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An old friend returns

Adobe PageMaker 7 is still a top pick for most page-layout projects. Software review hed: An old friend returns dek: Adobe PageMaker 7 is still a top pick for most page-layout projects.

Having kept out of sight while Adobe Systems was busy battling Quark with its InDesign product, I was worried that PageMaker would be left to fade away. The introduction of PageMaker 7 renews my faith that there may yet be some life left yet in this most wonderful of all desktop publishing software packages.

The interface is similar yet somewhat different from previous versions, and retains the Adobe family resemblance that makes moving back and forth between Photoshop, Illustrator, and PageMaker easy for computer users of all levels. On the Windows version, you’ll find a Microsoft Office-style toolbar with shortcuts to features such as spell-checking, bulleted lists, frame options, and text wraps. Funny–Microsoft had no trouble including these features in Office 2001 for the Mac. More important, PageMaker 7 retains its overall ease of use, and simple-to-understand interface and commands.

The Windows version (only) contains a Picture Palette for browsing and managing illustrations, clip art, and photographs that are saved in industry-standard formats. You can search the palette by categories, thumbnails, or keywords. Users can add or delete graphics and even create new categories. Windows users also get a Template Browser for searching and managing PageMaker-formatted templates. Maybe Mac OS users will get these features in a later update.

Unlike some earlier versions of PageMaker that were only compatible with the previous version, PageMaker 7 imports native files from versions 5 and 6. Adobe has offered a converter for QuarkXPress documents, making the migration from this complex program to PageMaker, but I must confess that I could never get my Mac OS version to work properly. This latest version of PageMaker includes an updated converter that actually works and also opens files created with Microsoft Publisher 97, 98, and 2000. For the Windows version (only), a single converter handles both types of files.

And then there are e-books. The inability of traditional dead-tree publishers to respond to authors and readers has fueled a firestorm of activity in e-book publishing. (I’m currently working on two of these digital publications.) E-publishers will be glad to learn that PageMaker 7 supports tagged PDF files and automatically reflows documents for readability on different kind of devices, even at different display resolutions.

This program is the kind that plays well with other software. You can import text and image data from a database or spreadsheet in either .csv (comma separated values) or .txt format, and then merge this data into a PageMaker template. You can also import Photoshop (.psd) files without having to first convert them into “flattened” files, a feature that lets you make last-minute corrections and edits to either Photoshop or PageMaker files, and have those changes reflected in the final output.

PageMaker 7 is available in all of the seemingly endless variations of Microsoft Windows, as well as any version of the Mac OS after 8.6. Because PageMaker 7 shipped before Windows XP, it is not certified to run under that OS, but it should run with few, if any, problems. As with Adobe’s current crop of Macintosh-based software, it runs in Classic Mode under Mac OS X.

With a $499 street price (only a $79 upgrade for registered owners of any previous version) PageMaker 7 is inexpensive, but it’s the best damn desktop publishing program available for the typical SOHO and small-business operation.

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