Favorite Product List Summer 2004

Each year I take the opportunity to create a list of my favorite software and hardware products for newspapers. This list is by no means exhaustive. It merely represents an attempt to provide insight into purchasing questions posed to me most often by newspaper managers. In many cases product titles remain the same, while versions change over the years. Occasionally there is a noticeable change, as was the case when InDesign replaced QuarkXpress on this list a few years back. With this in mind, here is my list for 2004:

Pagination Software
For the fourth straight year, the nod goes to Adobe InDesign. Now up to version 3.0 (most commonly referred to as InDesign CS), InDesign has left the competition in the dust. With features including drop shadows, feathering, excellent font control and more, InDesign has set a new standard in page layout. Add the ability to open InDesign, PageMaker and QuarkXpress 4 files and InDesign appears set to be ďking of the hillĒ for some time to come. More information is available at www.adobe.com.

Ad Design Software
My nod goes to MultiAd Creator 7, a version scheduled to be released this month. Iíve had the opportunity to use the beta of this new version which supports new and improved features including layers, a media database interface (CMDI), OpenType font support and tables. MultiAd seems to have created an upgrade worth serious consideration. For a limited time, new users can purchase the full version of Creator 7 for $299. Upgrades from all previous versions of Creator or Creator2 are $199. After this promotion, the price of the full version will move to $499. Creator can be purchased at www.creatorsoftware.com or by calling MultiAd Creator customer service at 800-245-9278, ext. 5324.

Word Processing Software
Adobe InCopy gets my vote this year. Created to work in the InDesign production workflow, InCopy is an excellent word processor, whether itís used in conjunction with InDesign or as a standalone product. As a matter of fact, Iím using InCopy right now. For more information, visit www.adobe.com.

Web Design Software
Standing up to a significant challenge from Adobeís GoLive, Dreamweaver MX 2004 is my choice for building web sites and applications. It provides a powerful combination of visual layout tools, application development features, and code editing support. Dreamweaver enables web designers and developers to easily create and manage any web site. It will be interesting to see how the race between these two applications develops in the future. For more information, visit www.macromedia.com

Photo Editing Software
The choice is obvious. Photoshop CS (8.0) is well worth the upgrade price from previous versions. For the serious designer, nothing other than Photoshop will do. Corel Paint, no longer available on the Mac platform, is an excellent - less expensive - alternative for Windows-based users.

Must-Have Software
Other ďmust haveĒ utilities and applications for newspaper design include:
- Acrobat Professional 6.0. Offers the ability to locate and correct many of the problems that have plagued PDF users over the years.
- MacLink Plus (for Mac users) and Coversions Plus (for PC users). These utilities, both found at www.dataviz.com, make it possible to convert most word processing, graphic and database files for use in various applications. For instance, a Mac user can convert a PC WordPerfect file to Mac Word format. Sorry, we still havenít found a solution for those pesky Microsoft Publisher files.
- Microsoft Entourage Email Client (for Mac users). After using Entourage for a number of years, Apple Mail just doesnít do the trick for me. If the email I receive from other users is any indication, it doesnít do the trick for a lot of you, either. Available as part of the Microsoft Office 2004 Suite.
- PDF Enhancer. If I need to convert the colors in a PDF file, PDF Enhancer is the utility I use. Available for both the Windows and Mac platforms, a free demo can be found at www.apago.com.

Mac Desktop and Notebook Computers
Is there any question? The Apple G5 is king when it comes to page design. Make sure to upgrade to a minimum of 1 Gigabyte of ram. For Mac users looking for an inexpensive word processing computer, the eMac and iMac are both worthy contenders. In the past, I havenít recommended iBooks because they were generally at least one generation behind the PowerBook line of portable computers. The most recent iBooks are now ready for prime time. Several hundred dollars less than Appleís PowerBook line, the new iBooks are well worth consideration. For more information, visit www.apple.com.

Windows-Based Desktop and Notebook Computer
Iíve purchased and tested several brands of PC desktop and notebook systems this year. Lately, Iíve settled on Dell as my choice when looking for a good system at a good price. For well under $1,000, several systems are available at www.dell.com.

Desktop Scanners
Desktop scanners should be replaced every two years. Fortunately, they donít cost nearly as much as they used to. Epson continues to produce the best desktop scanners for professional use. In addition, Iíve found the software interface between Epson and Photoshop to be much smoother than those of other brands. The Epson 1670 ($99) and Epson 3170 ($199) are excellent scanners for newspaper production.

Digital Cameras
The Canon PowerShot Pro1 offers 8 megapixels at a street price around $900. Like its predecessor, the Canon Rebel, the Powershot Pro1 offers excellent results in normal lighting. The Nikon 8700 is another excellent camera in this price range. For more serious photographers, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II offers beautiful photos. The Mark II lists for $4,500 (US) without a lens. With a street price of $1,300, the Nikon D70 has received rave reviews since its release earlier this year.

Laser Printer
The Xante 4G tops my list of laser printers in 2004. To be honest, my Xante 4G sometimes drives me crazy with its quirks, but still outperforms other brands Iíve used. In side-by-side comparisons, Xante continue to offer excellent results for newspaper paginators who print to paper. For more information concerning the 4G and other Xante printers, visit www.xante.com.

Other Hardware Products
Other products which make my life a little easier include:
- Tactile Pro Keyboard. Offers dual USB ports, volume-control and CD-eject buttons and a clean, white finish. If you like the click of previous Mac keyboards, youíll appreciate the Tactile Pro. Visit www.tactilepro.com for more information.
- The iLap. This stand, created specifically for PowerBook and iBook users, is ergonomically designed to suit both lap and desk work, to keep the computer cool. The iLap raises your laptop screen higher to reduce strain on your neck and shoulders. I started using my iLap three months ago. My neck and back thank me daily. Visit http://raindesigninc.com for more information.

So there you have it. Thatís my summer 2004 list of favorite products. Remember, much of this information is based on personal preferences. Most software products are available as full-functioning demos on their web sites. Take time to try a product before purchasing it. I also recommend visiting www.pricescan.com to compare prices on products from various vendors.
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