1. Word Processing Software
If you mainly create text documents with simple designs and a few images, use a full-featured word processor such as Microsoft® Word.
2. Page Layout Software
If your documents include complex designs or lots of images, you’ll want a page layout program such as Adobe® InDesign®, especially if you want to print your materials commercially. Sure, you could use Word to design your brochure, but a page layout program will give you much greater flexibility. Designing with a word processor can be very frustrating! A page layout program actually makes it easier to create your layout, once you become familiar with the software. Note: If you’re designing for commercial printing, make sure you use CMYK colors rather than RGB.
3. Drawing Software
If you need to create logos or illustrations, or edit clip art, you may need a drawing program such as Adobe® Illustrator® or CorelDRAW®. These programs are used for drawing lines and shapes, and for creating artistic text effects. If your document has more than a couple of paragraphs of text, use InDesign to combine the text with the images instead of doing the layout in the drawing software. You will become very frustrated if you try to do a complex page layout in a drawing program such as Illustrator.
4. Photo Editing Software
If you plan to edit or scan photos or other raster images for print or web, you will need a photo editing program. Adobe® Photoshop® is the top dog in its field, but there are lots of other programs that cost a lot less and are probably simpler. If you’re planning to print commercially, make sure your images are saved as CMYK colors, not RGB. Also make sure you’re saving your images at the proper resolution for the task: 72 ppi for web and 300 ppi for print.