Small businesses face an eternal dilemma – you want to look as professional as the big boys but your pockets aren’t quite so deep. Consequently when it comes to desktop publishing (DTP) my advice would be to find your inner Goldilocks.
You could decide to splash out on top-end products such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress. For around £700 you will get professional quality software that produces stunning results – just as soon as you’ve taken your accelerated 6 month rocket science orientation course at NASA to get to grips with the basics.
Or you could make do with basic options. Businesses using Microsoft Office already have Word. Word 2010 has various improvements that develop its DTP potential, such as fancier formatting functions for text, better graphics options and themes. But these remain add-ons for what is essentially just a word processing program and other basic DTP packages can be equally limited.
Then there’s the middle of the market. Microsoft’s dominance means its Publisher software tends to spring to mind, but those in the know unfailingly recommend another product that consistently outperforms others in this range: Serif’s PagePlus. Let me make it clear I have no connection with Serif, but I warmly recommend this excellent program which produces big-budget professional results at just £60 currently on Amazon (some £35 cheaper than Publisher). Combine this with the fact that it’s relatively easy to learn and there’s only one conclusion.
Professional Desktop Publishing – The Easy Way
Okay, I’m not going to over-sell this program! You need to invest a certain amount of time to become proficient with PagePlus, but with any program that offers so much possibility that’s inevitable. It isn’t difficult to master, though.
The layout is neat. At the top are textual editing controls that are very familiar to anyone using Word – there are simply many more options! Down the left are more specialised DTP functions for creating effects, on the right are colour and style controls and at the bottom is the media centre, with galleries of easily accessible images. What’s more, with a single click you can dispose of each of the control areas if you’re not using them.
Where Serif excels is in helping you get to grips with its software. The program has the usual help files, but Serif also includes more user-friendly tutorials as well as links to the Serif site with excellent how-to videos that quickly get you up and running.
In addition, Serif has its own forums brimming with helpful people and its own staff. You can take a look here. Any problems or questions and within hours you will have many people coming to assist you – that’s if an initial search of the forum hadn’t already provided an answer.
PagePlus X5 – The Latest Version
Those familiar with PagePlus know it has a powerful range of DTP tools for creating anything from business cards and stationery to newsletters and brochures. It would be tedious, indeed nigh-on impossible to list them all here, so take a look at the list on Serif. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the package has sophisticated image editing and custom graphics functions. This in theory eliminates the need for additional programs to generate these effects, but for the very best results I also purchased Serif’s PhotoPlus, which has far more sophisticated image tools. DrawPlus is also available for graphics.
The newest PagePlus has a number of improvements:
- Ease of Use. New selection features such as hover and lasso make working with your document easier. Plus master pages are now easier to edit.
- Publication. PagePlus has always been superior to Publisher in terms of producing documents that can be printed professionally. Improved PDF export now takes this further, meaning you should be able to take your publication to any commercial print shop. In addition, improved options now make printing from your own printer easier too.
- Open Type font features are now supported, meaning you can introduce fancy textual effects such as swashes and ornaments.
- Word compatibility. If you’ve produced something in Word – even the newest 2010 version – everything can be easily transferred into PagePlus.
You can create professional quality documents of all types from scratch, but PagePlus has now significantly built up its range of ready-to-go templates. 800 themed layouts are available, with even more online. You can also purchase a variety of industry-specific templates for use with your business.
Personally I find the templates a little too specific in most cases and it’s perhaps not many businesses that would want to use them ‘out of the box’. Nevertheless, they are all fully editable and can provide a useful and time-saving starting point for your projects.
Small Business – Big Profile
For office-based publication you simply won’t find better than PagePlus and it continues to amaze me that this program doesn’t have broader recognition. Such is the default power of Microsoft branding, perhaps.
If you want professional results for a fraction of the price, this is the package for you. PagePlus X5 is the business if you’re a small company – cheap and easy to use, it really is just right and won’t leave you like a bear with a sore head.