When it comes to desktop publishing, best does not always mean right. Certain tasks require certain tools. You don't want to buy an expensive desktop publishing program only to discover it is more than you need, or worse, not what you need at all, especially if you're on a tight budget. In the first in this series on Top Desktop Publishing Tools, we preview the best page layout programs for small businesses.
In many ways, the term page layout is synonymous with the term desktop publishing, and in fact, the two are often used interchangeably, which can lead to confusion. In short, page layout refers to the integration--on page, paper, or website--of text, images, and other elements. It is one of the first steps you need to take to create publications such as brochures, newsletters, business cards, and so on.
There are many page layout programs that are made for particular segments of the desktop publishing world, such as for professional page layout or for home desktop publishing. For small business, there are three to consider (in alpha order): Adobe PageMaker, Microsoft Office Publisher, and Serif PagePlus.
Adobe PageMaker 7 (Price: $499 U.S.)
Adobe's PageMaker (http://www.adobe.com/products/pagemaker/) is a pricey page layout program and not as easy to use as Publisher (though for those already familiar with Adobe products, the interface may present less of a challenge). It is aimed at the non-designer, offering plenty of templates to use, and perhaps as a nod to Adobe Acrobat, makes converting documents to PDF a snap. But its price is prohibitive when compared to Publisher or PagePlus, or even the extra investment needed to "upgrade" to a pro layout program like Quark. Still, if you've been happy with other Adobe products, have time to spend learning the interface, and want a fast and easy way to convert your docs to PDF files, this program may be right for you.
Microsoft Publisher 2007 (Price: $169 U.S.)
If you lack 'designer' credentials, Microsoft Publisher (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/publisher/default.aspx) is a great bet. Its bevy of templates help you create a professional appearance with little design experience. For an in-depth look at Publisher's features, check out fellow DTP channel writer Laura Rooke's review here: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/publishing/reviews/570.aspx. Bottom line, Publisher's nice price gets you professional-looking newsletters, brochures, flyers, and more.
Serif PagePlus X3 (Price: $99 U.S.)
Serif PagePlus (http://www.serif.com/pageplus/pageplusx3/) is the least expensive of the three and in its just-released X3 version boasts an easier to use page layout program than any of the competiton. You can check out a great review of PagePlus on the Bright Hub site here: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/publishing/reviews/703.aspx. If you're interested in price and ease of use, check out Serif PagePlus X3.
If you're part of a small outfit, there's no need to spend your hard-earned dollars on high-end page layout programs like Quark or Indesign -- choose from one of these three programs and it will more than adequately and professionally cover the desktop publishing tasks on your plate.
The next article will check out the best in professional-level page layout software - part 2.