Adobe’s Creative Cloud is probably the best productivity software for designers, the only downsides are cost and for many, complexity. Replicating the whole of Creative Cloud with other products would be difficult and the results harder to work with, however, it is the core desktop applications of Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator that most people need and these are much easier to find alternatives for.
Each of these companies produce a range of products that can compete with Adobe’s applications.
Serif is a British company who produce similar types of software for a much lower cost. Have a look at this article comparing Serif and Adobe products, written by a businessman who was evaluating CC and Serif products for his own use.
Xara is another UK based company that offer several products that cover similar areas to Adobe, but again with much lower costs. An article comparing Xara Photo & Graphic Designer to Photoshop show the alternative product fairs very well at a fraction of the cost.
Corel is a Canadian company also vying for your business in this area by offering an equivalent range of products, again for less money than Adobe.
Alternatives for Individual Applications
You may decide products from a mix of vendors best suit your needs. Here are some examples.
Alternatives for Photoshop
Photoshop has the most alternatives with Photoshop Elements being the obvious choice. A very similar set of tools that cover most people’s needs for only £55 (from Amazon), list price is around £80.
Others include the free and open source GIMP; PhotoPlus is the offering from Serif, Xara offer Photo & Graphic Designer and Corel have Paintshop Pro, but there are so many in this area…Google’s free Picasa, IrfanView with its batch processing… too many to mention.
Alternatives to InDesign
Microsoft Publisher is a great alternative and more than enough for most people. It does around 80% of what InDesign does (quote by Paul Southern – our DTP trainer) and as it is included with most versions of Microsoft Office these days you may already have this software.
If you don’t have access to Microsoft Publisher then PagePlus from Serif may be worth a look for an £80 one off cost, especially if you decide to buy other Serif products. On the Xara side the product is called Page and Layout Designer and sells for £55 on their own site.
QuarkXPress is another well-established player in page layout software, but more expensive than InDesign in many respects.
Alternatives for Illustrator
Software to create vector graphics are not as common. DrawPlus by Serif, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer along with CorelDraw from Corel. Of course there will be others.
Alternatives to Dreamweaver
Not really an alternative, but a whole different approach, WordPress. The world of web design is now way too complicated for an individual with a copy of Dreamweaver, unless they are extremely talented/experienced all round web geniuses. Dreamweaver can work with WordPress, but it’s not really necessary. Artisteer can help theme a WordPress site or indeed Joomla, Drupal and other Content Management Systems (CMS). WebPlus by Serif may also be worth a look along with equivalent products from Xara and Corel.
Creative Cloud vs Everyone Else – Conclusion
If you’re working in the design industry or use these products all day long and transfer files between organisations then Adobe is the way to go. Same situation with Microsoft Office for general productivity applications really.
For people with more limited budgets and/or lower requirements there are options at various price points, almost all of which are below Adobe. Make use of any free trials and good luck choosing your alternative products.