Peachpit Press Visual Quickstarts

2003 Best Anyone involved in the world of visual communications or graphic design requires the ability to get answers quickly. This goes for both the occasional publisher as well as the hardened professional. You need to know how to do this or that in one software package or another and you need to know now. You don't necessarily need a lot of theory and illustrative prose -- you need the facts and the details now.
      For years I've touted the true value found in Peachpit's inexpensive Visual Quickstart Guides. They're organized by both program dynamics and user tasks, always providing easy, fast, step-by-step instructions for what you need to do. They're not strong on creative brainstorming or seldom used 'wow' techniques. They don't spin the yarn of complicated one-time special effects you come to expect from such books as the "Inside" series from New Riders or Peachpit's high-level "WOW" books.
      These authors have managed to provide you with the quintessential facts of each program -- presented with the key menus, dialogs and screens for immediate and memorable techniques. This is why these books are required for my "Digital Graphics" courses at James Madison University as both text book and shop manual.

Peachpit Visual Quickstarts

Photoshop

Authors Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas are my copilots in teaching Photoshop. I spend nearly half of a semester introducing my students to Photoshop. Over the past five years, I've required this book through version 5, 6 and 7. Twice a week we spend nearly three hours in the computer lab on specific Photoshop training and with each in-class tutorial there are Photoshop VQG passages reinforcing the lessons. Later, as the students progress into higher levels they know they can always return to this book as a refresher to the most important functions in Photoshop.
      This is competent Photoshop instruction for classrooms, homes, and offices with a multitude of screen shots -- all in a task-based format that constantly reminds you of where you are in the program and what you're trying to accomplish. If you use Photoshop, for just fourteen bucks how can you resist Photoshop Visual QuickStart Guide for Windows & Macintosh

Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator While I dearly love Sharron Steuer's "illustrator WOW" book, and incourage my students to purchase it to explode into professional levels using Illustrator it still stand firmly by Elaine Weinmann, Peter Lourekas' Visual QuickStart Guide for basic training.
      Vector-based drawing is not easy. Unfortunately Adobe has crammed so much into this program over the years it's no longer the elegant drawing program it started out as. It's no longer a simple matter of understanding the pen tool and the modifications of the vector objects it creates. The program is confusing and daunting -- believe me, I've watched thousands of beginners as they struggle to accomplish even the simplest of illustrations.
      The VQG's clearly marked locators to all the features of Photoshop, a highly readable, visual format makes this affordable book the standard text in my classes as well as in many design schools around the world. Yes, I turn to Sharron's "Zen of the Pen" to train my students in the use of the pen. But for task-related passages in all our lessons they bookmark the assigned pages in the Illustrator Visual QuickStart Guide for Windows and Macintosh

QuarkXPress

Quark XPressI begin my Quark XPress class with "Quark XPress is big, it's mean, and it doesn't like you." That's the premise we begin our training on -- which about sums up the personality of XPress. But when it comes to page-layout design, QuarkXPresss is the undisputed standard. So, if you plan to get it commercially printed, you simply have to have a working knowledge of Quark.
      The Visual QuickStart format offers a measure of relief, thank goodness. And Elaine and Peter make it easy to learn Quark's essential tools and features. We don't necessarily follow the book's step-by-step directions in our classes. We really don't have the luxury of doing that because of the short semester. Where the book really works is in the reinforcement of the lessons through short, clear task-oriented tutorials with helpful screenshots.
      Best of all however is once you have a solid grounding in the basics of Quark, you can rely on the VQG to move you into the more advanced operations -- all the way to professional levels. Yes, if you're going to get it published in Quark, then you're going to need the QuarkXPress Visual Quickstart Guide for Windows and Macintosh

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RETURN TO: Best Books for 2003, or the Design Bookshelf

See Related: in the Photoshop Department, and under Graphics. Some additional cross references may also be found in the Web Design department.

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