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Alternatives To Adobe's Creative Suite? 695 695

jsepeta writes "I've been using Adobe products for years, and own several older versions of the products from their Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Acrobat Pro, and Dreamweaver. I'd like to teach some graphic design and web production skills to my coworkers in the marketing department, and realize that most of them can't afford $2500 to buy Adobe's premium suite and, frankly, shouldn't need to because there should be competitive products on the market. But I can't seem to locate software for graphic design and printing that outputs CMYK files that printing companies will accept. And I'm not familiar with any products that are better than FrontPage yet still easy to use for Web design. Any suggestions? Our company is notoriously frugal and would certainly entertain the idea of using open source products if we could implement them in a way that doesn't infringe upon our Microsoft-centric hegemony / daily work tasks in XP."
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Alternatives To Adobe's Creative Suite?

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  • by batwingTM (202524) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:10AM (#19392549) Homepage

    I teach Website Development at a TAFE and I have found Notpad++ [sourceforge.net] to be pretty good. It is still a simple text editor, but it's free and it colour-codes your text (useful for finding those unclosed tags or quotation marks).


    Dreamweaver does more, but it depends greatly what you are doing. I use Dreamweaver a lot, but I spend nearly all my time in code view anyway. The only major problem I have with Dreamweaver is it's inability to handle frames properly. but frankly, no WYSIWYG editor does. You're better off setting frames and framesets in text editors anyway, if you are using them at all.

  • Re:no alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gullevek (174152) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:35AM (#19392703) Homepage Journal
    It's horrible slow. At least on Mac. In Photoshop you can actually edit, move around curves and see the result live, in Gimp you can literally see how the screen builds up. And I talk about a G5 2.5 PowerMac with more than enough RAM ...

    I invested in Photoshop at the end, and there is no way back at the moment.
  • by Cheesemold (882389) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:40AM (#19392731)
    "People that don't understand HTML and CSS shouldn't to webdesign in the first place."

    Well, that's what WYSIWYG web development programs are for. There's no reason to go through hand-coding a site just in spite of an expensive package that does it for you. People that develop sites for a living don't need to go through that nonsense on every single project. What's better use of time? Typing six lines of code over and over again for some element on a page, or clicking a few times and dragging it right to where you want it?

    "If you want to learn webdesign you should learn to design webpages, not learn how to use a program."

    The act of designing a web page is different from actually coding it. When typing out all that code, the site should already be designed, otherwise you'd have no basis from which to code.

    Using only Notepad to make a site doesn't make sense on any level. Would you use it to make your image files as well? After all-- it would offer the deepest level of control over your image content. Hell, test it in your own W3 compliant web-browser that you compiled by hand in Notepad.

    The level of specialized training for any of these tasks are obviously all too redundant and useless compared to getting the software, any software, and focusing on the design of your project-- the rudimentary communicative objectives that must be fulfilled by the project.
  • Try Xara! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zataang (596856) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:41AM (#19392737) Homepage
    I am not a design expert to know about its CMYK support - but I can tell you Xara rocks as a substitute to Illustrator. It is one of the best designed software ever. And it's blazingly fast.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:41AM (#19392739)
    Here it is: Pixel http://www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel/?page_id=12 [kanzelsberger.com]. And it is developed by one person. And it costs 1% of Photoshop price. And it does have a sensible UI, very similiar to Photoshop. Try out the demo. I've bought it and it was worth every cent, even if its still in beta version.

    And yes. It does run on Linux. And on BSD. And on Mac. And on BeOS, and dozen other OSes.
  • Re:just pirate it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hendronicus (874834) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:49AM (#19392785)
    Don't you mean http://www.getpaint.net/ [getpaint.net] Anyway, Paint.NET is a good program.
  • by 47Ronin (39566) <glenn@47r[ ]n.com ['oni' in gap]> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:58AM (#19392857) Homepage
    At least for mac users, there are quite a few very well designed and maintained products that are shareware and rival Adobe's offerings in both features and pizazz.

