Author Topic: Alternatives to Indesign  (Read 1304 times)

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Alternatives to Indesign
« on: December 13, 2018, 08:42:05 am »
My current Adobe CC plan expires in Feb and since I no longer need it for work, I am thinking of cancelling it. But I do like having Indesign and use it for lots of non-work things as well.

Can anyone suggest a good alternative? Not necessarily free but cheap would be good, and definitely not the cursed subscription payment model.

I've seen Scribus mentioned in despatches but haven't used it. Anyone have any experience of this one? I would definitely consider myself a 'power user' of Indesign, so I'm concerned I might miss some features that are not available on freeware.

And what is QuarkXpress like these days? I used it for several years at work before Indesign took over but that was a long time ago. It does offer the major advantage of not requiring a subscription. Might be worth giving the free trial a go at least. (And they're cheekily offering a 50% discount to Indesign users to persuade us to switch... still £350 though, which is three years of Indesign at current subscription rates.)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2018, 08:59:06 am »
I tried Scribus once, figuring out how to make it do something quite probably was rocket science. Seems quite powerful, but you'd need the patience to learn a rather Gimp-like user experience. It won't match InDesign, obviously Adobe have invested a lot over the years.

I'm obviously a big fan of Affinity, Designer and Photo are generally my go-tos instead of Illustrator and Design these days. They have an InDesign replacement called 'Publisher' in beta though I'm not sure when it will release formally. I've played with it and it is very, very good. Till it crashed, of course. Looks excellent though. That said, it'll be v1.0 so won't reflect every feature that InDesign has acquired. Support for plug-ins can be patchy if you're reliant on such things.

Not used Quark since the late 90s, I can't say I have especially fond memories.
!nataS pihsroW

jiberjaber

  • ... Fancy Pants \o/ ...
  • ACME S&M^2
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2018, 10:02:50 am »
My current Adobe CC plan expires in Feb and since I no longer need it for work, I am thinking of cancelling it. But I do like having Indesign and use it for lots of non-work things as well.

Can anyone suggest a good alternative? Not necessarily free but cheap would be good, and definitely not the cursed subscription payment model.

I've seen Scribus mentioned in despatches but haven't used it. Anyone have any experience of this one? I would definitely consider myself a 'power user' of Indesign, so I'm concerned I might miss some features that are not available on freeware.

And what is QuarkXpress like these days? I used it for several years at work before Indesign took over but that was a long time ago. It does offer the major advantage of not requiring a subscription. Might be worth giving the free trial a go at least. (And they're cheekily offering a 50% discount to Indesign users to persuade us to switch... still £350 though, which is three years of Indesign at current subscription rates.)

I found I could get Adobe CC subscription cheaper with a combo of sales & amazon to buy an annual voucher for subscription which I then redeemed on my Adobe account which saved me around £35 on the £110 it was at the time.  I think they feature often in the black friday and other such deals so worth keeping an eye out.
Regards,

Joergen

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2018, 10:10:11 am »
No help with that but likewise, I baulked at the sub for Photoshop, especially as I use it so little these days. But, there would be a steep learning curve if I tried to swap it out and it does work.

Anyhoo, I phoned up (or online chat - can't remember) and whinged at Adobe and ended up with almost a year free with no obligation to renew. That expired a month ago, predictably I've let it continue. If/when I stop work I will probably reconsider. Be worth a call, though.

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2018, 10:35:20 am »
I went down the Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo route, and they now have Affinity Publisher in beta. They are commercial products, but a good price for what they offer, and the company has a very long background. I much prefer to pay once for software.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2018, 10:42:06 am »
Yup, I use Affinity Designer and Designer for production quality work even though I have Adobe CC via the mothership. I'd be happy to move from InDesign when Publisher is available, I find InDesign increasingly clunky and it's non-Apple nativeness annoying.
!nataS pihsroW

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2018, 01:11:43 pm »
Affinity Publisher looks very interesting. PagePlus used to be quite popular, didn't it?

And thanks for the tip about giving Adobe a call, jiberjaber - definitely worth a try.

I might give Scribus a go, just because it is free. My non-work needs will generally be fairly basic, so maybe I won't miss the more advanced features, but the thought of "a rather Gimp-like user experience" doesn't fill me with enthusiasm. (Talking of Gimp, losing Photoshop will also be unfortunate, but AIUI there are plenty of alternatives to PS that aren't Gimp...)

Indesign is definitely clunky and bloated but it's the default in my line of work and so I don't have any choice. The difference now is that I'm not working from home any more so don't have such a pressing need to have it on my home computer. It is also undeniably extremely powerful, although limited in scope and the needs of desktop publishers have outgrown it, and its ability to handle cross-platform publishing is somewhat limited.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2018, 01:22:49 pm »
I think the key thing for me in terms of an InDesign replacement is a program that will cope with a selection of input file formats and output pdf files that printers accept.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2018, 01:49:59 pm »
I think the key thing for me in terms of an InDesign replacement is a program that will cope with a selection of input file formats and output pdf files that printers accept.

