If you want to create presentations for print, fancy brochures or even want to do desktop publishing then it is likely that you would consider Microsoft Publisher as one of the best options available for this type of work. It is certainly good software which you would expect from Microsoft but it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Although there are a lot of Microsoft Publisher users they have a few complaints about the application. If you are a new designer then you probably won’t find it to be very user-friendly. In fact, creating the printed materials the way that you want them can often be quite a challenge with this popular application.
Microsoft Publisher is fairly low cost and can do a lot of things pretty well but there are other applications out there that can do just as well if not better. So I took it upon myself to find these other content management applications and give them a try and let you know what I thought about them.
When it comes to designing materials for print I am certainly at the novice level so you need to bear that in mind as you are reading this review. So after a lot of searching and testing, I am happy to bring you the best 7 Microsoft Publisher alternatives.
1. Serif Page Plus – $19.99
You can still purchase Serif Page Plus even though it is a legacy product so I deem it a good Microsoft Publisher alternative. As a novice, I found it really easy to use Page Plus to create newsletters, brochures, posters, flyers and even business cards.
When you use Page Plus the application will ask you what you are trying to create in a popup box. It will then display a number of templates that you can choose from for your print material design. I found this very helpful and it inspired me to come up with some of my own ideas.
Page Plus is drag and drops for the most part and I just jumped straight into using the application without bothering with any of the training. There are some great features with Page Plus and if you want to create your design from scratch this is not a problem. Page Plus is for Windows users.
2. Adobe InDesign – $20.99 a month
If you are already at a good level when it comes to design work then Adobe InDesign is a serious Microsoft Publisher alternative. There is a 7-day free trial but after that, you will have to pay $20.99 a month so it can run pretty expensive. It is really a good option if you are designing new materials all the time.
Adobe InDesign is for both Mac and Windows. I was actually pretty overwhelmed when I tried this application as there seemed to be just about every feature included under the sun. I had to take a look at the tutorials (which were great) to even make a start. It is definitely too advanced for new designers.
Adobe InDesign has a good interface and I found navigating around it pretty straight forward. I do not have any doubt that it is one of the most powerful applications out there but for a newcomer like me, the learning curve was pretty steep.
3. Scribus – Free
So this is the free open source Microsoft Publisher alternative that you have been expecting and it is a really good one. The first bit of good news is that you can install Scribus on your Mac or Windows computer. As it is open source you can install it on many different computers and take your designs with you.
I was a little apprehensive about using Scribus but I needn’t have been. It has a drag and drop interface which I actually found pretty easy to use. I liked the feature where you can import PDF documents and you can export your designs to PDF as well. I did experience a problem with formatting at times.
I couldn’t use all of the features of Scribus because I didn’t have the scripting knowledge required to use them. A lot of professional designers like Scribus and it isn’t difficult to see why. As a beginner, I was able to create some fairly simple designs without too much trouble but there are easier applications to use for the beginner out there.
4. Spring Publisher – Free version and Pro is $29.95
Spring Publisher is a Windows-only design application that is a good Microsoft Publisher alternative. I found that I could use Spring Publisher to design flyers, business cards, letterheads, brochures pretty easily. I like the fact that Spring Publisher is template driven and you can choose a template to start from if you are a beginner like me.
If you know a bit about designing print materials already then you can start with a blank template and just do your own thing. I was able to modify one of the templates easily to make it just right for what I wanted. An example of this was creating a business card where I needed to change the name, address and other details.
Something that I really liked about Spring Publisher was that you could move all of the elements of your design around at once rather than having to move each one separately. Creating and modifying templates was simple and I would recommend the Pro version as the free version has limited features.
5. QuarkXPress – Free trial then either $295 per year or $849 Perpetual
Yes, it is expensive, but QuarkXPress is a seriously good Microsoft Publisher alternative. It probably has the same level of features as Adobe InDesign (I didn’t do a direct comparison) and it provides everything that you need to produce the highest quality print material designs and desktop publishing newsletters.
I found out that one of the best things about QuarkXPress is the fact that they really listen to their users and keep adding user-requested features. I liked the drag and drop functionality and the fact that you can change the page size easily. To be honest this is really an application for professionals and I did find it quite hard going.
QuarkXPress just has so many features and some of them I didn’t even understand! I did have to go through some of the training to get started so if you are new to this design game then look for something easier to begin with.
6. Lucidpress – Free Version and Pro at $12.95 per month
Lucidpress is web-based so you can use it on whatever platform you want. It is another good Microsoft Publisher alternative. As soon as I accessed Lucidpress I was impressed with the drag and drop functionality. In fact, it was quite similar to Microsoft Publisher in a number of ways and I found it easier to use.
I was able to get started straight away with Lucidpress thanks to its impressive selection of templates. It is a great design application for beginners because you can just select one of the readymade templates and get right into it. It is pretty straight forward to create pamphlets, brochures, flyers, business cards, and even logos.
I have to say that the free version is reasonably good but the Pro version is much better. You do not need any design skills to get good results from Lucidpress. I created some very good print material designs and I really don’t know what I’m doing. Some web-based applications can be a bit sluggish but Lucidpress certainly wasn’t.
7. Print Artist 25 Gold – $29.99
Print Artist 25 Gold is a low-cost Microsoft Publisher alternative that has a lot of impressive features. You get more than 16,000 professional templates with the application and over 277,000 graphics you can use in your designs. Although Print Artist 25 Gold is primarily a greeting card creator you can do a lot more besides.
I found it easy to create calendars, certificates, stationery, labels and a lot more besides thanks to the wonderful templates. There was no learning curve for me and if you are a novice designer then you shouldn’t have to spend too much time learning how to use Print Artist 25 Gold.
I wanted to import some of my photographs into the application and I found it easy to do this. Image resizing was simple and it was very easy to add text and edit it. If you want to share your designs on Facebook you can do that from inside the app. There are a lot of editing tools and everything just felt intuitive about this application.
My Final Verdict on the Microsoft Publisher alternatives
You probably know what I’m going to say here. There are Microsoft Publisher alternatives for those new to designing print materials and there are full-on applications with all of the bells and whistles for those that have a lot of experience. For the experienced user, it is a choice between Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress.
For new users, there are a number of choices. A low-cost solution that is really easy to use is Serif’s Page Plus but it’s a legacy product now and that may put some people off. Another good new user solution is Lucidpress. I really liked this web-based app and you can try the free version to see if you like it or not.
If you don’t want to spend any money then Scribus is the only real choice. It is possible to make print designs in free office suites such as Libre Office but Scribus is dedicated to this and you will find it a lot easier once you have learned how to really use it.