    RapidWeaver [realmacsoftware.com] is an industrial-strength alternative to Dreamweaver which includes an SDK, full drag-n-drop designing interface, coding panel, Flash integration, and site maintenance. Currently it's $49.

    Coda [panic.com] is the newcomer on the block, built by one of the best Mac shareware coding companies. As with the others, it allows for drag-n-drop designing and fully supports XHTML. Panic Software's tagline "shockingly good Mac software" is evident here cause they integrate the features of Transmit (their excellent FTP utility) including site/filepath synchronization, drag-n-drop uploading from the Dock... Coda also includes a console that's integrated into the app window that allows for split terminal shells for SSH and other functions. Coda includes a GUI CSS editor and comprehensive HTML programmer's guide in the application itself. $79.

    TextMate [macromates.com] is the Mac's premiere enterprise-level, yet shareware price text editor that does... pretty much anything. It can handle just about as many language bundles as jEdit but is purely Mac. It integrates well with Transmit, the shell, Subversion, and has a fully customizable code snippet library for full programmer control. I can't even begin to summarize all the features that sets this editor apart from the others, but it easily shames Dreamweaver's code window. Just watch the screencasts on the website. It costs 39.

    CSSEdit [macrabbit.com] by MacRabbit is a GUI-powered CSS editor which has a snooping mode called X-Ray that can analyze a website's design similar to Firefox's 3rd party Web Developer addon, except with style, polish, and features that you've come to expect from Mac applications. It includes a CSS "builder" workflow that allows you to use some natural language and object-oriented programming (in the most basic sense) to build CSS effects. $29.95

    There are many others including Apple's own iWeb [apple.com] (which is included with every new Macintosh, is VERY easy to use, and puts out bloated-yet XHTML compliant code) and BBEdit [barebones.com] by Bare Bones Software which is very comparable to TextMate in many ways.
  • Re:Scribus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by o'reor (581921) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:14AM (#19392949) Journal

    I would put it maybe on par with MS Publisher
    Uuuuh, can't let you say that. It *is* way more powerful than MS Publisher. The problem is that it has a complex user interface, quite difficult to master, and requires an advanced understanding of color profiles (ICC) to set up the pre-press capabilities properly, and to produce X-PDF files.

    But if I were a publisher who did not have $2500 to spare every 4 years for a new QuarkXPress license, I would certainly give Scribus a try.

  • Re:Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @04:57AM (#19393549)
    "It's always funny to see someone who never designed professionally in their life suggest GIMP."

    What's even funnier is the poster who declares that others have never designed professionally, while never posting a link to their own portfolio. For all we know, your sum total of graphics design experience involves crayons and construction paper.

    Meanwhile open source tools continue to dominate web design, and the movie design industry:
    http://www.linuxtoday.com/high_performance/2003100 201126OSBZHE [linuxtoday.com]
    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/5472 [linuxjournal.com]
    http://www.linuxmovies.org/studios.html [linuxmovies.org]
    http://www.desktoplinux.com/articles/AT7096363910. html [desktoplinux.com]

    including this guy here:
    http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/57300.html [ecommercetimes.com]
    who says:

    "Linux is the default operating [system] on desktops and servers at major animation and visual effects studios, with maybe 98 percent [or more] penetration," CinePaint Project Manager Robin Rowe told LinuxInsider. "With the big dogs, there's nobody left to convert to Linux. Every studio is already on board."

    That's Cinepaint... a fork of Gimp.

    Yes, some of these people design professionally just a tiny bit. And some of them might answer this question on Slashdot with just that response. Yeah, the rest of your points have some merit, but not this one.

    - sincerely, a professional designer who uses all FOSS tools, and kicks your butt at it.
  • Re: Pavel's Pixel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:05AM (#19393595)

    A multiplatform clone of Photoshop for $38??? Is this some kind of joke, or the best deal in picture editing ever?

    How come these kinds of things never get found ... I looked through a dozen shareware apps and never heard any mention of this.

