PagePlus was the first application Nottingham-based Serif ever produced, a clone of an early version of Adobe PageMaker only costing a small fraction of the price. See also: Group test: what's the best web-design software?
It has since gone on to be one of the main budget desktop publishing programs, now in version X7 (not quite 17), while PageMaker never made it past version 7. See all web design reviews.
This is a very feature-rich application which has done well to keep up with trends in page design. So for example, PagePlus X7 can import, edit and save PDF files – including PDF-X3 – and export documents to all the major ebook formats. It no longer just majors on documents aimed at the printed page. Take a look at Serif WebPlus X6 review too.
The program can also export page elements or whole pages in a dozen different formats, including .jpg, .PNG, .svg and .wmf, covering both bitmap and vector.
The export viewer enables resolution selection and you can see up to four previews in different formats at once.
With a mature application like this, many features can be assumed available. You can, for example, design multi-page documents in a number of sizes and add text, graphics, photos, tables and charts to them.
Photo handling is particularly good, with Serif's Photo-Lab offering a quick way of adjusting photo parameters from within the DTP environment.
There are plenty of pre-designed page elements, like headings, borders and sales flashes which can be dragged from galleries directly onto the page; and pre-set colour schemes to co-ordinate page elements.
Serif includes a stack of good looking, complete page templates, too, where you just change the text and photos to personalise a document.
The system of dragging and dropping ‘assets' from and to a thumbnail gallery down the left-hand side of the screen works very well and specific assets can be saved with a document. These assets include graphics, pictures, frames and backgrounds.
Additions like pop-up guidelines, which show when objects are aligned on the page, have made a big difference to design speed. The facility could be extended, though, by enabling alignment of text base-lines, rather than just frame edges, with other objects.
Frames now have a chalky-blue border around them when selected, which is less easy to work with when aligning visually than a simple, black frame border.
One of the main changes to this version is improved table and graph handling, where you can split a table between frames on different pages and construct charts and graphs directly linked to a table. Both these functions are useful, but it's still quite fiddly to achieve some effects. For example, there was no way we could find to angle column labels, to make them more readable when you have several columns close together.
The user interface has had a partial redesign and many parameters are now applied by simply dragging a slider. So, for example, the opacity slider on drop shadows works in percent from none to black and its blurriness is adjusted in points the same way.
A new 64-bit engine has been added to the application and this is selected automatically at installation time, if your PC can support it. It improves speed when working on complex, multipage documents.