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Your Program Dilemma [SOLVED]

Posted by David West on

Are you confused about what program to choose before creating your design? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one!

My name is Dave and welcome to ‘Design to Print 101.


There so many programs out there it’s hard to choose the right program that works for you. Today we are going to focus on 2 design umbrellas which are the Adobe Creative Suite and the Microsoft Office suite. Im going to tell you what programe to use and why. But remember, not all of the programs available need to be used for print and design.

Let’s start off with the basics with Microsoft Office.

Office is often used by small business owners who are primarily interested in the layouts of flyers, booklets and letters.


Microsoft publisher is used for products such as flyers, booklets, invitations, calendars, post cards and if you were looking to design business cards or a letterhead for example, Publisher is the program you would use.

This is because Publisher enables you to have freedom in terms of layout. Meaning you can position text, shapes and imagery anywhere you like without everything else being affected when moving something. Publisher also has the ability to add crop mark to ensure your printing is cut down in the correct position.


Microsoft Word is great for general text documentation such as letters, school assignments and can also be used to create booklets but you have to be careful when doing so, as you have a lot less freedom when moving things around so it is best to use Publisher for that.

Word is very handy when writing letters because you can use the mail merge function to insert individual names into multiple copies of the same letter so you only have to actually type out one letter and not one for each name you have.


Microsoft Excel. Whilst this program is rarely used for actual printing, this is the programe you would use to add the individual names to your letters using that mail merge function in Microsoft Word.

By creating a list of names on 1 column descending, you can save that files as a .txt or a .csv file which are the two file types that Microsoft Word recognises.


The cons about using Microsoft products to design your printing is that the file that you finish and save could end up looking totally different by the time I open the file up as different versions of Office can affect the pagination, text formatting and layout of your design.

Fonts are also an issue in transferring files from one place to another because if you have used a font that has been downloaded or isn’t available on another computer, Office will alert you but try an replace it with an alternative that can also throw out the design.

My suggestion if you have the facility, is to save or print your document to a PDF. That way your file will be the same at both ends.

If you don’t have the option of a PDF, you can print out a draft of what it should look like so that we have a comparison when checking your files.

Now onto the good stuff. Adobe Creative Suite.

Let’s look at this in a different way. The great thing about the Adobe Creative suite is everything links together so that no matter what you are designing all the programs work in unicen as one giant program.

Let me give you an example. I am creating a booklet that contains text, my logo, some images and lets give the cover a little extra by personalising each individual cover.

I would start by creating a file in Adobe InDesign making sure my pages are in multiples of four because I am going to fold and staple it when im done.

Then I want to add my text to each page using the InDesign text tool, leaving space for some images.  I would then go into Photoshop to edit all my photos and add the desired effects that I want to use.

Once I have saved all those images ad photoshop files or JPEG images, I am now ready to go back to InDesign and place those images in the spots i had allocated. 

Once the images are in and I have forgotten to add an effect or should have cropped someone out of the photo, there is no need to start the process again. All you need to do is open up that photoshop file, make the changes and press save. 

InDesign knows that you have changed an image and will ask you to update it. There is no need to re place the image as once it is there you can alter the photoshop file without affecting the InDesign layout in any way.

There are a couple of ways you can add your logo to the cover. One is by designing the logo in Illustrator and placing that file into your InDesign document the same way you placed the images.  Or if you have a lot of illustrations on the cover, you could simply design the whole cover in Illustrator and place that file in InDesign document.

Again, if you need to change something in the cover or logo, all you need to do is edit the Illustrator file and InDesign will know.

Adding individual names to the covers is also a breeze in InDesign. It uses a list of names within a .csv file created from Microsoft Excel. One important note when creating a list of names, is the text in column 1,A will not show up once you have merged the document. Always write a generic title and start your list from column 2,A.

All you need to do to add the list is on the cover page, write a sample name to get the correct colour and size you need to ensure the actual merged document will appear as it should.

Here is a big tip when doing a sample name for the cover.  ALWAYS use the longest name in your list, because if that name fits, the rest will follow suit.

Now that I am done with the design and layout of my booklet, I need to supply it for printing. There are multiple ways of saving the book for print but there is only one way you can be sure that what you have created, will be the end product.

That method is called Packaging. InDesign needs all the fonts, images etc. you have added to it to be able to read the document properly.

It is another feature of the Adobe suite that makes it a cut above the rest. Packaging not only saves your file as an InDesign file, it also saves the, fonts, the images, the logos and the mail merge text. Every link you have added to the InDesign file, the package will retrieve it for you.

So just as a quick over view of the Adobe products:

You have photoshop: This should be left to editing images only as that is its intention.

Illustrator: this is used for all your design needs such as logos, business cards, stationery and drawings.

Indesign is more of a layout program designed for pagination and text and layout formating.

Whilst each Adobe program can be used as an all in one program, my suggestion is to use them for their intention becuase you will always get the best results.

I hope you learned a little something about which programme you should use for your project and we will see you next time!

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