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Old 03-08-2010, 07:48 AM   #1
Stanhy
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Default Can I get some advice about mac for a newbie?

Hi all,
I need to get a dedicated machine for desktop publishing. Ideally, I would have the ability to do page layout, graphics, etc on it. I've had nothing but pc all these years, but think it might be time to go mac.
That being said, what would you recommend for a first mac? I don't have an unlimited budget (ideally under 2k for the machine, don't know if that's realistic). I *think* I would like to be portable with a laptop. My main concerns would be the capacity to handle the programs to do page layouts and graphics. I'm thinking of using Quark Xpress, or maybe one of Adobe's creative suites.
Is there any source out there where I could simply get my mac and have them customize the software that I need? So many of them come bundled with a lot of stuff I would never use. I've been searching various etailers, including Apple, but none of them seem to offer that.
I am also open to suggestions for software. I have quite a bit of experience on pc with Microsoft based stuff, as well as a fair handle on Photoshop. I want to layout magazine and book pages, and possibly web pages. I'm OK with learning new software, but would prefer stuff that is somewhat user friendly.
And one last note, do I really need a mac after all? I hear they are the best for this application, but that could be changing too.
Thanks in advance!
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Old 03-08-2010, 08:31 AM   #2
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You do not need a Macintosh to do desktop publishing work. The important applications are available, version for version, for both Mac and PC, and files can be swapped from one platform to the other.

If there is no Mac in the equation — at your workplace, at the printshop, etc. — I would suggest that it is not worth the irritating process of learning the ins and outs of a new platform.

If you do decide to get a Mac, you will need at least a 24-inch iMac or a 15-inch MacBook Pro (with the NVIDIA card), probably plus a 24-inch monitor for layout work. (You might get by with a 17-inch Pro, but the screen is a bit small and the laptop is a moose to schlep around.)

If you order a Mac from Apple, you can customize certain aspects (see the linked pages for details). Macs do ship with a bunch of programs — mostly from Apple, some very useful — but unlike PC suppliers, Macs do not come with lots of third-party software.

Regardless of platform, Microsoft applications are not too useful for print or web design. You could make do with one of the Adobe Creative Suites; many people do. For the work you describe, I would recommend the Premium set (it includes Photoshop Extended, InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat for print work; and Dreamweaver, Flash, and Fireworks for web work). You will also have to build a font library.

If you plan on freelancing on site, you may have to learn (and perhaps acquire) other apps, but by then you should have the money to pay for them.

Good luck, and welcome to the forum.

   
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Old 03-08-2010, 12:28 PM   #3
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I'm pc-based and after reading your post, I don't think you need a mac unless you really want to move in that direction--as KT has noted, software is available on both sides.

I don't know that I would seriously consider doing imaging and layout on a laptop primarily because laptop graphics cards don't tend to be the best for that type of work and the screens are small.

I've always had my pc's custom built locally--I live in the Washington, DC metro area and we are blessed with a wealth of local build/repair shops--because I think you get more bang for your buck and you can tweak the build to suit your needs rather than some corporate generic pc with poor hardware.

That said, I have spec'd out a number of Dell laptops for friends and family and they've been pleased so if you go the pc and laptop route, take a look at Dell's laptops...

Hope that helps and welcome to the forum...'-}}

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Old 03-08-2010, 02:38 PM   #4
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I use a HP notebook with an nVidia graphics card, 4Gb of RAM and when I work at home I just hook it up to a monitor since the screen on it is a bit small. Adding a mouse and keyboard my setup works well for DTP, image editing etc. Perhaps you work on massive files, in which case a laptop would be out of the question anyway!

Whilst Macs are nice they seem somehow overpriced.

Regarding QXP, latest versions are an improvement on what it was like a few years ago but there are other (better?) options.

   
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Old 03-09-2010, 12:38 AM   #5
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As Kathleen and Terrie said, you don't have to have a Mac to do desktop publishing these days.

I use a Mac for my DTP work, currently a 15" MacBook Pro with an Apple 24" monitor and it's a great setup for the magazine work I do. The graphics card (nVidia) means that the 24 inch screen is rendered seamlessly, much faster than on my older MacBook Pro 17". I use the Adobe Creative Suite and that is very convenient because of the interoperability of the various applications.

