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Serif PagePlus X5 review

Verdict

A range of impressive enhancements make for a solid upgrade to an already excellent budget package

Review Date: 18 Nov 2010

Reviewed By: Tom Arah

Price when reviewed: £68 (£80 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Ease of Use
5 stars out of 6

Publishing software is dominated by three packages: Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress for high-end commercial print, and Microsoft Publisher for office-based design. However, there is a fourth option and, with a history stretching back 20 years, it's a mystery that Serif PagePlus isn't better known.

PagePlus is aimed primarily at the office user rather than the professional designer, so user-friendliness is key: the program is easy to get to grips with and always tries to help. A good example of this is X5's new hover-based approach to selection, where groups and objects glow as you hold your mouse over them, indicating exactly what will be selected if you click. A new Lasso Select tool and a selection handle to manage rotation also make it easier to carry out basic tasks.

Serif PagePlus X5

The clearest sign of PagePlus' focus on usability is its wide range of themed templates for common jobs such as creating business cards, stationery, newsletters and so on. PagePlus X5 offers no fewer than 880 themed layouts as ready-to-use presets and, if you click on the More button, you can buy additional industry-specific designs from Serif's online Template Store.

The big danger of a template-based approach is that it undermines creativity. However, PagePlus makes customisation simple. Handling master pages is now more flexible, with the ability to apply multiple masters and detach master page objects on the current layout for independent editing. You can also mix landscape and portrait orientations in the same publication, and the new Colour Scheme Designer lets you quickly create your own themed colour palettes.

Text handling is key to the success of a publishing project, and here PagePlus X5 adds support for Word 2010 files, including pictures and layout. Typographic features are far richer than a word processor's thanks to the powerful composition engine, which offers optical margin alignment and justification. New in X5 is support for advanced OpenType font features such as swashes, ornaments and intelligent character pairs.

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User comments

Serif's Marketing

It's simple why Serifs products are not more popular; their marketing!
Firstly, the product is priced at £80, after a few months it's £50, then a few months later is £30. Once you buy and install it you have to register. If you don't you get a nag screen each time you start the application until you do. Worse still, you have to phone them up and quote a code to register - why? So they can try and talk you into buying more stuff from them.
It's not as bad as it used to be though. A few years ago I got a cold call from them once a month trying to sell me their latest version - priced at £120, but if I bought now the price had a discount of £30 (£90 in total).
It is any wonder why people don't buy from them - nice products, shame about the company!

By whitedream on 18 Nov 2010

@whitedream Yep, I think you're spot on. The story with Serif was exactly the same back in the mid 90's.

If you have a strong product and good marketing then you don't need to strong arm people into buying - you make them WANT to buy. Apple are the masters of this. Another good example is the website for Pixelmator. From the instant you look at it you are predisposed to like what they are offering.

By SirRoderickSpode on 18 Nov 2010

On-line registration

It is possible to avoid the telephone trap by registering on-line.

By JayGeEm on 18 Nov 2010

Long standing customer

I have used Serif products for many years. Yes they used to do a lot of cold calling and persuaded me on occasions that a bundle of extra stuff was much better than the basic product I wanted, I have bought that then sent back the extras - there is a trial period to do that. You don't have to ring them, registration online is very simple and covers all Serif products. Even ringing to register these days they don't try and sell you more stuff.
The price falls with the age of the product, just like any product, and when it gets to £30 you know they are about to launch a new version. You can choose to wait and get it cheap or get the latest when it comes out. You also get a loyalty discount on the initial price if you are already a customer.
I have tried various photo packages but always come back to Serif which is the easiest to use.
The products have had serious flaws in the past, but they seem to have been ironed out, my first version of Photoplus for example, would not print photos in the size I wanted them! Big problem thankfully now sorted.
I have only been cold called once in the past year by Serif.

By Luckymoo on 18 Nov 2010

Great Software

I have used PagePlus for years. Originally got into it as a Freebie from a PC Pro cover disk which I then paid for an upgraded version. I have put up with the occasional sales calls as I have got a good upgrade deal through using them. Also if you try and return before the 30 days 'trial' period has completed, they usually give a huge discount as that is cheaper than them paying the return postage.

Overall love PagePlus.

By baz123 on 18 Nov 2010

Every one should have it!

Like others, I am a very long-term user. I also have and use Corel, Quark etc. Generally I use Serif, it's fast and quick to use and very effective.

I am also a computer dealer working with small businesses and I ensure all of them have Page Plus available, which I supply FOC. They pay for subsequent upgrades.

The company is great to deal with and I still stay as a personal user with them so that I get their calls as a way of keeping me updated.

I cannot recommend them too highly

By absthame on 19 Nov 2010

Scribus - open source DTP?

What about Scribus when comparing to rivals - http://www.scribus.net/

By jbarnett on 20 Nov 2010

whitedream

Thanks for the warning.
As for the rest here that seem to thing cold-calling is a 'good thing', that is one reason I will not buy from a company, no matter how good their products might seem.
Of course, if their products are good, they don't need to 'phone me to get me to buy more, do they?

As for getting a 'huge discount' when returning - if they can afford to offer a huge discount, why isn't that their price to begin with?

By greemble on 21 Nov 2010

HELP!!!!!!

We have just bought 200 licences of SERIF design suite for Education. This corrupts files. I needed to show my files at a meeting on Tuesday. Is there any way of recovering all the work that has gone into the webdesign? I only found the web advise to "make multiple copies and save in different places" after the problem arose.

By Peach_the_Teach on 25 Nov 2010

Good support

This corrupts files? All of them? err, not on my network it hasn't. Have you rolled out the latest updates? What glitches I encountered over the last year have been dealt with smoothly by their education support person/team. I can't fault them, really, am really happy with the big 4 serif apps especially as the suite cost v little. Good luck with your file, Clive.

By IT_Madmin on 3 Dec 2010

Good support

This corrupts files? All of them? err, not on my network it hasn't. Have you rolled out the latest updates? What glitches I encountered over the last year have been dealt with smoothly by their education support person/team. I can't fault them, really, am really happy with the big 4 serif apps especially as the suite cost v little. Good luck with your file, Clive.

By IT_Madmin on 3 Dec 2010

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