Before I jump into this session I want to encourage you to help those currently suffering around the world in the way that suits you best. Japan, Haiti, the American southern states have been hit hard. The design community has already done a lot. Let's keep it up!
In my last post I made the word 'should' italic in the first paragraph. I have a lot of control writing and editing as most bloggers do. Recently I happened to check my blog during lunch at work. All of the text appeared in bold italics! I was reminded of two things: text appearance is driven by available fonts on a reader's computer as well as the operating system. A good reminder that a reader may not see what you meant them to see.
There are ways to maintain a consistent look. CSS or Cascading Style Sheets, are used in almost every corporate web site. Web fonts, a topic I plan to write about, allows web designers to specify fonts in the same way print designers do (with some limitations).
The major layout programs Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress recently announced upgrades. You can read about Quark XPress 9 features here. Adobe InDesign CS 5.5 information can be found here. You can decide whether it makes sense to upgrade if you use these programs (each offers so many features one can't call them 'page layout' programs anymore). I love both programs and can't imagine doing what I do professionally without them.
There are other programs designers use. On Windows, there is Microsoft Publisher. (Full disclosure: I have not used this program. All the design work I perform is on a Mac platform.) It does not enjoy a great reputation with most professional designers, gleaned from comments I've read. That said, it may be a great option for you. See the details on Publisher 2010 here. Corel is a major player after Adobe's FrameMaker and InDesign programs. Though Corel's latest offering gives users a lot of image editing power and output options, it also gives users templates to create print and web layouts. An overview can be found here.
Designers often complain about the costs to purchase and upgrade the biggies. But there are low-cost and free alternatives (legal). Scribus is a free, open source program that has a good reputation for document creation and output. It's worth your time and a bit of HD space to check it out. Details here.
A program that doesn't get much attention but is starting to make some noise in the creative community is Pages. The successor to Claris and AppleWorks has many features designers need and, starting with Pages 9, output includes epub and iPad. One issue: Pages embeds media into its pages. If a designer wants to tweak the media file, media placeholders have to be created first. Read the discussion here. Mac users can purchase Pages 9 in the App Store for $20.
Options in page design are out there. How you use the them in design business/pleasure is up to you!