Serif PagePlus has long been a respected desktop publishing program for designing attractive print and web-based material. The latest version, Serif PagePlus X4, represents a significant upgrade, with substantial new productivity and creation tools.
Primarily for small-business and home use, Serif PagePlus is known for its ease of use and its large library of fully editable templates for a wide range of purposes - newsletters, business cards, websites, greeting cards, and so forth.
See also: Serif PagePlus X3 review
In a move to make PagePlus a more comprehensive, stand-alone program, Serif has added both integrated photo editing and extra draw capabilities. For instance, the new PhotoLab is a full-featured tool that allows you to edit placed photos within Serif PagePlus X4, rather than requiring you to launch a separate image editing program. PhotoLab provides simple-to-use, single-click thumbnail-based effects and adjustments, as well as more advanced tools to control lighting, tonality, color, and other aspects.
Some of the new features are ones we've been looking for in this program for quite a while. For instance, Serif PagePlus X4's LogoStudio was already a fun tool for editing and creating logos and other design elements, but previously it was missing all-important Boolean commands (add, subtract, combine). Now, with Boolean commands, developing complex, interesting shapes from basic ones is much easier in Serif PagePlus X4.
Other added features improve productivity and overall ease of use. You can now anchor pictures, shapes, and text frames to text so that they flow and stay in place relative to copy. For instance, you can put a shape in-line as though it were a character within a sentence. Edit the copy, and the shape remains in the same position in that sentence, wherever your edits take it. Similarly, the new dynamic guides take the work out of aligning elements to one another, making items snap automatically to designated object edges or centers. In addition, Serif PagePlus X4 offers more control over editing and saving formats for tables and calendars.
Text handling has been enhanced as well. You can place Word or other documents directly from the files, rather than merely copying and pasting the material from another application. PDF import has been improved for greater control, allowing you to import individual pages and to use embedded Type 1 fonts. On top of that, linking text boxes so that copy flows from one to another (regardless what page it is on) is now easier too.
In our hands-on testing, we were generally impressed with Serif PagePlus X4. We were able to go from a blank page to a fully customised, template-based newsletter in short order. The instructional videos in the new Learning Zone were informative and useful, and they helped us get a jump start on our project.
We encountered some annoying quirks, however. For instance, importing pictures over a network tended to be slow, bogging down the workflow, so we ended up copying the photos we wanted to use in our publication to a local hard drive. Also, Serif PagePlus X4's use of the word "flash" to describe a new gallery of shapes and objects was initially confusing; here, the term refers to static shapes (such as stars or pointing fingers), not animated Adobe Flash elements. What's more, when we placed "flash" shapes, only three of the many color-set schemes were available, requiring us to perform some complex editing to make the shapes match the rest of our document.
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