Microsoft Publisher 2002: Win98/ME/NT4/2K review: Microsoft Publisher 2002: Win98/ME/NT4/2K

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MSRP: $129.00
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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Tighter-than-ever integration with Word; Font Schemes ensure professional-looking typeface combinations; process color and spot color can be mixed within a document; opens multiple files simultaneously.

The Bad Not part of retail Office XP editions; won't turn off Single Document Interface.

The Bottom Line Publisher 2002 is better integrated with Word and easier to use than ever--even easier than FrontPage. It's worth the hunt to find a copy of Publisher 2002.

9.0 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Nov '01

Microsoft screwed up by dropping Publisher 2002--its home, home office, and small-business desktop publishing program--from retail editions of Office XP. This easy-to-use designer is available only as a standalone or as part of the Small Business edition of Office XP that some computer makers bundle with their PCs. But thanks to its tight integration with Microsoft Word and multiple color processing methods, Publisher is a must-have upgrade for anyone who needs to design newsletters, brochures, and even simple Web sites for home use or for a small business. With a price just a fourth of Adobe PageMaker's, this is the desktop publisher for the masses. Unless you want professional-level tools, forget PageMaker or Quark; thrifty Publisher is simply less hassle.Microsoft screwed up by dropping Publisher 2002--its home, home office, and small-business desktop publishing program--from retail editions of Office XP. This easy-to-use designer is available only as a standalone or as part of the Small Business edition of Office XP that some computer makers bundle with their PCs. But thanks to its tight integration with Microsoft Word and multiple color processing methods, Publisher is a must-have upgrade for anyone who needs to design newsletters, brochures, and even simple Web sites for home use or for a small business. With a price just a fourth of Adobe PageMaker's, this is the desktop publisher for the masses. Unless you want professional-level tools, forget PageMaker or Quark; thrifty Publisher is simply less hassle.

Plays well with Word
Wisely, Publisher 2002 doesn't stray from its stellar foundation: simple wizards that--combined with Publisher's prebuilt templates, color schemes, and ready-to-go layouts--make it easy even for the design-challenged to create professional-looking documents. Publisher's 15 new Master Sets, or design themes, give you more choices for your publications and look subtle enough--no loud colors or outlandish layouts here--to use in business. Add in Publisher's scores of document templates, and you have more than 8,000 possible design combinations.

However, wizards remain 2002's most effective secret weapon. The best of the bunch is the new Word Import Wizard, which grabs an existing Word 97/2000/2002 document and imports it to Publisher with formatting and graphics intact, including images and tables. Once you open the document in Publisher, you're free to apply additional formatting, such as multiple columns, or use any of Publisher's tools to modify document design. You can create a document in Word, then design in Publisher without wasting time reformatting content copied from the former into the latter. This import tool alone makes Publisher a better buy than PageMaker--with no such slick import--for small businesses, which use Word almost universally.

More new tools
Like PowerPoint 2002, Publisher finally offers a print preview so that you can proof final layouts and color separations without wasting paper. Also, Publisher publications now contain both process color (used in color photography) and spot color (used for coloring individual graphic elements such as logos, tables, or lines). As if that weren't enough, 2002 can process as many as a dozen spot color elements in the same document--a big increase from the meager three in 2000.

Numerous save options
Publisher's new Save As Picture command, which lets you save one or more elements, such as a logo or even an entire page, as an image file in GIF, TIFF, JPEG, and PNG formats (just to name a few), also ups your productivity. We put Publisher's format flexibility to use right away by grabbing a newsletter banner headline built in Publisher, converting it to an image, then inserting it into a Word document. Very slick.

And now that Publisher opens multiple documents simultaneously, it's much easier to copy and paste content from one to another. Unfortunately, Publisher 2002 uses Microsoft's Single Document Interface (SDI), which opens separate windows for each document and puts an icon on the taskbar for each open publication, crowding small screens.

Office XP's influence
Many of Publisher's improvements come from the rest of the Office XP suite. For example, the Task Pane, a hybrid toolset of menus and wizards, makes it possible to select design themes, color schemes, and fonts with a single click. Also, like other Office XP applications, Publisher 2002 now opens, edits, and saves HTML files, simplifying your job if you create and maintain a Web site. Best of all, you get these XP-like features even if you install Publisher without the rest of Office XP.

SOHO'ers, this is for you
Publisher remains the best desktop publisher for small and home businesses. It's even a credible, easy substitute for the expensive and difficult HTML editor FrontPage. If you're using an older edition of Publisher, upgrade to 2002 even if you don't move to Office XP. Looking for your first business document designer? This is it.

Publisher 2002's new Word import feature makes it easier to bring Word documents into Publisher, then alter them quickly.

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