PagePlus X5 is the latest version of the award winning DTP program from Serif. I've been using PagePlus off an on since the very first edition, and it just gets better and better. However, that is not to say it is lacking in anyway, in fact it absolutely bulging with impressive features. Whether you are a home user wanting to produce some flyers for your school fate or a business wanting to produce your company brochure PagePlus can handle it with ease. Infact if it comes in print then PagePlus can do it, from small business cards up to full novels, magazines, newspapers and large scale posters.
PagePlus can open, edit and create Adobe PDF documents as well as being able to import various file formats including Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Documents as well as several others. Also PagePlus can import a huge number of image formats, connect directly to your scanner or from a Phto-CD. It can even imbed objects in your documents such as a spreadsheet, so that when you double click on it the appropriate program is launched to edit it. Saving is limited to either a PagePlus Publication, Template or exporting to PDF.
Of course, if like me you've got the last release (X4) then you will be wondering if it worth upgrading to X5? The anser is not a simple yes or no as it will depend very much on whether you need the new features. There is a handy description of the new features over on Serifs website  that will help you decide whether the upgrade is worth it.
As for the editing/compostition features in PagePlus I can not even begin to list them all! Needless to say if you can think of it, then it is probably there, and some you'd never think of! Text wrapping, frames, flow control, page numbering, cross referencing, Contents/index creation, graphics editing (limited but sufficient) and lots more.
Support is very good, in particular via the official Serif forum, where you will often find Serif Staffers willing to help. I have reported bugs before on the forum and had them reported as fixed and included for the next update within hours! Also the general public on their are a helpful bunch and will do what they can to find a solution to you questions, be it a bug, a design qquestion or a 'how do I'...
So overall I would recommend PagePlus to everyone.
Installation of this software was quick and easy - worked well. Once installed it immediately links to a few short tutorials on-line, which are helpful to get started. They cover more than 1 thing in each tutorial though, so once you have been working for a while and want to go back to a particular feature it can be a little awkward to find what you need. I then proceeded to produce the outline of an 8 page newsletter, and have to say it worked very well. Even without having explored the full functionality of the software it becomes clear that the scope is enormous.
You can start with a blank page and build up the full design yourself, but there is also a range of standard design templates to choose from - the designs are not necessarily my cup of tea, but will work perfectly well for beginners or as a starting point (additional designs are available for purchasing). The range of publication sizes and formats is large, although very focused on the traditional sizes - as far as this software is concerned a newsletter is A4 format, I was unable to find the square size I had hoped for.
Once decided on a template I was on my own, but with the basic formats in place and armed with the tutorials it worked pretty well. I was able to add in my text and pictures and do some nice "wrapping" of text around pictures, and the whole thing looked very good.
However, this software does not interact well with MS Excel. When I tried to copy ranges of cells across from Microsoft Excel files the software struggled with this. On various occasions using Ctrl V it seemed unsure whether to paste as a table or as a picture. Pasting graphs from Excel on one occasion changed one of the colours from the original and I was unable to change this. And when you get impatient and pressed buttons or moved frames with Excel data too quickly the software shut itself down - sometimes with and sometimes without error message. So make sure you save your work regularly (especially when working with Excel data).
Summing up: decent software, does what it says on the tin, but don't copy_paste from Excel without saving your work first.
Although having 6 million users worldwide, the British Serif software house perhaps isn't anywhere near as well known as it should be, despite the jewel in their crown, this desk top publisher PagePlus, having been a strong contender for the last twenty years. With the recent revamp of Microsoft Office's Publisher 2010, with a lot of new features and the new Ribbon Interface, the pressures on PagePlus X5, that costs similar money. PagePlus X5 is aimed squarely at PC proficient home users and the small office, rather than professional design studies where the fantastically expensive Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress rule. For this reason PagePlus has plenty of guided help in-program and on-line, where there's also 'how to' [Flash] videos. Simple things help you out like the fact that groups and related objects glow as you hover over them, so you know what's being selected. PagePlus also has more templates, now 880, to help get you started and these are easily customised, plus you can buy further professional templates on-line.
PagePlus adds in powerful photo-editing, drawing, logo creation and 'cut out' studio applications. You can do things like crop, recolour, add effects, create custom graphics or modify 400 existing logos, and remove backgrounds. This is likely all you will require, and saves having to invest in separate packages to do this, although Serif also sell DrawPlus [vector drawing, Adobe Illustrator style] and PhotoPlus [image-editing, Adobe Photoshop style], which would complete the budget creative design package to create professional looking newletters, brochures, flyers, adverts, posters and so on. There's a lot of control when exporting to pdf for professional printing, emails and the web [all improved for X5], and there's a powerful in-built pdf editor. There's a raft of new features that mostly further enhance the existing tools, nothing major, but a welcome upgrade non the less. New to X5 are more templates, new smart text features, better colour management, simplified printing, interactive Print Preview, the new `hover selections', improved pdf export, updated selection tools, new `Pro Open Type' prettier text and images, new SVG file support, improved orientation/editing/drawing/wrapping and greyscales, full support for Word 2010, and the program has been tweaked to run faster. Overall it feels slicker and more pleasant to use than the previous X4 version, and athough newcomers might initially find the complex interface a bit daunting as there's a lot going on, it gets easier to more you use the program [Microsoft Publisher is probably a better bet for casual DTP users though].
