Desktop publishing comes to the masses
I’ve never been into desktop publishing, for me the Internet is a much easier method of getting my point across. But, there’s no getting away from the fact that there’s a huge need for physically published materials out there.
Serif realise that too, which is why they make desktop publishing software. They also realise that not everyone out there is an experienced publisher, which is why they make it incredibly easy.
When you first open PagePlus X7 you’ll be presented with a welcome window which allows you to quickly start a new project, or open one of your existing ones.
There’s also a “learn” button which will can help you learn a bit more about the software. I found this an incredibly useful device given my limited background when it comes to packages like this. Serif have already published several instructional videos which take you from the basics all the way up to the more complex trick and tips.
As with other Serif products that I’ve looked at, I relied heavily on the videos and online knowledge base while getting to grips with the basics. But, within a few hours I was happily producing content which I would be happy to hand out as an official publication.
The user interface itself will be familiar to anyone who’s used a Serif product before, with toolbars for content generation on the left, and a variety of editing tools along the right. It’s a system that’s worked well for countless packages over the years, and this is no exception. As with other products, though, you’re definitely going to want to use PagePlus X7 on a monitor with at least a full HD resolution.
Anything less than that and you’re going to struggle for space when all of the available toolbars are expanded. That being said, if you’re serious about using a product like PagePlus then you’re probably going to have a suitable screen available, but it’s just something to be aware of.
Quite simply, there are too many features in PagePlus X7 for me to list them all here. In terms of the types of content you can produce, you’re looking at anything from posters, fliers, invitations, pamphlets, booklets, magazines, notices, etc.
To make these you can either take advantage of Serif’s included themes (more on that later) or start your publication from scratch. If you choose the latter then you get a wealth of tools to allow for images, backdrops, text boxes, spacing tools, charts and graphs.
Tying it all together are some excellent tools for the manipulation and integration of each of these aspects in to your finished article. The blending tool in particular allows you to make some incredibly professional looking pieces.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m pretty much a publishing novice, so rather than go into any more detail on the features available I’ll just direct you to Serif’s website where you can read about them in more detail.
Templates and content library
As with other products, Serif have done an excellent job of providing enough raw content and themes to get you going right away. There are over 2000 images, backgrounds and graphics available, all of which are royalty free. I found that the included graphics and themes covered a great range of design disciplines and there’s surely something here for everyone.
The themes especially caught my eye as an incredibly worthwhile and adaptable feature. Each theme contains around a dozen page templates which can be used to put together multi-page publications. The pages themselves cover title pages, memos, invoices, dialogue and galleries. Once you’ve selected a page it’s incredibly easy to move different aspects around within the page in order to create a more unique document. You also get a range of colour schemes for each theme, which look to have been carefully selected so that the different aspects of the page compliment each other.
Producing content with the themes can be an incredibly fast process, and can leave you with very professional looking results without too much effort.
At the same time, if you are looking to create a top notch publication, then you have a wealth of tools and options available to you which can help you get your project looking just right.
As an example, I migrated an existing Tech Made Easy article into a PDF document using one of PagePlus’s pre-defined themes. Generally I used the page layouts that were provided, but on each page I was able to edit the layout to meet my specific requirements. This whole process only took me about an hour, which is an incredible thing when you consider I’d never used a package like this until today. You can view the full PDF document here
While not necessarily ready to be published, that example at least shows what can be achieved with PagePlus within a very short period of time. I’ve no doubt that there are still features I’ve not uncovered and ways of doing things to make my designs look more professional.
As mentioned previously, I don’t have a great deal of experience with this type of product, so maybe I’m not qualified to provide an in depth analysis of all of the available features.
What I can do is provide an insight into how easy the product is to use for a novice. Granted, all I’ve done is use some of the available templates and my own copyright material to produce a quick example of what the software can do. But, I don’t think the results look that bad, even if I do say so myself. If I can produce content like that within a couple of hours of installing the software, then who’s to say what I’ll be able to create in a months time?
Not only that, I’ve only watched the first few videos that Serif have produced for PagePlus X7. How many of the more complex features will I make use of once I’ve viewed the rest of them? Serif really are the kings when it comes to helping new users to use their products, and PagePlus X7 is no exception.
I’ve always stayed away from packages like this because I simply didn’t have the knowledge to be able to use them effectively. With the online knowledge base and intuitive interface of PagePlus X7, I’ve had no problems jumping in and creating content.
My personal view as an amateur is that PagePlus X7 is an excellent product for those looking to get in to desktop publishing. It may not have all of the features of more expensive alternatives, but it’s definitely got enough to keep me busy.
It’s also cheaper than both Microsoft Publisher and Adobe InDesign, and in my view is worth every penny for anyone who wants to create professional looking materials for their business.