Over the years, The Print Shop, a popular design and desktop-publishing package for creating greeting cards, calendars, labels, and similar projects, has come and gone. Now, thanks to its new developer, Software MacKiev, this long-missed program is back on the Mac and better than ever.
The Print Shop Mac OS X Edition 1.0 is versatile, elegant, and easy to use, and it integrates seamlessly with other Mac applications, such as Apple’s iPhoto, iTunes, iCal, and Address Book.
The Print Shop offers templates for 14 types of projects, including greeting cards, calendars, CD labels and booklets, letterhead, pamphlets, banners, and business cards. Within each project category are dozens more predesigned templates, which you can use as a starting point for your own designs or print as they are. You can also start with a blank template if you prefer to step out on your own.
For projects such as labels, which require that you match your designs to a specific paper size or shape, The Print Shop supports a long list of Avery papers. It even includes an Avery Updater, which downloads new Avery templates as they become available. At press time, Software MacKiev was putting the finishing touches on a free download that would add support for the direct CD-printing features found in some Epson printers. The download should be available by the time you read this.
The Print Shop’s template implementation is particularly nice when it comes to designing greeting cards. To design cards so that all elements appear right side up after folding, you often have to position some panels sideways or upside down — no easy task in programs such as Microsoft Word. The Print Shop simplifies this process by dividing cards into three different views — Front, Inside, and Back — so you are always designing right side up, regardless of how the panel will actually print.
One of the first things you’ll notice after opening The Print Shop is how good the program looks. Software MacKiev fully rewrote The Print Shop to take advantage of the power and beauty of Quartz, the graphics engine behind OS X. In The Print Shop, graphics grow and shrink in real time as you drag their edges, making it easy to put photos and clip art into place. You can also zoom in on the workspace simply by expanding the edges of the document window. And aside from photographs, all of the included graphics and text are vector art, so they remain crisp no matter how large or small you make them.
You can use the Objects toolbar to insert photos, text, shapes, borders, or other elements into your layout. The Print Shop has a library of more than 12,000 images, which range from hopelessly cheesy clip-art illustrations to richly detailed photographs. Thankfully, you can narrow search criteria by shape, subject, or type of graphic as you look for something suitable. But to access these images and predesigned templates, you have to insert the program’s CD into your Mac (or you can download the CD’s 600MB contents).
You can also import your own photos into Print Shop projects. The Print Shop integrates very nicely with iPhoto. When you select Insert: iPhoto Image, the program displays a list of all your iPhoto albums — including iPhoto 4’s Smart Albums.
If your images need to be touched up, you can use The Print Shop’s Photo Workshop feature to perform basic color correction, sharpening, and cropping. In the Fix Flaws section, you’ll find tools for correcting red-eye, pet-eye (the green glow that makes your beloved pet appear demonic), dust marks and scratches, and shiny faces — a truly useful tool that is like applying face powder after the fact. You can also apply a variety of Artistic Effects to change or enhance a photo’s appearance. All of the Photo Workshop tools work well. However, since there’s no way to zoom in on the tiny preview image when adjusting colors or sharpness — two particularly tricky tasks — judging the effectiveness of your work without first applying the changes to your image can be almost impossible. If you don’t like what you see, you’ll have to undo the changes and start again.
The program provides a searchable collection of quotes and verses, so you can add words of inspiration to your projects. But working with text can be frustrating. To edit text, you must first double-click on the text box, which opens in a white text window. This makes it difficult to work with light-colored text (though white text turns black and is therefore easy to see). To leave the editing window — so you can adjust text-box size or position — you must click elsewhere on your screen and then reselect the text box. And I longed for more control over the spacing of multiple lines of text.
One thing that really sets The Print Shop apart from similar consumer-oriented design applications is its superb integration with Apple applications. In addition to connecting to iPhoto albums, The Print Shop can also import iCal events into Calendar templates, download song lists from iTunes to use on CD labels, and print mailing labels from Address Book contacts — although the Mail Merge feature is a bit unintuitive. The program even offers DVD-label templates that match Apple’s iDVD 3 themes. It’s a small touch, but one that shows care and attention to detail.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Despite a few minor inconveniences, The Print Shop Mac OS X Edition 1.0 is a truly elegant application and a great tool for any creative project. Thanks to its many templates and its simplified interface, the program is easy enough for young family members to use and versatile enough to allow for true creativity.