Customer Review

342 of 350 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but falls short in several areas - it is a disappointment., October 24, 2010
By 
This review is from: Microsoft Publisher 2010 (Software)
I originally wrote this up on Amazon.ca a few days ago and thought that, since most readers would not go to the Canadian site, this review would be helpful posted here for a larger audience.

After spending approximately 40 hours working in the 2010 version of the program (we have been using this product since the 2003 version), here are my initial observations:

PROS
1. It is definitely more stable and it is more integrated into the Office suite
2. It has lots of little additions that make using it much easier - for example, it has no problems with a bilingual document and switches keyboard, language and speller seamlessly. Changing pictures is a snap and you can link an Excel table to Publisher - change numbers in Excel and when you open Publisher, it updates your Excel tables. Excellent.
3, It is much easier to use than a real publishing solution such as InDesign, which has a really steep learning curve and costs about $1K more per license. If you know Word, you can use this product. Everyone in your business can use Publisher, while very few will have the knowledge to use a professional desktop publishing software solution such as InDesign by Adobe. This is a really big advantage from both a cost and time perspective.
4. The learning curve is very low, especially if you are already familiar with the Ribbon.
5. Contrary to popular belief and snickering on the part of printing houses and so-called experts, Publisher does a very good job at creating documents for printing at a professional printing house - it has Pantone and CMYK built into it and an excellent commercial printing wizard - our documents are of the quality of, for example, The Missing Manual series, using full colour. Some of our printers cannot believe that our documents were created in Publisher.
6. If you need to make a lot of changes to a document to satisfy clients, Publisher makes it really easy - but it is flawed, some basic automated functions do not exist. Your alternative is to do everything in a competing product like InDesign.
7. Publisher is very affordable compared to InDesign and if you are prepared to invest your sweat and time into manually manipulating each page, it probably is a very good solution (see the Cons about automation however).

CONS
1. It still is NOT a real desktop solution. You need to write all of your documentation in Word first, then design your template and move everything from Word to Publisher. Trying to import a Word document with pictures, tables etc. is a nightmare (believe me on this one). Write your text in Word and import it, but add your tables, pictures etc directly from within Publisher. This tip alone is worth money in terms of saved time and frustration - donations are, of course, accepted :-).
2. The help files are completely and totally useless - there is no detailed information on all of the features (SHAME ON YOU MICROSOFT). I have to use Word help files to get information on using specific elements of Styles for example - fortunately, if you know Word, many of the functions are the same. I sometimes use a Word reference manual to find more information on a Publisher function - wow!
3. You can see literally that Microsoft is still not really supporting this product - with the dearth of comprehensive help files, it feels still like an orphan and it still seems to be oriented towards greeting cards and newsletters and very short documents (think twice about writing a training manual of 200 pages for example, it is really time consuming - as some basic automated functions do not exist and you need to do each page manually). Too bad, the product merits more attention as it is a very complimentary extension of Office.
4. Lacks automation - this is a very serious drawback. Publisher 2010 lacks some really basic functions - for example, it cannot create a table of contents, although it offers some table of content templates that you can fill in manually. Importing a table of contents from Word will save a bit of time, but you still have to manually type in the page numbers in the table of contents if you change anything -which means that if you add in some pages, you need to manually enter the changes such as new titles and page numbering, into the Table of Contents and redo all of the numbering manually - ouch! Very time consuming and creates the conditions for errors slipping in with page numbers, table references etc.
5. Because of the lack of automation, you need Word to make this product shine but, importing from Word is very time consuming. Sometimes, when updating a manual, we simply do the changes in Word and re-import what we change (like a table of contents) ... but if you have a lot of changes throughout a document and not just the Table of Contents, then you are better off simply starting a NEW publisher file using the custom template you created AND, just so you know, importing is very problematic and time consuming as Publisher dumps everything into a single text box when it imports (it chains the text boxes onto other pages to accommodate your content). It does NOT convert your Word template into a Publisher template.
6. Publisher still seems oriented towards very SHORT documents, say 20 pages or so. For example, automated page numbering is still basic and this is not acceptable - you can only place automated page numbering in the headers or footers, you cannot place them halfway down the page for example, as many textbooks or manuals use today, unless you are prepared to manually enter the numbers yourself. You CANNOT generate a Table of Figures or a Table of Pictures or an Index - it needs to be done manually, just like the Table of Contents. By the way Microsoft, you are not serious about this product when I see basic functions like these still unavailable in Publisher (see Con item number 4 above). I had such high hopes that this functionality would be added - but alas this is still a crippled product.
7. Oh yes, you cannot merge two or more documents - you need to follow an obscure and intimidating process that someone created in a user forum - it works, but it is scary and you should not have to be forced to do this. Why is this is a problem? Well, Publisher can only handle documents up to about 100 pages or it freezes or does not load, so you need to divide longer documents and then merge them by converting everything to PDF and using Adobe pro or similar software to merge your PDF files. This is what we have been doing for the past several years - it works very well, but you should be able to merge two or three documents that are less than 100 pages, right?
8. The master pages function is still really flaky and un-intuative. I have yet to figure out how to copy master pages from one document to another in 2010 - and before criticizing me on this, I can tell you from experience that the "switching template" function within Publisher 2010, for example a document submitted by another user using a generic Publisher Template, does NOT work with complex customized templates, it only works with simple templates.
9. You can send your content and template to a professional designer who can convert your file to an InDesign or Quark document with a special add-in (interesting that this exists for designers who pay for this add-in; this means that there are a lot of small companies like us that use Publisher primarily for desktop publishing - ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION MICROSOFT?) - however, you CANNOT take your designer's content and convert to Publisher (you have to manually created a template, or master page, within Publisher). This is a real pain as you then become totally reliant on your designer (we use one as a sub-contractor) to make changes using InDesign and this is very expensive and frustrating for them and for you. You can send them your Publisher files but they cannot return the favour basically. So, for some of our documents, we are stuck with outsourcing or rewriting in Word and then going through the entirely un-automated process of importing the Word document (as noted earlier, everything dumps into a text-box which expands onto multiple pages for a long document - you then hope that you do not have too much manipulation).
10. Lastly, and maybe fatally for the future of the product and its attractiveness, there are no really comprehensive third-party support reference books out there - there is no Wiley, or O'Reilly or even Microsoft Inside-Out reference manuals - you really are on your own and have to rely on user forums for help.

