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Lunch » Tags » Software » Reviews » Microsoft Office Publisher 2003 » User review

Microsoft Publisher 2003; Professional Grade Desktop Publishing, At Last

  • May 21, 2004
  • by
Rating:
+5
Pros: Enhancements and improvements in almost every aspect of the program.

Cons: None.

The Bottom Line: Publisher 2003 has come of age in fine form, with thoughtful enhancements and long sought after improvements that move Publisher to business class status.

Authors Note: This is the first of six reviews I will be presenting on the Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition. The reviews will include Outlook 2003, Word 2003, Excel 2003, Access 2003, PowerPoint 2003, and Publisher 2003, which are all separate applications under the Office 2003 Professional banner.

Keeping in touch and communicating with customers is essential for any business, but when you are a small business owner it’s an imperative. I have used Microsoft’s Publisher Desktop Publishing software for almost a decade now for projects big and small, personal and business. I have designed everything from simple flyers to multi paged brochures to business cards, with the program.

Over the years Publisher has always be considered a personal desktop publishing application, with little for the serious small business to medium sized business users. Earlier version tended to concentrate on designing cards, calendars, invitations, flyers etc. All that has changed with the introduction of Publisher 2003, which is sold separately, or as part of Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition, or as part of Microsoft Office Small Business Edition. Publisher 2003 provides just the type of tools small-to-medium sized businesses need to produce professional marketing materials—be it by e-mail, print or Web publishing.

The Product

Microsoft Publisher has evolved; it has morphed into a complete business publishing and marketing materials solution that can help your business reach out to customers in a variety of easy to design marketing tools. With Publisher 2003, it's easier than ever to design, create, and publish professional grade marketing and communication materials in-house.

Publisher 2003now offers a greatly expanded assortment of publication designs, templates, and publication types designed to help small businesses create polished, professional-looking publications for print, Web-sites, and even e-mail distribution. And because it is part of the Office 2003 suite of applications, the look and feel of the program is universal and therefore familiar and easy to use.

From the Microsoft Website: Publisher 2003 is a comprehensive solution for creating and publishing a wide variety of publications for desktop printing, commercial printing, e-mail distribution, or viewing on the Web. Publisher 2003 provides all the help you need for professional results. Start from professionally designed templates that you can customize with color schemes, font schemes, various layout options, and your own design sense. Or, start from blank publications and get creative with sophisticated typography and page layout tools. Work productively across Microsoft Office System programs. Publisher 2003 looks and works like other programs in the Microsoft Office System, making it easier than ever to use the right Office tool for the task, while still making the most of your knowledge and experience with the Microsoft Office System.

Publisher 2003 is bolstered by the inclusion of 10 new Master Design Sets, from which you can select from a total of 45 professionally designed templates in order to create print or online publications. Anyone familiar with the concept of Web page style sheets will feel at home with Master Design Sets. These sets of templates enable you to apply a consistent design theme to a variety of business publications. Versatile and easy to use, Master Design Sets can be expanded beyond mere greeting cards and invitations, to include labels, inserts for CD’s and DVD’s, as well as personal stationery sets for address labels, letterhead, envelopes, and business cards.

Smart Web Page Functionality

Designing Web pages with earlier versions of Publisher was a confusing and often-time frustrating proposition, better left to the well seasoned. With Publisher 2003, that has changed. The program now affords two dissimilar environments for creating Web and print publications. When creating or editing Web publications, or even whole sites, users work in Web mode; e.g. when viewing real-time web pages produced by Publisher 2003, a web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer is utilized. This is because in Web mode the available options are tailored specifically to Web publications and optimized for viewing with a Web browser. In earlier versions this was not the case.

Creating professional looking websites that can be customized to suit specific small business needs is easier and more intuitive with Publisher 2003, with new and enhanced features for creating, editing, publishing, and updating websites. For those who opt for Microsoft Office Small Business Edition this is particularly important because FrontPage—Microsoft's other Web publishing tool—is not included in the bundle. Indeed Microsoft is now marketing FrontPage as an e-commerce Web editor, a program probably not suited for the small business environment.

