Best Free Desktop Publishing Program


Commercial Desktop publishing programs are expensive. But don't despair, there are two excellent desktop publishing programs that are totally free. One is ideal for small business and an excellent alternative to Microsoft Publisher; the other is a serious competitor to the high-end, feature rich commercial programs.

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ScribusThe first, more advanced, program is Scribus, a free open source program that was originally written for Linux but is now available for Mac OS X, OS2 and Windows.

Scribus is the real thing; a professional quality page layout program capable of producing "press-ready" output. The feature list is impressive, basically everything you want is there including: CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation. Graphics manipulation is handled via an interface to the Gimp, another open source program. Scribus can also import from and export to programs in the Open Office suite.

The user interface though highly functional, is not quite as slick as its commercial cousins but it can be skinned to fit in with the look of whatever operating system you are using. The documentation is excellent and there is lots of support from Scribus's enthusiastic user community.


PagePlus Starter EditionThe second is PagePlus Starter Edition from Serif Software, makers of the well known free digital editor PhotoPlus. It's an earlier version 8 of Serif's current PagePlus product that is now at version X5. The SE version is lacking a lot of features available in the current product but has more than enough to produce the relatively simple brochures, flyers, ads, and newsletters used by small businesses and charitable organizations. In fact its lack of complex features makes it a much more user friendly and easier to learn program for beginners with only basic publishing needs.

The program comes with a good set of templates to help get the creatively challenged started and more templates can be downloaded from the web. Text creation and manipulation works well while images can be cut and pasted, re-sized and moved around the templates with ease. There is also a basic set of shapes available. The color palette available is limited but adequate for most needs. File formats available to save your work are also somewhat limited and do not include the ability to save your work in PDF format. However, for $9.95 you can upgrade to version 9 that handles PDF as well as adding a lot of other features such as Pantone colors, freehand tools, mail merge and web publishing.

If there is one thing that really stands out about PagePlus SE, it is the ease of use. In fact if you can use Microsoft Word you can use PagePlus SE to accomplish far more with your layout than is possible with Word. Serif is also noted for offering previous customers great deals on even their latest versions, so, for some, it might be worthwhile to become a customer and watch for deals. As of July 2010, a new and greatly improved version, compatible with Windows 7 is now available.

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Quick Selection Guide


Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Very powerful, can do about anything that you can imagine.
May be too complex and powerful for casual usage.
70 MB x86; 82 MB x64
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Before installing Scribus (for Windows), install Ghostscript. It's required for EPS import. See the instructions at
Windows 2000 to 8 x86, Vista to 8 x64, Mac OS X, Various Linux Distributions, OS2 eComStation.

PagePlus Starter Edition

Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to use. Many built-in backgrounds, templates, swatches, styles and etc. Likely the best choice for everyday usage.
Not as feature rich as the competitor.
Starter Edition
81.35 MB
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Registration is free and required to get a product key for installation.
Windows XP (32 bit), Vista, 7

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desktop publish, desktop software, publishing program, publish software

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I noticed this is an updated article. With regards to PagePlus Starter Edition's inability to save to PDF, there is a very simple solution. Use the free program doPDF.
It's probably the simplest of all PDF printer drivers and doesn't require Ghostscript. The setup file is just 1.18MB and the program is compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2008/2003/2000 Server (32/64-bit).

I scanned the website with VirusTotal and it's 100% clean. Here's the report:

Good point! Thank you for information you've provided on dopdf. The ability to convert printable documents to PDF is certainly important to every desktop publisher.

Scribus 1.4.4 is out. What they say:

"Scribus 1.4.4 is mostly a bugfixing release, but it also adds a number of new features, some of which are relevant for newspaper production. "

I use the Draw module of LibreOffice (aka OpenOffice) for page layout with great results.

It's a very good tool for one or two-sided projects like business cards, flyers and brochures -- not your novel.

Sribis is surely the better tool for professionally printed jobs, but LibreOffice Draw is better for simple jobs printed at home.

The trick to DTP in Draw is using the layers. You set-up your guidelines on the bottom layer, lock the layer, and make it non-printing.

Then do your lay up on the top layer.

The learning curve is so much easier than Scribis.

BTW -- I'm a professional graphic artist and prefer a blank page rather than templates or wizards in programs like MS Publisher. If you want that, Draw isn't for you.

Just downloaded PagePlus for a computer running Windows XP.... yeah I know, I'm even older! Anyway, there was no delay in the download and all worked well. You need to register for the product key, but I haven't had any spam or problems similar to those experienced by Chris Varga. The program has started and appears to be all that is advertised. Looks like an outstanding product for the price. Cheers.