Practical PostScript - A Guide to Digital Typesetting

Peter Kitson

ISBN : 0952530805

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Sample Chapter From Practical PostScript - A Guide to Digital Typesetting
     Copyright © David Byram-Wigfield


PostScript was developed in 1985 by John Warnock and Chuck Geschke of Adobe Systems Inc. as a written description of a printed page interpreted by a computer chip placed inside a laser printer. This converted the scripted instructions into tiny specks of toner on the paper. Previous methods of printing had relied on the computer converting the low definition screen display into a series of printed squares known as bitmaps.

Desktop printing software, like PageMaker and Quark XPress, was then designed to convert the bitmapped images drawn or typed on the screen automatically into PostScript recipies. The result was so successful that PostScript rapidly became the universal professional printing language that it is today.

However, the increasingly complex software barrier between the computer screen and the printer, makes many users unaware of the elegance, accuracy and efficiency of PostScript as a scripted printing language; requiring as it does only the simplest of text editors to communicate directly with the printer interpreter.

This unawareness is compounded by a shortage of manuals suitable for novices, so in an effort to improve my own knowledge, I originally wrote some of these examples for the Small Printer, the journal of the British Printing Society.

The procedures illustrated do not pretend to be the most efficient use of the PostScript language, but they do try to be easy to understand. Many shortcuts have been avoided in the interests of clarity and the text and illustrations were typeset using similar procedures to those described. Computer desktop printing has many advantages over traditional methods, such as clean hands, composition speed, cut and paste duplication, and, not least, the avoidance of \'dissing\' inky letterpress typefaces back into cases according to their character and fount; all the time \'minding one\'s p\'s and q\'s\'.

During the late nineteen−eighties, in the early days of computerized newspaper printing, a coded mark−up was frequently used to format the copy. The marks were of two kinds; a generalized command, which chose a pre−determined editorial format (such as Style1), or a succession of formatting codes specified by the house style of body text, typeface, linespacing and column width. These were often grouped into a single macro for swifter keying.

Nowadays, the generalized macro is still used by some mark−up languages such as TeX and LaTeX for typesetting scientific papers and an author merely has to type \'\chapter\' or \'\footnote\' at the relevant point in the text for it to be automatically set. On the other hand, the HyperText Mark−up Language used for internet web pages has specific typesetting codes such as <H1>.....</H1> even though the actual typeface read on screen is usually determined by the recipient. The Direct PostScript procedures described in the following pages daisy−chain various instructions together to form a typesetting mark− up method for any operating system. The advantages are that the codes are simple; the typeset files are always editable, and easily distilled into the Portable Document Format for commercial printing or internet transmission.