Serif PagePlus X6 review
Serif has a long record of putting high-end design tools within reach of cash-strapped computer users and PagePlus X6 is the latest version of its inexpensive desktop publishing package. PagePlus X5 garnered five stars and a Best Buy award, and the new version has the same impressive features with some useful tweaks.
The vast array of themed templates — one of PagePlus’ major strengths — has changed little, but it is now possible to maintain more than one identity. This is useful when using templates that fill in personal details automatically; you choose your personal details when you choose a template, so having multiple identities means you can produce consistently themed designs for a business with different office locations, for example.
PagePlus's interface has been given a bit of a makeover, too. It’s still consistent with that of Serif’s other products, but a new Assets sidebar is now available for storing objects of all kinds (either user-created or from PagePlus X6’s vast asset library) for use in any document. This is particularly useful for keeping regularly-used design elements to hand - such as an “Exclusive!” banner for magazine reviews, for example.
The option to save page layouts as assets is also a potential time saver when there’s a need to break out of the template for a document in progress. Rather than copy existing text and object frames with the desired layout from an existing document, paste them into the new document and then delete the unwanted frame content (the usual quick and dirty solution), the entire empty layout can be saved as an asset and dragged onto a page as required.
There’s still no option to create a baseline grid to keep lines of text in different text boxes horizontally aligned (though this is easily handled with careful design), but a new auto-align feature uses a combination of visual clues and ‘magnetic’ snapping to simplify the process of positioning objects on the page. In practice, this means all guidelines and object frames can be hidden (in one go, via the new ‘Clean design’ mode) to give a cleaner looking document-in-progress and the appropriate layout guides only fade into view when an object is moved.
We criticised PagePlus X5 for the inappropriate inclusion of web design tools but while X6 can still be used to create web pages, Serif has at least streamlined the process to make it less clumsy. The previous version's dedicated web publishing mode has gone, as have all website-specific document types and templates, but documents can still be published as HTML and are there still tools for creating hyperlinks and hotspots.
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