Serif PagePlus 11 review
Some software is a pleasure to use, and some a pleasure to learn – PagePlus has the distinction of being both. InDesign may rule the roost in the majority of publishing houses these days, but this is desktop publishing for the rest of us – whether that be individuals or businesses. Bundled with a resource CD packed with tutorials, fonts and over 1,000 templates for the under-resourced beginner, it’s welcoming from the start, with Adobe-like palettes and Microsoft-style toolbars tailored to the active content. These two features alone should draw in the rookie designers.
It’s more than just look and feel, though, as the smart thinking continues under the hood. Each document style is fully illustrated, so you’ll know what you’re getting even if you don’t understand the description. Tri-fold fliers, for example, are highly versatile but hard to work out in your head, so PagePlus splits each of the outer panels into ‘Front’, ‘Inside Leaf’ and ‘Back’ pages, and groups the inner panels together as a landscape A4 page. Suddenly it all makes sense – particularly when combined with the thumbnails, which dynamically resize and show your page contents, outsmarting the empty outlines of InDesign’s Pages palette.
The workspace is fully layer-based, and each layer can be turned off and on at will. This allows you to intelligently organise images, fills and text on different layers, and even specify that some should never be sent to print, allowing you to put guides or a tracing image on a layer that will only ever exist onscreen. On a more practical level, layers are an invaluable tool for anyone publishing in more than one language, as they allow you to lay out each one on separate layers of a single file. When it comes to printing or sending to PDF, you simply switch on and off the language layers in sequence and do one run for each. The 12 language dictionaries should help here, too.
Serif sells PagePlus on the back of its PDF import tools, which are good, but not excellent. We produced a two-page brochure using InDesign, incorporating EPS files, a range of standard Windows fonts and solid background colours, and output it as a high-quality, print-ready file. PagePlus opened it fine, but our EPS files had been split apart so that the individual elements could be dragged out of place – although we could quickly regroup them – and rendered a blue box (R:0 G:123 B:154) as grey (R:244 G:245 B:245). It also put hard returns at the end of each line of text. But before you write it off on this account, bear in mind that even InDesign, from the inventors of the PDF format, doesn’t let you edit an imported PDF beyond switching on and off the imported layers and selecting which pages it should use.
We could find no fault in PagePlus 11’s typography tools. The standard textbox is supplemented by what Serif calls Artistic Text, a fully featured text engine in which the copy is locked to the boundaries of the frame in which it’s placed, so that resizing the frame also resizes the text to fit.
Eight filters, ranging from simple drop shadows to complex bump-mapping, can be applied to all text blocks – even plain ones – without converting them into curves or losing the ability to edit the content at a later point. Indeed, characters are only ever vectored if you want to warp them. As you’d only do this to achieve a specific artistic effect on completed text, this is hardly a limitation.
It will import 25 different image types, including Photoshop files, although if these use layers then you’ll have to ensure they’re accompanied by a composite. Bizarrely, the error message that appears when you don’t is rendered on the page itself, rather than a dialog box, and is so small we had to zoom to 1,000 per cent before we could read it.