The Print Shop for Mac 2.0

New layout and imaging controls make The Print Shop for Mac 2.0 even better at what the program has always done well: Publishing projects for home, school, or small business. The new tools, along with templates for newsletters and booklets, don’t quite make Print Shop ideal for generating multi-page documents, but the application is a great choice for anyone who wants to create greeting cards, fliers, banners, signs, custom calendars, CD and DVD disc and case labels, or more than a dozen other types of typical print projects.

Design modes help users

By default, launching Print Shop 2 invokes the New Project Setup Assistant, which prompts you to choose one of 20 project types, including sign, banner, greeting card, or booklet. Once you choose a project, the Assistant gives you a choice of three design modes: Quickstart Layout provides finished projects you can modify or print as-is; Help Me Design prompts you to choose an appropriate format (including custom paper or label stock), background, and layout to create a custom design; and Start from Scratch prompts you to choose paper stock only, then provides a blank workspace for you to use.

Precise controls

Print Shop 2 makes working in all three modes easy, with new layout controls that let you precisely place images and text boxes within a document. You can customize rulers in inches, inch fractions, or centimeters along the edge of the workspace, or you can place a graph-paper-style grid, also in customizable increments, over the workspace. You can choose to have layout elements snap to the grid or to guides that you can place anywhere on the workspace.

Other improvements include an enhanced set of tools for aligning objects to each other, and slider controls that allow you to adjust the tint and opacity of objects in one-percent increments, instead of 10-percent increments offered in the previous version.

Print Shop 2 doubles the number of clip-art images and photos included with the program (and now ships on two CD-ROMS instead of one). It also provides some useful new ways of manipulating that artwork (and any of your own images that you import into a Print Shop project). New transparency-based effects let you soften the edges of images or overlay textures (such as shattered glass or a brick wall) on images.

Print Shop 2 builds on the program’s impressive integration with Apple software: In addition to enabling automatic import of iTunes playlists and iDVD chapter headings into CD and DVD labels, and insertion of iPhoto images into projects, the program now allows you to drag and drop images into any project.

More variety

Three of the five new projects offered in Print Shop 2 are derived from previous versions: Gift Tags and Tickets wisely has been spun out from the Business Cards project; Quick Prints--a handy tool that lets you print multiple copies of a single photo on one sheet--used to be part of Photo Pages. Much of CDs and Cases was formerly part of the Labels project, but it has been enhanced with new templates for wraparound DVD box labels. The DVD-label and matching disc label templates include designs that impressively complement the project themes found in iDVD.

The two brand new projects—Newsletters and Booklets—attempt with mixed success to transform Print Shop into a tool for publishing long-form documents. A Newsletter (which would more accurately be described a flier or handbill) is a single-page document with a heading, two or three columns of text, and placeholders for headlines, graphics, and photos.

A Booklet uses a Newsletter template as a front page and provides one of several matching templates for use as an inside page. There’s only one inside-page template, though and that’s the chief frustration of using the Print Shop 2 for multi-page documents. The program supports booklet lengths of up to 32 pages, but only generates layouts for the first two; all pages from page three on are blank. Finishing the last two pages of a four-page booklet required tiresome copying, pasting, and positioning of page elements that made me yearn for Apple’s Pages (   ).

While it was possible to produce a decent-looking four-page document using the Booklet template, it was nowhere near as fun or easy as it was to create Print Shop’s one-page projects.

Macworld’s buying advice

The Print Shop for Mac 2.0 is a great program for anyone who wants to create fun print projects for home, school, or small business. New layout controls and enhanced image effects make this version a worthy upgrade. New multi-page project templates are a great idea, but are best left for very occasional projects. Anyone who needs to publish long documents on a regular basis should consider using Apple’s Pages instead.

[ Jim Akin is a technology writer and editor based in Minneapolis. ]

An enhanced Layout palette, including the addition of workspace rulers, customizable grids, and arbitrary snap-to guides (shown in red) improves Print Shop 2’s design precision.The New Project Setup Assistant guides you through the process of creating 19 different project types (or lets you start with a blank page).New transparency-based special effects let you overlay textures and apply custom edges to photos.

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