Newsletter software options?

I am headed to Staples tonight to look at software for our quilt guild newsletter. I want to be able to include titles, text blocks wherever I want to put them, and digital pictures wherever I want to put them. Various colors, various fonts. I tried to do what I could in Word but there isn’t much flexibility in where you can drop pictures so I figure I need a packaged deal for low-level publishing.

I will be loading it on a PC as I heard about this cool free! PDF converter ( ) which supposedly will convert anything to PDF and that’s the format the copyshop wants.

So, I think I would just buy an inexpensive package that can do a simple layout of the elements above. Any suggestions of standouts in this area? Any pitfalls I should beware of? [For example, Broderbund’s The Print Shop looked promising but on-line reviews are scathing!]


For newsletter-production software more robust than Microsoft Word, you’re looking at either Microsoft Publisher, QuarkXPress, or Adobe InDesign. For something like a quilt guild, I imagine that the price of the last two is going to be something of an issue – even used copies of older software that will still run on a modern PC’s operating system will cost $300 - $500 (for a copy with a legally transferrable license – you can get it cheaper but not legally).

You probably don’t need all of the bells and whistles offered by QXP or ID anyway, so that leaves Microsoft Publisher, which is listed for $169 on Microsoft’s site. That’s significantly more than the $30 that Broderbund wants for The Print Shop, but I’m not aware of any programs in between those two price ranges.

Publisher has a less-than-sparkling reputation among big printers (many printers won’t accept a Publisher file), but since you’ll be supplying a PDF to the printer, that doesn’t matter as much.

If you have a printer in mind, you might give them a jingle just to see if they have experienced any issues in outputting PDFs created from Publisher, and also PDFs created using the method.

Thanks for the tip. I was considering that one and it’s only a little more than I wanted to spend. Is there an advantage to having an MS product since I also work with the Office suite, or does it matter?

Not particularly – all major desktop publishing programs, no matter their developer, pretty much have to handle MS Word since it’s The Big One. If you’re adept at using MS programs in general, you may find that an advantage in your learning curve with Publisher (keyboard shortcuts, menu placement, design of the user interface, etc.). You will be able to edit stories, once they’re in a Publisher document, in Microsoft Word, but that’s about the only tangible advantage I can think of.

Do you attend a college or know anyone who does? Microsoft has deals with a lot of colleges where students get MS products for rock-bottom prices.

Regarding sticking with MS…if you already have addresses stored in Word or Access you should be able to do a mail merge with your existing database for printing addresses directly on the newsletter, if you ever end up wanting to do that.

Try OpenOffice Writer.

It’s a free download with the rest of the OpenOffice suite, it does a fairly-good job of reading and writing MS Word documents (and would do a better job if MS didn’t keep squirming away from them), and it prints to PDFs. Sounds great for a newsletter to me… I’m going to use it for some genealogy and family records stuff.

I don’t know how it is for indexing, tables of contents, and so on. Or columns and text flows for that matter–I’m a heavy FrameMaker and Structured Framemaker user at work.

If you don’t like the way the operator uses it, find that it has incompatibilities with your suppliers’ documents, or find that it lacks a capability you need, then consider paying for commercial software.

I have also had good results for smaller picture-oriented documents with InDesign.