Earlier this year, I stopped subscribing to Adobe Creative Cloud, saving myself $54 per month. I had no particular complaints about the software, nor did I have any troubles with Adobe. The decision was purely financial—$54 per month works out to nearly $650 per year, which was far too much for the value I derived from InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro, and Photoshop, without even considering the other 15 or so Creative Cloud apps that I never installed.
Things had changed. I first purchased Adobe InDesign in 2003 to write iPhoto 2: Visual QuickStart Guide for Peachpit Press, switching from QuarkXPress because of the move to Mac OS X. I then used InDesign to write and edit at least 14 books over the next few years. I got pretty good with InDesign and enjoyed using it.
After the Take Control-related books we published with Peachpit around 2007, my reliance on InDesign fell off. Acrobat Pro remained essential for Take Control’s workflow through 2017, and in 2016, I started using InDesign and Illustrator to create posters, sign-up sheets, and similar print collateral for the Finger Lakes Runners Club. My fingers remembered InDesign’s keyboard modifiers and shortcuts from nearly a decade earlier, and I enjoyed setting up proper documents with carefully designed master pages, character and paragraph styles, and more. And while my abilities with Illustrator are minimal at best (Photoshop completely confounds me), I appreciated being able to use it to collaborate more fluidly with designers and production systems. The price was high, but I felt it was worthwhile for the print work I was doing and to maintain my familiarity with that part of the industry.
By 2020, however, the running club was producing fewer print pieces—everything had moved online—and that $54 per month was starting to grate. Entire months would go by without me even launching one of the Adobe Creative Cloud apps. I was unenthused about the time and effort involved in learning another app and redoing my moderately complex documents, so I kept subscribing despite my increasingly dysfunctional relationship with Adobe’s suite.
The event that started to dissolve Adobe’s grip was a sale that Serif, makers of the so-called “Affinity trinity” of Affinity Publisher, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Photo, held during the early days of the pandemic. I had played with the beta of Affinity Publisher when it first came out in 2019, and while promising, it was too rough and didn’t compare sufficiently favorably with InDesign. For $25, I figured it was worth a shot to give the release version of Affinity Publisher a try, and I also decided to pick up Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo for another $50.
Between the pandemic and being busy with other things, I didn’t use the apps that much right away, and it wasn’t until I needed to do more print pieces in 2021 that I dove in. Even as I built new documents in Affinity Publisher and discovered that I could export my InDesign files to IDML and open them in Affinity Publisher, I kept subscribing to Creative Cloud, just in case. Did I mention that the relationship was dysfunctional? Finally, in April 2022, I went on a conversion spree, exporting all my InDesign documents to IDML even when I didn’t anticipate using them again. Affinity Designer could open all my Illustrator files with no further fiddling, so that was all set too. Then I canceled Creative Cloud. Phew!
I’m embarrassed that I haven’t written much about the Affinity suite before, partly because I can’t believe I kept subscribing to Creative Cloud for so long and partly because I feel like a bit of an imposter. I may know how to do document setup and page layout in InDesign and Affinity Publisher, but I’m a fluent user, not a graphic designer who does this for a living. Similarly, while I can monkey around in Illustrator and Affinity Designer, my skills are weak. As with Photoshop, I seldom even launch Affinity Photo, and whenever I need image manipulation features, I immediately resort to searching for tutorials. Most of the time, I still fail to accomplish whatever I’m trying to do, but that’s on me, not Affinity Photo or Photoshop.
Along with feeling generally inadequate to review the Affinity apps, I was also aware that they’re sufficiently deep and powerful that it would be impossible to predict whether my needs match yours. Multi-chapter books in Affinity Publisher with exports to PDF and EPUB? I have no idea how one would set them up—I don’t do that sort of production anymore. Database-driven publishing? Affinity Publisher can merge data into a document, and I did it once, but are there gotchas if that’s what you do every day? I don’t know. And I can’t even begin to guess how you might use Illustrator and Photoshop and if you could replicate those tasks in Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo.
So, apart from a little public therapy session, why am I writing about the Affinity apps now? Serif just released version 2 of all three apps, and while there’s no upgrade pricing, the company is having a V2 launch sale through 14 December 2022. The 40% discount drops the price of any one of the apps to $40.99 (the list price is now $69.99), and a new Universal License gets you all three apps for macOS, iPadOS, and Windows for $99.99. That’s a one-time charge and still costs less than 2 months of Creative Cloud. Serif also offers multi-user business licenses and educational licenses.
Although I’ve been happy with the current 1.x versions of the Affinity apps, I’ve just purchased the Universal License to get the V2 apps. Although I have no plans to write another book in the near future, Affinity Publisher 2 now lets you combine separate documents as chapters. Styles sync between chapters, page numbers count up properly, and you can build a unified table of contents and index using the individual files. Affinity Publisher 2 also supports footnotes, endnotes, and sidenotes.
All this is by way of saying that if you are paying Adobe monthly for apps that you don’t use sufficiently, like I was, I encourage you to give the Affinity V2 apps a try. For my purposes, they were entirely adequate replacements for InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop, and maybe they would be for you as well. For $99.99 or less, it’s worth giving the Affinity alternatives a try. I could have saved many hundreds of dollars by switching sooner.