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Serif PagePlus X9 review - simply brilliant DTP software

Ben Pitt
6 Feb 2016
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Serif PagePlus X9 layout
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
90
inc VAT

Elegant and efficient, PagePlus X9 is the best desktop-publishing software around for home and small business users

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Specifications

OS Support: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Minimum CPU: SSE2 support, Minimum GPU: Not stated, Minimum RAM: 512MB, 2GB for Windows 7/8/10, Hard disk space: 1.66GB

Desktop publishing seems quaintly old fashioned in this age of Twitter and WhatsApp, but there are still lots of times when we need printed documents: invitations, business cards, complement slips, invoices, flyers, brochures, and restaurant menus to name but a few. You could design them in a word processor or image editor, but a dedicated desktop-publishing application is much better equipped for handling text and images across multiple pages.

Serif PagePlus X9 is looking remarkably fresh-faced considering it's been around for 26 years. Software with this long a pedigree often feels overburdened with features, but its various panels are sensibly laid out and labelled, its menus are mercifully straightforward, and key features are quick to locate. It still supports Windows XP and modest hardware, and is extremely spritely on a reasonably modern PC.

The Startup Assistant offers links to video tutorials plus a wide range of high quality templates – perfect for people without the time or the design skills to start from scratch. Templates are arranged by document type or as a suite of documents that use the same style. A nice touch is the ability to choose from three colour schemes for each template.

Serif PagePlus X9 templates

^ There's wide array of high quality templates to kick-start your designs

A key benefit of desktop-publishing software over word processors is its support for Master Pages. These are similar to Word's Headers and Footers, whereby elements that repeat on each page need only be entered once. Master Page elements aren't limited to the top and bottom of the page, though.

There's impressive attention to detail here. As of version X9, Master Pages can be renamed, and a couple of clicks quickly reveals which Master Page is currently assigned to each page. Assigning Master Pages to individual pages simply involves dragging and dropping thumbnails. When I tried to edit an element on a page that's actually located on a Master Page, the software asked whether I wanted to edit the Master Page or promote the object so it can be edited on the page in question only.

PagePlus's graphic design tools are equally brilliant. There are vector drawing tools including freehand lines, Beziér curves and QuickShapes, which provide simple controls for drawing shapes such as rounded rectangles, speech bubbles and arrows. Basic adjustments such as drawing resizing are a little easier thanks to the new Tool Feedback feature, which shows sizes in millimetres as adjustments are made. A new Guides Tool allows you to copy and paste guides and move them around in groups. Meanwhile, a Dynamic Guides function makes it easy to line objects up with each other without having to worry about creating Guides first.

Serif PagePlus X9 calendar

^ PagePlus can generate QR codes and calendars to incorporate into your designs

Text Styles are neatly implemented, with simple controls to select all the text which uses a particular style, or to update the style based on the current selection. The distinction between Character Styles and Paragraph Styles could be clearer, but a Clear All Formatting button helps to untangle any mistakes. A Text Format Painter makes a late but welcome appearance, providing a simple way to apply text formatting from one area to another. A new command converts text into a table, and there are comprehensive options for manipulating and formatting tables, with commands to merge cells, evenly distribute them, and flow data across multiple tables.

Text and graphics can be subjected to drop shadows, 3D extrudes, feather, glow, variable transparency effects and mesh warps. There isn't a huge amount of clip-art and barely any stock photos, but there's a decent collection of simple page elements in the Theme Layouts section of the Asset Browser. This is the same content that makes up the project templates, but arranged as individual elements to mix and match. Many of these can be ungrouped and edited directly on the page, while a double click opens it in a module called LogoStudio. This has largely the same functions as the main editor, but reorganised for the task in hand. There's a new tool to generate QR codes, and the Calendar function has been overhauled with the ability to import information in iCal and various other formats.

PagePlus handles exports to commercial printing bureaus. It supports CMYK colour and a bleed area, whereby colours and images extend beyond the edge of the page to ensure there are no white edges when the paper is cut to size. New to this version is PDF export using the X4 and X5 standards that ensure high quality output for printing. The software can also open and edit existing PDFs.

It's not often I get to write this, but there really isn't much I can fault about this software. One issue I spotted is that it's not possible to export as a JPEG and include the bleed area, but this is unlikely to bother most users. A library of stock photos would be handy, but in practice, anything short of hundreds of thousands of images tends to fall short when you're looking for the perfect image. As with any other DTP application, PagePlus users are better off turning to online image libraries such as Adobe Stock.

There isn't a huge amount of competition for PagePlus at this price. The strongest contender is Xara Page & Layout Designer 11, a close relative of the superb Xara Photo & Graphic Designer but with fewer illustration features and more desktop-publishing features. Xara and Serif's DTP applications have a lot in common, but for me, Serif PagePlus is more polished, particularly in its handling of Master Pages and Text Styles. It's a Best Buy.

System requirements
OS SupportWindows XP/Vista/7/8/10
Minimum CPUSSE2 support
Minimum GPUNot stated
Minimum RAM512MB, 2GB for Windows 7/8/10
Hard disk space1.66GB
Buying information
Price including VAT£90
Supplierwww.serif.com
Detailswww.serif.com

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