Desktop publishing (DTP) tools are common solutions for a wide variety of graphic design needs, including digital and print designs. You can use these applications to create marketing documents like newsletters, brochures, web pages, posters.
Depending on the other applications you use to run your business and your graphic design skill set, the right tool may range in price and functionality. Consider your business needs while reviewing our lineup of the top desktop publishing software for small businesses.
Top 5 Small Business Desktop Publishing Tools
There are five desktop publishing programs you should consider for your small business:
1. Adobe InDesign
Adobe InDesign is widely considered the gold standard of publication software, and it’s available for both macOS and Windows. It’s a powerful publishing tool with the capability to produce large documents ranging from newsletters to ebooks and magazines, but it doesn’t include layout templates—you’ll need to find them elsewhere or build your own.
InDesign is the desktop publishing software of choice for many professional graphic designers, so you should expect to encounter a relatively steep learning curve with all of the advanced features. If you choose to adopt InDesign as part of the broader Creative Cloud suite, you can use other applications like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Spark to expand the number of available tools for your project.
Scribus, a free open source desktop publishing software program, runs on macOS, Windows, and Linux. It includes many advanced features found in licensed desktop publishing apps like CMYK color support, frames, and layers. Unlike most DTP software alternatives, though, Scribus offers a huge library of layout templates you can use to jumpstart your project.
You can export your Scribus publications as PDFs and other file types specifically intended for professional printing. If you’re working in a cross-platform environment or on a Mac, then Scribus is well worth considering as an alternative to the more costly InDesign. Additionally, you’ll have a hard time finding another free software that has as many advanced design features as Scribus.
3. Microsoft Publisher
Microsoft Publisher has been around for years as part of the Microsoft 365 suite, but it’s only available to Windows users. You won’t find it in Microsoft Office for macOS, nor is it accessible through a web browser. Publisher also does not integrate with OneDrive, so you won’t be able to get the same collaboration and auto-saving features you would expect with Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel.
Shortcomings aside, Publisher is a competent tool for creating newsletters and other multi-page publications. You can save your publications as PDF files, which makes it easy to distribute them via email, and it includes options for commercial printing, too. If you’re already using Microsoft 365 on your Windows-based device, you can use Publisher to create basic documents without spending money on another DTP software application.
4. Affinity Publisher
Affinity Publisher is one-third of the Affinity Design suite of graphics software for macOS and Windows. Similar to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Affinity Design includes apps for illustrating, photo editing, and—with Publisher—desktop publishing. Affinity charges a one-time licensing fee instead of a month-to-month subscription like Adobe does for InDesign, so it may be a more affordable DTP application in the long run.
Affinity also offers tons of add-ons that can enhance and customize your desktop publisher experience. These include special fonts, overlays, textures, and backgrounds that can make your designs stand out. With all of the Design, Photo, and Publisher apps working together in the StudioLink ecosystem, you can start a layout in one app and finish it in another with a seamless workflow.
Last but not least, QuarkXPress is one of the most feature-rich desktop publishing software applications on the market. It’s available for Windows or macOS devices, and it can import and export a wide range of file types. Unlike many of its competitors, Quark is easy to use for beginners and includes support for a variety of multimedia elements like audio, video, animations, and 3D modeling.
Plus, many of the features that are typically found in other apps for photo editing or illustrating are embedded directly into the QuarkXPress platform. This means you can get more done for your project without opening a new application and slowing down your computer. Quark’s pricing structure is a bit more confusing than other vendors, and you might have some sticker shock when comparing costs.
How to choose the best desktop publishing software
These are our picks for the top small business desktop publishing applications, but you may be unsure of which one is best for you. Consider your long-term needs—including features, OS support, and cost—when narrowing down your list of DTP vendors. Then, sign up for a demo or a free trial to be sure you’ve made the right choice before committing to one desktop publishing software solution.
This article was originally published on January 8, 2015. It was updated by Kaiti Norton.