Advantages & Disadvantages of Microsoft Publisher

By Filonia LeChat

The Microsoft Publisher desktop publishing software, which helps users turn out materials such as magazines, booklets and business cards, was broken out into a new version of the Microsoft Office Suite in 2010 -- the 2010 Office Professional. Publisher's quick-start templates and familiar ribbons and functionality make it optimal for designers who want to produce items fast, but users should keep in mind a couple of potential drawbacks as they go about operating their personal printing presses.


Microsoft Publisher comes with a large collection of templates, available by clicking the "File" menu and selecting the "New" option. On the "Available Templates" page are a collection of options such as newsletters, menus, labels, brochures, fliers and signs, plus a searchable link for more templates on the Microsoft website. Using templates in Publisher has its advantages -- namely, all of the work is set up for you. Especially in multipage projects such as newsletters, having a template already created means you get to start right away. Just drop in text, add images and make changes, and you're ready to go. The drawback of using a Publisher template is relying on Publisher's design. Seeing a banner already laid out, for example, may squelch creativity and encourage users to simply go with what's already designed, resulting in something that feels generic.


Whether you've chosen a Publisher template or created a new publication, customizing it takes just a few clicks through the "Insert" tab. Publisher comes with a set of stock art, available by clicking the "Clip Art" button. You can also add your own images by clicking the "Picture" button. This is an ideal way to personalize a Publisher template, but also works for original ones as well. A potential pitfall, though minimal, is that adding too many images can increase your file size. It may also confuse readers who don't understand why those pictures are there, though adding a Publisher caption text box can fix that. Users who wish to add "moving parts" such as video and audio clips will be disappointed, as Publisher documents don't allow them.


Publisher templates are set up to auto-flow, which means that text too large for one column will flow into the next and then, where applicable, onto the next page. Users who create their own publications may set up auto-flow as well, from the "Text Box Tools" tab which opens when you add text boxes -- just click the "Create Link" button. Auto-flow is ideal when you're copying and pasting large blocks of text, as you won't have to position, cut and rearrange the text yourself. Everything adjusts to the amount of space you require. One disadvantage of auto-flow is that it doesn't technically tell you that you're cut off. If you paste something into a full text box, it will flow into another text box if the boxes are linked. But if that text box is full and no others are linked, your text simply stops. You have to manually enlarge the text box or create another text box and link the flow to get the full set of text.


After you've created a Publisher text box or clicked into an existing one, all that's left to do is type away. Once you've completed a long string of off-the-cuff typing, you may see a Publisher screen filled by default with green and red squiggly lines. These are part of Publisher's automatic review process. Publisher alerts you to where it thinks you've misspelled something or entered a potential grammatical error. This may be useful when you've stared at something too long and missed a problem or simply to catch issues. But when typing proprietary information such as specific business names, processes or codes, all those error indications can get annoying and disruptive. The constant worry that something is incorrect -- even when it is not -- may get tedious.