Replacements for Adobe apps

I’ve been in adobe self exile for so long I don’t even recognize most of those “element” designations for their apps.


At least we have the G Suite as an alternative for the Office Suite. I haven’t done macros since college, and that’s about the only thing missing from G Suite apps.

I’d love to see a serious Google competitor to Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. They’d be free and awesome (and sadly discontinued two years after I became addicted to them like almost ever other awesome Google offering).


I suspect that the Office analogy is apt: if your benchmark is drop-in replacement for monstrously complex(and often quite sophisticated in their way; Adobe in particular has the interesting talent of writing trash software with capabilities that the architecturally sane often lag well behind) package with its own idiolects(both UI/UX/workflow and file format) things are unlikely to go well.

Unfortunately, both vendors have calibrated their pricing strategies and de-facto deprecation of non-subscription options accordingly.

If your situation has hope, it’s of adopting distinct alternatives that can get you to what you want, if perhaps by different routes, rather than straight replacement.

In the case of both Office and Adobe the viability of this varies considerably: some people really do just have to shut up and pay the man; others find that their problems aren’t even best solved by the incumbent software and they’ve mostly just been seeing nails because they had a hammer.


In an ideal world(preferably one where you can get away with being a hardass about ‘PDF’ meaning ‘PDF/A to one of the more exacting conformance levels’ and the like) that works; but there’s an ugly universe of edge cases where a given product isn’t necessarily even quirk-compatible with different versions of itself; much less 3rd party implementations.

If your case runs up against those life gets a lot uglier for ‘compatible’.


They’re payware, and Mac/iOS only, but I’d add Pixelmator and Pixelmator Pro (and now Pixelmator Photo) to the Photoshop square (and sort of the Illustrator square).

Pixelmator Pro is $40, or two months’ worth of Adobe’s new photography subscription fees.


Not sure if those are good replacements for After Effects.


Scrolled down to add this!

There are definitely things that require Photoshop, and if you are talking about a professional workflow, then you need professional tools like the CC suite.

However, many of us aren’t making money from our image editing. For many of us, Pixelmator or Affinity is more than enough to meet our needs with a perpetual license. The biggest need I have for Photoshop at this point is to load old Photoshop files, and most of these new programs will do that. If I ever get another comic coloring gig or get back into spot color printing, then I’ll subscribe. Oddly, Procreate has proven to be a much better tool for artwork, even though it’s still getting some of the features that Photoshop had for years.

And even Adobe has made Photoshop less necessary to their own workflows, with their mobile apps.

I understand the frustration people have with subscription licensing, but pro software needs maintenance and pro users need to keep up with the features their competitors are using. I can’t speak to whether Adobe’s software quality has improved now that they have a steady revenue stream, but it certainly has improved the health of their stock, and given what happened to Macromedia and their often-superior tools, that’s not an unimportant thing.


There’s more to their licensing than just the jacked up pricing. Adobe has moved more and more to an online licensing verification process that requires your system be connected to the internet to prove (once a month I believe) that you own the license you’re subscribing for. Now think about all the tens of thousands of individuals who are working research for the DoD in secure facilities with no internet connection, but who need these products, and you can now understand the nightmare that is unfolding around the country. And Adobe has no answer yet. They have a plan, but it won’t be rolled out for months (if ever) and contract renewals are coming due now.

The whole concept of having to verify your licensing every few weeks via online connection is bullshit and wrong and a needless hassle for consumers. We’re in the middle of reviewing every possible alternative to Adobe products (and this chart needs to include Adobe Professional Pro, the advanced version of Adobe Reader, which falls under the same craptastic licensing scheme). We’re looking into as many alternatives as possible for those folks who need them in closed areas. So ultimately we should have a chance to trim our licensing budget, which makes us look good at the expense of Adobe’s bottom line.

pro software needs maintenance and pro users need to keep up with the features their competitors are using

Software companies have done just fine and been incredibly profitable with serial licensing. The online subscription model isn’t necessary for them to have the money to build new features and provide updates and patches. And in most cases, they don’t compete, they simply buy up the competitors and roll them into their existing product lines. The software market is no longer a place where upstart competitors can rise to replace existing juggernauts. It’s the place where monopoly is king.


When I show to people complaining that Photoshop alternatives are not complete enough Darktable, and point out that compared to it Lightroom cannot be considered complete enough, it turns out that Darktable is too complex for their taste, and at the end they only care for a program when it is mainstream, no matter whether it has more or less features compared to the tools they are used to.


