When running a business, one of the most important things you need to succeed is a consistent look and feel for all your publications. This includes business cards, letterhead, brochures, catalogs, flyers, postcards, and any other type of publication you may use. Some people like to hire a dedicated design firm to handle this task. But if you are running a small business, you may not have the budget to outsource this type of work. Instead, you may want to opt to do your own designs in-house using computer software such as Adobe PageMaker 7.
Adobe PageMaker is a professional publishing application that allows you to create quality business communications for print, press, and electronic distribution. PageMaker has been on the market for quite some time, and now at version 7 the program offers a number of new features that make the publication process much easier. These new features include data merge, enhanced PDF export, PDF placement, native support for Photoshop and Illustrator files, as well as file conversion and filter support.
The new Data Merge is, in my opinion, the best new feature in version 7. Data merge allows you to import information from a text file or comma-delimited file created in a spreadsheet or database application. You can then merge the data into your PageMaker document to create form letters, bulk-mail newsletters, envelopes, catalogs, and more. You simply define data field placeholders in your document and then merge the document with the imported database. Data merge does have a few limitations though. You cannot directly link a document to a database file, such as a Microsoft Access or Excel file. Because of this, if you make any changes to the database, you have to import the data into your document again, which is a bit cumbersome.
PDF support in PageMaker is superb. As with earlier versions, you can still easily export standard PDF files of any PageMaker document. But version 7 now allows you to place PDF files directly into documents with a simple drag and drop. In addition, you can now export documents in a special tagged PDF format that displays its content in a similar orientation over multiple platforms including PC, Mac, PDAs and cell phones. Of course, PageMaker can still export to HTML as well, but the results are not very pleasing. Document formatting is not always accurate, and not all document elements are translated well.
Adobe has the excellent reputation of making their family of products work well together, and PageMaker 7 is no different. This version now allows you to import native image files from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator while preserving the original layers. Just drag and drop a file into your document. Unfortunately, transparency in Illustrator files is still unsupported. With version 7, Adobe is also making an effort to let PageMaker play well with competing products. You can now open QuarkXpress 3.3 to 4.1 documents as well as Microsoft Publisher 97 to 2000 documents using a supplied conversion utility. And Microsoft Word documents can be imported directly into PageMaker. Exporting to any of these formats, however, is not supported. So while you can receive work in various formats, you cannot send it back out in the same format.
PageMaker has come a long way from its beginnings of introducing the PC world to affordable desktop publishing. Version 7 continues the product’s growth with some powerful new features that to existing users are worth the upgrade. New users that have some desktop publishing experience will also find the new version worthwhile. Others with no experience, however, might be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of power and lack of handholding that the program provides. While PageMaker includes a very large collection of professionally produced document templates, design wizards ala Microsoft Publisher 2002 would be a welcome addition. Still, PageMaker is far more powerful than any other product in its price range or below, and with a bit of dedicated learning, you’ll find its professionalism worth the effort.