At a Glance
- Generally intuitive, many features, free
- Five-page limit on document size; Sometimes-cluttered UI
Try the free edition of this full-featured desktop publishing program.
PagePlus Starter Edition is a desktop publishing/layout program
that offers a wide range of features at an excellent price: free.
It meets many of my expectations for high-quality software,
including the ability to intuitively perform some complex tasks (at
least if you’re familiar with the general interface guidelines of
Windows and have used any similar programs in the past). An awful
lot of free programs that have commercial “big brothers” are more
akin to demos or trials than truly useful, if less feature-laden,
programs in their own right. PagePlus Starter Edition dances
perfectly on the edge between “teaserware” and “independent
If you’ve ever tried to take full advantage of Microsoft
Word‘s very advanced formatting and layout features, you’ll
know they’re anything but intuitive, and your carefully laid-out
document can suddenly become a chaotic mess. PagePlus Starter
Edition, as a genuine page layout/desktop publishing program, is
infinitely easier to use for fancy designs with embedded images,
flowing text frames, sidebars, and so on. Simply playing with the
menus and options reveals a host of features, and they’re easy
enough to use that experimentation is encouraged; you want to see
what everything does and you don’t end up frustrated when things
don’t work as you expect them to.
Throughout this mass of nifty features, which includes such
things as different types of picture frames, freeform text paths,
nicely functional tools to insert tables or calendars into text,
and more, you will notice a lot of menu items crossed out, hinting
at the features accessible in the full version. For example,
hyperlinks, PDF publishing, and artistic filter effects are all to
be found only in the most recent full version of the software,
PagePlus X5. While having “dead” items in menus and toolbars can be
a bit irksome, I understand that this style of starter program
exists to help sell a commercial product and I much prefer
greyed-out items to seemingly-functional items that then pop up an
error message or advertisement. However, there’s one limit on the
Starter Edition that really bugs me, and that is the five-page
maximum document size. This pretty much limits any use of Starter
Edition to brochures, very short newsletters, posters, and so on.
In some ways, I would have preferred slightly less total
functionality in exchange for unlimited, or at least much longer,
documents. Your mileage may vary.
If your needs are for a lot of control and flexibility within
the confines of short documents (and I can think of many valid
cases where this is so), PagePlus Starter Edition is excellent for
the task, and if your needs expand, upgrading to PagePlus X5 should
be an easy decision.