Warning: Learning curve ahead
Compared to lower-priced SOHO (small office/home office) desktop publishers, particularly Microsoft Publisher 2002, PageMaker is a challenge for novices. PageMaker lacks the slick wizards and step-by-step templates of Publisher. (Although PageMaker's newsletter templates are superior.) You need to dedicate training time to get the most out of this program.
PageMaker made desktop publishing accessible early on, and that hasn't changed. You can still point and click and drag and drop to rearrange elements or insert new ones or to launch one of the nearly 300 business templates to jump-start your page design. Power users can still work QuarkXPress-style by beginning with blank pages, then creating and placing boxes for text, images, or other elements. Frankly, we prefer the easier point-and-click approach.
PageMaker 7.0 may look like its predecessor, but there's new gear under the hood. One welcome change is the ability to output PageMaker publications in a special tagged PDF file that displays text and graphics in similar fashion on all sorts of hardware: PCs, Macs, PDAs, and even cell phones. You can also access sophisticated Adobe Distiller functions and security features from within PageMaker. And, as in version 6.5, you can easily output standard PDF files of any PageMaker documents. We turned a PageMaker newsletter into a PDF file with just one click.
Like version 6.5, PageMaker 7.0 can export documents in HTML format for Web publishing, but the results fall short of the much more affordable Microsoft Publisher. PageMaker's Web pages are only approximations of the originals; the formatting is off and columns are misplaced, while PageMaker-created shapes such as ovals and boxes are never translated. If you want one program to produce both paper and HTML versions of documents, Publisher 2002 is a better bet.
There's no doubt that PageMaker has it all over Publisher when it comes to advanced publishing jobs. PageMaker supports high-resolution printing and color management, which ensures that color is always consistent, from proofs to final output. And PageMaker has none of the weird limits of Publisher; you can insert as many spot color elements in a document as you want. (Publisher maxes out at 12.)
PageMaker 7.0's new Data Merge feature lets you import data and images from spreadsheets and databases (but only as comma-delimited or TXT files, which you create using the export function of your spreadsheet or database) and merge them into a publication. The most obvious and useful application is for catalogs. Unlike Publisher, which can perform only simple mail merges for mass mailings, PageMaker can drop data into fields you've defined anywhere in the target publication. You can, with some sweat (since PageMaker doesn't include templates for catalogs), insert fields into a product listing that will pull in item numbers, prices, descriptions, and even images from your database or spreadsheet. Since PageMaker can't import native Excel or Access files--a surprising omission--any formatting applied to the source worksheet or database is lost.