My boss wants me to get a single Mac to do our catalog layout with. I'm not familiar with Macs in the slightest. Is the hardare the same as PC? What about this new IMac I've been hearing so much about? I would need to load soup up the video and RAM.. are these easily upgradable?
Completely in the dark here, any and all advice greatly appreciated.
A good Mac for this would be a G3 266mhz or 300mhz desktop (between $1500 and $1900) with at least 64mb RAM (128 is better). You can beef up the onboard video RAM from 2mb to 6mb for about $35 and run a 20-21" monitor (ViewSonics are pretty good for about $1000) at acceptable speed and resolution, a Zip drive is needed for transferring files to the printer.
Software is probably more important than hardware when building files to send to a printer (and will cost as much as the computer). Use QuarkXpress for page layout, Adobe Illustrator or Macromedia Freehand for logo creation and vector illustration and PhotoShop for bitmap image editing (use grayscale or CMYK TIF or EPS only). Manage type with Suitcase 3.02 or ATM Deluxe. Use ONLY Type 1 fonts (preferably Adobe), don't use Truetype (don't forget to remove the Truetype fonts from the Fonts folder in the System folder).
Before you run out and spend the $4000-5000 on hardware and software talk to the techies at the print shop that will handle your catalog. They may be capable of handling PC files providing they are carefully prepared (this usually means following the software basics I outlined above, fonts are a BIG issue). That could save the cost of buying (and learning) a Mac.
MOST IMPORTANT --- Talk to the people who will output and print your catalog, if their recommendations vary by much from what I have outlined above, get a second opinion. PROPER FILE PREPARATION IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN STAYING ON BUDGET AND ON SCHEDULE!