Top Desktop Publishing Software for Windows

Industry-standard and most-used professional page layout software

The top desktop publishing software programs for Windows users have all been around for a while. That's because they are powerful programs backed by knowledgeable companies. Ease of use, time-saving features, and industrywide acceptance are some of the key attributes, although not every desktop publishing software program has them all to the same degree. These programs are the major players in desktop publishing and graphic design for commercial, in-house, small business, and freelance designers.

Adobe InDesign

InDesign CC 2020
What We Like
  • Powerful, industry-standard application.

  • Part of the Creative Cloud suite, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and related high-powered creative applications.

  • Easy to install and manage through the Creative Cloud app.

What We Don't Like
  • Subscriptions can be pricey.

  • Adobe applications tend to be resource-intensive.

  • No Linux version.

Many people feel that Adobe InDesign is the clear leader of the digital publishing pack and that it has reached the "Quark Killer" status envisioned when Adobe first released it.

InDesign is the successor to PageMaker, the original desktop publishing software program. It is subscription software available through the Adobe Creative Cloud.

InDesign CC includes new major annual releases to the desktop application administered through the Creative Cloud application.


What We Like
  • Powerful, industry-standard publishing environment.

  • Plugins to editorial content management systems.

  • One-and-done licensing model.

What We Don't Like
  • Relatively constrained ecosystem.

  • The Quark star has been slowly fading for a decade now.

In the late '80s and '90s, Quark usurped the desktop publishing community's first love, PageMaker, with QuarkXPress. Once the undisputed king of desktop publishing software applications, Quark's premiere product—QuarkXPress—is still a powerhouse publishing platform, although it's no longer the king of the mountain.

With the most recent release, QuarkXPress adds new shape tools, transparency blend modes, UI enhancements, smart text linking, automatic table of contents, and responsive HTML5 publications for multi-device output.

QuarkXPress 2019 is sold with a perpetual license (no subscription required).

Adobe FrameMaker

What We Like
  • Optimized for complex technical publication.

  • First-in-class support for XML content.

  • Part of Adobe's suite for technical communications management.

What We Don't Like
  • Not connected to Adobe's Creative Cloud environment.

  • Expensive as a stand-alone app.

Adobe FrameMaker is a powerhouse desktop publishing/XML editing software for corporations that produce technical writing or complex documents for web, print, and other distribution methods. It's overkill for individuals and small businesses, but for in-house, big-business publishing, it's a top choice.

Framemaker is capable of publishing multilingual technical content and supports mobile, web, desktop, and print applications. Publish the content as responsive HTML5, mobile app, PDF, ePub, and other formats.

Adobe FrameMaker 2017 release for Windows is available as a standalone product or for a monthly subscription fee.

Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft Publisher
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use frames-based document designer.

  • Depending on your Office subscription, you may have access to it for no additional cost.

  • Capable of generating reasonably good content.

  • Library of wizards and templates to assist with design.

What We Don't Like
  • Not optimal for complex long-form documents like technical documentation or book-length works.

  • Requires very specific usage behaviors, which aren't well-documented, to support high-end commercial printing.

The entry-level desktop publishing application in the Microsoft Office suite is Publisher. It is popular with families, small businesses, and schools. It is not as feature-rich as the other software programs on this list, and it doesn't support as many formats, but it is useful for generating publications and includes page parts such as sidebars, calendars, borders, advertisements, and more.

It's is available as a standalone product, and it is included with an Microsoft 365 Home or Microsoft 365 Personal subscription.

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Your Citation
Bear, Jacci Howard. "Top Desktop Publishing Software for Windows." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Bear, Jacci Howard. (2021, December 6). Top Desktop Publishing Software for Windows. Retrieved from Bear, Jacci Howard. "Top Desktop Publishing Software for Windows." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).