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Weave a Flawless Web Page

By James Powell

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Weave a Flawless Web Page

Microsoft Publisher has always impressed me as a product that could make a beginner look like a professional. The program's ability to help novice users create great-looking brochures, newsletters and other printed documents has always been its hallmark.

Publisher 97 (for Win95 or NT 3.51 and later) goes one step further with its Web Site Wizard, which lets you perform the same type of design magic on the Web. In fact, to Publisher, a Web page is just another type of document-the same as an invitation, calendar, business card, sign, banner, resumé or business form. Moreover, you can take any document and publish it on the Web.

To start a new Web site, select the Page Wizard, then choose Web Site as the type of document you want to create. The Wizard asks if you want to create a business, personal or community Web site (for nonprofit organizations). You can create multi-page sites, and Publisher will automatically add cross-links between pages. (It can also check for missing links.) When I selected Business Site, the Wizard provided a variety of possible pages I might want to include, such as a company profile, a directory or an events calendar. Every publication is known by its style; Publisher asks what kind of style you want-from Bold to Jazzy to Classic-and then picks the appropriate fonts and layout. You can choose a texture or solid color for your background.

To make sure you're not overwhelmed, the Design Gallery suggests design elements (such as fonts or ornamental design items) that are suited to the style you've selected, thus keeping the layout consistent. Remember when you discovered that it was possible to put 10 different fonts on a page? The Design Gallery keeps you from making such a font faux pas. To help avoid blunders in the final document, the Design Checker calls attention to technical fumbles, such as overlapping frames or graphics in a nonprinting area.

A few more prompts-for your company's name, phone number and e-mail address, for example-and in less than one minute I had the skeleton of a four-page Web site. The Wizard stepped me through remaining chores such as adding text and pictures. You edit in the familiar Publisher WYSIWYG environment. You can add tables to your pages, too. Publisher offers wizards to get your site published on CompuServe, America Online, GNN and SpryNet. Unfortunately, though the beta had a Preview button, it wouldn't load Netscape to let me view my page.

You can do a lot more with Publisher. Add impact with the restructured Clip Gallery, which now supports 256-color images. A new online feature, Microsoft Clip Gallery Live, lets you access additional content via the Web. Click on the Connect to Web button, browse for images and download them, and they're automatically categorized and incorporated into your Clip Art Gallery. The Deluxe version on CD-ROM will include 5,000 clip-art images, 150 fonts and 160 borders, in addition to the stock photos.

There's also a great Postcard Page Wizard if you want to promote your business' once-a-year sale or change of address. There are formats for Advertising, Business Reply, Special Events and Thank You's, among others. The postcard layouts are designed to print four to a page on 8 1/2-by-11-inch stock. The default font is OCR, as preferred by the U.S. Postal Service.

The new mail merge makes creating labels, name tags, envelopes and postcards so easy you'll wonder what the fuss was all about. Use this feature as a standalone or with Word's address database. You can filter and sort data. Publisher won't print blank lines, which will give your mailing a truly professional look. You can even preview the mail merge within the document itself.You'll find a host of less dramatic but equally important new features, from Font Preview (so you can see the font name displayed in the font itself) to With Compliments cards (a courtesy card attached to documents). Helpful reminders prompt you that it's time to save your work if you get caught up in the fun of designing your output.

Publisher's most impressive qualities, however, remain constant: ease of use, excellent output and fast performance. You don't have to be a graphics guru to produce great-looking business materials. All you need is Publisher 97.

--Info File--
Microsoft Publisher 97
: $79.95

Pros: Feature-packed desktop publishing program for all user levels

Cons: No significant problems

Microsoft Corp.
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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