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Old 01-01-2013, 01:07 AM   #1
Laer Carroll
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Type-setting Software suggestions?

I was hoping there was a sticky subject in this forum which would give me a quick leg-up on the various type-setting software out there.

My first five books I "typeset" in Word. The format was very simple and I'm very familiar with Word's limitations, so I was able to get around the worst of the problems. Even so, parts of my books were labor intensive.

My latest book is more complex. So I began exploring alternative type-setting software.

First I looked at Quark Express and Adobe's InDesign. I'd used them professionally before. Although very expensive, there are ways to get much cheaper versions. One is to buy the latest-version-but-one. Often with mature programs those are just as good as the latest, especially for the simpler and more basic tasks.

I was able to use both on a friend's computer, who is a professional printer contractor. I quickly decided that neither was for me. Though super-flexible and -powerful, the user interfaces are not very intuitive. Too, as is common with a lot of programs which grew in capability over the years, some of the options conflicted with each other. You would do some families of tasks a certain way, but another family would seem to be designed by a completely different team of programmers who had very different ideas of how to do those tasks.

Lastly I explored the lower end of the desktop publishing software. I read a number of reviews and comparisons and finally settled on four, downloaded review or starter editions, and put them to the test on my latest book. It's what I consider medium complexity, with various illustrations scattered throughout the book, a couple dozen chapters, and several tables and sidebars.

The top two are Serif's PagePlus X5 ($15 vs. $100 for X6 from Serif) and Microsoft Publisher 2010 ($73.36 from Amazon). I'm now testing these two. I'll eventually select one.

Does anyone here have experience with them? Do you have alternative suggestions?
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Old 01-01-2013, 01:58 PM   #2
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Laer, we talked about this just a few weeks ago. Here's a link.

ETA: And here's a significant quote from that brief thread, from someone with years of experience in typesetting both print and e-books, which you might find useful:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Medievalist View Post
By the time someone has purchased InDesign or Framemaker or Quark, they've already invested a fair chunk of cash. Why spend the money on software that you probably won't use as effectively as a professional, when you could instead hire a professional? You then spend your time writing another book, which will in turn help sell the first book when you release your second book.

I do think someone with a good eye and the right software can learn enough so that the book won't look like a text dump, but it's not going to look as good as it might if set by a professional.

There will likely be problems with baselines, especially in headers and footers, problems with punctuation, and problems with kerning and tracking. I suspect they'll also be using obliqued fonts, rather than true italic, they probably won't be using the full font metrics and of course the lower dpi for POD makes a difference in how you set the text because you lose resolution and definition.

I confess that I am dismayed at the dismissal of a skilled profession as something you can learn by reading a bit and using software.

Last edited by Old Hack; 01-01-2013 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:45 PM   #3
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What little I've done with MS Publisher has been very disappointing. It is generally about putting together school and church newsletters and not a whole lot more. I'd be willing to bet that the most used font in MS Pub is comic sans

If you're doing stuff with a lot of charts, graphics, and other inserted elements, I'd look back at the two you mentioned. There's also the option of subscribing to InDesign for 29 a month rather than purchasing outright.
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Old 01-02-2013, 02:55 AM   #4
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Thanks for the link, Jane. I read that thread when it came out. It did not answer my specific questions and did not seem likely to.

Quote:
I confess that I am dismayed at the dismissal of a skilled profession as something you can learn by reading a bit and using software.
This is reading something into my comments that is not there. I certainly don't dismiss a skilled professional's efforts. I'm just such a pro: I am an aerospace software and systems engineer of 40+ years experience.

To clarify, I've done preliminary typesetting professionally, then given the results to a pro to do the parts I could not. The software did 90% of the routine work, I did another maybe 5%. This left my pro printer friend free to do the most demanding and creative work, not spend many hours doing routine stuff.

