Whether you own a business and want to print new business cards or you are designing a high-end magazine or newspaper, page layout design software has all the tools you need to make professional-looking publications. These unique pieces of software offer all kinds of features to help modify your text and graphics and combine them to create a high-quality page spread.
Software such as InDesign, PagePlus and QuarkXPress are great for print publishing and digital publishing for PDF files and eBook formats. Some of these applications even go one step further and offer tools for laying out a website, smartphone app or creating a QR code, which effectively allows you to keep in-step with today’s digital audience. Between clean layouts and myriad editing tools, these programs let you add your own fun flourishes to publications.
Layout & Organization
Adobe InDesign is among the best page layout software. It offers an incredible number of tools and features that may seem overwhelming if you are new to page layout design software. However, if you are familiar with Adobe products then you will feel comfortable using the InDesign series. All settings, actions and tools are conveniently located, and the layout can be customized as you need. Some versions of this series come with the liquid layout feature for responsive displaying. This basically allows the page to rotate with a tablet between landscape and portrait mode. These applications offer some effects and photo-editing options to improve graphics, but they are somewhat limited. Instead, this software excels largely in its capabilities of enabling users to create truly remarkable publications. You can wrap text around images, integrate your graphics from Illustrator or Photoshop, manipulate text, create page and paragraph layout templates, and even export publications for print or electronic consumption.
Adobe InDesign is the first choice for many professional designers, publishers and artists. The page layout software makes it simple to combine text and graphics and lay them out on pages of any size. Some versions of this application offer a preflight checklist, so you can keep tabs on everything you have done and need to do before you hit print. The application is vast, with features that cater to both advanced and beginner users alike. Yet, with so many features and tools, the learning curve for this software is quite high, especially if you have never used page layout applications before. But the power and features you'll find inside InDesign are incredible, enabling you to create intricate layouts and designs for brochures, books and magazines alike.
The PagePlus series from Serif is another excellent choice for page layout software. While it does not have the ability to design QR codes and apps, the software offers many traditional features, such as 3D charts and a startup assistant to help you learn the software. This series has a simple interface and a clean workspace with conveniently located menus. The preloaded color schemes and templates make this page layout design software easy to use. If you do not like any of the preloaded clip art within the software, you can instead upload any image you want. Afterward, simply edit photos and graphics with Cutout Studio, which is a built-in advanced layout guide. With this tool, you gain additional exposure to the many effects and options available for manipulating your text. With some versions of this application, the text conversion allows you to edit individual letters. For example, the text will automatically wrap around a graphic or image instead of flowing through it. The online community even has thousands of members that offer tips, images and templates.
You will notice how effective the PagePlus series from Serif is as a page layout design software. Versions from this series have options to let you create 3D sales charts, to work in a clean and organized workspace, and to use a startup assistant to help you learn the software. Plus, for the features you get, this easy-to-use page layout software is less expensive than many of the other applications you'll find in our lineup of the best page designer software. We did miss a few features included in the most powerful products, such as the ability to design apps and QR codes, but if you're a publisher on a budget, you will love this series.
Graphics & Design Tools
QuarkXpress offers a page layout software series with applications that suit newspapers, brochures and book publications. The applications revolve around the use of layout automation, a unique approach that we feel allows for a very effective workflow. You can divide elements of the layout and send individual components to multiple peers for them to edit and then import back into the application. Show your artistic side with all the tools, effects and filters available to enhance and improve your photos and graphics. You can work with your text regardless of the format. With audio and video aids, eSeminars, a knowledgebase and online forums, the QuarkXpress series offers some of the best help and support available for this type of tool.
The QuarkXPress series is a great choice for some of the best page layout software. These applications work with advertising, brochures, magazines, books and newspapers. With QuarkXPress, you can also create applications, digital magazines and eBooks for tablets. Features such as callouts and ImageGrid give you the tools to import grids that automatically move with the flow of your text. These applications are all about layout automation and allow you to design quickly and efficiently.
