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Windows desktop publishing software for home and small-business use

There's no reason to buy professional-grade design software like Adobe InDesign CS5.5 (*Est. $700 or $200 to upgrade), unless you need professional-grade results. At the consumer level, reviews give two Windows desktop publishing software titles high rankings. For small-business use, Serif PagePlus X5 (*Est. $75) heads the list. For fun home printing projects, Serif PagePlus Starter Edition (Free) is the top choice. In addition to professional projects, you can also create scrapbook pages and greeting cards with Serif PagePlus X5. It's the more versatile of the two programs, and the software receives more recommendations than others in its price range.

Serif PagePlus X5 costs about a third as much as Microsoft Publisher 2010 (*Est. $140). Both programs earn solid reviews, and have numerous templates and customization options. Serif PagePlus X5 and Microsoft Publisher 2010 can both export documents as PDF files, the format commercial printers prefer to use. The color separation and color management tools aren't as sophisticated as those provided in the Adobe InDesign Creative Suite, but are adequate for basic printing and publishing jobs.

The budget-friendly Serif PagePlus X5 also earns high ratings for ease of use. Reviewers generally find that Serif PagePlus X5 color management tools are more sophisticated than Publisher's; for example, users can manage color for multiple images with different embedded profiles, and the software allows more options for PDF color management. Serif PagePlus X5 also includes tools for working with graphics and with text. 

The software earns praise from Tom Arah of PC Pro, who says it's powerful, yet affordable. Although it's often compared to Microsoft Publisher 2010, the software is less expensive and more dedicated to commercial printing than its competitor -- both pluses for small businesses creating marketing materials on a shoestring budget.

Reviewers note that people who use other Microsoft Office programs can easily adapt to Microsoft Publisher 2010. PCMag.com gives an Editors' Choice award to the Microsoft Office suite, which includes Publisher. The U.K.'s Computeractive recommends Microsoft Publisher 2010 for home users, in particular noting the photo-editing tools.

Australia's PC & Tech commends Microsoft Publisher 2010 for allowing users to create professional, high-resolution PDFs. Mary Branscome of Tech Radar praises many features of Microsoft Publisher 2010, but laments the absence of picture styles. IT Reviews (U.K.) says updates in the latest version of Microsoft Publisher 2010 are well done, but that the page navigation might prove confusing to experienced graphic designers. Reviews of Microsoft Publisher 2010 may be somewhat skewed, since they are often part of a larger Microsoft Office 2010 suite of products review, and the overall suite of products receives high marks in reviews.

The CorelDraw Graphics Suite X5 software (*Est $700) is a sophisticated option for desktop publishing that's also praised by reviewers. (An upgrade from a previous version costs $300.) The Epoch Times' review highlights the user-friendly interface, hundreds of templates and the thousands of clip art images that come with this software. CNET editors similarly give 5 stars out of 5 to CorelDraw Graphics Suite X5, and say that the tutorials, hints and video product tours are user-friendly, greatly reducing the learning curve.

The reviewers on Computer Shopper's website feel that the CorelDraw Graphics Suite X5 software strikes just the right note for desktop publishers, landing somewhere in between hobbyists and artists. Tom Arah of U.K.'s PC Pro agrees, stating the CorelDraw Graphics Suite X5 software seems to have backed away from competing with high-end design software, focusing instead on its core group of customers -- desktop publishers.

Basic desktop publishing software

If you don't need professional-looking logos or business stationery, favoring fun creative projects instead, then Serif PagePlus X5, Microsoft Publisher 2010, and CorelDraw Graphics Suite X5 are overkill -- they may be more software than you need. Instead, some reviewers recommend the less expensive Broderbund's The Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe (*Est. $50). This basic software can still export PDF files, though not with color separations. Basic photo editing is built in as well. The software can handle fun projects like greeting cards, scrapbook pages and 3D paper crafts.

Each new version of The Print Shop Deluxe adds more templates and clip art. Version 2.0 includes thousands of templates and clip art images, enough for several lifetimes. Compare these numbers with the paltry 1,000 professionally designed templates that come with Serif PagePlus X5, and you'll see why some personal users flock to The Print Shop Deluxe 2.0.

The comparison review of publishing software at TopTenReviews.com gives The Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe top ranking, and the website's gold award. TopTenReviews.com editors say the software is easy to use, and appreciate the easy installation. Consumer reviews paint a different picture. Users on Walmart.com have trouble installing the software, and are disappointed to find out that the software doesn't integrate with earlier versions. Contributors to Amazon.com also have trouble using the software, and don't feel that support for the product is adequate.

Serif PagePlus Starter Edition (SE) software, discussed in the section on free software, is another option for personal use, and could even be useful for some small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The free software is lauded by reviewers, including Ian Harac of PC World. Harac says the software is intuitive leaves him disheartened to learn that documents are limited to five pages. In addition, users can't save files created in Serif PagePlus Starter Edition software to PDFs for commercial printing.

Professional reviewers and reviews from consumers note that technical support for personal use desktop publishing software is weak. Also, the interface for personal-use software can be awkward and inefficient at times, especially when compared with desktop publishing software geared towards professional use. If you don't mind taking some time to play around with designs and clip art, you can have fun with these inexpensive and free products.

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Microsoft Publisher 2010
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $139.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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The Print Shop 2.0 Deluxe [Old Version]
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $49.99 $8.69   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Serif PagePlus X5 [Download] [OLD VERSION]
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $99.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

Desktop Publishing Software Runners Up:

CorelDraw Graphics X5 *Est. $700

5 picks including: CNET, Computer Shopper…

Microsoft Publisher 2010 *Est. $140

4 picks including: About.com, Amazon.com…

QuarkXPress 9 *Est. $800

2 picks by top review sites.

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CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5 [Old Version]
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $499.00 $365.00   
Average Customer Review:  
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Microsoft Publisher 2010
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $139.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Quarkxpress 9 UPG For Macintosh/Windows Single User DVD Media V.9 9(Upgrade from any previous version of QuarkXPress)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $349.00 $338.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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