Review: The Print Shop Publishing Suite
Published by: Broderbund Software
Street Price: $50
7 MB free RAM
45 MB hard disk space available 256 Colors (or more, but see Review) at 640 by 480
2x CD-ROM (or faster)
Rarely have I been as disappointed in a computer software product as I am with Broderbund’s “new” Print Shop Publishing Suite. The original Print Shop’s problems with the Mac are legendary, but I’ve somehow been able to keep a copy of The Print Shop Deluxe Ensemble running on my wife’s Mac (she happens to like it, and uses it a lot!) through 3 different Mac models and various system upgrades. Each upgrade brought a new challenge—from crashing at virtually every start-up, to not printing. But, by disabling Virtual Memory, keeping non-Apple extensions to a minimum, and using no other programs when it’s running, we’ve managed to keep it going.
When I saw the advertisement for the Print Shop Publishing Suite, I thought that maybe this time Broderbund would finally get it right. However, Broderbund does not provide any way for their customers to contact them at all, except through a long distance phone call. No e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, no on-line help except an antiquated FAQ, and certainly no “1-800" number should you want to ask about a product (or, maybe even order it!). So I took a chance and ordered it. Then the disappointment began.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Print Shop Deluxe and Print Shop Deluxe Companion that make up The Print Shop Deluxe Ensemble, they are two programs used to create, or compose: greeting cards, signs, banners, postcards, calendars, posters, business cards, certificates and envelopes. They are actually fun to use; and come with a very large, high quality clip art library, to which you can add other libraries as you wish.
Although they are two distinct programs, they each have the same controls, and are simple to learn. After choosing a project type, you are led through a series of screens to apply backgrounds, styles, text blocks and graphics. My wife has composed some stunning cards and certificates with them, and we both use them for making business cards.
The problem is, although The Print Shop Deluxe has been updated (to version 1.1.2, and causes no problems at all), The Print Shop Deluxe Companion is still at version 1.0, not having been updated since 1994! It does this strange “flashing thing” to the Desktop when launched (I think it’s somehow adjusting monitor resolution down to 256 colors, although I’m not sure. It “flashes” back when you quit it, and everything seems OK.), and absolutely will not tolerate another program running along with it. The “New” Print Shop Publishing Suite contains the aforementioned Print Shop Deluxe, Print Shop Deluxe Companion, as well as the new product—The Print Shop Press Writer.
I suppose it’s all my fault. I assumed that the new program would integrate the Print Shop Deluxe and Print Shop Deluxe Companion with the new Print Shop Press Writer so that you could create all the previous items, plus The Press Writer’s new capabilities to create: “newsletters, brochures, resumes, booklets and flyers.” At least that is what the ads seemed to promise, and what I apparently incorrectly assumed a “Suite” was.
When I received the package; however, I was appalled to find that they were still two (actually, three!) completely different programs that did not have a common interface, had to be installed separately, and didn’t even share the same graphics or font libraries! Worse, The Print Shop Deluxe and Print Shop Deluxe Companion were the exact same versions that I had purchased three years ago! I had repurchased two programs—one of which was very troublesome—without any warning. Even the accompanying manuals were identical! Shame on Broderbund! Shame on me for expecting better.
Oh well, I thought, I might as well install the new Press Writer program to see what that was like. After the program crashed the first four times I tried it, I checked it out with Conflict Catcher and discovered it is not compatible with the shareware “multi-clipboard” program CopyPaste (an indispensable too, which I use successfully with all of my other applications http://www.scriptsoftware.com.)
After disabling CopyPaste, Press Writer functioned normally. Pictured above is the opening screen, where you choose your “project.” Also shown are the Text Toolbar (across the top), and the Graphics Toolbar (down the side). After choosing a project type, you are led through a series of screens where you choose a layout, style, graphics and text. It’s really quite simple after you have run through it once.