Building and editing small websites is easy with Publisher 2003 because Microsoft designed the program specifically for novices, and it utilizes more wizards than ever before to help you build a professional looking website. These new Web Site Wizards include guides for building a 3-page website, a product and sales-oriented website, or a professional service-based site. But you can also build a customized Web site from scratch, utilizing the Easy Web Site Builder tool, which offers a series of goal-based website design options based on your specific needs. For example, you could tell Publisher's Easy Web Site Builder that the goal for the website is to market services. Publisher 2003 automatically pulls together a service-related website.

Building individual web pages has been made easier because Publisher 2003 offers an expanded selection of individual Web page types that you can select from to build a site one page at a time. Topical Web pages include the standard About Us, Calendar, Contact Us, Forms, General Information, and Home, among others. To better customize and organize a site, Publisher 2003 features editable navigational bars that you can add or remove and change links throughout the entire site. The program also allows you to add secondary navigation bars (very important) to a website to create a navigational structure within portions of a site.
Enhanced Email Capability

E-Mail capabilities are also improved, with the introduction of e-mail wizards, which allow you to generate professional e-mail messages that have the same high quality look and feel as print publications. With E-Mail wizard options such as events, activities, speakers, featured products, general newsletters or product lists you can create and send—via Outlook—high-impact specialized E-mail messages, directly to clients, bypassing the time constraints and expense of regular mail.

Layout and graphics features under Publisher 2003 have also been enhanced; they are now designed to give you better control over the design of a print publication. With better control of layout guides that dialog and picture frame boxes are far easier to manipulate; e.g. margin guides — design references on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of a page that are used to define available space — can be manipulated to position graphics or images outside of text margins. Earlier versions of Publisher made this a chore.

Publisher 2003 has two new laborsaving functions that have long been staples (in one form or another) in other Microsoft Office products; catalog and e-mail merge wizards. Publisher 2003's new Merge Wizards allow users to transfer information that is stored in a data source; spreadsheet, table or database, merge it with a print or Web publication. For example, a spread sheet of titles, item numbers, links and pictures can be merged into an e-mail newsletter, website or print brochure.

With Publisher 2003, you can now merge pictures into publications using either e-mail merge or catalog merge. Mail merge allows users to create individually customized publications, while catalog merge allows users to create illustrated product publications or photo albums. These designs can then be sent to customers as email messages, allowing your business to create and send a wide variety of high-impact publications via E-mail.
Publisher 2003 comes with new designs for publications that users can send as e-mail messages. Publisher 2003 includes six E-mail publication layout options and 45 master design sets. New e-mail layout options include newsletters, letters, event notices, and product lists. As mentioned above you can send publications as E-mail messages using Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 or Outlook Express. Recipients using HTML-enabled mail clients such as Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo can read Publisher 2003E-mail publications because of the programs enhanced compatibility.

Publisher 2003’s E-Mail Preview function allows you to view the publication through a Web browser, thus allowing you can to preview a publication before it is sent as an e-mail message. This means there are no surprises—users can see exactly what the e-mail recipient will see.

More flexibility have been built into Column guides (vertical guides that are used to divide a publication page into two or more columns), and row guides (horizontal guides that are used to divide a page into two or more sections to help structure the layout of the page); both have fine-tuned to make graphic or image placement more flexible.

Other Features

Paragraph formatting with earlier versions of Publisher was over burdensome; not so with Publisher 2003. The relationship between one paragraph and the paragraphs that precede or follow it can now be precisely defined with new options for paragraph formatting; e.g. with the new Line and Paragraph Breaks tab, you can keep paragraphs or lines of text together wherever words flows across text boxes in a publication. With these enhancements it is a lot easier to line up text exactly where it should be thus finally eliminating the problem of widowed or orphaned paragraph fragments, allowing for the creation of paragraph breaks that start in the next connected text box.

Like its predecessors Publisher 2003, offers commercial printing features via the CMYK standard, albeit significantly improved and updated, making it easier to produce professional output of print publications.