    Maybe his marketing is terrible...
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:20AM (#19393667) Homepage

    GIMP lacks so basic features such as a usable grid, 16-bit/HDR image support, and requires special plugins with numerical inputs to draw a simple rounded rectangle, let alone something more complex.

    On the rectangle issue:

    Meanwhile, you can't do something as basic as debugging ActionScript in Flash files while you're sitting in Photoshop.

    GIMP isn't meant for rounded rectangles. It's not a vector program and doesn't even try to do vector stuff; the logical conclusion is not to gripe about it but use an application that's more appropriate for the task at hand. For diagramming and vector art, there's better programs out there (Inkscape, for instance) and you can import that stuff in GIMP for further editing - you can export a .png in Inkscape just as much you can import a .svg in GIMP.

    GIMP isn't meant to solve all graphics problems. It's part of a toolkit.

  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:01AM (#19394505)
    What's even funnier is the poster who declares that others have never designed professionally, while never posting a link to their own portfolio. For all we know, your sum total of graphics design experience involves crayons and construction paper.

    - sincerely, a professional designer who uses all FOSS tools, and kicks your butt at it.


    1. Bitching about me not posting portfolio examples for some reason, while you yourself not posting any portfolio too: -2 points.
    2. Posting as Anonymous Coward while bitching about above point: -10 points.
    3. Claiming your kick my ass in design without knowing what I do, and without me knowing what you do: -25 points.
    4. Posting links, the majority of which are about people who moved to Linux, and not about people who moved to GIMP: -50 points.
    5. Comparing dust removes and wire removal on CinePaint, with original design on a full-blown raster editor: -1000 points.
    6. Citing the CinePaint project manager as a reliable source about how many people use CinePaint versus other tools: -2000 points. Did you know Adobe also claims "Photoshop is the most used application in the motion picture industry"? But wait, one of your links says CinePaint has got Scooby Doo covered, that's impressive by itself.

  • Re:no alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:40AM (#19394823)
    Undo is limited to ridiculously low number of operations. Layer styles produce ridiculous results on common images and randomly refuse to work with different layer types. Simple things take forever to complete. Gimp still has a learning curve but also features logical design that appeals to programmers.

    Your rant is the reason why usually programmers are not sent in Photoshop to draw icons and artwork. Designers do that.

    Undo levels are configurable, the layer styles algorithms are standard and mainstream (what exactly means "produce ridiculous results"), and you can apply the same layer styles on anything from a normal layer, text layer, smart object layer, placed art, even layer group (folder). I'm not aware of anything "random" in Photoshop about the applicability of layers in Photoshop.

    Also please let us know what are those simple things that take forever. GIMP is overall quite much slower compared to Photoshop. I mean, even startup. CS3 with a bunch of plugins over here starts in less than 12 seconds. GIMP starts in 1 minute, on the same exact machine.
  • Re:no alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @08:53AM (#19394963)
    Not entirely. Photoshop not only adds pixel state changes to the history palette, but also simple things like "select" and "deselect", guide positions, as well as text edits (which are vector based changes). [..] They're so simple and quick there is no reason not to redo these steps in realtime instead of caching pixels. This information is relevant as any of these steps take away from the default 20 history states. [..] When Photoshop saves pixel changes, I presume it only caches those portions of the image that actually change, and for each new step it "patches" together a final image. I can't confirm this, however, as I didn't find any info. Sounds sensible however, and AFAIK Apple is planning to introduce exactly this concept to their new "time machine" feature in the next OSX.

    Yes, Photoshop will save only the changes, onto its scratch files (or in RAM if there's enough), but there's more pixels to save that it may appear obvious at first. Undoing a brush stroke isn't the same as running the rubber along the same path, the previous pixels needs to be stored as they are totally unrelated from the action that's being undone (except by position).

    Selections are actually a full blown channel on their own (mask channel), the fact that they appear as a simple outline, as you know, it's deceptively simplifying the real story. Photoshop needs to store pixels of that too.

