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Affinity Publisher Workbook review: a must-have for InDesign deserters?

Affinity Publisher Workbook

Has there ever been a better time for Serif’s brilliant range of Adobe alternatives? With the gloomiest of financial situations unfolding, many folk will find they can’t justify the £50 per month that Adobe charges for Creative Suite and instead turn to products such as Serif’s Affinity Publisher instead – a genuine InDesign rival that costs £50 full stop (£48.99 to be precise), not £50 per month. When they do make the leap, the superb Affinity Publisher Workbook will ensure that transition is as smooth as possible.

The Workbook, like the Affinity Photo Workbook that went before it, is part manual, part tutorial. The manual section explains what all the icons, toolbars and buttons do; the tutorial comes in the form of several step-by-step guides that show you how to perform real-world tasks in Affinity Publisher. For example, how to design a brochure, create a company report or lay out an entire print magazine.

Better still, these guides are written by experts in the field, not only Serif’s own staff. That print magazine guide, for example, is written by my friend and colleague Adam Banks – by far the most talented magazine editor/designer I’ve ever worked with, and who sadly passed away recently.

The Affinity Publisher Workbook
Learn how to lay out a magazine with Adam Banks

I’ve worked on magazines and newspapers for most of my career, so to test myself and the quality of the guides in the Affinity Publisher Workbook, I chose something different: laying out an Alice In Wonderland book.

All of the text, illustrations and fonts* are provided as free downloads, so you can work with the same source material as the guide’s author, allowing you to achieve the exact same results if you get it right. (*Actually, there was a wee problem with the fonts, which I’ll come to shortly.)

The book guide was brilliantly simple to follow. Sure, I’m reasonably familiar with tools such as InDesign and I’ve used Affinity Publisher a little before, but I’m not a designer. Nevertheless, I could easily follow the instructions to take raw text, style it up, insert illustrations so that they wrapped around the text neatly, add page numbers and so forth. I’m not saying that I’d immediately be able to knock on Penguin’s door and apply for a job as a book designer, but if I were embarking on a self-publishing project now, I’d be willing to have a crack at the layout myself.

Book layout in Affinity Publisher

There were a few glitches during the tutorial. When asked to download the fonts from Google’s online repository, for example, the stipulated font (Muli) wasn’t available – although there was a ready alternative, the brilliantly named Mulish. The instructions for installing fonts also skipped a step (the fonts need to be extracted from the compressed file before they can be installed in Windows), which might throw an absolute beginner.

Indeed, there were a few little gotchas like that during the tutorial, where I wondered if a rank novice would come unstuck. But this book isn’t aimed at complete novices – it’s aimed at enthusiasts or pros who want to avoid the Adobe tariff and learn how to use this brilliant, affordable alternative. If you’re confident with computers, aren’t immediately bewildered by terms such as ‘margins’ and ‘gutters’ and ‘baseline grid’, and want to learn a new piece of software without having to constantly stop and start a YouTube video, this 500-odd pages of hard-bound, beautifully presented tutorials will help you through.

And if you’re looking for proof that Affinity Publisher is up to the job of making professional-looking publications? This immaculately designed booked was made using the software itself.

Affinity Publisher Workbook

Product Name: Affinity Publisher Workbook

Offer price: 37.99

Offer URL: https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/publisher/workbook/

  • Tutorials and resources
  • Book design
  • Value for money

Summary

A brilliant guidebook for anyone thinking of making the leap to Affinity Publisher

Overall
4.7

Pros

  • Wide variety of step-by-step tutorials
  • Tutorials written by notable experts
  • Freely downloadable resources that help you follow the tutorials

Cons

  • The odd error in tutorial instructions

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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