I can tolerate GIMP, and appreciate Inkscape, but SCRIBUS is punishment and buggy as hell.


Hi! I use lots of these applications professionally and… recreationally on a daily basis, and I have made it my mission and sport to replace Adobe as much as possible, so I thought I’d chime in. Oh and I have additions (possibly *nix only!)

GIMP — Has 16bit support, finally; non-destructive editing & retouching capabilities seriously limited. I use it for very simple photo jobs.
RawTherapee — Very powerful! Use it daily for fun & profit. (If only it had Camera Raw’s multiple gradients & simple retouching capabilities!)

Scribus — Very limited, but speaks PDF-X3. Have made zines with it.
Inkscape — Excellent if not nearly as comfortable as Illustrator.

Audition (never used the “original”)

  • Audacity ­— fine for quick work
  • ++ Ardour — full fleged DAW, very powerful, some annoying quirks. I use it to record, edit, produce podcasts and radio.

++ Premiere

  • Kdenlive — looks promising but crashes so often it’s barely usable, ymmv.
  • Cinelerra — works, but hilariously old-school and so weird it’s torture. I’ve used it to edit my diploma movie (in 3D!), the torture was part of the art… I kept telling myself.

Blender — intimidatingly powerful, but I’m not a pro.

Dreamweaver — vim all the way! :‌D

With all the FOSS: don’t forget to donate (or contribute, even if it’s just good bug reports), especially when you use them professionally!


Yeah, the only thing I used to use Dreamweaver for was to copy/paste from Word, since that was what the copy writer was using, and part of my job was to put his stuff into the company blog. That was ten years ago that I last did that.

Nowadays I use PHPStorm (the big brother of WebStorm on his list) at work, and Visual Studio Code at home on my iMac, with some usage of Atom for funky files.

Also want to mention Pixelmator (which replaced my usage of Acorn) and Sketch, but also OmniGraffle which I have abused for personal layouting.

EDITING TO ADD: as I don’t use them personally, I forget that Apple has a slew of professional A/V editing apps: Final Cut, Logic, and Motion.

but SCRIBUS is punishment and buggy as hell.

I’ve been using Scribus for what must be a decade now, and I don’t find it punishment or particularly buggy. I’ve merely learned how to use it (sorry, that sounds a bit snitty! I don’t mean to imply anything beyond suggesting that interfaces are always opaque. Think of the craziness when the Office Ribbon came along…)
So there’s my anecdotal data point.

@kuba: out of interest, what do you find limiting about it? I keep being surprised at what it can do.


It’s been a long time since I used it, as far as I remember, I’ve had trouble with image placement/fitting within frames and rich text editing and missing magic guides, object distribution – I’m aware there’s workarounds for all of that, but they involve just so much manual labor. I guess it’s just Indesigns interface comfort & good D.R.Y. workflow.
BUT I’ve just opened scribus and it looks better? I look forward to giving it a new try! Thanks for the question! :slight_smile:

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I did recently download and used Fire Alpaca as a simple drawing tool. Does that much, has layers, gradients and some basic shape tools. I wouldn’t use it for making comics or animation stuff but then again I’m no expert. Should really try some of those Ai alternatives.

Uh, I don’t see why you would have a subscription for the Adobe Creative Cloud entire suite (the subject of the article) if you are not using it in a professional capacity.

Of course there are plenty of good options for people that need just some specific features from Photoshop (or Indesign or After Effects).

Affinity and Sketch are the ones that come closest to my workflow at the moment, if I had to drop Photoshop I would probably use one of those combined with an alternative to Lightroom.

I’m not afraid of a bit of complexity. I wasn’t aware of Darktable, I’ll give it a try.

I’m always open to using new tools for pixel editing, vector editing and animation!

I’m guessing they’ll roll out their offline-use plan around the same time they release their fully-featured iPad Photoshop app.

None of the core Adobe products have added significant improvements since their last boxed versions were released; until I’m forced to, my old legit CS6 versions do what they need to. I’d say 75% of publishers are totally OK with getting a PDF file (which Affinity can create), but for that 25% that require native Illustrator or InDesign files, I’m beholden to Adobe.

I’m just glad nobody gives a shit about Quark anymore.


Resolve comes with a free version of Fusion, which is a great replacement for AE:

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