Fortunately, output format is not a major concern for me, although Scribus claims to have good support for PDF and EPS.

As far as input format is concerned, it's an annoyance that Indesign can't import Google Docs, but only a minor annoyance since it's easy to export from Google Docs to .docx - one of the reasons I am also allowing my MS Office subscription to lapse. And there's always cut-and-paste.

Being able to import selected layers of PSD files to Indesign is a nice feature to have, but not one that I use very often so I'd be unlikely to miss it if I lost it.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2018, 10:32:46 am »
Output PDF files are a given these days, more so now bureaux don't gripe 'sorry, we didn't bother to print it because it 450 dpi and we only handle 451 and besides, we're dicks, and wanted to go home at 5pm on the dot.'

The Affinity products handle Adobe layers, though the concept of layers is a bit different (actually better and more intuitive) – works fine for basic masks and paths and things and I assume Publisher will have the same level of support.

I've evolved through Framemaker+SGML, 3B2, PageMaker, QuarkXpress to InDesign. The problem with InDesign is that's really just PageMaker with endless shit bolted on and the basic stuff like snapping-to-guides and dragging things around is crappily executed. My needs are basic, I just need neat stuff on pages. Let's face it, I work in an organization where people think it's normal to make an A4 document in Powerpoint and look at you gone-out when you ask them to balance columns and align the bloody baselines.
!nataS pihsroW

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2018, 11:19:19 am »
I got to enjoy InDesign when I used it at work during 2010 - 2011. Perhaps that was the last version to operate as an application on the computer, as it didn't need an internet connection to work, or a subscription. I wonder if that is your solution: obtaining an (older) offline version.

If it were me, I'd also investigate the Linux clones. Someone will be along in a moment to tell us what the InDesign equivalent is called.

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2018, 11:42:59 am »
I wonder if that is your solution: obtaining an (older) offline version.

It's something that has crossed my mind, and I'm sure we have an old copy knocking around somewhere. The potential hitch is likely to be compatibility with the current OS.

Using an older version isn't an option with work stuff since I need to be able to work on files that have been created by colleagues in a more recent version. #fuckbackwardscompatibility

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2018, 11:50:28 am »
'sorry, we didn't bother to print it because it 450 dpi and we only handle 451 and besides, we're dicks, and wanted to go home at 5pm on the dot.'
...
The problem with InDesign is that's really just PageMaker with endless shit bolted on and the basic stuff like snapping-to-guides and dragging things around is crappily executed. My needs are basic, I just need neat stuff on pages. Let's face it, I work in an organization where people think it's normal to make an A4 document in Powerpoint and look at you gone-out when you ask them to balance columns and align the bloody baselines.

I can totally relate to all of this. I wish I couldn't, but I can.

At the moment, I'm working with an Art Director who seems to treat The Grid as a somewhat fluid entity. This is highly unusual – in my experience, ADs normally revere The Grid as sacrosanct. This may be a symptom of having given up the fight against Indesign. But it's weird and makes me feel uncomfortable.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2018, 12:21:07 pm »
Every release of InDesign seems to create a new file format with no hope of opening it in a previous version. Another peril of the subscription model, there's an expectation that everyone is on the latest version. It's BS really, there's probably nothing I can do in the latest version of InDesign that I couldn't do in PageMaker or QuarkXpress in the late 90s. Like most software InDesign has accumulated niche features and-ons for online publishing etc. that don't really do the job as well as dedicated applications but someone in their product development likes saying 'workflow' (they do aboard our mothership too). The downside is that the basic interface hasn't really improved (I think in part because Adobe don't use the native MacOS libraries). Dragging and dropping, manipulating objects and text is a world better and more fluid in Affinity. Things align, snap, and place like they ought to.

I think the art of properly laying out pages started to die with Word when it became possible to just put an image anywhere except where you needed it. Entirely documents had objects placed as they were because otherwise they would jumped around the page or fallen into the dead zone beyond the page, and frankly the users couldn't bear another afternoon bashing their faces into their keyboard in frustration so fuck it, it'll do.

I'm old school enough to still sketch page layouts and decide on fonts and sizes, leading etc. on a piece of blank A4 before I start. Mind you, the person who taught me would have no truck with baseline grids either, on account that choosing font sizes and leading correctly obviates one.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2018, 12:55:26 pm »
I'm old school enough to still sketch page layouts and decide on fonts and sizes, leading etc. on a piece of blank A4 before I start. Mind you, the person who taught me would have no truck with baseline grids either, on account that choosing font sizes and leading correctly obviates one.
That's quite the hard-line position; was this person brought up on hot-metal letterpress or something?

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2018, 01:27:32 pm »
Mind you, the person who taught me would have no truck with baseline grids either, on account that choosing font sizes and leading correctly obviates one.

Up to a point...

Ref. your earlier "align the bloody baselines" comment - a grid at least removes any element of guesswork. M'colleague has a habit of slapping stuff on the page using his eye as the only guide, which is mostly fine, but when I get handed a three-column layout and the columns are all slightly different widths and spilling into the margins, it brings on my nervous twitch.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #16 on: December 14, 2018, 01:30:35 pm »
Yes, he was ex-newspaper and pre-DTP, and I suspect he thought computers were 'cheating.' Having spent happy afternoons preparing camera-ready copy with scissors, glue and letraset, I'm all for cheating.

