Serif’s new member of the Affinity family may be ideal for anyone hunting a subscription-free InDesign.
Speaking as someone who still has a copy of Photoshop 1.0 – on a single floppy disk, believe it or not – I resent the increasing trend of treating software as a subscription service that you have to pay for every month, rather than a simple product that you can buy and own for as long as you choose. For creative users, of course, the key culprit as such here is Adobe and its Creative Cloud service, which charges a considerable monthly fee for users of InDesign, Photoshop and other Adobe software tools.
There are, of course, several rivals to Photoshop that still allow you to pay a one-off fee to buy the software, including Serif’s popular Affinity Photo, as included in our Best Alternatives to Photoshop rundown.
Serif also offers Illustrator alternative Affinity Designer for vector graphics work, and the company has recently completed its trinity of design tools with the release of Affinity Publisher for desktop publishing.
Like its two companion apps, Affinity Publisher offers an impressive array of design tools for a modest fee of just £48.99/$49.99. In contrast, Adobe’s ‘single app’ subscription for InDesign costs around £20 per month on an annual contract for an individual license (with higher rates for businesses that require multiple licenses). And, of course, those fees continue year after year, and mean that you’ll lose access to your apps – and possibly all your work files as well – as soon as you cancel the subscription.
You’re not going to get high-end desktop publishing software for £50, so it’s perhaps unfair to view Affinity Publisher as a direct rival for InDesign. Even so, Affinity Publisher does provide a wide range of tools for working with text, graphics and multi-page layouts, and will be a very good option for many day-to-day tasks such as magazine layouts, brochures, or electronic publishing to PDF format.
If you’re new to desktop publishing then the program’s Welcome screen offers a selection of online video tutorials that cover most of its key features. You can also download a couple of quite detailed sample files and use those to experiment with the program while you’re getting started. However, Affinity Publisher’s interface is – initially at least – fairly conventional, so it should feel quite straightforward and familiar for anyone that’s used InDesign or other layout tools in the past.
Your page layouts are viewed in the main workspace window – called the ‘canvas’ – with a traditional set of tools running down the far left-hand edge of the workspace, which allow you to select and move objects on the canvas, and to create frames that contain text, graphics and tables. Running along the top of the workspace you’ll initially see just a single menu bar that contains basic layout controls, such as text wrap, snapping and alignment. However, selecting any tool or object within your document will cause a second, context-sensitive menu bar to appear below this with additional controls for working with the currently selected object.
That keeps most of the program’s most frequently used tools available for easy access but, inevitably, there’s a profusion of more detailed palettes that are used to provide greater control over your work. To cope with this, Affinity Publisher provides two ‘Studio’ areas on either side of the canvas workspace, where you can dock multiple palettes in order to customise the workspace with the tools that you tend to use most often.