PC system Requirements for PagePlus X5 are still a minimal Pentium PC with DVD/CD drive and mouse, Microsoft Windows: XP 32bit, Vista or Windows 7 operating system, 512MB RAM, 660MB 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 X5 can still be sluggish on a modern but basic office PC/Laptop - or as Serif put it: "Additional disk resources and memory are required when editing large and/or complex documents, plus the use of Large Fonts in your Windows® settings may necessitate a higher resolution display." To use PagePlus X5 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].
There's plenty of tools within PagePlus to produce far more professional results than the basic templates supplied, as all the old layout tools are there offering everything from master page layouts to transparency, and glass & metal effects to get you from a template or pdf, through the design, effects & editing studio and off to the printer or the web. There's a duplexing wizard to get you printing booklets and brochures correctly in-house, or you can export the project to pdf and get it off to professional printers for top quality results. There's press-ready PDF output presets, PDF/X-1a compliance for commercial presses and print houses, RGB, CMYK and Pantone® colour support and ICC colour management. And to quote PCPro: "Most importantly, while concentrating on office-based ease of use, PagePlus X5 is also more serious about commercial print than its main rival, Microsoft Publisher. This makes it a good option for occasional publishers who can't justify the cost of InDesign or QuarkXPress". The install program comes in a tidy little thin DVD case - and although there's no free bulky printed manual these days, there's plenty of help in-program, on-line and as a pdf manual - and you can buy the printed 'user manual' and/or the 'resource guide' separately if you wish. And if you wait a while until a new version is on the cards, upgrade prices can be cheap. So another 4.5* for PagePlus [X5], and for me, with the many tweaks and new features, it's worth the upgrade price over X4.
Having just started a small business, I needed some software that I could use for my posters, flyers, adverts etc .. and page Plus X5 from Serif is proving to be all that I need, and much, much more besides.
There is no way I will ever get to use all the functions and tools that are contained within the subtle packaging .. but judging by the included instructions and guides if I tried I would need to set aside a year or three !
Not to say its complicated to use, its just thorough !
My last experience with software of this general sort was with a copy of CS3 .. and that was really good so I didn't really expect the same sort of intuitiveness from software costing a fraction of the price. I was wrong.
I set myself the task of creating a simple 6"x4" postcard style flyer and in a nutshell, I did it in a half hour. I could have spent longer, but mainly because I kept discovering tools I could experiment with !
It does exactly what it says it will, and if you have the time you can get a lot from this software .. for the price of the software and book that can really show you how to get the most from Page Plus X5 you could easily save money on designing your own printed material .. and have a bit of fun getting all creative !
on 5 April 2011
Given it's price I wasn't expecting much from PagePlus X5. Added to this I use Adobe's Creative Suite 5 on a daily basis so I tend to find any pretender to the throne usually laughably poor (I'll admit a degree of snobbery here). As it turns out that PagePlus X5 is pretty damn good.
Unlike CS5, which is a collection of separate (but closely tied) programmes, PagePlus is a page layout package with vector and bitmap editing abilities built-in. This does make life a bit easier for the novice, as they don't have to jump between programmes - or try and figure which one would be best for the task at hand.
After starting the programme you are invited to choose a template from a substantial library of letterheads, comps slip, business card and newsletters etc. The template can be followed rigidly or fiddled with how you see fit. Type styles, columns and colour-ways can all be changed with ease. Alternatively you can start with a blank sheet and go from there. There are also plenty of 'get you started' movies (and more) on the manufacturers website.
Placing bitmap images into the document is straight forward, and can be edited within a sub-programme using a pretty broad selection of of tools, allowing selections, colour corrections, transparency - in fact all most people will need. Vector drawings on the other hand are created directly on the page and although the control point handles were a bit clunky it's pretty easy to create quite sophisticated graphics with the supplied toolset.
Once you're done you can output your document in several formats including the print industry recognised X-1a format PDF (which is more than a lot of other competing software manages).
While it's not going to threaten the mighty (and expensive) Adobe Creative Suite it's hard to criticise PagePlus for the money. It's capabilities far exceeded my expectations and too be honest if all you want to do is create the odd advert or newsletter PagePlus X5 is all you need.
Having spent a lot of time with this, all I can say is that, unless you're into serious commercial printing, there seems little point in paying for InDesign or Quark. It never felt like a budget option. I have Publisher 2010 but much preferred PagePlus and am likely to use it from now on.
It was very easy to get started and I had a lot of fun `playing'. There are some very clever touches to the interface such as the way objects light up when you hover your mouse over them to indicate what will happen if you click. PagePlus ran very sweetly on my PC and never seemed likely to run out of steam.
There's an extensive range of templates to cover just about anything you might want to create - newsletters, brochures, stationery, business cards, etc. Importantly, it's simple to customise them and create original designs of your own or make them match existing documents. The Colour Scheme Designer lets you create custom colour palettes too.
Graphics support and photo handling capabilities are comprehensive, with most formats supported - jpg, tif, psd and so on. And text handling is equally impressive, making it generally straightforward to achieve exactly the appearance you want. Advanced features such as cross-referencing are supported.
Print preview allows customisation of output and the print dialogue itself offers a wide range of options including mail merge. You can also create PDFs with extensive support for professional features.
Something easily overlooked is support. It's much easier to access support staff than it's likely to be with other products and I found them patient and knowledgable. The user forum is great too, with some very helpful people including Serif staff contributing.
Unless you really need some of the more esoteric features in competitive packages, I'd suggest choosing PagePlus every time.