Best Desktop Publishing Software of 2018

Rebecca Spear ·
Digital Photo Editing & Small Appliance Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

After comparing 10 desktop publishing programs' layout tools and capabilities, we believe Xara Page & Layout Designer is the best one thanks to its many professional-looking designs, typography capabilities and importing compatibility. We were impressed that even with its many graphic design and layout tools it is well organized and easy to use. Whether you need it for personal projects or use it for work, Xara can help you create top-quality page layouts.   

Best Overall
Xara Page & Layout Designer
Xara Page & Layout Designer has professional-quality layouts and graphics as well as an incredibly user-friendly interface. Advanced designers, businesses and home users alike will find this program useful.
View on CJ
Best Value
Microsoft Publisher
Since Microsoft Office is used in most businesses and homes, you can almost guarantee the layouts you create with Publisher will be accessible on coworkers’ and clients’ computers.
View on Linkshare
Best for Professional Use
Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign has long been the go-to publishing and layout program for professional designers. It includes top-quality template, text and graphic design tools, and Adobe has hundreds of online tutorials.
View on Tradedoubler
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Layout & Publishing
Graphic Design
Typography & Templates
Help & Support
Avery Template Support
Business Templates
Creative Templates
Template Variations
Windows 10
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows 8
Formatting Styles
Word Processor
Text Reflow
Included Fonts
Kerning/Tracking
Spellchecker
Tables
Charts & Graphs
Export to PDF
Proportional Snapping
Master Pages
Import Microsoft Word Files
CMYK Optimization
Import Photoshop PSD Files
Custom Guides
Forum
Live Chat
Telephone
FAQs
Tutorials
Email/Ticketing
Included Art Assets
Gradients & Transparency
3D Effects
Bevel & Emboss
Photo Correction Tools
Text-on-a-Path
Photoshop-Style Filters
QuickShapes
Vector Graphics Editor
Color Adjustment
Check Price
9.3 8.5 10 9.8 9
-
90%
80%
600+
600+
-
-
-
-
3,000+
-
Check Price
9.1 10 7 10 10
-
100%
100%
250+
500+
-
-
$
-
-
-
Check Price
8.1 8.5 5.5 10 10
100%
100%
700+
60+
-
-
-
150,000+
-
-
-
-
-
Check Price
6.3 8.5 2.8 8.3 3.8
-
100%
0%
9
300+
-
-
-
-
-
9
-
-
-
-
-
-
$39.99 Amazon
6.2 3 8.8 7.5 9
90%
90%
4,300+
-
-
None
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
155,000+
-
-
-
$99.99 Amazon
5.9 4.5 5.8 7.5 9
-
90%
100%
5,500+
-
-
600+
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
250,000+
-
-
-
-
-
-
$27.99 Amazon
5 1.5 9 7 3.3
75%
85%
25,000+
-
-
1,000+
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
$
-
377,000+
-
-
-
$29.99 CJ
5 1.5 9 6.8 3.3
75%
85%
16,750+
-
-
700+
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
$
-
277,000+
-
-
-
Check Price
4.5 2.3 5.8 8.3 2.8
70%
40%
1,800+
-
-
-
-
1,000+
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
8,400+
-
-
-
-
-
$33.49 Amazon
4.4 0.8 5.8 7.5 9
-
90%
100%
4,800+
-
-
600+
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
193,000+
-
-
-
-
-
-
Best Overall
Xara Page & Layout Designer has beautiful templates and a sleek interface, making it a good choice for professionals and home users alike. It doesn't have as many templates and art assets as other programs, but those it includes are well-designed.
This software is easy to navigate, so it’s easy to learn how to use its features. The master pages feature makes your projects look uniform, and the program includes custom guides and proportional snapping to help you create balanced, symmetrical designs. You can also adjust kerning and tracking as well as use text flow so your paragraphs and text look the way you want them. In addition, you can import Microsoft Word files and Photoshop PSD files. The program also has a spell checker. However, this desktop publisher doesn’t include tools to create tables, charts or graphs. Also, it comes with roughly 600 templates and 3,000 art assets, which is fewer than other programs have. Still, that is plenty for most people. In addition to online tutorials, Xara has a user forum and a FAQs page. You can also contact a customer service representative by email.
Pros
  • User-friendly
  • Online tutorials
  • Word and PSD file compatibility
Cons
  • Fewer templates than other programs
  • No table, chart or graph tools
  • Fewer art assets than other programs
$49.99CJ
Read the full review
Best Value
Microsoft Publisher has several layout and typography tools. Also, unlike most of the other programs we reviewed, it lets you create tables, charts and graphs to enhance your projects.
Publisher has more than 150,000 graphics, including vector images, clip art and stock photos, you can use to enhance your document. You can also add effects to your images using the gradient and transparency tools, and you can bevel and emboss images. However, the program doesn't have photo correction tools to adjust color or add filters. While you can import Word files, Microsoft Publisher isn’t compatible with Photoshop PSD files. It also doesn't feature proportional snapping, so it takes a little more work to make design elements line up correctly. There are more than 700 templates, and the library includes options suitable for both professional and personal projects. Since Publisher connects with Word, it has many typographical tools, including a spellchecker, kerning and tracking adjusters, and text reflow so none of your text gets lost when you copy and paste. Microsoft has dozens of Publisher video tutorials on its website as well as a user forum and a FAQs page. If you need to contact customer support, you can do so via phone or live chat.
Pros
