While InDesign, QuarkXPress and Microsoft Publisher divvy up much of the desktop publishing market, Serif's PagePlus adopts the role of underrated gem.

The veteran layout tool can produce both print and web publications, but most of Serif PagePlus X3's new features are sensibly aimed at satisfying the program's core constituency: print designers.

Perhaps the best of these improvements is Serif PagePlus X3's tool to extract backgrounds from images in the new Image Cutout Studio. You can select any document image and remove unwanted areas using a paintbrush to distinguish between the parts of the image to retain and those to remove. In practice, creating an accurate cutout was surprisingly easy.

Serif PagePlus X3 now offers a built-in logo creation tool, LogoStudio. You can select artwork – or use a template – and bring it into a customised illustration environment where you can add effects such as text on a path and predefined shapes.

Of more everyday benefit to the working designer is a 'package' feature that gathers all fonts and linked images used in a document before sending it to a printer. It's a feature usually found only in expensive desktop publishing programs and cements Serif PagePlus X3's deserved status as a professional-level tool.

PagePlus's PDF-editing abilities are exceptional. Print-standard export settings come as standard, and importing existing PDFs proved flawless. We found it even easier to edit text and adjust objects than it is in Adobe's own Acrobat program.

Not all the new features are headline grabbing: minor but valuable improvements include a new wizard to handle double-sided printing on a duplex printer, as well as support for Microsoft's new HD Photo format and native EPS files.

We also liked the improvements made to tables. Clicking and dragging to the left or right on the header after the last table column now deletes or adds columns; and a similar trick adds and removes rows - a great timesaver.

It's also good to see that despite a £20 price drop, Serif PagePlus X3 continues to offer an exhaustive 250-page printed manual.

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Serif PagePlus X3: Specs

  • Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • Pentium processor or better
  • 256MB RAM
  • 400MB available hard disk space
  • Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista
  • Pentium processor or better
  • 256MB RAM
  • 400MB available hard disk space

OUR VERDICT

Better, cheaper and as easy to use as its predecessor, Serif PagePlus X3 is an ideal choice for a desktop publishing on a budget.

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