What software am I supposed to use?

This desktop publishing adventure has turned into a ridiculously expensive folly. And I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not trying to swat a fly with a cannonball. Not only is something like FrameMaker hideously expensive but it’s so damn complicated it’s a wonder anyone can actually use it. Whatever happened to the idea that software should be intuitive?

Indesign is quite a bit easier to work with but I can’t see ever justifying its cost. I think it would do what I want but again I don’t want to spend weeks learning to use a piece of software and the hit to the bank account is staggering.

I started checking out apps like Serif Page Plus and Xara Designer Pro. Both are pretty useful but again the cost is so damn high. So I have to ask am I even going about this the right way?

Here’s the gist of the project. Let’s say I have 10 Microsoft Word documents and each one of those Word files is about 10 pages. I want to combine these 100 pages into a single document which contains a Table of Contents, has page numbering and a header across the top of the page. Once in my DTP app I want to be able to add images and links to website. I want the images to have captions and also link to a website where additional images can be found. It would sort of be like how a magazine is laid out.

The end result is for the file to be exported as a PDF file. It would also be great to export certain pages or groups of pages as HTML files to post on the web.

It seems MS Word can actually do a great deal of this. It has the text formatting and headers but unless I did it completely wrong the image layout is pretty weak. I can’t seem to move the graphic around the page and place it where I want. Word can certainly do the PDF export portion but the export to HTML doesn’t instill me with confidence. Corel Draw does a lot of what I want, but it doesn’t really handle that volume of text very well and there are no headers or indexing capabilities. I’ve thought about Microsoft Publisher but I can’t get over the idea that it’s just for making awards and certificates. Plus, I don’t feel it has multi-document management either.

So what am I left with? What software do people use to combine several files together add some graphics and then export it all as PDF? Can this really only be done with $600 software?

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