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The Mac Factor: Digital Directions (TypeStyler III)
Desktop publishing originally referred to the use of desktop tools like word processors, graphics software, and dedicated publishing software to produce documents that were to be output to a printer or typesetter of some sort. Newsletters, brochures, ads, form letters, magazines, and the like could be produced at the desktop as opposed to being sent out to a professional bureau or corporate graphics department. The original purpose of web publishing, on the other hand, was to produce linked pages of text and graphics that could be accessed by a browser and viewed on a computer monitor. There’s more than a little confusion about the distinction between these tasks. They both can be accomplished from the desktop and, therefore, logically should be included under the desktop publishing moniker. They employ many of the same software tools and web sites increasingly provide options for sophisticated print output.
Digital publishing (DP) is a more inclusive label that encompasses both desktop publishing and web publishing and the software tools related to both. Potential DP markets include Home, K-12 Education, University, Small Business, and Corporate. Over the next several issues, the Mac Factor will review DP products, beginning this month with TypeStyler III from Strider Software. TypeStyler III is a text and graphics manipulation program that should appeal across the board to all of these markets.
There is so much to TypeStyler that it would be easy to fall into the review trap of simply listing its myriad features and specifications. Instead, I’ll focus on my impressions after using the program for six months and demonstrate some of the reasons why I think it’s an important tool. For more specific information, I refer you to the Details Section at the end of this article.
Consistent Look and Feel One of the most frustrating lessons that must be learned by the digital dilettante is restraint. With dozens of available fonts and styles, there’s a temptation to use them all. By scanning document windows, a knowledgeable observer can usually determine when there’s too much formatting clutter. There are also occasions when a document or page looks fine on the screen and awful in the printed version or on the web. One means of avoiding these problems is to use a consistent set of paragraph and heading styles.
Consistency doesn’t have to mean conservative or boring. TypeStyler, for example makes it easy to create a series of consistent, but attractive headings, save them in the appropriate format, and insert them into your document or web page.
With TypeStyler you can customize type by changing the shape, color, style, or font and adding a range of fills and shadows. For example, the following headings took only minutes to create:
There are some publications where it might be appropriate to use one of these heading formats throughout the document and others that might employ all three. At least they are all the same font, the same size, and the same style.
By default, TypeStyler headings incorporate white, rectangular backgrounds. The program includes options to assign a web friendly color or pattern to a background and supports Photoshop’s transparent background format. Transparent backgrounds let heading shadows blend seamlessly with your web page.
After selecting the text tool and dragging to create the appropriate sized text object, the text attributes dialog box is automatically summoned. After you enter text, you assign it different shapes and styles that are displayed in corresponding panels one at a time as you page through them. Recognizing that this can be tedious, the TypeStyler designers provide an automatic scrolling option that displays each shape or style for a second and then moves on to the next. When you see one you like, you just click on the panel and it stops. The forty or so built-in text shapes include everything from circular to fish-shaped, while the seventy text styles cover every kind of shadow, gloss, bevel, gradient, or emboss combination you can imagine.
If you’re not completely satisfied with the built-in options you can summon the Style Workshop that displays your formatted text while you make changes to the fill, inline, outline, effect, or background.
TypeStyler includes literally dozens of shapes that you can apply to text or graphic panels including the circle below. Note that an off color background has been selected which will hopefully match the web page or document that eventually receives the graphic.
The graphic panel dialog box, below, is similar to the text dialog box and gives you the option of going to the Style Workshop for more precise control. TypeStyler lets you combine text and graphic panels in a variety of ways. For example, you can merge text and graphics, punch one out of the other, select the intersection of two objects, and so on.
You can also create custom fills that can be used for objects or backgrounds, like my daughter Megan’s picture below.
Templates and Examples
To meet the needs of non-artists, TypeStyler includes a host of document samples and templates. Opening a sample file and double clicking on a text or shape object, lets you modify it to meet your requirements. For example, the MyMac poster below was generated from one of the sample documents. Note that saving the poster in Photoshop format generated a separate layer for each heading and background shadow, providing maximum flexibility for modifying the graphic from within that program.
TypeStyler includes loads of options for creating web ready objects. The two education buttons below, for example, could be used to create a rollover image for a résumé web page.
The program also has facilities for creating special animated text effects or animations like below.
The most disappointing aspect of the software is its support for just one open document window. Whether this was a memory consideration or an oversight, it should be corrected because it interferes with the effectiveness of the program. Where are Apple’s programming guidelines when you need them? I also experienced some intermittent crashes and freezes that again seem to point to memory problems, and, on occasion, the software reported that it was successfully exporting a gif file, when, in fact, no file was created. These are all minor annoyances that pale when compared to the utility of this software.
TypeStyler’s reason for existence is to help you create images that can be used with other software. Therefore, the program can import and export graphics in jpeg, gif, Illustrator, Photoshop, PICT, and TIFF formats. It’s also possible to generate a web page and to preview your page in a browser from within TypeStyler.
The first thing you’ll note when you open the TypeStyler package is that accompanying the installation CD is an odd rectangular shaped thing with printing on it. Wait…it’s…No, it couldn’t be, but it is. TypeStyler comes with a real User’s Guide that is comprehensive, well written, and replete with meaningful examples, includes a useful tutorial, and is even properly indexed. It’s a throwback to the days when software companies cared about their users. I could go on about the contrast in experience between using only on-line help versus legitimate documentation like the referenced user manual, but perhaps at a different time and place. Suffice it to say, that the TypeStyler User Manual is a welcome companion to the software.
On Strider Software’s web site the company claims that its charter is “to build and provide the most powerful, easiest, and most enjoyable to use special effects type manipulation software in the world.” That sounds like heady stuff, but exactly describes what Strider Software has accomplished! Certainly, anyone who uses a Mac to produce web pages, newsletters, brochures, ads, or the like, needs this software. It will save you literally hours of work and add a professional touch to your publications.
You can order a full copy of the program or a sixty-day trial
Attn: David Stillman
P.O. Box 513
Marinette, WI 54143-0513
Price: $149.95 (full copy) and $119.95 (download version).
MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5