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A DTP application combining ease of use with high end features, to cater for both DTP beginners and experts. PagePlus 8 includes a raft of tools and special effects not to be found elsewhere.

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      18.02.2003 18:25
      Very helpful



      PagePlus is probably the most famous product from Serif, although you wouldn't be alone if you've never heard of it. It's sold over a million copies, but is almost certainly less used than it's more famous, yet less powerful rival, Microsoft Publisher. In terms of professional features, PagePlus undisputedly tramples Publisher. And don't just take my word for it, many magazine reviews will back this up (some of these are on Serif's website at http://www.serif.com/company/reviews/index.asp#pp ). It's won countless rewards and is also relatively cheap, considering the features you get. If you give the Serif sales line a call on (0800) 376-7070 they'll probably offer it to you for much less than the high street shops. You won't get a box, but you shouldn't care as you'll save yourself a packet. PagePlus is a DeskTop Publishing (DTP) application, which allows you to easily create designs with complicated layouts, such as greetings cards, business cards, calendars, flyers, posters and even web sites. It includes hundreds of professionally produced 'wizards' on the accompanying Design CD, which will automatically create a document using your details. You only have to add text and change the colours if you like and you're done. Alternatively, for that personal touch you can tweak everything on the page as if you had created it yourself, adding and removing elements with ease. Who is it for? PagePlus' pricing puts it within reach of the majority of home users, although it's feature set would have you believe it's a professional application. The program is very cleverly designed so that the advanced features don't get in the way of what the basic user will need. Colour separations, for example are tabbed off into the print dialogue, so if you don't know what they are, you never need to see them. Still, the basic screen can seem rather cramped, as there are useful icons on a
      ll four sides of the screen. Basically, if you want to add something to the page, click something on the left. If you want to edit it, use the tabs on the right or drag a slider on the floating 'changebar'. For file options click a button on the top of the screen, and to move through pages of the document, use the navigation on the bottom. That's rather over-simplified, but I found the screen layout very intuitive. It's almost like having everything you need spread out round your desk - really easy to lay your hands on anything you need, but any newcomers will moan about the untidy desk. I have used PagePlus since I was a complete DTP novice (version 3 of PagePlus!), and found it straightforward enough to use then. Now I like to use the more advanced features, I find it able to perform those too. It seems ideal for the home user, with plenty of room to grow, or for the money-conscious professional. I doubt it can provide all the features of something like Quark XPress or Adobe InDesign, but it stands well above it's competitors in this price range. I have used Microsoft Publisher briefly and from what I saw, PagePlus leaves it struggling at the starting line. Using the program As a DTP program, everything in PagePlus goes into a frame. You drop a frame onto the page to write text into, and graphics and special 'artistic text' will go into their own frame. PagePlus then lets you shift these frames round in real-time, updating the page layout as you drag a frame around. This has the advantage over a word processor that more advanced effects can be achieved with ease. You can play around with transparency and background patterns (optionally using images for either), and add special effects such as glows and drop shadows to frames, to give your document an individual touch. If you add text as 'artistic text', you're then able to flip, stretch, squash and rotate it to your heart's content. An
      d you can still go back and change the original text if you like. The range of options here is pretty comprehensive - I've never found anything I've wanted from the program that it can't do. It's the flexibility that makes this program stand out - you can pick a colour scheme at any time for example, changing your document from moody greys to bright colours right up until you print (it's a little late to change it after you print!). If your artistic text looks a bit small, it's not a problem - just drag the sizing corner out until it looks right, or fine-tune spacing and other things with the changebar. I find it very intuitive, almost like having a collection of stretchy squares of paper on a table, ready to be slotted into position to make a page. When creating blocks of text, PagePlus allows you to 'wrap' them around objects, as you would expect. In addition, you can place text in frames of different shapes - if you've always wanted to fit some text into a circle, now you can! And on the subject of fitting, PagePlus can 'auto fit' text to any size frame, adjusting the text size and spacing for the best effect. This is useful in a magazine-style article where you may want the text to flow right up the end of the page. Eventually, you will probably want to print your document, and PagePlus has this well covered too. It can organise your pages into a booklet ready for folding, resize pages, print thumbnails, and spread your document out over many pages, like a banner. For professional printing, features such as the ability to produce colour separations and add prepress information like crop marks, colour bars and registration targets will be invaluable It makes web sites too? PagePlus has traditionally been aimed at making paper based publications and more recently it has been able to save anything as a web page. The functionality goes further than this, however, by providing a special &
      #39;web publishing' mode allowing you to place webby things such as hyperlinks, image rollovers and Javascript on the page. PagePlus has a comprehensive selection of web page wizards on the Design CD, any you could have a basic website up and running within a few hours. It can even upload the website to your web space on the internet (you almost certainly have some web space if you've got internet access). PagePlus will intelligently compose the pages of your site using the latest web standards so the file sizes aren't huge. Compared to MS Word, for example, the pages it produces are very tidy. Of course, if you can write web pages by hand you can archive more efficient results, but PagePlus' drag-and-drop approach will save a lot of time. Creating a web page in PagePlus really is no more difficult than creating a poster or door-hanger. Is there anything wrong with the program? The only thing I think PagePlus is lacking is support for alternative file formats. You can save documents as images (JPEG etc), but there are no options to export to files readable in rival DTP programs. However, the latest versions of PagePlus can also save to PDF, which is almost the standard way of exchanging documents over the web. Unfortunately, I do not have the PDF edition, but I believe that all new copies of PagePlus 8 sold now include PDF functionality, allowing you to add hyperlinks to PDF documents and configure the compression to your requirements. Also, once you're a registered Serif customer, you'll get sent 'special' offers by post and e-mail. Some of these are pretty useless (see my op on Serif in general for more info). You can opt out of these mailings, but you'll miss out on fantastic upgrade offers on their software and gadgets if you do. Other than that, there's really nothing more I could want from the program. It has all the features I could need, it's fast, it very rarely crashes
      (the latest patch fixes this) and is cheap to keep current as the latest versions are heavily discounted for previous customers. PagePlus even has a fantastic user manual (yes, they do still exist). It leaves the boring stuff to the help system in the program, and gets you started with a tutorial and advice on printing. And you can download it should the goldfish eat your paper copy. I'm still not sure... Serif offers free downloads of old software at http://www.freeserifsoftware.com , so you can try it out for yourself. If you decide to upgrade to the latest version, you can get hundreds of wizards to make creating documents much quicker. Personally, I tend to start from a blank page, but the wizards are still a good source of inspiration, and the latest versions are much slicker (they re-engineered the program from scratch at version 7, I believe) 03/01/04 EDIT: I've just upgraded to PagePlus 9, and am suitably amazed by the improvements. It's had a gorgeous new facelift and now makes PDF files (accepted by professional printers - 'tis true, I've done it). Along with more professional features like text along a path and 3D text, you'd be mad to buy anything else. I must go now, I'm busy making a Serif shrine... Overall, this is a fantastic package. I've used it to create posters for various events, numerous cards, and even a few magazines. The posters, incidentally, got stolen and pinned on walls as a souvenir - it's possible to make things indistinguishable from what a design agency would make. If you can think it, the chances are that PagePlus can make it.


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