There are plenty of reasons to have page layout software at the ready. Your business will need professional correspondence, marketing materials, flyers, and much more. But for some businesses, dropping the cash for a page layout app isn't feasible. Fortunately, for those needing affordable solutions, there are plenty of page layout tools to choose from. I have gathered five such tools that should meet the needs for most users. With them, you'll be creating high-quality color pages that will help bring your business a professional look with ease. Let's examine these low-cost tools and see if one or two of them will meet your needs.
Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.
Scribus (Figure A) is the de facto standard for desktop publishing in the open source community. This amazing piece of software features everything you'll need to create incredible pages. In fact, even some publishing houses are putting Scribus to good use. Why? Because of features like color separations, CMYK and spot colors, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation.
Although Scribus offers sophisticated features used with printing presses, it's one the easiest of all the desktop publishing tools around. Its interface is more user-friendly than most of the competition. So any user or company would be remiss not to give Scribus a try before they fire up any other page layout tool.
Lucidpress (Figure B) is both a web-based page layout tool and a Chromebook app. It's a free service, and when you use it on the Chromebook, you can seamlessly integrate it with Google Drive. However, the free version does have its limitations. For example, you're limited to 25MB storage space, you can't access the premium template library, and there's no revision history or local backups. You can upgrade to the Basic account (for $7.95/month) and add those features to your account.
Lucidpress includes templates for creating newsletters (paper or digital), brochures, annual reports, flyers, and pamphlets. You'll also find collaboration features, such as document sharing and real-time chat. Lucidpress can be used to create printed or digital campaigns for marketing — so it's more than just your average page layout tool.
LibreOffice (Figure C) is not an official page layout tool, but it's ideal for anyone who's familiar with office suites but doesn't want to spend time learning a full-blown desktop layout program. LibreOffice allows you to easily insert images, manage columns, work with tables, and export to PDF format.
Although you won't be manipulating the layout as granularly as you can with the likes of Scribus, LibreOffice will most certainly work in a pinch — and do a fine job. In fact, LibreOffice also includes LibreOffice Draw, which will help you work with images to be included in your documents. LibreOffice is free and available for Linux, Windows, and Mac (and soon to be available for Android).
GIMP (Figure D) is a free image-editing tool. But it offers so much power, you can easily use it to create amazing layouts and even export them as PDF documents. And since GIMP is all about image editing, you can also use it to create some phenomenal graphics along with your text.
GIMP lets you add text, apply effects to it, reshape it, and much more. If you're willing to go the extra mile and learn the ins and outs of this raster image tool, the payoff will be worth the learning curve. Just be sure to save your work in the native format (.xcf) as you go, to preserve layering and other attributes. GIMP is available for Linux, Windows, and Mac.
Pixlr (Figure E) is another web-based tool that includes a ChromeOS app. It's primarily used for graphics, but it can (in a pinch) be put to desktop publishing use. As with GIMP, you'll be creating a single image for each page of your material. But with enough manipulating, you'll get the hang of it. Pixlr is also free and does an outstanding job with graphics. If your documents lean heavily on the graphics side of things, this might be an outstanding option — especially if you don't need as much power as GIMP offers.
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There are many ways to get to your desktop publishing destination. With some of these tools you'll be exerting a bit more of your creativity muscle than with others. But one way or another, you'll get the job done.
Do you use desktop publishing and page layout tools for your business? What are your go-to apps for creating marketing materials?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.