  • More than 150,000 graphics
  • Chart, table and graph tools
  • Online tutorials
Cons
  • Fewer graphic design tools than some programs
  • Fewer templates than some competing software
  • Not compatible with Photoshop PSD files
$99.99Linkshare
Read the full review
Best for Professional Use
Adobe InDesign is one of the most popular professional desktop publishers. It has a wide variety of graphic design and page layout tools. Plus, it gives you a lot of freedom when placing text and images.
However, it has a steep learning curve and isn't the best choice for beginners. Also, it is meant to be used with Adobe's other programs, so it doesn't have all the photo editing tools you find in Photoshop. Adobe has an enormous online asset library that includes hundreds of thousands of stock photos, clip art and vector images, but you need to pay for a subscription to access them. If you work for a large company, it may be worth paying for access, but it might not be worth the money if you plan to use the program at home. As it comes, InDesign includes more than 250 templates for professional documents as well as fun projects like postcards, calendars and posters. You can’t use the software to create charts or graphs. Adobe sells all its products as software as a service (SaaS), so you pay for a subscription and access InDesign on the cloud. You can pay for the entire Adobe suite, called Creative Cloud, or just InDesign. All InDesign subscription plans come with Adobe TypeKit, which gives you access to more than 500 fonts as well as all the typography tools you could want. If you need help, you can view hundreds of online tutorials.
Pros
  • Has hundreds of tutorials
  • Can help you create just about any page layout
  • Comes with TypeKit, which has more than 500 fonts
Cons
  • Can't create charts and graphs
  • Must pay to access art assets
  • Has a steep learning curve
$239.88Tradedoubler
Read the full review
Most Art Assets
If you're wanting a program that offers editable templates and thousands of designs, this might be the program for you.
Print Artist Platinum 25 comes with 28,000 templates, including menus, certificates, scrapbook pages, note paper, wedding invitations and photo cards. You'll also find over 377,000 art assets for things like picture frames, clip art, filters and other designs to help you create your work quickly. The templates themselves are designed for home users and not for a business, so you'll find plenty of cute and fun designs but fewer professional-looking options. Since this software offers so many premade templates, it doesn't have a lot of layout tools for starting designs from scratch. There are no master pages to help you keep your projects tidy and uniform, no proportional snapping. You cannot import PSD files, or Word files, nor can you create tables, charts or graphs within this software. You must use the premade designs. The program itself is relatively easy to navigate, but you'll need to take some time to acquaint yourself with all of the art assets at your disposal. If you need to call the company for support, keep in mind that it charges a fee each time you call for aid.
Pros
  • It offers the most templates and designs of any other program.
Cons
  • There aren't a lot of layout tools.
Amazon
Read the full review
Easiest to Use
PrintMaster v8 Platinum has a very clean and simple interface, which makes it easy to navigate through the various options and tools.
You'll find over 155,000 backgrounds, clipart and designs for you to use, which isn't the most we've seen but, definitely gives you plenty of options to choose from. There are also 4,300 individual templates to help you plan anything from a calendar to a party invitation. Keep in mind that while there are some business-focused templates like business cards and brochures, the look and feel of the included designs is better suited for home use than a professional setting. This software is somewhat basic and doesn't come with many layout tools. For example, while you will find master pages, you won't find the ability to create charts, tables, and graphs for your work. You also cannot import PSD files or Words files, which can limit your designing plans. We were surprised to find a few photo editing tools in this software like red-eye remover and blemish removers. You'll also be able to add effects like beveling and 3D perspective to give your documents more depth. If you aren't sure how to use the software, check out the company's video tutorials and FAQs page, or contact customer support via phone or live chat.
Pros
  • It offers a decent selection of templates and art assets.
Cons
  • Layout tools are limited.
Amazon
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We’ve been evaluating desktop publishing software for the past 12 years. Whenever we compare software, we create a list of each program's tools and features. Our goal is to determine which of the programs is easiest to use while giving the user freedom to create what they want. We looked for programs that would work well for professionals, programs that would be best for beginners, and programs that worked for both categories.

While we didn't test this software, we read plenty of user reviews to see which programs were the most liked and the most user-friendly. Any time users gave red flags or glowing praise, we made sure to research those areas more thoroughly to further evaluate a software's performance. We also reached out to Kym Ridl, the Marketing and Development Coordinator for the Davis Arts Council, to get insights and tips on her desktop publishing usage. Additionally, we reached out to Chris Smith, Brand Manager of Encore Software, the creator of PrintMaster Platinum, to get insights on their software but they didn’t get back to us in time for publication.

