There are three basic categories of software for doing page layout. On the high end we have software like Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress and the not updated in over 10 years Corel Ventura. The low end has products like Microsoft Publisher and Serif PagePlus. Lastly is the software that isn’t specifically meant for page layout and that includes word processors and even CorelDRAW.
Xara saw the need for another competitor in the low end and recently released Page & Layout Designer. While it is categorized as low end, that is based on the under $100 price and not on the feature list it includes.
For this review, I sat down with someone still using Adobe Pagemaker even after it has been discontinued for quite some time. I use Adobe InDesign for my layout jobs after using Corel Ventura for more than 20 years.
Our typical workflow included building a layout from scratch and loading in the text created in a word processor or text editor. With Xara Page & Layout Designer, we found it was much better to use one of the many supplied templates (a small number of them are shown at right) as a starting point. Choose a template that is close to what you want and modify it to meet your needs.
When working with page layout, it is very important to have control over the flow and formatting of text. Xara Page & Layout Designer has styles and all the controls we wanted to find for formatting and flowing text.
Text needs to flow from column to column and page to page. Sometimes you need to insert manual column or page breaks to get just the flow you desire. All of that is available and easy to use. Need to number the pages? It is easy to insert page numbers and format them just right.
Manipulating the text is extremely important, but you’ll also want to insert graphics and photos to liven up your designs. A wide variety of graphics and image formats are supported. This allows you to bring in the image or graphic you want, then size and place it in the perfect spot.
Once your document is done, you will need to output it. For those who want an electronic version, both HTML and PDF are well supported. If you need to send the document for printing, it fully supports separations, printers marks and the other elements needed.
All in all, I think you’ll find Xara Page & Layout Designer to be a very solid alternative to the other products in the under $100 market. No, it doesn’t have the power of Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress, though those features are overkill for many users. If you are the least bit unsure, download the free trial and find out if it meets your needs.