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What Does a DTP Operator Do?

M. Kayo
M. Kayo

A desk top publishing (DPT) operator is a person with a great deal of experience in the many different aspects of desktop publishing. A DTP operator generally enters data or text into a computer and prepares the materials to be published. He or she needs a working knowledge of computers and all associated equipment or software. An eye for editing the different elements used in published materials is also a plus. Most people working as DTP operators have a good sense of design, an eye for detail, and artistic flair.

Preparing published materials for press, online appearance or any other medium is the basic job of a DTP operator, so an extensive knowledge of the capacities of various types of desktop publishing software is essential to the job. Some DTP operators have been trained to enter data quickly, but others have learned administrative and clerical procedures like word processing, transcription, form design, and file management. A DTP operator must marshal all of his or her skills in order to take a publishing project from concept to completion.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

A DTP operator must also have a working knowledge of the many types of computer software that are used to design and publish documents. Knowledge of the operation, maintenance, and repair of scanners, printers, or any other devices used in the desktop publishing process would also be a plus. Moreover, many DTP operators have developed the ability to envision how something will look if it is moved or all of its parts are rearranged — a very helpful skill when various documents on a desktop computer.

A working knowledge of how to edit graphics, photos, and diagrams for materials to be published, online or printed is also necessary for a DTP operator. The better operators have also developed some skills like the ability to detect even small color variations, to pick appropriate fonts and to understand the elements of a good design. A number of DTP operators have even trained themselves to create their own illustrations. Many of these finer sensibilities are gained only through years of working experience in desktop publishing.

Discussion Comments


Interestingly, a lot of these jobs are being handled by freelancers as publications struggle to cut costs wherever they can. Any reporter worried about job security (and which ones are not these days?) would do well to learn about desktop publishing. Even if a newspaper lays off a reporter, one that can both write articles and layout publications has marketable skills that are valuable for businesses looking for freelancers.

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      Woman doing a handstand with a computer