers, brochures, posters, and other marketing materials.

CanvaOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerMarketing, Graphic Design, Social Media
GIMPDesktopFreeOpen SourceGraphic Design, Photography, Digital Art
InkscapeDesktopFreeOpen SourceGraphic Design, Illustration
Paint.NETDesktopFreeOpen SourceGraphic Design, Photography
PixlrOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerPhotography, Graphic Design, Social Media
SumopaintOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerDigital Art, Graphic Design
KritaDesktopFreeOpen SourceDigital Art, Painting
GravitOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerGraphic Design, Illustration, Web Design
FigmaOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerGraphic Design, UI/UX Design
VectrOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerGraphic Design, Illustration, Web Design
LibreOffice DrawDesktopFreeOpen SourceGraphic Design, Technical Illustration
Draw.ioOnlineFree (with paid options)BeginnerDiagramming, Technical Illustration
Microsoft WordDesktopFree (with limited features)Home & BusinessPublishing, Graphic Design
ScribusDesktopFreeOpen SourcePublishing, Graphic Design
Lucidpress (Marq)OnlineFree (with limited features)ProfessionalFree (with limited features)

The best Desktop Publishing (DTP) paid programs:

The number of desktop publishing programs is growing and growing. The good news, a lot of them are for free or available for subscription.

The leading desktop publishing software these days comes from Adobe. Products from the Adobe Creative Cloud are available for subscription. The costs vary, depending on the product and plan selected. For example, you can subscribe to all the apps starting from €61,43 per month. This package includes programs, such as Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. But you can also opt for a single app.

Adobe InDesign CC is a top-rated desktop publishing software, one of the market leaders and used by most professionals.

Functions of desktop publishing software these days seem endless and InDesign CC is no exception. It offers a wide range of tools, to just name a few:

  • layout and typesetting tools
  • setting character and paragraph attributes
  • tools to create multicolumn pages
  • transparency and vector editing

In InDesign you create a page layout by placing frames onto your page. Those frames can be filled with content, such as text, photos, videos or graphics.

Download here the 7 Benefits of using DTP services for business marketing campaigns infographic.

DTP Translation and Multilingual Desktop Publishing

Desktop publishers often work at publishing houses, advertising agencies or software providers, but they can also work for language service providers.

For example, EHLION language consultancy provides desktop-publishing and foreign typesetting services designed to optimize the look and feel of your products and adapt them to the target market.

Using a service like this can save time, money and unnecessary intermediate steps.

For example, you have a brochure that needs to be translated from English to Chinese? When you send us the InDesign file, we export the text, translate it and insert it again in InDesign. You will get the final product ready to print.

Problems of desktop publishing are that when you translate a text, it is unlikely that it will have exactly the same length as the original, as some languages need more words, while other need less, to say the same thing. Therefore, the layout must be adjusted accordingly to the new text volume.

If you hire a language service provider to do this, one of the most important advantages is, they know the language and the culture and can adjust the layout accordingly. While when you do it yourself, you probably find yourself wondering, if you can divide the text in paragraphs or not, because you have no idea what this Chinese character means.


DTP-programs are more affordable than ever

Desktop-publishing is not new, but what is new is the ever-growing number of free DTP-programs. In addition to that, cloud solutions are also a game changer. Now that you can “rent” programs like InDesign or Photoshop instead of buying them, they are even affordable for non-professionals.

EHLION offers language services in more than 100 languages and over 800 language combinations. We offer a wide range of language services across all industries, such as professional translation, website localisation or desktop publishing services.

Contact us for a free initial consultation, we are happy to help you with your next translation project. 

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