When you get used to the program, you can bypass all the opening screens by choosing the “Custom” option. This allows you to go directly to an empty screen, onto which you can add graphics and text. The Print Shop Deluxe and Companion offer similar ways of creating documents, but the interfaces are completely different from Press Writer, providing two learning curves for the price of one!—An inexcusable omission by Broderbund. There should be one common interface from which you might choose any of the projects from the menu. I’d prefer the Press Writer interface over Print Shop Deluxe or Companion’s, for it is much easier and more intuitive.
Unlike Print Shop Deluxe and Companion, which have multiple small graphics libraries to choose from, Press Writer contains only three graphics libraries: Square Graphics, Column Graphics, and Row Graphics. This means that each time you add a Square Graphic, you must wait for all of them (over 700!) to load. Also, the scrolling window to choose them in is very small, only displaying nine at a time. There is a search capability built into the graphics display, where you can type in keywords to help find the type of graphic you are looking for. I found this process quite time-consuming, and often reverted to the provided Graphics Reference Book to view graphics and find their names, so I might find them in the scrolling window.
Accessing the libraries of graphics that come with Print Shop Deluxe and Companion is impossible in Press Writer because they are not recognized by their own creator! I did manage to discover that by adding DOS suffixes to the names of the libraries in Print Shop Deluxe and Companion, I could make Press Writer recognize them. For example, the “Animals” graphics library will correctly show up in Press Writer’s graphics browser if you change the name to “Animals.PSG” where “.PSG” stands for “Press Writer Square Graphics.” You can also rename the other Print Shop graphics libraries as required to “PRG” for “Row Graphics” and “PCG” for “Column Graphics.” They are still recognized with their new names by the older programs, so why didn’t Broderbund do this? An unbelievable oversight. All the graphics in the three programs should have been combined into one library and been accessible by any of the programs.
Text capabilities in Press Writer include over 100 fonts, different paragraph styles, the ability to link or unlink column text, create drop caps and a library of over 1000 quotations you can search through to spice up any document you create. All the text tools will be familiar with anyone who has used any of the popular word processors and offer all the text capabilities you will probably ever need. The Print Shop Deluxe and Companion each come with their own large font libraries, many of which overlap each other’s, and Press Writer’s supplied fonts—in case you don’t have enough fonts! Once again, Broderbund goofed. Only one font library should have been installed, eliminating duplication, and possible font-related problems down the road.
As I write the capabilities of each of these programs, it seems as though I’m describing a winner application that would do everything I might ever need in the way of desktop publishing. Unfortunately, taken together they are one of the larger clunkers I ever used. Taken by themselves, and disregarding Companion’s fussiness, each of these three programs is worth some attention. If you need to create any of the projects they are capable of, you might find them usable. However, taken as a “Suite” of programs, as they are advertised, someone really didn’t do their homework; or, were just out to make a quick buck from the Macintosh crowd. I do not have the PC version of this program available for review, but why do I have the feeling that they probably work fine on the PC side? Or, could PC users be so gullible to accept this as a complete “Suite?” I doubt it. The box proudly proclaims “Over 13 Million Products Sold!” so someone must be happy with Broderbund’s products. They can’t all be Myst and Riven owners!
On a final note, and the sooner I am done with this the better, for it is not fun to trash a program that has such potential. The box proudly proclaims: “90-Day Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee!” When I called Broderbund to inquire how to go about this (I’m paying for the call, remember), the nice young lady on the phone seemed oblivious to Broderbund’s return policy, offering only to transfer me to “Tech Support.” It was unlikely that they could undo all of this program’s faults over the phone (I can picture it—’Jack, there’s a guy on the line who needs a code rewrite of three 2+ MB programs—pronto!’), so I hung up. I had to call again, and inform the nice young lady that I wanted to know how to return the program. More confusion. Finally, I was given the name “Elizabeth Wilson” to return the package “In care of.”
Until Broderbund gets their act together, I must award The Print Shop Publishing Suite only the fourth “Rotten” rating in ATPM’s history. Meanwhile, I have ordered the PrintMaster Publishing Suite from Mindscape. I will let you know how that works in a future review.