Technical Note: CMYK is short-hand for Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black, and pronounced as separate letters. CMYK is a color model for commercial printing in which all colors are described as a mixture of these four process colors. CMYK is the standard color model used in offset printing for full-color documents. Because such printing uses inks of these four basic colors, it is often called four-color printing. In contrast, display devices generally use a different color model called RGB, which stands for Red-Green-Blue. One of the most difficult aspects of desktop publishing in color is color matching -- properly converting the RGB colors into CMYK colors so that what gets printed looks the same as what appears on the monitor.

With Publisher 2003 you can generate publications that will print composite CMYK PostScript —a page description language used by printers and image setters. This makes it easier for a commercial printer to create and print color separations. Publisher 2003 also boosts new advanced print settings that let you create separations directly from the Print dialog box. Finished Plates can be printed for single process-color or spot-color ink. Moreover, Publisher 2003 permits custom line screen frequencies and line screen angles; a line screen frequency is the fineness or coarseness of a halftone screen represented by lines per inch (LPI). The higher the LPI, the finer the dots used in a halftone screen. A finer halftone screen shows greater picture detail, which in turn leads to more professional looking output.

Like earlier versions, Publisher 2003 retains support for Papers Direct templates. Papers Directoffers preprinted templates for use with the Publisher 2003 framework. These templates include: greeting cards, wedding invitation, business card, office supply, stationery, envelope, graph paper, transfer paper, paper photo and printable stationery.

Publisher 2003 will easily and cleanly import older publications. Though there may be some font differentials, over-all I was able to open my older publications with no side effects; this includes flyers, greeting cards, brochures, business cards, and newsletters.

Conclusion

The additions of merge-tools, templates and wizards to help walk users through the process of creating professional sales and marketing publications, enhanced email capabilities, including tighter compatibility with HTML enabled email clients greatly enhancePublisher 2003.

However, Publisher 2003’s greatest benefit is the measure of control the new and improved design tool provides for small businesses.

With this latest release, Publisher 2003 makes it easier for small businesses to take and maintain control of print and Web-based sales and marketing materials. Wedded to a business class color inkjet or color printer, small businesses no longer need to outsource this imperative marketing tool to a third-party service, hoping for the best. Publisher 2003has come of age in fine form, with thoughtful enhancements and long sought after improvements that move Publisher to business class status. I, for one, will remain a loyal user.

System Requirements

• Computer/Processor - A computer with a 133 megahertz (MHz) or higher processor; Pentium III recommended.
• Memory - 64 MB of RAM (128 MB recommended) for the operating system, plus an additional 8 MB of RAM for each program running simultaneously.
• Hard Disk - 245 MB of available hard-disk space with 115 MB on the hard disk where the operating system is installed (hard-disk usage varies depending on configuration; custom installation choices may require more or less hard-disk space).
• Drive - CD-ROM drive.
• Display - Super VGA (800x600) or a higher-resolution monitor with 256 colors.
• Operating System - Microsoft Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3 (SP3), Microsoft Windows XP, or a later operating system.
• Peripherals - Microsoft mouse, Microsoft IntelliMouse, or a compatible pointing device.

Other Reviews in this series:

Microsoft Outlook 2003: http://www.epinions.com/content_139434167940

Microsoft Word 2003: http://www.epinions.com/content_139607707268


Recommended:
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #189
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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Keeping in touch and communicating with customers is essential for any business. A complete business publishing and marketing materials solution, Publisher 2003 can help you reach out to customers. With Publisher 2003, it's easier than ever to design, create, and publish professional marketing and communication materials in-house.??Publisher 2003 is a comprehensive solution for creating and publishing a wide variety of publications for desktop printing, commercial printing, e-mail distribution, or viewing on the Web. Publisher 2003 provides all the help you need for professional results. Start from professionally designed templates that you can customize with color schemes, font schemes, various layout options, and your own design sense. Or, start from blank publications and get creative with sophisticated typography and page layout tools. Work productively across Microsoft Office System programs. Publisher 2003 looks and works like other programs in the Microsoft Office System, ma...
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