Rated 5* and a best buy by techie PC magazine Computer Shopper, this is the latest version X4 of PagePlus [ie. version fourteen]. As Serif rely on word of mouth and rarely sell via stores, it says something that PagePlus has reached version 14 and that PagePlus is still the undisputed king of desktop publishing for those on a budget. It is far superior to Microsofts Publisher offering, and even gives Quark and Adobe's offerings a run for their money [whose high end DTP applications cost nearer 10 times Serifs offering] - although Serif PagePlus is aimed squarely at the small office and home/enthusiast user on a budget.
New to PagePlus X4 is an improved startup wizard of videos and tutorials, the ability to combine image elements by adding and subtracting to make just about any shape you could want, even more vector clipart objects [such as shiney glass effects and 'flash' for price stickers and quotes], new Dynamic Guides to help position and align elements, better control of letter spacing, and the ability of import layouts directly from pdf files and export pdfs at press quaility for commercial printing [support for Acrobat 5 and PDF/X-1a]. Plus the integrated PhotoLab has had an overhaul and has a surprising amount of power hidden behind the basic menu, offering not just tonal adjustments, but a lot of usefull creative effects as well as X3's cut-out Studio than can cut out an object from a image and flow text around it. There's also X3's Logo Studio to help design your own logo. PagePlus can save its DTP files in EPS vector standard, Microsoft's modern HD bitmap format, Serif's own new SMF metafile format and to PDF/X-1a format. In addition it offers things like 'autofit' scaling, good bitmap control and a powerful set of drawing tools.
To get you started there's a massive array of templates that are fine for less professional output [e.g. society flyers and magazines], but if you are prepared to spend a bit of time there's plenty of tools within PagePlus to produce far more professional results, as all the layout tools are there offering everything from master page layouts to transparency, glass & metal effects. Naturally there's all the old PagePlus power tools as well to get you from a template or pdf, through the design, effects & editing studio and off to the the printer or the web. PagePlus X4 offers an improved duplexing wizard to get you printing booklets and brochures correctly - which was a weak point in my PagePlus X3 version, and I had to resort to exporting to pdf and printing via the pdf file to get double sided printing working correctly on our new office HP colour laser printer.
PC minimum system Requirements for PagePlus X4 are a minimal Pentium PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse, Microsoft Windows: XP 32bit, Vista or Windows 7 operating system, 512MB RAM, 440MB free hard disk space, SVGA display (1024x600 resolution, 16-bit colour or higher. This assumes you are a rather patient sort, as a fast multi-core PC with 4Gb RAM and a DirectX 10 3D Accelerated graphics card would speed things up rather [in fact PagePlus X4 can be sluggish on a modern but basic office PC]. You would also benefit from a colour printer, fast internet access, a TWAIN-compatible scanner and/or a digital camera and a Wacom A5 Bamboo stylus input pad [to supplement the mouse for precision drawing/editing].
I always used Serif software at home until I got free licences of Adobe Creative Suite CS4 and MS Office Pro from work (which would cost me a few grand to buy myself - and I still keep PagePlus X4 on my PC as well). Also have a look at the great Serif sister packages of DrawPlus [Vector drawing], MoviePlus [Video editing] and in particular PhotoPlus X3 [Photoediting] - although this DTP PagePlus X4 is probably the jewel in their crown. Check them all out at serif.com - there's often on-line offers and Serif's upgrade prices get very cheap as the latest version nears the end of its life [dropping to around £25] - at first release upgrade prices can be steep though. Once you register your Serif software expect the odd phone-call and emails from Serif (UK) offering the cheaper upgrade, and a deal on other Serif Software. Some find Serif's sales team a bit intrusive, so you can just always click on the register later option on the nag screen to avoid registering at all.
So highly recommended for those on a very tight budget - once you get past the shallow learning curve the software isn't bad at all, and is a steal when occasionally offered for under £40. PagePlus may not be as well known as Indesign and QuarkXpress, but it's ease of use actually puts them to shame, and at a fraction of their price. I have Adobe Creative Suite CS4 via work, and believe me it's obtuse help makes Serif PagePlus X4 seem like a breath of fresh air.
To quote Serif: "With PagePlus X4 you can open and edit documents from anywhere with impressive PDF editing. Get great results fast using templates, ready-made artwork, and learning zone videos. Create virtually any document type with a massive range of publishing possibilities. Be compatible with images, graphics, text files and your chosen print shop. Edit and enhance photos with an impressive built-in PhotoLab. Design logos and other artwork without leaving PagePlus X4. Print at high quality on desktop printers, at any size, even double-sided." In addition you can cheaply add in Serif's sister applications of PhotoPlus X3 [photo editing] and DrawPlus X3 [vector drawing] to further add to PagePlus's creative design, but in many cases the tools within pagePlus X4 will probably be all that you require. So, great software, and at a bargain price, easily 5*.