Word Processing vs. Page Layout
Although page layout software offers features similar to word processing applications, the two should not be confused. Word processing handles the writing and editing of content, with some limited design capabilities. However, first and foremost, these act as an electronic typewriter where you can edit, move, delete, save and print simple documents. Page layout software delves more deeply into the realm of design, allowing you to become your own printing press. You can configure the size of a publication and its overall layout, and you have greater control over the formatting of text and paragraphs.
Both word processing and page layout applications serve a specific function in the development of publications. Whereas in one it’s easier to write copy, in another it’s easier to create unique layouts reminiscent of larger publications in circulation. Page layout software enables you to produce documents that combine text with graphics and is thus more preferable when designing things like newsletters, magazines and brochures, when layout is most important.
The comparison between application types ultimately comes down to the perception of quality. To make a publication look like it was produced professionally, it must meet certain standards associated with that publication type. Otherwise, you’re less likely to attract buyers. Page layout software gives you maximum control over the appearance of a page, all the way down to the position of type on that page. Many such capabilities are difficult or impossible to accomplish in a word processor, which means you’ll want something with superior text and graphic handling.
Page Layout vs. Desktop Publishing
Depending on who you talk to, page layout and desktop publishing software are used interchangeably. Truthfully, the two are arguably synonymous, but they actually indicate different grades or complexity of software. Desktop publishing is most often associated with at-home publishing, which means the application is cheaper, but it also focuses largely on basic features associated with page layout. Thus, such applications are easy to learn and use for basic publications.
In comparison, page layout software traverses closer to the enterprise or business level of software. These applications offer both simple and complex features alike but allow you to create publications professional and unique in appearance. If you’re planning on self-publishing a single book, you likely won’t be able to justify the expense or extensive training required to use page layout software and you should instead consider desktop publishing. But if you’re a business or freelancer that plans on doing multiple publications, then page layout software is better suited to your needs. Likewise, if you plan on interacting at greater depth with printing presses, you’ll want to consider page layout applications that accommodate the more complex and rigid expectations associated with such a relationship.
While the more economic decision is to consider desktop publishing, consider how this may still affect the appearance of your publication. Basic layout tools will only help you so far in making something look professionally produced. For greater control, whether you are a professional and self-taught designer, you will want to pick page layout software.
Page layout applications offer a wide range out file outputs, meaning you can create a variety of publications from a single application. You aren’t restricted solely to PDF format, and you can create files in various outputs for a variety of purposes. For example, some software allows you to create eBook-reader-friendly publications, such as EPUB or MOBI files. Other applications allow you to generate HTML websites, XML files and even images from the original layout. This is because the world of printing is a multifaceted one where a single publication can find consumers throughout the digital and physical market. With page layout software, you can increase the reach of a publication to greater distances across media. Check out our review of online printing services for more information on them.
Page Layout Software: What to Look For
You don't want to limit yourself or your creativity by selecting the wrong piece of software. There are several things to consider besides the price, and we explore the features that will help your publications stand out.
Layout & Organization
Page layout software can be complicated, so finding a user-friendly workspace makes your workflow quicker and more accessible. Having the ability to group objects, work with layers and arrange your objects can give you the greatest satisfaction from your software. Find software that has project templates that let you jump right in and that let you turn the snap-to-grid alignment on or off. We also noticed the best page layout software lets you quickly reconfigure paragraphs to span more than one column, such as a headline, without creating separate text frames.
Graphic & Design Tools
No page layout application is complete without the option to create and manage your own graphics. While many programs let you add photos and have artistic filters and several drawing tools, the best applications go further by letting you design smartphone apps, eBooks and even QR codes. You should also look for software that has options to blend colors, add effects to photos, and create easy grids and guides.
Every print design program lets you drop text into your projects, but the best ones let you create sophisticated typography. This means you can create drop caps as well as text on a certain path you outline. If you want to take standard text to the next level, look for programs that allow you to apply visual effects and convert letters to editable shapes.
Layout software serves a variety of your digital publishing needs. Whether you want to use this software to create a magazine layout, self-publish your first novel or see what your website may look like, make sure that you find the right software that both fits what you will use it for and your budget.
For more information and hints on how these products work, check out our articles on page layout software.