Microsoft Publisher best choice for small business
by Alan Zisman (c) 2001
First published in Business in
Issue #630 November 20-26, 2001, The High Tech Office column
Last week, we started looking at a pair of
newly revised desktop
publishing programs aimed at nonprofessional business users who still
to produce sophisticated layouts. Adobe's PageMaker 7.0 tries
reposition this once high-end product for the rest of us. In doing so,
it offers high-end features with a complex interface and less help than
many nonprofessional users will need.
Microsoft Publisher never claimed to be for
A decade ago, it was the first Microsoft program to feature helpful
its paper airplane wizard is evidence that somebody at Microsoft has a
sense of humour. The newest version, Publisher 2002, fits in with
new Office XP and plays nice with the latest versions of Word and
An improved mail-merge is based on Word's, and
Publisher can apply design
and colour schemes to imported Word documents. Like Office XP, the new
version of Publisher includes Microsoft's anti-piracy product
And like Office XP (and unlike PageMaker), it's Windows-only.
Publisher shares other Office XP features such as
autocorrect and the multiple-item clipboard. Unfortunately, those
don't always work the same way they do in its Office teammates. For
if you find Word XP's auto-numbering annoying, a smarttag lets you turn
it off. Not so in Publisher.
Formerly, Publisher was bundled with the Office Small
That package is no longer available for retail sale, though it is still
offered as part of the software bundle with some new computers.
remains available as a stand-alone package. Its pricing, around $175,
decidedly more user-friendly than Adobe PageMaker's.
Each version of Publisher has added more features to
for nondesigners. The original wizards have been expanded and joined by
hosts of templates, colour schemes and ready-to-use layouts. New to the
2002 edition are font schemes, which are sets of fonts predesigned to
good together. Also new are 15 master sets, providing themes that can
a variety of business documents a common look and feel. They look
attractive for such canned designs. Throughout, thumbnails do a good
of showing how documents will look before you click to apply changes.
This version promises improved output for commercial
printing, but if
you need to produce output for a professional service bureau, this
the program to use. Few service bureaus support Publisher files and the
program doesn't output to PDF or Postscript, the formats most service
are accustomed to using.
Also questionable is Publisher's improved ability to
save designs as
Web-friendly HTML. New is the ability to re-open those files back into
Publisher to update their contents. In order to keep these Web pages
they are bloated with Publisher-specific code, resulting in files that
are too large for quick online use. And the results are better viewed
Microsoft's Internet Explorer than with Netscape Navigator.
Nicer is the ability to save all or part of a page as
a graphic. This
means you can use Publisher to create a fancy logo or headline and save
it as a graphic for use elsewhere, perhaps in a Web page. Also welcome,
though long overdue, Publisher 2002 finally includes a print preview
And finally, users can open multiple documents at one time, simplifying
reusing text or graphics or just comparing files.
(A Publisher secret: the F9 key instantly switches
and actual-sized page views.)
Graphics professionals may sneer and Publisher 2002
fails to keep its
promises for commercial printing or Web design. Its low price and
of user-friendly features, however, keep it the best choice for home
small-business users needing to produce their own layouts. Just don't
to use that F9 key.