It's ridiculously easy to find a range of good quality, free, or inexpensive software for just about every business task you can imagine—with one possible exception—desktop publishing. If you want to publish a small business newsletter or magazine, your options initially appear limited, pricey, and complicated.
Digging a bit deeper, however, you'll find options better suited for small business publishing. We've collected five newsletter publishing tools that range in price, operating system compatibility, and feature sets. Better yet, one of them is certainly bound to fit your budget.
Small Business Publishing Software
Microsoft Publisher has been around for years but for Windows only. You won’t find it in Microsoft Office on the Mac, and it isn't available online either. This latest version of Publisher runs on Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, but not Vista or XP.
Publisher is a competent tool for creating newsletters and other multipage publications. You can save your publications as PDF files, which makes it easy to distribute them via email and on the Web, and it includes options for commercial printing, too.
Figure 1: Microsoft Publisher includes lots of templates and advanced features, and it's a good all-round choice if you use Windows.
The software provides plenty of templates that you can use to quick start your publication. You can also merge publications with an email mailing list, and Publisher supports master pages. If you're familiar with other Microsoft products, then a lot of the Publisher interface and features will be already familiar to you.
Pricing for Microsoft Publisher 2013: $109.99.
InDesign is the big daddy of publication software, and it's available for both Mac and PC. It's a powerful publishing tool with the capability to produce large documents ranging from newsletters to ebooks and magazines, but it doesn't include templates—you'll need to find them elsewhere or build your own.
InDesign comes with loads of features, and you can expect a correspondingly steep learning curve. You can professionally print the publications you create with InDesign, save them as PDF files, or export them in a range of ebook formats.
Figure 2: Adobe's InDesign is a fully featured publishing tool for newsletter design.
If you're familiar with other Adobe products, such as Photoshop and Illustrator, then some of the InDesign interface will be familiar. If you need to produce a lot of high-quality content, InDesign is the program of choice. But if you need to create only a small number of in-house publications, then it's more software than you need.
Pricing for Adobe InDesign CC2014: from $19.99 per month Single Application or included with a Creative Cloud Subscription.
Serif PagePlus is available for Windows only as both a free and for-fee version. The free version lacks the range of features and templates that you get with the paid version, and it can't save the publications you create with it as PDF files. However, PagePlus is an easy program to learn and to use, and even the free version supports advanced features such as master pages and styles.
Figure 3: Available in both free and premium versions, PagePlus is a sound newsletter publication tool for Windows users.
PagePlus makes a great all-round choice for creating good-looking newsletters and publications. One plus for people with older versions of Windows: it's compatible with Windows XP and Vista, unlike Microsoft Publisher and InDesign.
Pricing for Serif PagePlus: free starter edition; PagePlus X8: $119.99.
Scribus, a free open source desktop publishing application, runs on Mac OS X as well as on Windows and Linux. It includes templates to quick-start your publications and advanced features such as master pages, styles and scripts.
Figure 4: Open source Scribus is a solid desktop publication tool well-suited for use in a cross-platform environment.
You can export your Scribus publications as PDFs, as well as in files ready for professional printing. If you're working in a cross-platform environment or on a Mac, then Scribus is well worth considering as an alternative to the more costly InDesign.
Pricing for Scribus: Free.
Lucidpress is unusual compared to the other publishing tools in this line up, because it runs online inside a browser—which makes it accessible to just about anyone. If you value aesthetics, then you'll like the stylish interface, and people new to publishing software will like that a panel of appropriate options appears whenever you click on an object.
Lucidpress is free for personal use; the for-fee versions provide additional features for individuals; a team version accommodates up to 500 users and includes collaborative tools, shared templates and images, plus integration with Google Apps.
Each version offers a 14-day free trial with no credit card required for signup. Lucidpress is a smart tool; it includes good help and tutorials and supports graphics, headers and footers, breakout boxes, and full-bleed text. If you're looking for a good, easy, and free publishing tool, then Lucidpress is well worth considering.
Figure 5: Lucidpress works inside a browser and is easy to use with lots of added features in its premium versions.
While it may look at first glance that the pickings are slim in the newsletter software market the reality is that there are good applications available and enough variety that you should be able to find something that will suit your skill level and pocket.
Pricing for Lucidpress: free version; for-fee versions from $7.95 per month.
Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|