Those who self-publish may want to consider this sort of teamwork. Especially if you have pro skills of your own you can use to barter for the services of pros in other fields. I often will help others with selection, setup, and maintenance of their office computer systems, and they will help me in areas where I'm a beginner.

It is a false war, pros vs amateurs vs computers. We can all work together to turn out quality results.
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
Thanks for the link, Jane. I read that thread when it came out. It did not answer my specific questions and did not seem likely to.
It provides useful background reading for others who might come along and read this thread, though, Laer.

Quote:
Quote:
I confess that I am dismayed at the dismissal of a skilled profession as something you can learn by reading a bit and using software.
This is reading something into my comments that is not there.
I think you missed the point, Laer. The issue was that software can't replace expertise. Let's look at your next paragraph:

Quote:
I certainly don't dismiss a skilled professional's efforts. I'm just such a pro: I am an aerospace software and systems engineer of 40+ years experience.
See? You're an engineer. It doesn't matter how long you've been an engineer for: that still won't make you a typesetter. And no matter what software you buy, you can't become a good typesetter without training and experience.

Quote:
To clarify, I've done preliminary typesetting professionally, then given the results to a pro to do the parts I could not. The software did 90% of the routine work, I did another maybe 5%. This left my pro printer friend free to do the most demanding and creative work, not spend many hours doing routine stuff.
And here you make the point that you don't have the skills required to typeset a book. You might be able to do the basic work; but you can't do the whole job, and I wonder if you'd be better off spending that time writing, and employing someone else whose skills and experience would mean they'd do the job both better and more quickly than you can.

Quote:
Those who self-publish may want to consider this sort of teamwork. Especially if you have pro skills of your own you can use to barter for the services of pros in other fields. I often will help others with selection, setup, and maintenance of their office computer systems, and they will help me in areas where I'm a beginner.
That's a really good idea, and it's something I've seen happen a lot with the self publishers I know personally. It's one of the things that makes the self publishing community so exciting and vibrant.

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It is a false war, pros vs amateurs vs computers. We can all work together to turn out quality results.
Who said there was a war on?

You're reading things into my comments which aren't there.

Last edited by Old Hack; 01-02-2013 at 06:04 PM. Reason: Fixing quote box
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Old 01-03-2013, 09:01 PM   #6
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Who said there was a war on? You're reading things into my comments which aren't there.
Hah! Snappy!
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:32 AM   #7
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For me, InDesign hands down. I wouldn't use Publisher at all. It's just not designed to be used as a professional tool. Word doesn't output graphics decently at all for professional printing in my honest opinion. I actually had my novel formatted in Word since the manuscript and eBooks were already there, and then redid the whole thing in InDesign because I wasn't happy with the results from just the PDF.

I like InDesign because you can create page masters for automatic numbering as well as paragraph/character styles for your chapter headings and body copy. Plus, there is the added benefit of using the heading as a base to automatically generate a TOC.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
This is reading something into my comments that is not there. I certainly don't dismiss a skilled professional's efforts. I'm just such a pro: I am an aerospace software and systems engineer of 40+ years experience.
Laer, did you misread Old Hack's post? That selection she posted was from this post by Medievalist in the linked thread, responding directly to a user called Tettsuo.

It wasn't a direct response to your thread, just a relevant quote and good advice.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
First I looked at Quark Express and Adobe's InDesign. I'd used them professionally before. Although very expensive, there are ways to get much cheaper versions. One is to buy the latest-version-but-one. Often with mature programs those are just as good as the latest, especially for the simpler and more basic tasks.
Alternative to InDesign - http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

It does a darn good job and all for free... or a small donation if you like.

I've been using this and so far it's provided very professional looking results. All things can be done if you're willing to put the work into it. Don't listen to the naysayers that claim you're not good enough or you'll never get a good product unless you go to a publisher or pay for every little thing.
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Old 01-04-2013, 09:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EMaree View Post
Laer, did you misread Old Hack's post? That selection she posted was from this post by Medievalist in the linked thread, responding directly to a user called Tettsuo.

