Print Shop isn't just for kids. Sure, the newest edition of this 16-year-old printing and desktop publishing program helps children churn out greeting cards and birthday party banners. But Print Shop also includes a full-fledged photo editor and tools that the most cash-starved home-based business can use to create simple paper projects, such as menus and marketing materials. For $50, Print Shop is hard to beat if you need an at-home publisher. However, most small-business owners will find that the program's templates aren't professional enough; they should steer for Microsoft Publisher instead.Print Shop isn't just for kids. Sure, the newest edition of this 16-year-old printing and desktop publishing program helps children churn out greeting cards and birthday party banners. But Print Shop also includes a full-fledged photo editor and tools that the most cash-starved home-based business can use to create simple paper projects, such as menus and marketing materials. For $50, Print Shop is hard to beat if you need an at-home publisher. However, most small-business owners will find that the program's templates aren't professional enough; they should steer for Microsoft Publisher instead.
CD juggling act
In general, Print Shop 12.0 is supereasy to use. However, you may have a tough time digging up the clip art you need on its six CDs and finding enough drive space for this monster program. Even if you stick with the minimum installation option, you must surrender 670MB of drive space. And if you go for broke and give Print Shop more than a gigabyte, you still have to keep its extra clip art CDs handy and swap them as you access the art. If your PC sports a DVD drive, get the DVD edition for the same price, and you won't have to swap discs since one DVD holds the whole shebang.
What's with all the CDs? Altogether, they contain a gargantuan collection of clip art and images (more than 134,000) and layout templates (more than 11,000). If you have another 2.4GB free on your hard drive, though, you can load all of the clip art to the drive and swear off CD swapping.
Once you get over the CD-swapping hassle, Print Shop is pretty smooth sailing--not flashy but easy to use and functional. Menus hold scores of commands and simple toolbars at the top and side icons for functions such as launching the photo editor. Finally, Print Shop leaves a large open space in the center for your work.
You'll have no problem tackling the preset projects, either. Just pick a template from one of many categories (including business cards, greeting cards, signs, and certificates), walk through a two- or three-step wizard, then replace existing place-holding text and art with your own--easy, especially since Print Shop 12.0 ships with 5,000 more templates than the previous version. Our primary interface complaint: each time you launch a project, another window opens, needlessly cluttering the screen. In the next version, Print Shop should try the slick everything-in-one-window approach of competitors such as Microsoft Publisher.
Jack-of-all-trades, master of none
Print Shop 12.0 does many tasks adequately but few superbly. People's exhibit No. 1: the integrated Photo Workshop. Although Print Shop has added plenty of new special effects for imaging editing, including warps and distortions, it's not up to the standards of, say, Picture It 2002. To crop an image tightly around its outline, for instance, you must draw lines, one at a time, to create the cropping area; there's no automated cropping tool. Ugh!
Print Shop also ships with Calendar Creator, a standalone application that churns out custom daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly calendars. You can launch Calendar Creator from within Print Shop, but that's as far as the integration goes. In fact, because Print Shop has its own calendar-making templates, it's hard to figure out when you should use Calendar Creator.
Web integration in Print Shop is laughably lame. Although you can use it to download both free and paid templates from ExpressIt.com (Broderbund's mostly free graphics arts Web site), Print Shop's built-in Web page maker is both limited and silly. Before you can publish a graphics project to the Web through Print Shop, you have to decode the advice given in a page-checking tool that supposedly helps you optimize the page. Unless you're part of the HMTL priesthood, you'll be lost.
Color us content
Complaints aside, Print Shop 12.0 justifies its $50 price tag. It provides 20MB of free space for your projects on ExpressIt, where you can display your work and share it with friends and family.
We also love the new Color Set Creator. Like Publisher's similar color themes, Print Shop's Color Sets helps keep your project from clashing and also lets you try different colors with a single click. Don't like the red background color on all the pages of your greeting card? Just change the Color Set to change it to aqua on every part of the card.
Home, yes; work, no
There's little chance you'll need to contact Print Shop's technical support; its help file and online help are thorough and clearly written. But if Print Shop flummoxes you, can the toll number or send e-mail queries. The phone bank offers live support only on weekdays (but never after 5 p.m. CT), and in our calls, hold times averaged about 10 minutes. E-mail answers take a day or so to arrive; our question was answered correctly within 18 hours.
We recommend Print Shop for any at-home print job, but its folksy clip art and predesigned templates don't evoke the professionalism that small businesses need, especially when it comes to newsletters, brochures, presentations, and letterhead templates. Small businesses on a budget should skip this app in favor of Publisher 2002.