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Best Publishing Software: MS Publisher Review

Updated on November 24, 2017
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With a master's in sustainable development, Susette helps Southern California water agencies carry out their water conservation projects.

Microsoft Word, InDesign, and MS Publisher can all be used to create great newsletters, report templates, and contract proposals. Of the three, MS Publisher is my favorite by far. It's intuitive, useful, easy to learn, and has all the basic elements I need, without being overloaded. My average document size is about 50 pages and I use it primarily professionally. What follows is a brief description of the benefits of this desktop publishing software.


Desktop Publishing Software

Desktop publishing software is primarily for making booklets, brochures, newsletters, postcards, greeting cards and more. There are many types of publishing software, some specializing in a particular form of publication, like books or greeting cards. They provide page organization tools, layout tools, and conversion tools to PDF and other printing options. Many of them also provide templates you can use and modify.

Some desktop publishing software is made to create all manner of publications, with a wide variety of templates to help get you started. These are usually the more complicated ones - not always necessary, if you are only likely to create one or two types of documents. The more complicated ones cost a lot and take a long time to learn how to use.

Publishing Software Comparison

MS Publisher is a mid-level publishing software. It has the same type of ribbon commands that the rest of MS Office uses and provides tons of templates. The templates are set up for the beginner or writer who is pressed for time to copy what others have done. For the creative person, only a few simple templates are needed to get you started.

Publisher does not run on a Mac. It is made for PCs to run with the MS Office Suite. If you have a Mac, the most obvious choice for desktop publishing software is InDesign, which is a complicated program with lots of tools used by professionals. It has a steep learning curve, much like Photoshop, with which it integrates. (I have heard of an open source software for Mac comparable to Publisher called Scribus, but I've never used it.) InDesign is adapted to use on a PC, but if you have a PC, Publisher is both easier to use and less than a quarter of the cost.

These three are the most popular desktop publishing software. Note: I created this graphic from scratch in Photoshop using layers. There are no layers in Publisher which makes it easier to use, though not as rich.
These three are the most popular desktop publishing software. Note: I created this graphic from scratch in Photoshop using layers. There are no layers in Publisher which makes it easier to use, though not as rich. | Source

Publisher is also much more versatile and intuitive than Word. It's easier to place text and graphics in relation to each other. You can set properties for photos to move with their relevant text when you add or delete a paragraph earlier on the page. Many types of illustrations that don't work well in Word will work in Publisher.

You can also email a document without it changing format from computer to computer, like Word sometimes does. For example, I once spent hours formatting a manufacturers directory in Word, which I then emailed to someone else to have printed. The formatting changed in transit and the printout showed textual misalignments on several pages. Publisher, however, never changed formats in transit any of the times I emailed a document to someone else.

Have you used this software before? What did you think of it?

4.3 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of MS Publisher Software

MS Publisher Pros and Cons

For those who are used to using a desktop publishing software other than Publisher, here are some of its pros and cons for comparison. Note that some of these items will not be relevant to the kind of document you normally work with, so give those items less importance in your evaluation.

MS Publisher pros:

  • It's easy to make your own templates or modify a pre-made one from their library.

  • It's easy to create attractive headers and footers for each page, with colored text and backgrounds, in a multipage document.
  • It's fun and easy to make gradients using different colors. You choose the colors you want to blend and the gradient shape, then click OK and it blends one into the other.
  • When you place a graphic, you can choose whether the graphic stays put or moves with the paragraph that refers to it.

Let's say you insert this photo next to a paragraph describing how to dispose of old toilets. Then you decide to add another section above it. When the new section moves the existing text down, you'll want this photo to move down too.
Let's say you insert this photo next to a paragraph describing how to dispose of old toilets. Then you decide to add another section above it. When the new section moves the existing text down, you'll want this photo to move down too. | Source
  • You can place a too large graphic in a small box and easily size the photo to the box, or resize the box to fit the photo without enlarging it manually.

  • It's easy to align graphics and text boxes, or put text boxes within text boxes (like with quotes) and make text flow around them.

  • Navigation between pages is easy, with a tab for each page that you can entitle.

  • You can create a long document in sections (like chapters), such that text flows automatically from page to page within the section only.

  • When a document is set up right, it's easy to move pages to a different part of the document, or add or delete pages anywhere in the document.

  • You can view your pages on the sidebar, which helps you remember what's on which page when you are inserting new graphics or text blocks.

  • When your cover page has graphics with a lot of pixels, you can create it as a separate document from the text. This lets you work on the text document without taking a lot of space and time uploading. Then you can join them together when creating the final PDF document for printing or emailing.
  • You can also split a really long document into a few smaller documents, and join those together when creating the final PDF. We did this several times with 100+ page contract proposals.