How Much Does Desktop Publishing Software Cost?

Home edition desktop publishing software usually comes with plenty of art assets, but few layout and publishing tools, whereas more professional-level programs give you more control and a smaller, good-quality amount of themes, templates and designs. The most basic, art-centered desktop publishing programs tend to sell for as little as $35 while the more business-centered software is usually around $150. Some professional programs, like Adobe InDesign, are subscription based and cost about $20 a month.

How We Evaluated

In our most recent evaluation, we spent over 50 hours comparing the capabilities and features of 10 programs to determine which ones had the best layout, graphic design and typography tools. Programs that offered more tools typically scored better. We looked for features that made programs easier to use, including proportional snapping, master pages and the ability to import both Photoshop PSD and Microsoft Word files. We favored programs that were compatible with other programs and made the designing process easier.

We tallied up art assets available through each program to see which one provided the most. Since quantity isn't everything, we also checked to see if the designs offered were modern and stylish enough for professional and personal use. Programs with large quantities of beautiful graphics scored higher than software that offered large quantities of subpar art. Similarly, while we counted the number of templates each program came with, we also looked to see if they were classy and suited for professional as well as informal occasions. Programs that adequately covered both categories scored higher in our comparison.

Since type tools add a lot to overall creation, we looked for programs that offered everything from a spellchecker to kerning and tracking adjustments. Programs with formatting styles scored better than others since this feature allows greater productivity.

When you have questions, getting help from the company should be easy, so we looked at each software's support features. Programs that offered more points of contact for customer support, like phone, live chat and email, scored higher. We also favored companies that provided video tutorials, a FAQs page and a user forum. 

Choosing Desktop Publishing Software

The best desktop publishing software is easy to use and provides lots of beautiful templates and graphics for you to use. These programs should be useful for professional level projects or at-home creations. You'll want to make sure the program you choose has all of the features and tools you need. When we asked Kym Ridl if she had any advice for newcomers to desktop publishing software, she told us, "If you don’t know how to do something, Google it. Most everything I know about any program was probably googled at some point. There are TONS of how-to videos for everything you could possibly need to do." If you get stumped you can always find answers online - whether through the program's developers or from other users.


Layout & Publishing Tools
Master pages are incredibly convenient, helping you create headers and footers for multiple pages. This helps you stay organized and allows you to flip through specific pages of your project quickly. Programs that use custom guides and proportional snapping help you maintain a level of professionalism in your creations. If you want a program that can print projects in colors that are similar to what you see on your screen, you will definitely want to get one that offers CMYK optimization.

It is less common for these kinds of programs to be able to make charts, graphs and tables. If these elements are important to you, make sure you find a program that offers them. Programs that allow you to import Word and PSD files can also be incredibly helpful since this increases the amount of text and image documents you can use.

Graphic Design Tools
Even though some less expensive programs come with a lot of templates, art assets and fonts, we’ve found these less expensive programs often don't have many modern or professional-looking graphics compared to the more expensive programs. It’s a matter of quality versus quantity – and we prefer quality. If you plan on creating a lot of your documents from scratch, you should look for a software that offers a wide range of graphic design tools like photo correction tools, the ability to add gradients and transparency to your projects, and photo color adjustments.

Ridl told us, "sometimes one program is better to use than others. I tend to use [Microsoft] Publisher for really simple projects. But for things that need to appear a bit more “corporate” looking I tend to use InDesign or Photoshop." Before making your purchase, try to determine which program best meets your needs. If you need to create more formal looking documents, you'll want to pay a little more to obtain professional-quality art assets and layout tools.

Templates
Some programs do a better job of providing creative templates for calendars, posters and stationary sets, while others are more professional, covering business cards, letter heads, menus and resumes. The number of templates offered varies from program to program, but the best offer hundreds of choices. Remember that just because a program offers more templates, it doesn't mean that they are chic or modern enough for you to actually want to use them. Before you decide, take time to look at the sample templates offered by each program.

Typography
Many desktop publishers come with fonts for you to use, but more importantly, they come with tools that can help you optimize your text. Most programs offer text reflow that allows you to make sure that content from one textbox gets neatly placed in a new location without losing any. Spellcheckers are also very common and will help you catch any errors that could distract from your creations.

Some programs go so far as to provide word processing tools so you can make common changes and enhancements to your text. This can include making changes to fonts and adjusting kerning and tracking directly within the program instead of needing to import it from another document.

Help & Support
The best programs offer dozens, if not hundreds, of online tutorials. Similarly, community forums can help you get answers to your questions from other users. Programs that offer multiple ways to contact customer support – email, phone or live chat – can make your life easier.