    Text layers and smart layers have a composite representation that's used instead of recompositing the entire object every time. Sometimes the object/text layer can't be recomposited, because for example you don't have that font, but picked "Maintain appearance" when opening the PSD. This means the pixels should be stored for those layers as well, as Photoshop can't recomposite them with a missing font.

    I'm using 100 levels of undo since I mostly work with screen-resolution images. In the cases where I use higher res images, I simply peruse the "purge undo / history" if I find myself critically out of RAM, but this won't happen as long as you have enough disk space on your scratch files partition.
  • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ankh (19084) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:07AM (#19395117) Homepage
    Luckily GIMP can do rounded rectangles out of the box.

    I still wouldn't recommend GIMP for replacing PhotoShop directly in an existing Apple + Adobe + PostScript/EPS/PDF workflow, because of the lack of CMYK support, and the difficulties of working in the RGB colourspace, which doesn't have a clear enough overlap with the CMYK colourspace, and the lack of gamut warnings (visible indication that you've used colours that can't be printed). This stuff needs to happen in the editing interface - to the person who said, isn't it like the sound system compensating for a listening room, no, it's more like the recording engineer noticing when the needles are stuck all the way at 10 (max level) and detail is getting lost. You can't add detail back later.

    Inkscape and sk1 are both being used as vector-based software in pre-press (sk1 was designed for that) but overall the Free Software graphic design workflow is not yet very mature. Part of that is that the commercial works has been responsive overall to designer's needs, and part of it is that designers are only very rarely programmers, and programmers only rarely get involved in graphic design enough to understand why OpenOffice + GIMP isn't a total solution.

    People have been working on improving the situation - e.g. the organisers and participants at the Libre Graphics Meeting [libregraphicsmeeting.org]. Scribus is indeed advancing rapidly, with a lot of momentum, although its text handling in some ways still lags behind very early versions of Quark, and as it stands today it's not going to challenge people who have come to rely on the newer features of InDesign. But really, it's early days yet. We're in some ways not quite where the proprietary world was in the late 1980s, and in other ways we're ahead of the proprietary world, but we have to catch up in some of the places where we're behind.

    It's no good asking to use software they have no real hope themselves of modifying or enhancing, and saying, use this, and if it doesn't work for you, just add features, and by the way it doesn't do everything that right now you believe you need, because it's as much use as handing a person with no legs who needs to get somewhere a broken bicycle. This is not to say I don't believe in Free Software. I just recognise that we don't yet have a Free solution to everyone's needs yet.
  • by smok23 (1105325) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:00AM (#19395769)
    Yes. Gimpshop is better than gimp. But what about Pixel32? Pixel32 is MUCH like Adobe PS and it's available for multiple-plattforms, too. Check out http://www.kanzelsberger.com/pixel/?page_id=12 [kanzelsberger.com] or http://pixel32.box.sk/ [pixel32.box.sk]
  • Re:no alternative (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:04AM (#19395813)
    True. However, it is possible to work the other way: store the original image once, from before the first undo event, along with a simple list of the operations that took place since that point. To undo just reload the original image and reapply all the chances except the most recent.

    I (and anyone) would perform probably several thousand operations at least on a design or art piece by the time it's done.

    Replaying from starts quickly becomes impractical. Also, the brush, filters and all this, it takes CPU to render, sometimes storing differing pixels for the last X operations is truly the smarter solution.

    Your approach of more emphasis on the operation rather than altered data is more suitable for vector based applications, such as Illustrator.

    However, even those applications won't replay everything from the very start, or pretty soon it'll be a hell to do a single undo.
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:32AM (#19396243)
    You've obviously only been using Photoshop for the past couple revisions.

    I'm using Photoshop since version 3. When version 3 existed, GIMP didn't exist at all.
    Now you won't actually want me to compare the 2007 version of GIMP with Photoshop in the early 90-s right. That wouldn't make much sense.

    Whether I use GIMP or Photoshop, I live in 2007, and therefore I judge based on the latest version of both products.

