PROS / Publisher has excellent layout and typography tools.
CONS / It's missing a number of useful graphic design tools.
VERDICT / This ubiquitous software is commonly available and feature rich, but don’t expect the same level of control over visuals that you can get with other software.
As it's one of the many programs that come with Microsoft Office, there is a good chance you already have Publisher on your computer. It's been included with higher-end copies of Office for almost 20 years, offered as a lightweight alternative to professional layout software such as Adobe InDesign. Though it's rarely used in a professional capacity, Publisher remains a surprisingly capable desktop publishing application. It sports excellent typography tools and one of the best template selections we've ever seen. It comes up somewhat short in the area of graphics editing support, but given its strengths, especially its usefulness in creating long-form publications, Microsoft Publisher remains a great option for at-home users, earning our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
Layout & Publishing
Unlike other desktop publishing programs, Microsoft Publisher isn't designed to stand alone. It's available as part of certain versions of Microsoft Office, and consequently pairs well with the rest of the Office suite. For example, it natively imports Microsoft Word .doc and .docx files, parsing them perfectly and integrating them into complex layouts with ease. Likewise, if you need a table or graph from Excel in your next newsletter, you can pull it in without hassle.
But while Publisher works well with other Microsoft products, it can't open or import popular file types such as PDFs or Photoshop PSDs. You can save to PDF, but should you want full-featured, editable forms, you'll need to create them with different software.
Despite its lack of compatibility with Adobe products, Publisher still shines as a layout tool. Custom guidelines help you align objects on the page, while master pages give you control over elements that will appear on every page of a document, like page numbers or framing blocks of color. Publisher even has full support for CMYK-optimized printing. This is the printing format used by ink printers to produce clear, high quality printing.
Publisher's greatest weakness is its lack of graphic design tools. Where other desktop publishing packages let you craft logos or touch up photographs, Microsoft Publisher supports neither. Instead, it sticks to simpler effects such as 3D extrusions, bevels and basic quickshapes. If you're not experienced with any sort of image editing or graphic design, you might not miss those omissions, but the ability to smooth out a blemish or recolor a stock logo can make all the difference between a template and a personalized publication.
Typography & Templates
The true power of Microsoft Publisher is in the superb quality and selection of its templates. Unlike so many of its competitors, Publisher links to Microsoft Office's online template portfolio, which is regularly updated and sports crisp, clean designs that can easily jump-start your projects. The template selection isn't particularly huge – you can only expect access to about 700 different options, compared to the thousands that other programs offer – but it's diverse, covering every type of project you might undertake. Microsoft hasn't tried to inflate its numbers by offering dozens of variants of the same template.
The true power of Microsoft Publisher is in the superb quality and selection of its templates. Unlike so many of its competitors, Publisher links to Microsoft Office's online template portfolio, which is regularly updated and sports crisp, clean designs that can easily jump-start your projects. The template selection isn't particularly huge – you can only expect access to about 700 different options, compared to the thousands that other software offers – but it's diverse, covering every type of project you might undertake. Microsoft hasn't tried to inflate its numbers by offering dozens of ugly variants of the same template, picking quality over quantity every time.
Help & Support
Microsoft has a nice selection of support options, including helpful FAQs and tutorials on its website to forums on Facebook and other websites, you should be able to find answers to any questions you have. While email support is absent from Microsoft’s service, the company offers both telephone and live chat options. Live chat is one of the most convenient support options, providing answers to your questions in real time, and a rarity among desktop publishers.
Microsoft Publisher might seem like a secondary choice next to so many dedicated competitors from other companies, but don't be fooled – this is some of the best publishing software around. Granted, it has its drawbacks – we wish it offered some more impressive graphic design tools – but as a product for laying out your family's next scrapbook page or putting together a new resume, it's one of the best. It has some of the best typography and template tools of any DTP software. Another hug bonus is its availability. Most people already have access to it, whether they know it or not, since it is included in the Microsoft Office package. This is multifunctional software that will help you create all kinds of documents and publications.