Desktop publishing (DTP) refers to the use of a digital desktop for laying out and constructing documents. The term is sometimes used to refer to processes that allow printing out paper copies of documents in a localized hardware scenario. It may also refer simply to the creation and construction of digital documents on a desktop.
Desktop publishing is also known as computer-aided publishing.
There are many aspects of today’s modern technologies that support DTP. Some of these started with tools like word processors that allowed for the ever-more-sophisticated creation of letter documents and communications templates (such as letterheads and other stationery items). Over time, other tools were added that allow for the direct insertion of tables, charts, graphs, pictures and numerous other enhancements to a text document or for tagging the functional elements (title, author, etc.) of a business or government document.
Today’s DTP has gone even further, with new advancements such as DocuSign technologies, where the DTP system facilitates remote signatures. In terms of layout and typography, there are also many advances in the graphic design aspect of document creation, all of which can be referred to as progressions in DTP. These days, desktop computers have allowed many individuals, companies and agencies to self-publish all sorts of documents, from brochures and marketing documents to transactional business documents, without utilizing the services of a high-volume print company.
When documents and images are printed, they are “published.” Before computers became commonplace, the publishing process required large print presses that copied and duplicated pages. In order to print images and words on the same page, the text and graphics would have to be printed separately, cut out, placed on a single sheet, taped in place, then copied and printed. Fortunately, computers with graphical user interfaces have enabled desktop publishing, which allows this process to be done electronically.
Any time you use a computer to create a printable document, it can be considered desktop publishing. However, the term is most commonly used to refer to professional computer-based publishing. Desktop publishers use programs like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress to create page layouts for documents they want to print. These desktop publishing programs can be used to create books, magazines, newspapers, flyers, pamphlets, and many other kinds of printed documents. Publishers may also use programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create printable images. Even word processing programs like Microsoft Word can be used for basic desktop publishing purposes.
Complete desktop publishing involves the combination of typesetting (choosing fonts and the text layout), graphic design, page layout (how it all fits on the page), and printing the document. However, as mentioned before, desktop publishing can also be as simple as typing and printing a school paper. In order to desktop publish, all you need is a computer, monitor, printer, and software that can create a printable document. While that might cost more than a pen and paper, it certainly is cheaper than a printing press!