DOS Days

Ventura Software

Ventura Publisher

Ventura Publisher was the first popular desktop publishing package for the IBM PC. It ran under the GEM extension for DOS by Digital Research, which was an early graphical windowing environment. The GEM "run-time" was included with Ventura Publisher - it didn't have to be purchased separately.

First released in 1986, it was developed by Ventura Software, a small company founded by John Meyer, Don Heiskel and Lee Jay Lorenzen. It was distributed by Xerox and others from its first shipment until the source code was eventually sold to Xerox themselves in 1989. Written in assembly language, it was restricted to only run in the first 640 KB of RAM. To allow it to use more would require the purchase of the "Professional Extension", which gave access to extended memory among other features.

The original Ventura Software ceased operations in February 1990, and a new Ventura Software Inc. was formed at that time as an affiliated company of Xerox. The original developers continued on at the Xerox-owned company, releasing Version 2.0 in mid-1990. This had a retail price tag of $700, with the Professional Extension adding a further $500.


They later released Ventura v3.0 Gold in late 1990. Besides running under DOS/GEM, it also ran on Windows (pre version 3.0), Mac, and OS/2. Following this release, the original developers no longer worked on subsequent versions.

Version 4.0 was released in 1991.

The last version released by Ventura Software Inc. was Version 4.1.1 in 1993.

Ventura Publisher had some text editing and line drawing capabilities of its own, but it was designed to interface with a wide variety of word processing and graphics programs rather than to supplant them. To that end, text was stored in, loaded from, and saved back to word processor files in the native formats of a variety of word processors, including WordPerfect, Wordstar, and early versions of Microsoft Word, rather than being incorporated into the chapter files. This allowed users to continue using their favorite word processors for major text changes, spelling checks, and so forth. Paragraphs other than default body text were tagged with descriptive tagnames that were entirely user-defined, and characters and attributes that have no native equivalent in a given word processor were represented with standardized sequences of characters. When working with the files outside of Ventura Publisher, these paragraph tags and special character and attribute codes could be freely changed, the same as any other text. These tags looked very much like HTML tags.

Ventura Publisher was the first major typesetting program to incorporate the concept of an implicit "underlying page" frame, and one of the first to incorporate a strong "style sheet" concept. It produced documents with a high degree of internal consistency, unless specifically overridden by the user. Its concepts of free-flowing text, paragraph tagging, and codes for attributes and special characters anticipated similar concepts inherent in HTML and XML. Likewise, its concept of "publication" files that tie together "chapter" files gave it the ability to handle documents hundreds (or even thousands) of pages in length as easily as a four-page newsletter.

The major strengths of the original DOS/GEM edition of Ventura Publisher were:

  • Its ability to run, with reasonable response times, on a wide range of hardware (including 8086 and 80286-based computers)
  • Its ability to produce, by default, documents with a high degree of internal consistency
  • Its automatic re-export of text to word-processor-native formats
  • Its ability to print to a wide variety of devices, including PostScript, PCL, and InterPress laser printers and imagesetters, as well as certain popular dot-matrix printers.

The application was acquired by Corel in 1993. It was repackaged and soon released as Corel Ventura 4.2 in December that year without any major change in the application, other than to drop all support for platforms other than Microsoft Windows. This version included both Publisher and Database Publisher products along with extensive font, photo, and clip-art libraries. It sold at a list price of $249. Coming on CD-ROM, it included over 100 photos. Corel Ventura included support for Adobe Acrobat, allowing you to create elaborate electronic documents and generate bookmarks and hypertext links. It also came with Corel Separator for colour pre-press operations and Ventura Scan for scanner support. For existing Ventura Publisher owners, you could upgrade for $99, as could anyone with a registered version of CorelDRAW.

The first real Corel version was Version 5.0, released in 1994, and made fundamental changes to both user interface and document structure. Because of this, and because of escalating requirements of the various Corel versions, the original DOS/GEM edition still has a small number of die-hard users.

The application was rewritten for the Win32 platform and was released in 1996, labeled Corel Ventura 7 (instead of 6) so that it would match the version number of CorelDRAW.

Corel Ventura 8 was released in 1998.

The latest version (as of October 2016) is Corel Ventura 10 (2002), this version runs in Windows 10 (x86/64) with compatibility mode (w2k) and copy "mfc42.dll" in programs corel folder (for 64 bit Windows). Also run over linux ubuntu 16.04 / wine, inclusive in live USB mode.

As an application with strengths in more structured documents, its main competitors are FrameMaker, InDesign and QuarkXPress.