It wasn't a direct response to your thread, just a relevant quote and good advice.
Judging by Laer's most recent comment in this thread he's struggling to respond to me in any meaningful way.

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Originally Posted by Tettsuo View Post
Alternative to InDesign - http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

It does a darn good job and all for free... or a small donation if you like.

I've been using this and so far it's provided very professional looking results. All things can be done if you're willing to put the work into it. Don't listen to the naysayers that claim you're not good enough or you'll never get a good product unless you go to a publisher or pay for every little thing.
If you want to dismiss publishing professionals and professional typesetters as "naysayers" that's your lookout, Tettsuo.

It's obvious that even a talented amateur is very unlikely to be able to typeset as well as someone with years of training and experience behind them. Not even if they spend weeks learning how to use their software. That's not "naysaying", it's acknowledging the truth.

I've skimmed through this thread so might well have missed it, but I don't see where people have been advised to "go to a publisher": I certainly would steer people clear of the bigger self publishing service providers as I've seen firsthand the poor quality of the "services" they provide. But paying someone to do a good job? Yes, I'd advise people to do that. Just as we often advise writers who intend to self publish to pay for good editing, and a good cover design. It's a basic which can really affect the perceived value of your books.
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:13 AM   #11
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If you want to dismiss publishing professionals and professional typesetters as "naysayers" that's your lookout, Tettsuo.
I was very specific. Those that say "CAN'T" and/or "IMPOSSIBLE" are often wrong. In no way am I implying that you specifically said anything of the sort. If I did make that claim, I'd have quoted you directly.
Quote:
It's obvious that even a talented amateur is very unlikely to be able to typeset as well as someone with years of training and experience behind them. Not even if they spend weeks learning how to use their software. That's not "naysaying", it's acknowledging the truth.
In your opinion, I'm sure that is a truth, as you've stated. I don't agree. As more and more time passes, and technology creeps up and improves, jobs are often left by the wayside. I believe typesetting, as was the case with many factory workers, will soon become obsolete to those that are willing to do the work themselves with the more advanced tools at their disposal.

The tools are there as well as the information.
Quote:
I've skimmed through this thread so might well have missed it, but I don't see where people have been advised to "go to a publisher":
I didn't see anyone advise either. It was simply advice I was giving. Personally, I've had more than a few friends advise I give up the self-publishing track and sign with a publisher. While I appreciate their confidence in my work, believing I'll be able to get a publishing deal, I made a choice to do it myself for the sake of freedom of expression. Total freedom. I don't make a living writing, so I have that luxury.
Quote:
I certainly would steer people clear of the bigger self publishing service providers as I've seen firsthand the poor quality of the "services" they provide. But paying someone to do a good job? Yes, I'd advise people to do that. Just as we often advise writers who intend to self publish to pay for good editing, and a good cover design. It's a basic which can really affect the perceived value of your books.
I agree. Editing and cover design cannot be, certainly for me, a DIY project. Typesetting though... I don't see it being a necessity anymore. The it'll bring for a novel is minimal unless you have some seriously complex imagery, text layouts and formatting you'd like to use.

But that's the personal opinion of a non-published author (that'll change in about 2 or 3 months though!). Certainly less than 2c to many here I'm sure.
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:38 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tettsuo View Post
Alternative to InDesign - http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

It does a darn good job and all for free... or a small donation if you like.

I've been using this and so far it's provided very professional looking results. All things can be done if you're willing to put the work into it. Don't listen to the naysayers that claim you're not good enough or you'll never get a good product unless you go to a publisher or pay for every little thing.
I love open source software, and I'm happy that there's something out there for free than can rival Adobe's bloated dominance. Scribus also seems to be very well regarding by DTP software users and the open source community in general.

