Adobe Reviews Software

Affinity Publisher: a cheap alternative to InDesign?

Affinity Publisher
DTP on a budget: Affinity Publisher could give Adobe InDesign a run for its money

Serif’s Affinity brand has already punctured the notion that professional-grade photo editing and animation tools must cost serious bucks. Now Serif is taking a mighty swipe at another of Adobe’s cash cows: desktop publishing. But is Affinity Publisher a genuine threat to InDesign?

Affinity Publisher: the pricing model

Affinity Publisher was made available to download as a free beta yesterday. I’ve only had time to toy with it for a couple of hours, but my first impressions are that Adobe should be very worried indeed. 

Serif’s Affinity brand is exploiting the fact that Adobe now wants to chain professionals to expensive subscriptions. A month’s subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite – which includes Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign – costs around £50 per month. Serif’s apps, on the other hand, cost less than £50 as a one-off purchase.

While we don’t know how much Affinity Publisher will cost yet, it’s safe to say it won’t be nearly as expensive as InDesign. But is it as good?

Affinity Publisher: features

If you’ve ever spent any time in InDesign (and I spend half my life in it), then you won’t feel like a fish out of water in Affinity Publisher. 

The interface is very similar, the tools are almost identical, and it follows the tried-and-tested method of controls on the left, swatches/panels on the right, content in the middle.

It follows many of the same conventions as InDesign, too. Drag in from the rulers at the top or sides, for instance, and you’ll create a guide to help you line up images and other page elements. You can create master pages that apply the same elements to every page (or selected pages) in a document. 

Serif is superb at creating video tutorials for all of its products, and Affinity Publisher is no exception. Even at this early beta stage, there are a dozen or so video tutorials showing you how to perform tasks such as wrap text around images, create a baseline grid or drop tables into documents. Even if you’ve never used InDesign or a DTP suite before, you shouldn’t have too many problems creating documents from scratch.

Affinity Publisher
Serif’s video tutorials are superb

I created the document pictured at the top of this story in less than an hour, after following a few of the video tutorials. 

Affinity Publisher: beta bugs

Like any beta product, there are bugs to be squished. Publisher seemed to lose the fonts in my document when I first re-opened a saved version of the document above, only finding them again when I restarted. And image placement is a little haphazard currently, with erratic performance around photos filling their ascribed frame size.

Still, I’m hugely impressed with what I’ve seen so far. It’s going to take a huge effort to dislodge InDesign as the publishing industry standard. But for folks looking for professional DTP software that doesn’t require them to auction off a kidney on eBay, this could very well be the answer.

Now read this: Affinity Photo Workbook – a gem for photographers?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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