PrintWorks for Mac is a one-stop publishing machine

In the days before OS X, Macs were a favorite for desktop publishing. There were a variety of applications that would let you design everything from flyers to holiday cards, from calendars to letterheads.

Those solutions have pretty much been replaced by templates in Microsoft Office and some much better designed templates in Apple's iWork suite. Still, there seems to be a need for more flexibility and a dedicated application for desktop publishing.

So here's a nice one, called PrintWorks (US$29.99) that debuts today in the Mac App Store. It has a barrel full of more than 400 templates, and more than a thousand clip-art images and useful symbols. Unlike a lot of templates, these are skillfully designed and very appealing to the eye. The clip art is also tasteful, and in my experience most clip art is pretty worthless. The templates are easily modified without losing the look and feel of the design unless, of course, you want to.

The app supports column views and easy text flow, circular text, internal photo editing with 80 included filters, mail merge, links to your contacts for letterheads and business cards, support for labels and cards from Avery, Neato, Memorex and others, as well as support for direct-to-disc printers.

I tried building a newsletter using a supplied template and then designed another one from scratch. I found the process intuitive and the results looked good, especially when I started with a template and modified it rather than beginning with a blank page. PrintWorks supports layers, making it easy to move things around or change any element on your design. Stationary and business cards are easy because you can grab information from your contacts list for insertion into the templates. When you are finished designing, your work can be exported as a TIFF, JPEG, EPS or PDF file.

Similar apps worth a look are PrintMaster Platinum from Broderbund Software at $39.99 and iStudio Publisher for $29.99.

PrintWorks is a quick and easy desktop publishing solution. It's geared more for people who just want to use or modify the supplied templates. It doesn't have any significant advantages over Apple's Pages if you are just going to start fresh with a blank page and don't need the extensive artwork PrintWorks supplies you with. The $29.99 price tag is a bit high for the casual user, but if you need to create a lot of flyers, posters, newsletters, business cards, etc., then this app is worth a look. There is extensive help built into the app along with video tutorials. PrintWorks requires OS X 10.6.6 or later and a 64-bit processor.