But with that said, all the screenshots I can find of its Windows interface look awful. I'd rather pay a professional than struggle with that. It's Mac and Linux forms seem much easier on the eyes, though, so hopefully they'll sort the Windows interface out soon.
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by EMaree View Post
I love open source software, and I'm happy that there's something out there for free than can rival Adobe's bloated dominance. Scribus also seems to be very well regarding by DTP software users and the open source community in general.

But with that said, all the screenshots I can find of its Windows interface look awful. I'd rather pay a professional than struggle with that. It's Mac and Linux forms seem much easier on the eyes, though, so hopefully they'll sort the Windows interface out soon.
Wow, really? I'm a linux user, so maybe that's why it's been perfect for me. Good to know! Even less reason to go back to the diabolical operating system called Windows.
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:04 AM   #14
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Typesetting though... I don't see it being a necessity anymore. The it'll bring for a novel is minimal unless you have some seriously complex imagery, text layouts and formatting you'd like to use.
Even if you lack the training, eye and aesthetic discrimination to understand the difference good typesetting makes, the fact that a good typesetter saves money on production costs (especially on a POD book) might make you a little more interested.

Personally, I don't care what you do. But I'm not real thrilled at the arrogant Dunning-Kruger dismissal of a a skilled profession. I note, by the way, that the advent of digital typesetting has increased the demand for trained specialists, rather than minimized it.

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But that's the personal opinion of a non-published author (that'll change in about 2 or 3 months though!). Certainly less than 2c to many here I'm sure.
I'm certainly willing to agree with that, but I'm also going to point out as a Linux user you can't even purchase a full professional font suite because Linux doesn't have the underlying support for full font metrics.

Were I going to typeset on Linux, I'd turn to LaTeX and purchase fonts designed for Linux and LaTeX.

And finally, it would be wise for you to cultivate a little more courtesy towards Old Hack as well as other members. You might want to reflect on the fact that this is a varied community and (having dipped into your post history) many of them are very different from you. You're astonishingly unaware of your audience.
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:21 AM   #15
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Even if you lack the training, eye and aesthetic discrimination to understand the difference good typesetting makes, the fact that a good typesetter saves money on production costs (especially on a POD book) might make you a little more interested.

Personally, I don't care what you do. But I'm not real thrilled at the arrogant Dunning-Kruger dismissal of a a skilled profession. I note, by the way, that the advent of digital typesetting has increased the demand for trained specialists, rather than minimized it.

I'm certainly willing to agree with that, but I'm also going to point out as a Linux user you can't even purchase a full professional font suite because Linux doesn't have the underlying support for full font metrics.

Were I going to typeset on Linux, I'd turn to LaTeX and purchase fonts designed for Linux and LaTeX.

And finally, it would be wise for you to cultivate a little more courtesy towards Old Hack as well as other members. You might want to reflect on the fact that this is a varied community and (having dipped into your post history) many of them are very different from you. You're astonishingly unaware of your audience.
I find it very interesting that, contrary to your claim, I've posted nothing insulting to anyone. Yet, you've made a point to insult me (as highlighted above).

Is the policy here that no one can disagree without 50 years in the industry? I offered a reasonable rebuttal about the advances the technology as it pertains to novels (webpages and other media certainly would require the artistic eye of a skilled typesetter), so if I'm incorrect please correct me. But implying that I should accept anyone opinion without thought (if that's what you meant by the underlined text) is asinine.

But, if I was indeed insulting or dimissive of Old Hack's experience, please point it out. I'm man enough to apologize for any transgression on my part.
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:36 AM   #16
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I find it very interesting that, contrary to your claim, I've posted nothing insulting to anyone. Yet, you've made a point to insult me (as highlighted above).
Dunning-Kruger is not an insult. It's a verifiable state. In your case you've just demonstrated that you don't even know enough to realize how much you don't know. To wit, you used bold and underlined text and referred to them as highlighting.

Bold, underline and highlight are all very specific terms of art in the context of typesetting. They are not interchangeable.

