Review: Avery DesignPro Part 2

Templates to design labels of any type at the right price. (June 24th, 2008)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Avery Dennison Office Products Company

Price: Free

The Good

  • Download for free. Many templates. Easy to use interface. Works well with iTunes and Address Book.

The Bad

  • Align objects does not work correctly. Align to grid does not work correctly. Text tool forgets font and size often. Pasted text does not work sometimes. Does not always print correctly. Unsophisticated clip art. Inconsistent and slow when used in Mac OS X 10.4.x.

A number of annoying problems surfaced when I used Avery DesignPro on three different machines. I used a PPC G4 desktop and laptop running Tiger, and an Intel iMac running Leopard. The software worked more smoothly on the Leopard machine, but I had text and alignment problems in both systems. I printed only on the Tiger system, although Rick's tests used Leopard to print with no problems, as he stated in the Avery DesignPro Overview.

For some reason, a restart is required in Tiger, but not in Leopard. The manual does not specify that the program must be installed on the startup drive, and to conserve space, I first installed it on a second internal drive. Upon launch, I received the message that it couldn't find the templates and it just up and quit. Turns out the program had created an Applications folder and a Library folder on my second drive, instead of putting the Application on the second drive and the template files in the Library folder on my start up drive. If you install it on the startup drive, you shouldn't have any problems. The program should only allow you to choose the start up drive, if it's not going to work correctly when installed on another drive. This is the first bug I encountered.

I attempted to calibrate the printer, as explained in the manual, but that was another snafu. No matter how many times I chose my Epson R340 printer, the calibration sheet never printed and until I changed my default printer, it wouldn't remember the correct printer. Even after I changed the default printer, the calibration sheet would not print.

Text Problems

The next frustration I had dealt with the text box, in a couple of different templates. As the instructions say, "The first time you double-click a text box, all the text is selected. As you type, the pointer changes to an I-beam and the selected text is replaced with your new text. " While your text may or may not select on the first attempt, eventually it works. When I tried to change the font it didn't work reliably. If I clicked outside the text box, sometimes the font reverted to the default font. If you're not a designer, creating a project can be a frustrating task, and when the software works against you, it's time consuming and tries your patience. My advice is when your desired change appears on your project, save the project immediately. If you're not sure of your design, just save it and use different names with each iteration, for example, Christmas Card1, Christmas Card2, and so on. This annoyance occurred in Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.4, so it's a bug not limited to Tiger.

Object Alignment

When I designed a business card with photos on it, I ran into a few problems in addition to the text frustration listed above. My trial card, based on one of the templates, includes three text boxes and three graphics, and it was almost impossible to align the pieces to each other. First, you can choose to display a grid pattern, ostensibly to help align the card components. You can change the grid unit spacing and line color in the preferences, but the slider bar is unwieldy. I had a devil of a time lining up my different elements. Most graphic programs let you use your keyboard arrow keys to nudge objects pixel by pixel to achieve the desired alignment. Click the arrow key in DesignPro and the object moves across a whole grid unit or more, which doesn't help. Their alignment command wasn't useful either, because it moved objects too far in one direction or another. It is hard to understand the different alignment icons, and it doesn't move the items in small bits either.

DesignPro screen

Avery DesignPro Interface

My trial card, based on one of the templates, includes three text boxes and three graphics, and it was almost impossible to align the pieces to each other. If I was using a tablet and pen, it might have been simpler, but like most of us, I had a mouse and keyboard, and neither helped in the process. I had to carefully click and drag the objects using the grid lines as a guide. If you need to finesse your spacing in a template, it helps to have a good mouse, because the program is little help.

When you create a card or label you want duplicated across a template, such as a business card template that prints ten cards per sheet, you must press the All Same button and turn it on, otherwise only one card prints. When I first printed my business card, with the All Same button turned on, my ten cards printed with the graphic on the first card and the other nine cards printed only the text. The second run printed correctly even though I went through the same set of steps.

Watch Where You Save

When I chose Save As, I expected DesignPro to default to the Documents folder, but it may go to the folder in which you opened your last document. For example, if you choose a photo to place on your project, the Save As command goes to the folder where the photo is stored, even if you double-click an already saved project in your Documents folder. This could be a problem for new Mac users, or if you're someone who tends to click OK without checking the screen first. In Leopard, in one project, it did point to save my file in the Documents folder, but never in Tiger.

Help Needs Help

Even though the program seems straightforward, I found a few confusing commands, and the Mac User Guide was not helpful. The guide is good if you want to follow design instructions, but does not include much in the way of explaining options. Most of what I needed was available in the Help menu, but I had to search each screen to find what I wanted, because it didn't find search terms that were their own program labels. When I opened the Help to read how to use the Snapshot Gallery I was greeted with "Type topic text here." Oops, they forgot to remove some of their help file templates.

Clip Art

My final disappointment with the product lies in their choice of included clip art. When you create a new document, you click the Gallery button that opens a floating palette with three tabs: iPhoto, Clip Art, and Snapshot Gallery. There are over 40 categories with 2,000+ pieces of clip art, with many unappealing cartoons. You have to spend some time locating the good stuff, but overall I was disappointed with the quality. You can take a snapshot of your graphic in a template with the included button on the menu bar and store it in the Snapshot Gallery to use later. This saves time because you don't have to search out the same graphic from the Clip Art library later. Some of the samples of their clip art are viewable on the Avery site.

DesignPro screen

Avery DesignPro Clip Art

DesignPro is free, but only uses Avery paper product templates, so by all means check it out. What you save on software costs is easily spent on their paper products. Ultimately, if you want a range of templates for different paper product companies and a better assortment of built-in graphics and designs, it might be worth your while to purchase Printfolio ($84.95) from BeLight Software or DiscLabel ($35.95) from Smile On My Mac. Printfolio includes Business Card Composer, Swift Publisher, Disc Cover, Mail Factory, Image Tricks Pro, and Art Text LE. Both companies include a better assortment of clip art and photos, and the products just work better.

Currently DesignPro does not support A4-sized paper, but an update is in the works. Hopefully, the update will address some of the problems in this first software release also.

by ilene hoffman, reviews editor


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