It's a valid point though, if you set up the spacing and font sizes correctly, the baseline grid becomes inherent, and it's good practice rather than forcing the alignment. That said, though I keep that in mind when setting up paragraph styles, I usually give in to temptation and tick the box, it's useful when you've frames in odd places etc, and saves jigging everything around to get the initial alignment.
!nataS pihsroW

citoyen

  • Cat 6 Racer
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #17 on: December 14, 2018, 02:01:34 pm »
Yes, he was ex-newspaper and pre-DTP, and I suspect he thought computers were 'cheating.' Having spent happy afternoons preparing camera-ready copy with scissors, glue and letraset, I'm all for cheating.

I wouldn't go so far as calling computers cheating but they're just a tool do make doing the job easier and certainly not a replacement for basic design skills. I've had a conversation in which someone suggested that using Indesign made their publication 'professional'. It would have been cruel and heartless to point out *all* the ways in which they were wrong...

If it were that simple, I'd buy a CAD package and set myself up as an architect.

road-runner

  • is in Slovakia.
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #18 on: December 14, 2018, 03:23:01 pm »
I wonder if that is your solution: obtaining an (older) offline version.

We bought a new computer in 2017. I duly installed my pre-rental copy of Photoshop. When you open the program for the first time you have to register it with Adobe otherwise it will only work for 30 days. I had all my details to hand onôy to discover that Adobe has now shut down the registration server, so we cannot use our Photoshop - we can but only by not disposing of our old computer - and I suspect that would be the fly in the ointment also for a pre-rental copy of InDesign.

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #19 on: December 14, 2018, 03:32:10 pm »
I'm old school enough to still sketch page layouts and decide on fonts and sizes, leading etc. on a piece of blank A4 before I start. Mind you, the person who taught me would have no truck with baseline grids either, on account that choosing font sizes and leading correctly obviates one.
That's quite the hard-line position; was this person brought up on hot-metal letterpress or something?

Hot metal typesetting was one of the most beautiful things to watch.

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #20 on: December 14, 2018, 03:57:06 pm »
I wonder if that is your solution: obtaining an (older) offline version.

We bought a new computer in 2017. I duly installed my pre-rental copy of Photoshop. When you open the program for the first time you have to register it with Adobe otherwise it will only work for 30 days. I had all my details to hand onôy to discover that Adobe has now shut down the registration server, so we cannot use our Photoshop - we can but only by not disposing of our old computer - and I suspect that would be the fly in the ointment also for a pre-rental copy of InDesign.
This is the reason I'm running two iMacs. The older (2012) one will run all my PowerPC processor based software - PhotoshpCS, Illustrator, Vector Works, Freehand. Yes, Freehand, and so on. The new one is mostly for web-based stuff and watching Youtube videos of How Things Work and How Things Are Made. I've got Gimp and Inkscape on the new one, but must confess to never having been compelled to use either.

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #21 on: December 14, 2018, 04:20:43 pm »
Quark Xpress is now available as an app for Mac users (Apple store) it's cheaper but it's not upgradeable

fruitcake

  • some kind of fruitcake
    • Bailey
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2018, 04:28:34 pm »
I now remember the backwards compatibility issues caused by each version of InDesign having a new default file type and the difficulties it caused when co-creating artwork with people in other organisations. It's all coming back. The requests for the file to be resaved in the compatibility format.

When you open the program for the first time you have to register it with Adobe otherwise it will only work for 30 days.
I had a feeling there'd be something like that. Does this mean that if one were to maintain an offline PC for image editing and DTP, no version of Adobe would be usable without taking that machine online? That would be a shame as there can be good reasons for doing resource intensive jobs on a dedicated machine which stays off the internet and untroubled by automatic updates etc.

All of this seems to make the case for choosing another layout program, as the time spent learning to use it could eventually equal the time spent working around those limitations.

It looks like Scribus is promoted as the open source alternative to InDesign. I've never used it but will investigate it some day. That and DarkTable, the alternative to LightRoom, which looks good. It's just a case of finding time to learn a new tool, and I guess Adobe are banking on enough people not finding that time.

I find that GIMP is best used for complex operations; on the other hand, it is an unwieldy tool for rotating, cropping and scaling images. For these simple edits, other programs do the job quicker. So I have a collection of free image editing programs. Some of those are good for just one thing but they do that thing well. I don't know if that's typical of open source software, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #23 on: December 14, 2018, 04:39:34 pm »
old versions will work on old machines that  they are already installed on. The problem is registering an old version on a new machine, or running CC (Creative Clod) without an online connection.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Re: Alternatives to Indesign
« Reply #24 on: December 14, 2018, 05:29:13 pm »
I guess I'm lucky that most of my output can be exported to PDF, without having to forward original files to anyone.
I should add that this is for home generated stuff, and nothing whatsoever to do with what I do for a living.