capsule review

Serif PagePlus X4 Desktop Publishing Software

At a Glance
  • Serif PagePlus x4

    PCWorld Rating

    Serif PagePlus X4 delivers on power, performance and flexibility, for comparatively easy creation of attractive print or Web-based documents.

Serif PagePlus has long been a respected desktop publishing program for designing attractive print and Web-based material. The latest version, PagePlus X4 ($100 as of 8/3/09), represents a significant upgrade, with substantial new productivity and creation tools.

Primarily for small-business and home use, PagePlus is known for its ease of use and its large library of fully editable templates for a wide range of purposes--newsletters, business cards, Web sites, greeting cards, and so forth.

In a move to make PagePlus a more comprehensive, stand-alone program, Serif has added both integrated photo editing and extra draw capabilities. For instance, the new PhotoLab is a full-featured tool that allows you to edit placed photos within PagePlus, rather than requiring you to launch a separate image editing program. PhotoLab provides simple-to-use, single-click thumbnail-based effects and adjustments, as well as more advanced tools to control lighting, tonality, color, and other aspects.

Some of the new features are ones we've been looking for in this program for quite a while. For instance, PagePlus’s LogoStudio was already a fun tool for editing and creating logos and other design elements, but previously it was missing all-important Boolean commands (add, subtract, combine). Now, with Boolean commands, developing complex, interesting shapes from basic ones is much easier.

Other added features improve productivity and overall ease of use. You can now anchor pictures, shapes, and text frames to text so that they flow and stay in place relative to copy. For instance, you can put a shape in-line as though it were a character within a sentence. Edit the copy, and the shape remains in the same position in that sentence, wherever your edits take it. Similarly, the new dynamic guides take the work out of aligning elements to one another, making items snap automatically to designated object edges or centers. In addition, X4 offers more control over editing and saving formats for tables and calendars.

Text handling has been enhanced as well. You can place Word or other documents directly from the files, rather than merely copying and pasting the material from another application. PDF import has been improved for greater control, allowing you to import individual pages and to use embedded Type 1 fonts. On top of that, linking text boxes so that copy flows from one to another (regardless what page it is on) is now easier too.

In our hands-on testing, we were generally impressed with PagePlus X4. We were able to go from a blank page to a fully customized, template-based newsletter in short order. The instructional videos in the new Learning Zone were informative and useful, and they helped us get a jump start on our project.

We encountered some annoying quirks, however. For instance, importing pictures over a network tended to be slow, bogging down the workflow, so we ended up copying the photos we wanted to use in our publication to a local hard drive. Also, the program's use of the word “flash” to describe a new gallery of shapes and objects was initially confusing; here, the term refers to static shapes (such as stars or pointing fingers), not animated Adobe Flash elements. What’s more, when we placed “flash” shapes, only three of the many color-set schemes were available, requiring us to perform some complex editing to make the shapes match the rest of our document.

Despite those quirks, we recommend Serif PagePlus X4 highly. With its new integrated PhotoLab, enhanced drawing tools, and direct import of text from files, PagePlus X4 is a comprehensive, worthwhile upgrade that can stand on its own.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Serif PagePlus X4 delivers on power, performance and flexibility, for comparatively easy creation of attractive print or Web-based documents.

    Pros

    • Integrated photo tools
    • Includes informative video help

    Cons

    • Importing photos over a network is very slow
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