When I first opened this program, I wasn't sure how I was going to review it. I traditionally use InDesign for laying out a Newsletter. Before InDesign it was PageMaker. Since I use both a Mac and a PC, I was in a quandary as to using my PC for this PC-only program. Using the best of both worlds, I booted up my Mac Pro Tower in the Vista-boot mode and decided I would try to install PagePlus X3 into my Vista partition on my Mac Pro. If it worked, I would be impressed with this program.
Lo and behold, it worked first time like a dream. Not a hiccup! It works in Windows AND Vista both. At first glance, I like what I see. I put the above picture and text-on-picture without opening the manual. So far, the manual has not been necessary.
At left is the upper Tools and the lower Attributes Tool Bar. It's amazing what you can find without looking in the manual, isn't it? The above tool bar is the topmost Standard Tool Bar on the right, the Arrange toolbar, and the View toolbar. Under that is the Context toolbar. Under that is your Styles Palette and the Palette that includes the Align, Transform, Character and Layers tools. It appears that the whole right side is called Studio Tabs. The Menu Bar of course, is the File Edit, etc.
At right, is the palette bar, which shows Pages, which shows you a Thumbnail of the pages that you are working on, ala InDesign, Quark and the old PageMaker.
What the heck, I might as well write this review in PagePlus X3 and try it out without using the manual.
On the Masthead Text above, I tried the Kerning tool I found under the Format menu bar. Works like a charm. It doesn't have quite the finesse of InDesign, but it works very well, as does the Leading, or the space between the lines of text.
When I placed the Graphics objects on the page, I needed to wrap the text around the objects. I found that under the Arrange > Wrap Setttings menu. Like any new program, you have to look around to find things. You can't keep looking in the manual. It's a matter of getting used to it.
So I wrapped the objects at .025 inches so the text just wraps around it fairly nicely. On the right side of this paragraph, is the multiple windows of Swatches, Gallery, Color, Transparency, Schemes and Line.
I have not read about it yet, but by clicking and trying things out, I've been able to do what I have to do. Macintosh people are used to getting along without manuals. It's in our genes.
Well, now that I've proved to myself that I can walk in this program without getting lost and doing a simple layout, I am impressed with the ease of use and solid feel of PagePlus. Typos have that red 'squiggly' line under it as you type. That was another little measure of confidence. I like the Spell Checker and the Proof Reader that I found. They work well. I haven't messed with the Thesaurus yet.
There's so much here to play with and I haven't even scratched the surface. PagePlus appears to be quite streamlined and efficient in what it does.
I opened up a PDF of a Newsletter I saved from InDesign and PagePlus opened the PDF with almost every bit of formatting intact. I then saved it in PagePlus's native format and I then opened it in that format and started making changes to it. Not a problem! Now that's real neat.
Browsing around in the menus I came across something called 'Logo Studio.' It appears to be a separate program, but integrated with PagePlus. I started playing with it and found this Pen graphic amongst maybe a hundred. For the header of this article, I imported a picture, added text and 'styled' the text with a metallic color and added a drop shadow with an offset, then saved it as a JPEG and added it to this column. Unbelievable that I could do all that with an add-on integrated program.
Then I came across another integrated sub-program in PagePlus. It's called 'Cutout Studio.' This appears to be a program that does a similar job to Photoshop's Extract tool which masks out undesired elements, like backgrounds, and leaves you with a clean desired image. Photoshop CS3 does a nice job with that, but how does PagePlus do?
Well, I tried it without using the manual and imported my Picture, and then extracted the background. It came out pretty neat for a first-time try (at right). Besides extracting the picture, you can also extract, feather and place the picture into another picture, or background of your choosing. (Feathered version at left.)
There's another little feature within PagePlus that you'll find exciting: You can do basic Image Editing within the program. When you import a picture, the Context Menu allows you to play with the Contrast, Brightness, Red Eye, Re-Color and Re-Sizing it and even Auti-Levels and Auto-Contrast. Wow! How much more is there to this program? Maybe I'll even read the manual after all this. I'm quite impressed for this price.
What market is SERIF trying to reach? I wonder. Printing professionals and the heavy-duty graphics pros all use InDesign and Quark. I don't think that 'PagePlus X3 Publisher Professional' quite reaches that level of sophistication, but for the price of $100 you can't go wrong. This meets the needs of the Homeowner and Small Business user who might need to do Brochures, Business Newsletters or other in-house printed matter or collateral materials.
While Macintosh users have 'Pages' to rely on, PC people probably use Microsoft Publisher for a price of around $170 or so. PagePlus X3 beats the pants off of that -- it's a pretty powerful program that I've seen so far.
I would seriously recommend this program to the casual user and for any other PC user or Mac/Vista Dual-Boot user who doesn't want to spend $600-$700 for Adobe's InDesign and Photoshop Elements package to get similar results that the casual user can get here. This is a winner!
George Engel, Naked Serviceman, Mac Guru, author, reviewer, and editor at large
Serif's new PagePlus requires a PC w/Pentium-DVD-CD Drive, XP or Vista OS (or a Mac running Vista); 256 MB RAM (more is better w/large files and graphics) Price: $99.95 ... but you can help support DTG and the Design Center by clicking here and we'll save you $10.00 off that, or 13%!
Serif also offers three other programs:
PhotoPlus X2 Digital Studio complete digital image editing
DrawPlus X2 Graphics Studio easy-to-use drawing, painting, charting, plus impressive keyframe Flash animation
WebPlus X2 Website Maker Vista certified web design for making engaging, professional-looking sites.
George Engel has been a computer guru probably longer than he will admit -- as a computer expert, he authored The Naked Serviceman book, about his journey through the history of Apple's Macintosh as owner/founder of an authorized Apple Service Center. He owned one of the first Apple II computers as well as one of the first Macintosh 128s. He hangs out with the Lakeland User Group in sunny Florida
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