This cover page takes up a lot of operating space on a computer. Publisher allows for you to separate it from the main text body, so you can open the text portion quickly each time you work on it. (Designed by WaterWise Consulting, Inc.)
This cover page takes up a lot of operating space on a computer. Publisher allows for you to separate it from the main text body, so you can open the text portion quickly each time you work on it. (Designed by WaterWise Consulting, Inc.) | Source

MS Publisher cons:

  • Publisher does not import formats easily from Word. For me, this was never a problem, since I developed the entirety of all my documents in Publisher. I only occasionally imported from another software, which was easy to do with text, but not so easy with a formatted page.
  • According to some reviewers, it has lousy help support. The best way to learn Publisher is to experiment with a template, learn from someone else in person, watch a tutorial and experiment from there, or purchase a manual written by a third party.
  • You will need to manually create a Table of Contents, if you need one. This feature is not automated in Publisher - at least it wasn't when I last used it in 2010.
  • Automatic page numbers can only be set up in headers or footers. This never bothered me, but some people like to put them in the middle of the page (like in textbooks).
  • Maximum document size is around 90 pages. Anything longer and it starts to hang up. This is easily solved by breaking your document into sections, then joining them together when you create an output PDF file, as mentioned above.
  • Uses some of the basic commands of MS Office, so if you don't have Office installed, Publisher will not work well.
  • Does not run on a Mac.

Learning How to Use Microsoft Publisher

There are four ways to learn to use this software. My favorite, because of the type of learner I am, is experimentation. You can also watch video tutorials, go onto forums and ask questions, or purchase a manual written by a third party.

If you are an experimenter, there are tons of templates to open and modify in Publisher to see how they work and to find out what tools there are for changing text, colors, backgrounds, shapes, etc. Alternatively, you can open a blank page and experiment with all the different tools/icons on the sidebar or ribbons above (depending on your version of Publisher), or from the menus on the top of the page. You can right click with each object (text or graphic) to find out what options show up there.

Since Publisher does not produce a comprehensive manual, even online, if you're the type of person who likes to follow directions, you can go onto YouTube and choose from several how-to videos on Publisher, including detailed video series. Then there's, where you can subscribe to view a whole collection of software tutorials for both Mac and PC, including Publisher.

Microsoft's own tutorials offer basics for each version of Publisher. Most of their training is done with tutorials now, rather than help text or manuals, but there are forums in which you can ask questions if you get stuck on a task. Here is the link for Getting Started with Publisher 2010.

Software Procurement

MS Publisher can be purchased from many sources online, including Microsoft's website and You can find price comparisons on Nextag or if you don't mind having an earlier version, try purchasing from eBay or Craiglist. Sometimes offers outdated software for free.

On Microsoft's website you can buy Publisher as part of the full Office Suite or buy the 2016 version separately for $109.99. On Amazon you can buy the full 2016 Office Suite new for $349.99 (PC version). Be aware that cheaper versions of Office usually do not include Publisher. Amazon apparently does not sell Publisher alone.


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    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      Susette Horspool 

      2 years ago from Pasadena CA

      You're right. I've considered unpublishing this article, but I was so nostalgic for Publisher at the time I wrote it, that I feel reluctant to (lol). I use Apple's Pages now. It's good, but it's not quite the same.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      This article is a bit old now I know but having read the article and comments by the author, you don't have to use InDesign or NeoOffice as a replacement for Publisher on Mac. There are quite a few alternatives now eg Publisher Plus, Apple's Pages and many more as suggested here but none of them are as well integrated with Microsoft Office as Publisher which I also still miss using.

    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      Susette Horspool 

      4 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Now that I have a Mac and can't use Publisher anymore I've learned to use InDesign for flyers and newsletters, and open source NeoOffice for other word processing tasks. I still miss Publisher though.

    • adevwriting profile image

      Arun Dev 

      4 years ago from United Countries of the World

      It is good to have proprietary publishing software but open source publishing software are not bad either! Thumbs up!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I honestly think Publisher is kind of a waste. I still like Word, and I think Word 13 turned out pretty dang good, but I use this free app called Lucidpress to make flyers and stuff:

    • ercramer36 profile image

      Eric Cramer 

      7 years ago from Chicagoland

      Great review! I have only tried to use Publisher a few times years ago. Voted Up!

    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      Susette Horspool 

      7 years ago from Pasadena CA

      That "staying" power is one of the things I liked best about Publisher. You wouldn't expect such a single thing to make that big an impact, but it does.

      The other thing I liked best was the ability to publish in "chapters," i.e. set up sections where text would flow automatically from page to page, then stop at the end of the section. It made proposal writing a whole lot easier than doing it in Word.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I haven't ever tried the publisher software, but it sounds like an excellent program. I really like the ability to have an image "stay" with the text it belongs to. I usually type reports in Word, but might try Publisher for my next project (I occasionally contract from home for the biotech company I used to work for).

    • CassyLu1981 profile image


      7 years ago from Spring Lake, NC

      LOL billy :) Great job watergeek (as always). Great review! Voted up and shared!

    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      Susette Horspool 

      7 years ago from Pasadena CA

      LOL, billybuc. I actually felt a stab of alarm after I'd published, cause I didn't include my sample of how to use Publisher (a report about water audits). But then I went back and saw the toilet photo. :D

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      This is a great review. I learned something here!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Good product review. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I was going to express my surprise that this hub had nothing to do with water, and then I saw the photo of the toilets. :)

      Good info; turns out you are a writer with many talents and many interests.


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