Living without Adobe – a summary

Late last year I decided to discontinue my Adobe CS5 Design Premium subscription, due to their non flexible end of contract terms (and the expense of it all when I don’t use their products every day).

I’ve since been looking at a bunch of different alternatives. These alternatives have a bias towards Mac OS X (I own a Macbook), so not all that I tested are available on a PC. After these past few months it’s easy to see why Adobe are leading in the market. The (mostly) uniform key shortcuts, and asset management between the products is well integrated. Adobe products are also the best at print colour management. As much as Adobe’s software has major flaws, it’s still a solid solution to your designing needs.

To be clear on what market I’m in here, I’m a web developer who also dabbles in design (print + digital + industrial) and photography.

I tried the following alternatives to the CS5 Design Premium package (which retails for almost AU$3000, ouch):

Adobe Photoshop alt:
Pixelmator [link]
GIMP [link]
Adobe Photoshop Elements [link] (I know, but it’s an affordable option to consider)

Adobe Illustrator alt:
Acorn [link]
Lineform [link]
Inkscape [link]

Adobe Bridge alt:
Adobe Organiser [link] (boxed with Photoshop Elements)
iPhoto [link]
Aperture [link]

Adobe Dreamweaver alt: (haven’t used this since 2006 TBH)
Coda [link]
TextMate [link]

Adobe InDesign alt:
Scribus [link]

Adobe Acrobat alt:
Open Office [link]

Adobe Fireworks alt:
See Photoshop alternatives above

Adobe Flash alt:
No software available.
HTML5, jQuery, Raphäel and Sencha look promising as a future combined alternative. We’re almost there!

And here were my final choices that I am still using solidly after playing with all of these:


These choices were based partly on how much they cost to buy, and obviously whether they had the features I needed. Three out of the final six are free; Inkscape, Scribus and Preview (Preview is a standard app boxed with OS X so it’s technically free if you own any Mac computer).

Combine this with the paid applications and the total comes to less than US$360. I believe this is reasonable for the average blogger/lightweight designer/web developer/web designer/photographer.

As a combination they take up approximately 1.6GB of space on your hard drive. As a comparison Adobe CS5 Design Premium takes up 6GB hard drive space. Good to know for those running their computer on relatively new and small capacity SSD’s.

I’ll be focusing on each application in more detail on this blog soon. For now I’m happy to have found my little swag of good quality software to get each job done :)





Thanks Owl Posse, I’m going to show this blog post to all my students. We still need Flash (for now) but so many students can’t even afford the Adobe student packages.


You can also use the free mxmlc compiler released by Adobe to make swfs. You don’t need Flash at all, just the Flex SDK and *any* text editor. Don’t let the fact that it’s part of Flex phase you, you can make any swf with it, not just Flex apps.


Katy -
Thank you so much for commenting, that is a really handy piece of information to know! I always thought you needed Flash to run alongside Flex SDK in order to export as a SWF.

I have the student version of CS5. I’m a little nervous about the cost of buying the full version in a year or two when I’ll presumably be working. *gulps*

This is quite a useful list though :)


Surprised to see that QuarkXpress is not an alternative to InDesign. It probably has a greater marketshare than InDesign.


I totally agree that QuarkXPress is the ‘true’ alternative to InDesign. However it’s US$799 to buy which placed it well out of my budget. I used InDesign a couple of times a year at most so I couldn’t justify buying QuarkXpress.

The list I blogged is not a complete list, but just solutions I found to be right which then needed further testing to decide on :)


Hey Suz, I think blender would fit nicely into this list. It’s more geared towards 3d/comping/animation/vfx but from what I’ve seen (which is very little) the node based comping side of it is a good alternative to after effects.


I totally agree. I’ve been using Blender to produce my 3D printed prototypes. It’s kinda on a separate list to this though, as Adobe is yet to release a CAD/CGI modeling program.

Thanks for tip!

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