There are only two desktop publishing programs designed for the masses, rather than professional graphic designers. Microsoft’s Publisher is set firmly in the small business arena, while Serif tries to embrace home, business and semi-professional use with its product, PagePlus. Now in version 11, this application still manages to introduce a lot of useful, new features.
Prime among these is PDF editing. PagePlus has been able to produce PDF files for some time, but now it can import them for editing, too. As long as the file isn’t locked by its creator, you can extract text and pictures or make changes to the contents of the document, re-exporting it as a PDF when you’ve finished.
It does a pretty good job, though if the PDF comes from another source, chances are it will use different fonts. PagePlus handles this graciously, explaining that the fonts are unavailable, and then uses another new feature – PANOSE font matching – to substitute fonts that are available and have similar characteristics. You’re still likely to see some font anomalies, but you lose little formatting and no content.
PDF support extends to electronic forms. You can create forms to be added to a Web site or returned via e-mail and Serif provides a service for registered users to receive the data collected by their forms. They can be accredited for security and the forms themselves can be quite sophisticated, with buttons, check boxes and lists.
There are further improvements in PagePlus’s handling of tables. Although it already enabled many useful table features, version 11 adds rotated text in cells and direct pasting of cell contents from Excel. You can copy and paste from one set of cells to another, too, with or without formatting from the source cells.
New tools to apply many standard digital photo corrections are now included in the program. Click on any photo image and the context-sensitive toolbar offers the Image Adjustments dialogue box. This clever little applet enables you to select the adjustments you want to apply to an image and add them to its panel. It would be good if it remembered the adjustments you’d chosen for each image, though. Adjustments include dust and scratch removal, shadows and highlights and a series of blur filters.
PagePlus already provides some remarkably sophisticated graphic effects, such as mesh warping, where you can stretch and distort images into odd shapes. You can also apply fixed or variable transparency to an object from the ‘Opacity’ tab – but why not a ‘Transparency’ tab?
All these new features are wrapped up in a revamped interface which includes a well designed set of dockable tabs. These present often-used functions, such as object alignment and character properties, in an easy-to use form, with just a nod to Adobe’s tabbed panes.
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