Many of the free desktop publishing software downloads are really specialty utilities. They are fine for a specific job — such as labels or business cards — but they aren't your all-around page design tools. However, there are a few free programs with full desktop publishing capabilities. Following the page layout / office suite software in this list you'll find more free software, primarily graphics software, that is often used in conjunction with other desktop publishing software or for simple related tasks such as logos, business cards, and fliers.
If you're looking for Mac software, see free desktop publishing software for Mac.
Probably the premiere free desktop publishing software application. It has the features of the pro packages, but it's free. Scribus offers CMYK support, font embedding and sub-setting, PDF creation, EPS import/export, basic drawing tools, and other professional level features. Scribus works in a fashion similar to Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress with text frames, floating palettes, and pull-down menus — and without the hefty price tag. As great as free is, this might not be the software you want if you have no prior experience with desktop publishing software and don't want to devote time to overcome the learning curve.
Scribus 1.4+ for Windows and Mac, Linux
After you download Scribus, learn to use it with these Scribus Tutorials.
Aimed at both novice and professional users, this Windows package combines ease-of-use and some professional options, such as advanced layout and typesetting, with word processing, and drawing. Current versions are not free but Serif gives away earlier editions to generate satisfied customers (who hopefully upgrade). Get free Serif drawing, image editing, and Web publishing software too. You get way more than you pay for with this option. There's Plenty of Praise for PagePlus SE even from those using the pro version. See this SE vs. Full Comparison Chart to see what you're getting. If what you had in mind when searching for free was easy or simple desktop publishing software, then PagePlus Starter Edition is a good option for you.
Serif PagePlus Starter Edition for Windows
- Serif PagePlus SE (Download from Serif)
After you download the free PagePlus version, learn to use it with these PagePlus SE Tutorials.
Not just as good as, some say it's better than Microsoft Office. Get fully-integrated word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, and database tools in this Open Source software. Among the many features you'll find PDF and SWF (Flash) export, increased Microsoft Office format support, and multiple languages. If your desktop publishing needs are basic but you also want a full suite of office tools, try Apache OpenOffice. However, for more complex desktop publishing tasks you might be better off with Scribus or PagePlus Starter Edition.
Apache OpenOffice 3.4+ for Windows and Solaris, Linux, and Mac
A popular free, open source vector drawing program, Inkscape uses the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Use Inkscape for creating text and graphics compositions including business cards, book covers, fliers, and ads. Inkscape is similar in capabilities to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. Inkscape is also being used to create fonts. It's a graphics program, but more flexible than a bitmap photo program for doing many desktop pubishing page layout tasks.
Inkscape 0.48+ for Windows and Linux, Mac, and will run on FreeBSD, Unix-like systems
After you download Inkscape, learn to use it for desktop publishing with these Inkscape Tutorials.
The GNU Image Management Program (The GIMP) is a popular, free, open source alternative to Photoshop and other photo editing software. The GIMP was the 2010 About.com Reader's Choice Winner in the Free Desktop Publishing Software category. It's a bitmap photo editor so won't do well for text-intensive design or anything with multiple pages, but it's a great free addition to your desktop publishing software.
GIMP 2.8 for Windows and Linux, Mac, FreeBSD, OpenSolaris