    It's only really in the CS versions that the lines between Illustrator and PS have been blurred heavily. Traditionally, there was no 'rounded corner rectangle' tool in PS. Don't be all elitist when you obviously haven't a clue of the history of which you speak.

    You mean since version 5. The First CS version is version 8.

    You're apparently using a meaning of "blurred heavily" I'm not familiar with. Likewise for "elitist". Didn't know that having basic drawing primitives was exclusively intrinsic to the elite, but if so, I'm happy to be there and be an elitist.

    Further, if you can't figure out how to make a rectangle with rounded corners anyways despite not having a fancy tool to do it for you... I'd highly suggest you stop talking now as you're really starting to show your ignorance.

    Allow me to not make any use of your sarcastic suggestions. There's a reason CS3 is called a "productivity suite". It's because I don't have to assemble a rounded rectangle from two rectangles and 4 circles, or other likely stupid tricks that waste my time.
  • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:07PM (#19401451) Homepage Journal

    My company's WinImages [blackbeltsystems.com] offers most of what Photoshop does, plus a considerable number of features that Photoshop does not, particularly in the area of layered image editing. WinImages is about $50, starts and runs faster, has a smaller footprint, and offers UI methods that can save a step for every application of a filter or effect, particularly helpful when you're doing extensive image repairs or editing, for instance. The $50 price is a discount that applies if you have any Adobe, Corel or JASC product, so for instance, if you have Adobe's free PDF reader, you're eligible, meaning, anyone is eligible if they want to be.

    WinImages is Windows-only, though it runs perfectly under Parallels on OSX. Not aware of how it might behave under Wine, though I would think it should do ok; we're not "deep-dippers" when it comes to OS features, preferring to create our own in-program solutions.

    Slashdot inhabitants should also know if they put "slash" anywhere in the second line of the address, we'll apply a 25% discount to the overall order.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:34PM (#19403783)
    Gimp aint bad, it's just different. Once you learn it, it's VERY powerful, even if it is lacking some features. I don't care about CMYK, so it's not a shortcoming for me. I find the paths much more intuitive in Gimp, than PS, for example. It works well with my Wacom tablet, and I'm even using the latest 2.3.x build on Ubuntu Feisty.

    I've studied it enough to do ALL the graphics for my web comic:

    http://www.spellcheckcomic.com/ [spellcheckcomic.com]

    and this cool wallpaper:

    http://www.spellcheckcomic.com/wallpaper/Spell_Che ck_Ember_wallpaper.jpg [spellcheckcomic.com]

    It's just a different animal. Perhaps if you think the Gimp sucks, you didn't give it an honest chance. And if you still think it sucks, well, perhaps you just don't have any talent... ;)

  • Use older versions! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pestilence669 (823950) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:51PM (#19403993)
    The latest and greatest software is always tempting, but what are you really getting? I must admit, I rushed to buy CS3, but I use the tools professionally and needed the new stuff.

    I strongly suggest buying older copies of Adobe products if you can. After years of use, I really haven't found the changes to be that drastic. A beginner would hardly notice any difference, and there are some serious benefits aside from the cost.

    Old Adobe products run with excellent performance. Opening up Photoshop 7 side-by-side with CS3 makes me wonder why I'm even using CS3. Each upgrade gets slower. Unless you absolutely need the latest & greatest feature, not likely as a beginner, then prior versions will do just fine.
  • Well...Just Well? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gevantry (785881) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:07AM (#19408595)
    Buy used versions. The precursor to Creative Suite was Design Suite. All of its apps--Acrobat 6, InDesign 2, Photoshop 7, and Illustrator 10--do a fine job. Sure, the newer versions have the most up-to-date improvements and bell-and-whistles, and no doubt added features that make life easier for designers (we hope), but the older stuff still has plenty of gumption. Their output is fine for production work.

    And used copies are cheap. I say all of this by way of saying that I think of a realistic alternative to the Adobe products.

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0

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