We still find Publisher useful enough that we continue to use it in our small business but Microsoft still does not seem to take this product very seriously, at least from what we perceive. Like I noted earlier, this is really too bad because the product has so much potential.
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Comments

Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 2, 2010 10:21:54 AM PDT
Good review. Your pros and cons are all true.

Your observations in "con 6" (and the last half of "con 3")* are correct and good for a perspective buyer to know.

However, it should be noted that Publisher IS for short documents like cards, newsletters, flyers, etc. and does not pretend to be a solution for publishing long documents. Word 2010 is much more suited for the job you are suggesting. If you need to drive a nail, use a hammer... but don't be too shocked if the hammer doesn't do well at driving a screw. :)

*but I disagree with the idea that Microsoft is orphaning this product. After all, Publisher 2010 exists and is a considerable improvement. However, we may one day see the demise of Publisher because Micosoft is enhancing Word so much that it may render Publisher unnecessary.

Posted on Jan 19, 2011 10:00:50 AM PST
MoodIndigo says:
I greatly appreciate your insights and the time you've taken to share them. With limited funds, I'm having to carefully parse whether to muddle on with Publisher 2002 or wait even longer for a better version. I hope, as you suggest, that Publisher becomes part of Word, instead of remaining a stand-alone. It seems, by far, the most sensible option.

The biggest disappointment to me in all this is that those who create software programs seem not to know or care what we, the end users, need and want. It's as if we're the last to be thought of in the process (hence the terrible help screens and many other absurdities). My contention for years has been that programmers have no real hands-on, daily contact with their software in a working environment and no wish to interact closely with those of us who do.

I hope to live long enough to see that change!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 10, 2011 9:58:44 AM PST
Katiebean says:
My opinion about Word and long documents is different, if you have to design the document and if it uses lots of illustrations. The word wrap and location features in Word are iffy, not a lot of control and things have a way of moving around on me. But absolutley, Word's automation is superior to Publisher, but the page layout functions are iffy and the way that images are inserted and tagged is not great.

That said, I'm an InDesign user. Unfortunately, my client isn't. I can't figure out why Microsoft doesn't think about this program for both short and long designed documents.

. Sections, chapters, illustrations

Posted on Mar 22, 2011 1:33:55 PM PDT
J. Carlson says:
I don't understand why the writer of this review indicated that you can't write text directly in Publisher and must write it in Word first and then import it into your Publisher file. I write text files in Publisher all the time with absolutely no problems. I never use Word for anything except text only files. Trying to do anything with graphics in Word is a frustrating experience for me. Publisher is best for less complex documents, but works perfectly for something you need to get out quickly without a bunch of complex hoops to jump through. If I need to create a document that is more complicated, I usually use programs made by Serif. They can do everything that Adobe does for a lot less money. I do have InDesign but only use it when I have to because of dealing with a project originated by someone else in that program.

Thanks,
Joan

Outreach Enterprises
oemail@outreachent.com

Posted on May 22, 2011 4:11:44 PM PDT
Thank you for posting this on Amazon USA site! I am still trying to decide on publishing software, but really appreciate your insights.

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2011 7:25:04 PM PDT
Stu says:
I never said that you cannot write text directly in Publisher. What I said was that Publisher is not a good tool to write complex documents in, because it falls short in many areas (I noted some of these in my review). I need the capabilities of Word, since Publisher does not have any of these complex functions (which is a big disappointment). From what I gather, Joan writes less complex documents and writes directly into Publisher. That is perfect for her needs, I was simply expressing disappointment that Publisher could be such a better product if MS had improved in some key areas.

Even the authors on reference manuals on how to use Publisher note that "... it tends to be a lot easier to create a text document in Word than in Publisher" - page 118, "Using Microsoft Publisher 2010" by Brien Posey.

Posted on Jul 3, 2011 5:27:22 AM PDT
Cincy Guy says:
You may want to check out reviews of desktop publishing software here:
http://desktop-publishing-software-review.toptenreviews.com/
They review products I have never heard of before but that get better reviews than MS Publisher, like Page Plus and Print Artist. The #1 rated is by Serif, and the name is now PagePlusx5, and you can buy it on Amazon cheaper than MS Publisher.

Posted on Jul 25, 2011 1:54:15 PM PDT
This was a very helpful review of the Publisher 2010 product.
Regarding Con 2, I would suggest that the Help Files are worse than "useless," as when I asked HELP how to choose the CMYK color model, which my printer requires, I was given a set of instructions beginning with clicking on the Tools Menu. There is no Tools Menu on Publisher 2010 product, and reading further around that instruction it became obvious it was ported over from Publisher 2007 and never modified to reflect 2010. I say worse than useless, because I spent several hours chasing down that dead end.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2011 2:25:25 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 25, 2011 2:25:46 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 25, 2011 2:26:03 PM PDT
Stu says:
The review is for Publisher 2007, even the screenshots show 2007 and in the description it references Outlook 2007. The version you can purchase is for 2010, but the review is for an older version.
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