Scribus is by far the best-known free desktop publishing software. Reviews say it's very capable of handling many desktop publishing tasks. Over the years, a large community of Scribus users has evolved, so it's easy to get extra design templates and peer support. It's available for Linux, Mac, and Windows operating systems. You can use Scribus to export PDF files for commercial printing, using the software's color separations and color-management tools. For editing graphics, Scribus integrates with GIMP, a free open-source photo-editing program. See our related report on photo editing software for a review of GIMP and other software programs.
A detailed review at Gizmo's Freeware describes Scribus freeware as professional, competent and a worthwhile competitor to more advanced design software. The Scribus interface gets some criticism from CNET, but editors recommend the software to anyone who needs professional desktop publishing tools, but can't afford the hefty price tags often attached to these products. An article in Computer Shopper comparing desktop publishing software applauds the interface and the templates available for Scribus users. Scribus files aren't compatible with commercial desktop publishing programs, and the reviewers worry that this will cause problems for some publishers.
For simpler, more basic desktop publishing software for Windows, Serif PagePlus Starter Edition (SE), a stripped down version of the top-ranked Serif PagePlus X5 (*Est. $75), is available as freeware. Reviewers like the ability to embed images into projects, and to insert calendars and tables into text, along with the free templates that come with the software. Reviews, like the one at Gizmo's Freeware say Serif PagePlus SE software is easy to use, and very intuitive. The lack of the pro-version features sometimes disappoints reviewers; users cannot create PDFs with the software, and documents have a five-page limit. Reviewers also wish for a Mac version of the freeware.
MaximumPC's David Murphy, using freeware to replicate Adobe Creative Suite's applications, finds both Scribus and Serif PagePlus SE to be reasonable facsimiles of Adobe InDesign CS5.5. Murphy determines that Serif PagePlus SE is template-heavy and easy to use, but Scribus also offers attractive functionality, including PDF creation and high-end color management tools. Scribus and Serif PagePlus SE are both given "Top Pick" awards on Gizmo's Freeware website.
Mac users can try Sierra Print Artist for Mac 4.0, a free download. Like Serif PagePlus SE, this is older software, but can still be found at some download sites. We were unable to find any reviews for this software. It's important to note that freeware found only at download sites will not include any sort of technical support.
Although Jacci Howard Bear of About.com recommends Scribus as the best free desktop publishing software, she also gives RagTime Solo a positive review. Like Apple iWorks, RagTime Solo includes word processing and spreadsheet software and page layout tools. It's available for both Mac and Windows users. Versions are available that work on older operating systems, such as Windows 95 and 98, and Mac OS 8.1/9.0. The last freeware version, RagTime Solo 5.6.5, works with Windows 2000 and Windows XP.