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8 Ways to Save Money on Desktop Publishing Software

Spend Less Without Being Cheap

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You could spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on professional desktop publishing software. But many of the top programs are overkill for a lot of individuals. Whether you want it free or just want to pay less for the best programs, check out these ways to spend less and save money when you need to do desktop publishing.

1. Download Free Desktop Publishing Software

Scribus - Screenshot from scribus.net
Scribus - Screenshot from scribus.net

A lot of desktop publishing software is quite expensive -- hundreds of dollars for a single program. But there are a few free options worth exploring, including Scribus open source software. The truly free programs may not have quite all the same features or they may not be the industry standards, but they'll get the job done and save you money upfront.

2. Buy Less Expensive Desktop Publishing Software

2010 Winner: Serif PagePlus
2010 About.com Reader's Choice Winner: Serif PagePlus; About.com / Serif, Inc.

If you want the features found in programs like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress at a fraction of the cost, consider Serif PagePlus for your print desktop publishing. Readers chose it as the best for graphic design, business use, and personal projects in the 2010 About.com Reader's Choice Awards. Other inexpensive options include Microsoft Publisher for Windows and Swift Publisher or Desktop Publisher Pro for Mac users.

3. Get Education Discounts on Academic Software

Get Academic Pricing on Adobe Creative Suite Desktop Publishing Software
Get Academic Pricing on Adobe Creative Suite; Image Courtesy of PriceGrabber
One attractive alternative to paying full price is to purchase academically priced versions, often at one-half to one-third the price of the full retail version. Available to students, faculty, and educational institutions, there are advantages and disadvantages to taking this route for individuals building a desktop publishing arsenal so check them out before you buy. Eligibility requirements, discounts, and product availability varies by publisher for academic software for desktop publishing but if you're a student or a teacher it's worth considering.

4. Buy Software Suites and Bundles

Get individual programs or choose one of the Adobe Creative Suite bundles.
Get individual programs or choose a suite or bundle; Box shots provided by Adobe, Inc.

Adobe Creative Suite may cost a thousand dollars plus some but purchasing all the programs in the suite individually could cost hundreds more. Suites are a sweet deal if they contain all the page layout, image editing, illustration, and other types of software that you'll be using on a regular basis. In addition to Adobe Creative Suite (Mac & Windows), the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite (Windows) gives you basic page layout capabilities (using CorelDRAW) and some powerful programs for working with all kinds of graphics. Check out your favorite publisher for bundles and special deals.

5. Buy Older Versions of Desktop Publishing Software

Adobe InDesign CS3, Adobe, Inc. (CS5 is current in 2010)
Adobe InDesign CS3, Adobe, Inc. (CS5 is current in 2010)

The most current version may not be all that much different from the previous version. Consider buying less expensive older versions. For example, PrintMaster Platinum 18 has a few more templates and graphics, a new Scrapbook creator, and is updated for Windows Vista, but if you're still on XP and mostly do greeting cards and fliers, then version 17 or earlier may be just fine for you. Many Adobe users stay one or two Creative Suite versions behind. Once you've established that you've got a program you really like, you can upgrade it. Time it right and you could end up spending less than those folks who buy the new version as soon as it hits the shelf.

6. Try Before You Buy

While trial and demo versions are generally disabled in such a way that you can't really use them for any real projects, these free downloads can still be worthwhile. You can save money by using trial and demo versions of desktop publishing software to make sure that when you do buy desktop publishing software that you get a program that you like. It's a far better way to go than to spend a hundred dollars or more on software that is too complicated or doesn't do what you need.

7. Get Publishers to Give You Desktop Publishing Software for Free

If you want commercial software for free -- but legally -- you can pursue some of the legitimate ways to get commerical desktop publishing software that you'd normally have to buy, completely free. Writing software reviews, being a consultant who recommends software to clients, and even entering contests are some ways to get free software.

8. Don't Use Desktop Publishing Software

Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word

This might seem like an odd thing to read on a site about desktop publishing, but sometimes you don't need desktop publishing software to produce a nice flier, brochure, or business card. Look to the software you already own, such as a word processing program. Many word processing packages, such as Microsoft Word, (even older versions) come with lots of templates, fonts, and clip art to help you produce perfectly fine letterhead, labels, postcards, and other typical desktop publishing documents for desktop printing. Mac users can use the Pages word processing component of iWork for many desktop publishing documents. And if you need only specific types of documents, consider specialty programs that do just calendars or business cards. They are often much less expensive.

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