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Typesetting involves the presentation of textual material in an aesthetic form on paper or some other media. Before the development of such late 20th century innovations as dot matrix and ink jet printers, printed material was produced in print shops.

In spite of centuries of innovation, the principle of printing remains the same: either a particular part of the page is marked with ink, or it is not. This has remained true at the microscopic level even for half-tone and four-colour printing. Typesetting is the technology of deciding which parts of the paper should be marked, and printing is the technology of making the marks. However, the two are not rigidly separated: for example, ink flows during the printing process, and type design has to take into account the dynamics of ink on paper.

With early printing presses, individual letters and characters were on blocks (usually of metal, sometimes of wood, which would be assembled for each page.

The setting of individual letters was rendered obsolete by hot-metal setting machines such as the Linotype machine.

note: deal with offset litho, production of a flong, etc. etc. here

The computer era

Computers are useful in automatically typesetting documents.

Character-by-character computer-aided photosetting replaced systems such as Linotype in the 1980s, and was in turn rapidly rendered obsolete by modern systems which employ a raster image processor to render an entire page to a single high-resolution bit-image which is then photoset.

The TeX system is a widespread and powerful automatic typesetter.

See also: printing, printing press, typography, typeface, ligature, dingbat, justification (typesetting)

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