Serif PagePlus X2 Review - Top Notch Desktop Publishing Tool
Serif’s PagePlus has some history behind it. Wikipedia says the initial release in 1991 was “the first commercial sub-£100 desktop publishing program (DTP) for Windows”. The latest release, PagePlus X2, at $129.99, is an even better bargain, one of the first non-Microsoft applications to be awarded the full “Certified for Windows Vista” logo.
You’ll see a decidedly British flavor in the written text; it’s not ‘color’, it’s ‘colour’. If you like British accents and wit as I do, you’ll get a treat when you call its tech support (and you may very well need to if you run into some routine installation issues as I did). Get beyond those issues, however, and you’ll love Serif PagePlus X2.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
For $129.99, you certainly will get your money’s worth with Serif PagePlus X2.
Installation & Setup (1 out of 5)
There’s a downloadable trial version of Serif PagePlus X2 that you should start with. After purchasing it, you can then use the option to download the files to get up and running as you wait for the discs in the mail.
The downloads are two large files:
- Main setup file - 556 MB.
- Resource disc - 230 MB (wait for the disc if you’re installing on a Vista system).
The Resource CD installs extra components into the main program. For example, you will have extra wizards, fills, colour schemes, fonts and tutorials.
When installing in Vista you should be in Administrator mode.
Installation issues with PagePlus X2 could force you into calling tech support as I had to do. They’re available during normal workdays and working hours, so don’t start an installation on a Friday night unless you’re a techie.
One of my personal criteria items for good software is that the installation occurs with no issues and certainly no need for special IT support. When installing PagePlus X2 on my XP system, I got a message about files being changed in the background, with advice to let the processes finish and try again after rebooting. After a few reboots and still seeing the same thing, I gave it the go-ahead to do the install, which finished fine.
Installing the Resource CD setup on my XP SP2 system ran into the same issue, but didn’t provide an option to ignore the message. That was on a Friday night when I started calling tech support. After deleting a registry key, the installations finished.
User Interface (5 out of 5)
Older apps and versions of publishing software were oriented around the world of printing on paper. Today’s software retains the tradition but adds the dimension of publishing to a website. The main menu and work areas look the same from a distance, but there are many subtle and not-so-subtle differences.
There’s a toggle switch at the bottom of the File menu to flip back and forth between features appropriate for Publishing to the Web and Publishing on paper.
PagePlus X2 provides a graphical layout workspace. Drag and drop image files onto it or copy/paste them from a file manager. That meets my expectations for Windows-based apps. You’d be amazed how many apps don’t support such features like that.
One of the tools included is a Resource Manager. If your imported files come from many drives and folders, this lets you easily see what you’ve used in your complete publication or on any page, including fonts.
The working environment has the look and feel of modern software, with a large work space at the left and various palettes at the right. Collapse or dock any palette you don’t need for the session.
Templates and wizards in today’s software have evolved considerably over the years. You’ll often find things much easier by starting a new project with one.
Save your work at any time to a Page Plus Publication file with a file extension of .ppp. If Page Plus is closed, double click on a .ppp file in your file manager and Page Plus X2 quickly opens with the publication project ready to continue working with.
You can have a number of publication project files open at the same time. The name of each is displayed on its working window.
For movie makers, the png file format is fully supported, so images with transparency/translucency can be saved and used in video projects.
As with any software package with tons of features, it can be confusing until you’ve ramped up the learning curve a bit and feel comfortable with the basics. There’s a Publish as PDF choice in the paper world, and a Publish Site in the website environment. But you might want to put your PDF file online or print your website pages on paper. Try the toggle if there’s something you want to do but don’t see the feature. It might be in the other view.
Dragging a ppp project file onto the desktop icon for PagePlus X2 doesn’t open the app. It’s a minor item as double-clicking the ppp file is easier than finding the icon to drag it onto. It’s just one of my routine user interface checks.
Product Features (5 out of 5)
Options for design work like layouts, object designs, placements, surface textures and lighting, are infinite.
The working environment is very comfortable and intuitive for anyone who has used any version of publishing apps such as Lotus Freelance Graphics, Microsoft Publisher, or other page layout software.
Each page of a document can have many layers, and each layer can have many objects. Click on any object in a layer to work on it. Open, edit, and save pdf files with text or slide-show pictures. Produce or edit website pages, simple ones but still effective.
Nothing is more fun for me in the graphics arena than opening a picture from your library, right-clicking on it, selecting the Instant 3D option, and flipping it around. Any two dimensional object becomes 3D in a split-second.
Change the direction of the light source, apply effects such as drop shadows, patterns, and changes to opacity/transparency levels.
The included tutorials provide detailed instructions for creating projects such as scrapbooks, business cards, newsletters, greeting cards and others.
Color Management is important when publishing to paper or to the web. Load one of the dozen color palettes or change any of the colors to your taste.
Filters and more filters are used to enhance your images and publications. The features are in PagePlus X2 in spades.
Performance (5 out of 5)
Little things count a lot when you do them repetitiously. I’m always impressed when software uses an “incremental locator” in places such as the font list, combined with a sample showing you what the font looks like. By incremental locator I mean going to the font selection field, typing in the letter ‘v’, then an ‘e’, then ‘r’ and you’re at Verdana. You don’t need to scroll through the alphabet of fonts to get to one you know.
Another little, but important, item is remembering the last folder you opened an image from so you don’t need to drill down to it over and over.
Create images or improvise from those in your library. Your only limitation will be your creative juices. PagePlus X2 will facilitate whatever you want to do. It’s like the feel of a peppy and fun sports car. You’re the driver and all the features are there to support you. Beyond being there, the performance behind them is something you can feel and appreciate, even if you can’t define it.
The Gallery of styles and choices are plentiful.
The ability to simply click on any object on any layer and get instant response is something you’ll learn to love.
Your computer’s memory usage will build up as you insert pictures and have other apps open such as email and instant messaging. You’ll want a GB of RAM or more to avoid hitting slow spots.
Help & Support (4 out of 5)
Forums, email, online info, built-in help files are all there:
- Phone Support: during normal Mon-Fri business hours.
- Online support: https://www.serif.com/support/
- Knowledge Base; with over 500 answers to frequently asked questions.
- Newsgroups: How’s that for timing? After about 15,000 posts to the SerifPagePlus newsgroup, I register just in time to see the mid-Sept 2007 post announcing the newsgroups being closed. Serif suggests users go to the forums which are more active.
- Forums are open to those who create an account at https://www.serif.com:80/forums.asp
- Email: [email protected]
Updates are online for downloading.
I like how Serif sums up PagePLus X2 on its website:
“Serif is the world’s leading independent publisher of desktop publishing, design and graphics software with an award-winning range and a reputation for making professional effects and publishing capabilities accessible to ordinary PC users.”
I’m one of those ‘ordinary PC users’ who first tried PagePlus for this review. By now you know that I think the software is tops. With an almost 20 year history, a solid company behind it, and PagePlus X2 listed at a reasonable price, there are lots of reasons to buy this product.
Freelance Graphics, Microsoff Publisher, Quark, Corel, Adobe