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Is the policy here that no one can disagree without 50 years in the industry? I offered a reasonable rebuttal about the advances the technology as it pertains to novels (webpages and other media certainly would require the artistic eye of a skilled typesetter), so if I'm incorrect please correct me.
Again, the fact that you can even compare Web pages to print is an indication of a giant absence of basic knowledge. It's not even comparing Apples and oranges, it's comparing apples and bananas.

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But implying that I should accept anyone opinion without thought (if that's what you meant by the underlined text) is asinine.

But, if I was indeed insulting or dimissive of Old Hack's experience, please point it out. I'm man enough to apologize for any transgression on my part.
I'm not implying anything. I am stating that you need to be aware that you're making a very poor impression.

I was attempting to warn you before you stepped off the precipice you're so very precariously perched on.

I don't actually care whether you bother to learn typesetting or not. I don't care whether you self-publish or not.

But I do think you're completely unaware of how you're being read, and the impression you're making.
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:59 AM   #17
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:10 PM   #18
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This is reading something into my comments that is not there. I certainly don't dismiss a skilled professional's efforts. I'm just such a pro: I am an aerospace software and systems engineer of 40+ years experience.
So...would you agree, then, that if I read a few books and get a calculator and maybe a graphics program, I can call myself an aerospace engineer? I don't need all that pesky work and study, because I'm smart enough to figure it out on the fly, right? And I can do it just as well as you do.
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:17 PM   #19
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You'd need a protractor too, Stacia. But then I think you'd be good to go.

I would DEFINITELY fly in any planes you designed.
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Old 01-05-2013, 07:11 PM   #20
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I've made papier-mache airplanes. Does that count?

On topic: I spent a good ten years as a professional typesetter, back in the days before there was Desktop Publishing. I would no longer trust myself to typeset a book without at least a month of refreshers and practice.
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Old 01-05-2013, 08:08 PM   #21
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I spent the better part of a year learning to typeset the templates to shoot the film to cut the stencils for carving words into stone -- that's using typesetting software, by the way, not typesetting "by hand" -- and the same sort of software you might use to typeset a book or periodical -- but you'd be amazed at how much the software still necessitates very specialized learned skills. And that's on top of a design-heavy four-year art degree.

But I don't think for a single second that makes me competent to typeset a book.

Just like owning a really great, top-of-the-line set of scalpels doesn't make me a surgeon. And owning the most amazing diagnostic equipment in the world, with the most advanced computer trouble-shooting system, still wouldn't make me a racecar mechanic.
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Old 01-05-2013, 08:13 PM   #22
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Let me see if I understand the argument:

With the advent of cheap "typesetting" software the era of "good enough" typesetting is here! Since readers pick their own fonts and sizes on their Kindles it doesn't matter anyway. Sure, you made the best, most artistic, buggy whips when you were young, but your day is past, Gramps.
Is that about the size of it?
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Old 01-05-2013, 10:11 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
With the advent of cheap "typesetting" software the era of "good enough" typesetting is here!
I believe that era is near.
Quote:
Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
Since readers pick their own fonts and sizes on their Kindles it doesn't matter anyway.
Since this is the Self-Publishing and POD forum, I think discussions of typesetting do indeed matter.

I second the Scribus nomination.


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Old 01-05-2013, 10:37 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Al Stevens View Post
I believe that era is near.


Since this is the Self-Publishing and POD forum, I think discussions of typesetting do indeed matter.

I second the Scribus nomination.


Al, I think you kind of missed Jim's point.
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Old 01-07-2013, 02:09 AM   #25
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Not to get into the "hot" discussion, but to the original question. I used MS Publisher for my own work for many years. I've now switched over to Pageplus X6 (used X5 as well) and am very happy at what it allows me to do. I tried Scribus, but found it most useful for covers, not for interior text.

Incidentally: The Serif Webplus product is extremely friendly if you get familiar with Pageplus and you can create some pretty good non-cookie cutter websites with it if you work at it.

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