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Free: Serif PagePlus desktop publishing software

It's the Starter Edition, meaning some features are disabled, but it still packs more than enough power for creating newsletters, flyers, and the like.

Serif PagePlus is a killer desktop-publishing app. The X4 version costs $100, but the very capable Starter Edition is free!
Serif PagePlus is a killer desktop-publishing app. The X4 version costs $100, but the very capable Starter Edition is free! Serif

It's odd that the need to create newsletters, fliers, brochures, and the like hasn't gone away, but desktop publishing software has. A decade ago,  you had your pick of at least a dozen programs, but now the field is nearly empty.

Sure, you can still buy heavyweight applications such as Adobe PageMaker and QuarkXPress, but they cost a small fortune--$499 and $799, respectively--and they're overkill for most people.

That's why I'm a longtime fan of Serif PagePlus, a terrific desktop-publishing application that's ideal for designing both print and Web-based documents.

The applications latest version, PagePlus X4, costs $99.99--but you can get PagePlus Starter Edition absolutely free.

Don't let the "Starter Edition" suffix scare you away: this version looks and operates exactly like X4. The only difference? The company disables some of its higher-end features such as LogoStudio and 3D effects.

The only real limitations, in my opinion, are that you can't embed hyperlinks or publish PDFs with it. If you need those capabilities, you'll have to spring for X4 that, incidentally, is available from Dell for $59.99.

However, for everyday projects such as business cards, posters, and newsletters, PagePlus SE offers all the tools you need to create stylish, professional-looking documents.

If you are a newcomer to desktop publishing, you will appreciate the built-in tutorials that include a quick-start video.

As I said, I'm a huge fan of PagePlus. You can't go wrong starting with the free Starter Edition, and $60 is a steal for a desktop-publishing app that can stand toe-to-toe with PageMaker and Quark.

Bonus deal: Speaking of cheap apps, do you want to get the best deal on Microsoft software ever? By signing up for a $200 TechNet Standard subscription, you can download full, licensed versions of Windows 7 Ultimate, Office 2010 Ultimate, and just about everything else in Microsoft's catalog. Those licenses are good to use on up to 10 PCs each. TechNet is intended for IT types, but there's nothing keeping home users from scoring this incredible deal.