Page 1 of 1

Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted: 30 Jul 2019, 15:38
by benwiggy
Refugees from Adobe's subscription pricing may be looking for alternatives to Creative Cloud apps, particularly as old Creative Suite apps are coming to the end of their useful life. I thought I'd round up my findings of the various competitors, as music publishers often need other creative tools.
I can't speak much for Windows tools: I've focused on cross-platform apps, with the occasional Mac app. Contributions welcome.

Affinity Design, Photo and Publisher
Without doubt, Serif's Affinity suite have taken on the mantle (or picked up the gauntlet?) as professional vector artwork, photo editing and DTP tools. And each one is available to buy at around the cost of one month of Adobe rental. There are versions for Mac, Windows, and iPad. However, they do have some quirks, not least of which is their inability to import PDFs accurately. This makes it impossible to place a PDF of music on a page, or edit the notation in a PDF to produce something beyond what notation apps can offer. This may rule them out for many here, for the time being.

Inkscape is the leading open-source package, for all platforms, but I haven't tried it. Currently, on the Mac, it either needs to be run within XQuartz, or built using HomeBrew or MacPorts, which may be off-putting. Future versions plan 'standalone' installation.

On the Mac, one artwork editor that does import PDFs of music is "Graphic" by Picta Inc. on the Mac App Store. It used to be called "iDraw", but has changed owners. A few tests show that it accurately outlines all the fonts, leaving you with editable vector objects. It only imports the first page of a PDF, so you'll need to split and rejoin the pages before and after editing (but that's easily done). (Tip: you may need to ungroup everything before you can select individual items.) But it works well, and the visuals are familiar to Illustrator users. It's very cheap.

GIMP is the standard open-source app, which works on all platforms. Affinity Photo is perhaps superior: and if you're using it for bitmap image editing and creation, then the PDF import problem is not an issue. Other competitors on the Mac include Pixelmator Pro.

Apart from Affinity, there are a couple of other good DTP apps. Scribus is 'surprisingly good', and can open Indesign .indx files. There's also VivaDesigner, which comes in free and paid-for versions (€129). It's made by a German pre-press software firm, so they have considerable commercial print experience. Both are Windows, Mac and Linux.

Master PDF Editor is a comprehensive PDF editor for Windows, Mac and Linux, and it seems pretty capable. It offers OCR, vector editing, text frames, annotations, JavaScript, and much more. On the Mac side, PDFPen Pro is accomplished for a variety of tasks, and AppleScriptable.
Of course, Acrobat performs a huge range of tasks, and no one app will fill its boots completely. Command-line utilities like GhostScript or Coherent PDF may also provide useful functions on all platforms.

This is the least well catered. Web-building apps fall into three categories: template-driven GUI editors, where the code is never seen; code editors with Preview windows; and fully WYSIWYG editors in which you can work graphically and also edit the code directly. Dreamweaver fell into the last group, and competing apps are few. BlueGriffon comes closest (all platforms), and while it works well, it hasn't been updated since December 2017. Most of the 'domestic use' template apps and the code IDEs are platform specific.

Re: Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted: 01 Aug 2019, 14:34
by tisimst
Fantastic list, benwiggy! Always good to get insights from users on the front lines!

I can vouch for Inkscape and GIMP. While not *identical* to their Adobe counterparts, you'll be quite hard pressed to find functionality that they don't support or can't be reasonably done another way.

As opposed to Affinity Designer, Inkscape does provide a way to import PDFs, both in a "native" form (meaning that it tries to import the text as text and find matching system fonts) and it can also convert everything to outlines, which breaks the ties to the original fonts, but it preserves the PDF's appearance. I almost never use the "native" form of import because it just doesn't work great.

Re: Alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud

Posted: 02 Aug 2019, 15:08
by benwiggy
Illustrator will retain text glyphs where the embedded fonts are also active in the system. "If you have the font, you can work with it." Otherwise, the font will be outlined, or left as the correct glyph but in a default font. Apps like iDraw/Graphic outline everything, regardless.

The Affinity apps try to import all text as text, regardless of the font (or indeed OTF options like numeral styles, Swash, ligatures, etc), which is useful for treating PDF as a document transfer format: convert any document from any app into an Affinity document via PDF. ("Some editing required.")
This is not without its uses, but until they implement a more standard behaviour for importing PDFs (which they say they will), it does limit things. However, for creating original content, the suite of apps is very impressive and should not be overlooked.

tisimst wrote:
01 Aug 2019, 14:34
Fantastic list, benwiggy! Always good to get insights from users on the front lines!
Good to hear from you! (Cough; Cadence!)