Serif PagePlus – indesign for the masses

47. pageplus.jpgFor someone who wants to do a simple design task… make a tennis club newsletter, advertise yoghurts, or create birthday invitations – spending £684 on Adobe Indesign for is out of the question.

Kids will always download illegal copies of Adobe software but for someone who doesn’t want to break the law – or the bank either, Serif products are a good compromise. Serif is a small British company who are niggling Adobe from underneath.

Signature product PagePlus a desktop publisher you can use to design publications like brochures or newsletters, came out in its fourth edition a couple of weeks ago. Serif claim it has 85% the functionality of Indesign at about 11% of the price. We take a quick look at the rice and the product..

Follow on after the jump

The Price
This is Serif’s killer card. Let’s stack it up against Adobe:

Image editing

Serif Photoplus – £79.99
Adobe Photoshop (extended) – £953.30

Desktop Publishing
Serif PagePlus – £79.99
Adobe Indesign – £684.25

Web Publishing
Serif Webplus – £59.99
Adobe Dreamweaver – £408.25

Video Editing
MoviePlus – £59.99
Adobe Premiere Pro – £757.85

Those are all Adobe’s latest CS4 range but even earlier versions like Photoshop CS3 are going for £459.99 on Amazon

The Product:
I road-tested PagePlus X4 – their flagship product. Webplus (for designing simple websites) is their best-seller.
What you can do on PagePlus X4:
– design paper publications: flyers, posters, brochures..
– edit pictures
– make simple web pages

Serif claim their products are up to professional standards.. and heck they design their own publicity material with it – but it’s aimed squarely at the amateur user: homes and small businesses.

Serif products like PagePlus offer a lot of templates – good for first-timers because they’re easy to use, obviously not a feature you’d appreciate if you’re a top graphic designer.

47, serif.jpg

Naturally they lack the finer tools that you find tucked deep in I find that on Photoshop and Dreamweaver there are reams of functions that I barely use or even understand. So the stripped-down Serif works just fine.

I find it off-putting that the design on their own products, cd cases for example, look a bit like they’ve been jammed together as part of a bad power point presentation. And yes the templates offered up in PagePlus are corporate-schmorporate complete with photos of women doing that I’m-in-an-ad look. But Serif aren’t there to design – they just make the software – and the artistic side is up to you.

To anyone with experience of design programmes, the tools and control panel are totally straightforward. To a newbie I think the controls would be relatively easy to understand. Explanation bubbles pop up when you hover your mouse over tools and trickier bits like publishing to the web and converting to pdf are simply options in the File menu.

Usefully, PagePlus allows you to bring pdfs into the programme and play around with them, including copying and pasting from them. Not something you can do on Adobe Indesign. PC Advisor likes the anchoring functions.

I sense there are a whole load of amateur dramatics clubs that will suddenly have better websites if this takes off properly.

Four great FREE Photoshop style programmes

Anna Leach