Serif – Desktop Publishing Suite review

budget package of three design tools
Photo of Serif – Desktop Publishing Suite

Whereas the majority of software companies over the past ten to fifteen years have been embroiled in some kind of downsize, merger, takeover or seemingly vital corporate event, Serif has remained a constant. The simple reason? The company has rarely taken its eye off the proverbial ball, continuing to deliver good, solid software without ever needing to challenge the supremacy of firms such as Adobe.

Desktop Publishing Suite is a case in point. It’s actually a pack of three previously-released Serif applications, the highlight of which is the superb PagePlus 9. This is a DTP package that at first glance seems ideal for inexperienced users. In fact it is, but under the covers are sophisticated features that mean more confident DTP-ers don’t miss out.

As with all Serif applications, it’s happy to hand-hold you through its processes if you so wish, with a comprehensive and helpful wizard system. This takes you through the sizeable collection of in-built templates (which, irritatingly, you may need the CD in the drive to access) that cover all sorts of publications from posters, newsletters, banners and business cards to Web pages too should you so wish. You can of course circumnavigate these choices and go it alone.

What you’re ultimately faced with is a main screen with options around the left, right and top of it. It can look a little daunting at first, but it’s actually straightforward to use. In fact, we’ll go further – it’s incredibly intuitive to use. And thanks to substantive tools such as the useful photo optimisation features, the comprehensive colour options and even full PDF output, it’s ideal fodder for the keen amateur desktop publisher.

DrawPlus 6, meanwhile, is, as its name suggests, an application for the artistically minded. It allows you to create graphics, drawings and animations too (for the likes of Web site banners), and is underpinned by the same principles behind PagePlus. Thus it’s suited to all levels of user (although the very demanding will no doubt migrate to a more sophisticated package fairly quickly), is easy to get to grips with and features the same levels of help and wizards as its siblings.

Even once-sophisticated effects are easy to manipulate. Transparencies are a two-click affair, layers are a breeze and freehand drawings are easy to correct. You still need a bit of raw drawing talent, but then there’s only so much that software can do.

Finally, Serif has bundled in its 3D image effects program, ImpactPlus 4. This one lets you come up with static images, logos, end credits sequences and Web animations, although its interface is the weakest of three applications in the package. Nonetheless, it’s not too tricky to get impressive looking results. It’s probably the tool you’ll be using the least, though.

Each of the programs featured here is a full version behind the latest release, but that still means you’re getting a trio of effective, user-friendly and powerful applications at a favourable price. What’s more, if you register, Serif will throw in three more CDs with thousands of extras templates and wizards on them. For the price, that seems a very sweet deal to us.

Company: Serif

Contact: 0800 376 4848

Two excellent design tools and one that's decent enough, in a pack that offers outstanding value for money.