Page Layout Tools for Nonprofits
Specialty page layout software
Unlike word- processing applications, layout software treats pages as a series of distinct elements, which lets you format, edit or rearrange them independently of one another. Users have much more control over text and graphical objects. Being able to completely control the final layout rather than just approximating it to the limits of the software leads to a more polished, professional product.
But the complex menus and tools make these packages difficult to learn. In many cases, you’ll need a solid foundation in graphic design lingo to understand the terminology they use. You’ll almost certainly need to invest in a good book, or you might be able to find a class at an artist’s collaborative or a continuing education program nearby. If your organization’s needs are ongoing rather than one-off, the initial investment in training is likely to pay off over time.
And, of course, knowing how to use the software is useless without a basic knowledge of graphic design skills — or at least a good eye. A good option is to hire a freelance designer to build a few simple templates for your organization — say, for a regular newsletter or a monthly flyer — and have them train someone on staff in the basic skills needed to update them.
So what packages are available?
Considered an “entry-level” layout package, Microsoft Publisher bridges the gap between word processing and high-end layout software. Design elements are more manageable than in Word, and there are libraries of templates and predesigned color schemes, eliminating some of the guesswork. It ships with some versions of Microsoft Office, and can be purchased separately, but it cannot be used with non-Windows operating systems.
For projects like creating stationery or letterhead, business cards or simple text-based layouts, Publisher is a viable option. Beyond that, however, it falls short. It handles PDF files awkwardly. And the latest version of Publisher supports color separation, but historically, the software has not been well received by printers — file types are unsupported and incompatible with other software. Extracting information like text and images from Publisher files can be difficult or impossible. If you plan to use Publisher, make sure in advance that anyone who needs to edit the file can work with it in Publisher.