Just a note about laptops. I thought when I first moved to laptops that I would want to move mine about a lot. But it mostly stays in the one place. Laptops tend to be more expensive than desktops for the same amount of grunt, and you usually have fewer USB ports to work with, which can be very irritating, especially when you take it onsite and don't have the USB ports on the external monitor to use. In those cases, a USB hub is a must, and adds to the amount of gear you need to hump around. This is the same for Mac and PC by the way, although I find that PC laptops tend to have more USB ports than Mac laptops do unless you select one of the small 13 inch ones, which often have only one USB port and thus require a dock for any useful work. And you really can't do useful DTP work, especially anything where you might need to view readers' spreads, on a laptop screen.

The PC laptops I've used also tend to be oriented towards business users, and the graphics just aren't good enough for print work, so while you could take your PC laptop to the client's office, you wouldn't be able to trust the colours on the screen for decision-making by the client. That is one area where the Mac is still better.

If you decide to go with a desktop, you can get good graphics quality monitors that will work with both Mac and PC.

   
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Old 03-09-2010, 06:21 AM   #6
Stanhy
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Hey thanks everyone. Very useful info here, I appreciate it.
So the day of having to have a mac for any sort of graphic needs are over? That is good news for me, being as I actually have a clue about PC, and can generally figure out which components I need. (I tend to like Dell)
So what would the recommendation be for a graphic card for a Dell then?
And am I OK just doing the Adobe Creative Suite 4 and skipping Quark? Will Indesign be a widely recognized format for uploading files to press sites?
Any other programs I should consider or avoid?

On a side note, any time I see anyone hiring for graphic work, they tend to stress Quark as a skillset they desire. While I currently have no desire to go that direction, it would be OK to have another marketable skill if the need arose. (Hence the reason I was considering Quark/mac.) Do people in graphics (newspapers mostly) look for skills with Adobe as well as Quark?
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Old 03-09-2010, 07:50 AM   #7
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Graphic cards are largely irrelevant in DTP. Unless you are into 3D modelling, the simplest graphic cards will work satisfactorily with DTP software. The only thing to look into is the ability to attach an external second monitor to your machine (especially if it is a laptop). there is nothing more useful than clustering all the palettes on the smaller monitor and having a full, large monitor for the main layout window.

Quark seems, to me, to be dying out. That said, it will be a long time before it is going to be completely gone, and thus you see many shops that want that skill on ads. I suspect that many will accept someone with a few years of InDesign experience, and will train them in Quark, if it is a long term job. Short term/temp work, however, would require Quark skills. I don't know if I would want to pay for the Quark cost just to acquire that. ID is in the CS4 bundles, and thus is comparatively cheap. And this doesn't count the hours of time you have to invest in learning the second program.
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Old 03-09-2010, 08:21 AM   #8
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Some things are local. If the people advertising jobs request skill with XPress, you will probably have to conform (you will not change the workflow of your employer, at least not as a new hire). But you will still need the Adobe software, including InDesign for other jobs.

Most printers today expect a PDF, not an application file, so if you are doing mostly freelance work, you can use either ID or QXP — so long as you can produce a good PDF for the printer.

   
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Old 03-09-2010, 04:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
stanhy: So what would the recommendation be for a graphic card for a Dell then?
Desktop or laptop?

Let me know and I'll take a browse at Dell to see what they are currently offering and I'll let you know. I think a decent rule of thumb is to look for a graphic card with at least 1gb RAM on it for graphic intensive things like Photoshop. Also (assuming you are going with Win7--whatever flavor), I'd suggest getting at least 4gb RAM (if not more) for the system.

I don't know if the Dell laptops have the option for more than one harddrive but if they do, get both as large a harddrive as you can and multiple ones if possible--actually...the same suggestion holds true for a desktop system too. I have 3 harddrives. One 80gb drive which just has my OS (WinXP) on it and two 500gb drives, one with mulitple partitions and one with just a single partition that I use sort of as a backup and catch-all.

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Old 03-10-2010, 09:03 AM   #10
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An external hard drive is only a USB port away, so one internal drive should suffice really.

I'd agree with the RAM issue, some laptops can accommodate more than 4Gb (mine can take 8Gb), but since it isn't likely that there will be more than 2 slots it will cost you. Better wait for a while with prices comming down on memory.

   
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