Hands On: Printworks (OS X)

Desktop publisher offers tools suitable for beginner and experienced users

Standalone desktop publishing software fills a need for those who want to create a variety of printed projects, particularly if seeking a structured, template format. Launched earlier this year, Printworks for OS X is an all-purpose page-layout and desktop publishing app that offers templates for a wide variety of documents, as well as the option to design a document from scratch. A comprehensive app currently available for $30 (regularly priced at $50), Printworks' attention to detail throughout the creation process of a document is suitable for personal use or for small businesses who are seeking software specifically for this purpose. Is it worth the pricetag?

Printworks' Retina-ready interface features many elements one would expect to find in other document or design programs. A user's project is framed by a toolbar across the top of the window, the Source panel on the left, and the Inspector panel on the right. From the Source panel users can find Clipart images and options for importing their own images, while the Inspector panel features offers detailed settings broken down into Document, Geometry, Appearance and Text. The interface format displays operations in a familiar arrangement that are readily available for advanced users and beginners alike.

The top toolbar includes the drawing and text controls for producing a document, such as the cursor, text tool, shape tool, pen and heading editor. Upon clicking the text and shape tool icons, users can select from different text and shape options. Additionally featured on the main toolbar is zoom functionality, an integrated file sharing tool, print command, style tool for text layout, and options to insert tables, calendars, and a variety of barcodes. The workflow is smooth, with designing a document starting at the toolbar, and detailed control of these tools found within the Inspector section.

When beginning a new document project, users can select from over 400 style of templates, which are divided into several media categories such as posters, labels, business cards and more. Templates can be blank or pre-formatted, again ideal for users who want to create something entirely unique, as well as those who would prefer to customize something already designed. Put aside what "desktop publisher template document" may conjure in your memory; Printworks' templates deviate from the tacky presets of years past. Personal aesthetics aside, it seems that the majority of the offered examples are viable for completing a quick project without risking looking like you used a prefabrication.

The images available within Printworks range from more traditional Clipart illustrations to a variety of stock photos of people and objects. Equipped with 1000 images upon purchasing the software, images are categorized by subject, with an in-app option to increase the catalog to over 40,000 for an additional $10.

The base catalog may be enough for users who aren't looking to create a lot of projects on a regular basis, particularly since Printworks allows for easy importing of personal images, as well as 100 different masking options to apply for desired effects. As mentioned earlier, the Clipart and stock photo options are far less tacky than what one may traditionally think of, which is much appreciated. In fact, some of the graphics are downright tasteful. Of course, it cannot be a desktop publisher without a few choice cartoonish images of fictitious animals and swirly, abstract suns (for the record, they are located in the "Fun" category of the image catalog), but surely there is an appeal for that in certain, less professionally-minded projects.

You have to have at least one cartoon sun in a desktop publisher!
You have to have at least one cartoon sun in a desktop publisher!

Printworks' guides and layers are a great example of what makes the software stand out as being a worthwhile desktop publisher. Like other, more powerful graphic design editors, Printworks features unlimited editing layers, and guides for aligning text and images in a document. Layers can be toggled as printable or left out of the final document, and its guides can be set by clicking on the rulers surrounding the workspace, as to organize the area for clear design. There's even a built-in barcode and QR code generator.

Belight Software has created a comprehensive desktop publisher that focuses on a smooth user experience without skimping on detail-oriented design tools. This is not just reflected in the previously-described workflow -- which barely scratches the surface of available features -- but in the provided resources on Belight's website for additional learning and support. There are several straight-forward tutorial videos available, and a forum for users who wish to ask questions and share tips.

It is true that the software is a little pricier than other image editors, and some of the features can be found in programs that can create a wide variety of documents (such as what can be found in the iWork suite). However, we feel that Printworks delivers a cohesive experience of its own that makes this standalone application worth purchasing if you are frequently creating posters, brochures, newsletters or greeting cards.

Who Printworks is well-suited for: Users who would like to create a variety of printed products; beginners who want high-quality templates
Who Printworks is not for: Users who prefer a more powerful publisher and willing to spend more, users who can utilize the included Pages software for their occasional projects.

Interested in trying Printworks for yourself? We've got five redemption codes to give away to our readers!

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