Adobe Photoshop is the gold standard in the realm of photo editing and has dominated the market for years. However, due to its immense range of functions, the programme is often too complicated and expensive for amateur photographers and designers. It’s no wonder then that there are many appealing cheap and free Photoshop alternatives available.
The desktop publishing programme Adobe InDesign offers its users artistic opportunities and a high degree of creative freedom for the realisation of projects. As a layout and set programme with a large range of functions, it is used by many publishers as well as freelance graphic designers. Whether for the creation of brochures, posters, or catalogues – with Adobe’s easy-to-use style templates, printable material in any page format can quickly and easily be created.
The programme offers a number of possibilities for layout design – including vector editing, setting character and paragraph attributes, typography, and the creation of table, cell, and object formats. The creation of animated PDF files is also possible.
Taken all together, it’s a very efficient tool for the professional user – but InDesign is as expensive as it is useful.
In contrast to earlier “buy” versions of Adobe programmes that could be acquired for a one-time price, users now must pay a monthly fee for usage rights. For Adobe InDesign, current prices (depending on the offer) are around $20 a month. If you want to use the complete Creative Cloud from Adobe, and have access to Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC in addition to InDesign, prices are closer to $60 a month. Many freelancers and private users either don’t want to or can’t make such an investment every month. But there are also some good, free alternatives to Adobe InDesign – we will tell you about four options here.
The most well-known and popular free InDesign alternative is Scribus. The extensive layout programme is available for Windows, macOS, and various GNU/Linux distributions. The project benefits from very reliable development and is continually improved through regular updates. Even though the range of functions isn’t as large as that of the Adobe package, Scribus is a programme with many useful features. The range of applications stretches from the composition of simple advertisements to the layout of entire magazines or books. You can also create interactive and animated PDF files and equip them with markers, links, and other info boards.
The most important additional features that make Scribus close to an equivalent alternative to InDesign are:
The range of page templates is almost as diverse as InDesign. One shortcoming that the programme has is that layers may take a long time to work in, since the interface is not very intuitive and some functions are cumbersome to use.
|✔ Free open-source solution||✘ Operation and user interface are less intuitive than InDesign|
|✔ Continuous development and improvement||✘ Text formation and imports are a bit cumbersome|
To use its publishing tools, Lucidpress doesn’t require a download: The tool can be accessed using a browser. The web-based print and publishing application allows for the creation of brochures, newsletters, or magazines. As opposed to Scribus, Lucidpress has a much stronger emphasis on digital formats such as slideshows or newsletters.
Users can either choose a design template or create their own templates. A benefit of Lucidpress over other programmes like InDesign or Scribus is that training is no longer necessary – but as a result, the range of functions is smaller. The tool is completely free, but the range of functions and freedom of use are severely restricted. Users of the free version can create a maximum of three pages per document, and saving is capped at 25 MB.
Lucidpress in its free version is not an InDesign alternative for professional users. But it is a practical solution for the hobby user, who only wants to design one-time or sporadic small projects. Whoever wants a larger range of functions or more memory has to pay for Lucidpress: For individual users, the monthly rates are in the single-digits. Lucidpress is a purely online tool, so data protection can also be problematic for a professional user. Protection against idea theft is an important issue among creatives, so purely online applications should be used with caution.
|✔ Simple operation without much training||✘ Free version has very restricted range|
|✔ Attractive interface||✘ Privacy concerns for online applications|
Another free InDesign alternative is the free edition of the programme VivaDesigner.
The layout and set programme comes in both desktop and web versions. It can be accessed with any browser you choose – and downloads are available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. As with the other InDesign alternatives here, the free version is easily accessible but operates in a limited capacity. The full version has to be purchased.
Various features like, for example, spellchecker or Pantone and HKMS color models are only available in the full version. The import and export function of PDFs is also not available to free users. The good news is, the free version may still be used for both private and commercial purposes. Because of that, the tool is still a good option for beginners, as the interface is structured clearly and is easy to use.
|✔ Cross-platform system||✘ Range of functions in the free version is severely restricted (no PDF output)|
|✔ Free version also available to commercial users|
|✔ Good price-to-performance ratio in the full version|
The programme Canva is less focused on publishing and more a tool for designers. Canva helps with the creation of blog graphics, presentations, Facebook cover photos, flyers, posters, invitations, and more.
In the basic version, the user receives a free design tool with easy-to-understand controls. A free pro account is also available for non-profit organisations. Apart from that, the programme’s target groups are marketers, social media contractors, and start-ups who want to quickly and easily create attractive graphic designs.
Even in the free version there is a large selection of colors, fonts, and free stock photos. But Canvas is definitely still not a full-fledged DTP solution or a complete alternative to InDesign. For online marketing, though, Canvas is a small, flexible, and cost-effective solution that is generally sufficient.
|✔ Good InDesign alternative for simple graphics and small projects||✘ Not a full DTP solution|
|✔ Quick-to-learn operation|
|✔ Teamwork features available in the free version|
Overview: What InDesign alternatives are there?
Which of the discussed solutions is the best alternative to InDesign for you depends entirely on what you need to accomplish. The most fully equipped replacement is, of course, Scribus. The open source solution is great for professional users who are planning intense use of the programme and are ready to get involved with the more complicated functions.
The free version of VivaDesigner is better suited for those users who are just looking to try the programme out with simple design tasks; but the full version, while not very cheap, can seriously compete with InDesign as a viable alternative.
Those users who are only looking to design graphics and small web projects every once in a while don’t need the enormous range of functions of the original Adobe. A free design solution tool like Canva is perfectly suitable in this case, instead of a powerful DTP solution with high licensing costs.
|Scribus||Open source solution||Free download||Free alternative to InDesign with comparable functions, continuous development, suitable for professional use||Requires a training period, use and interface less intuitive, some central functions cumbersome|
|Lucidpress||Web-based application||Free version with restricted features, paid full version||Easy to use, no extensive training necessary, good support available for beginners on the clear user interface||Limited range of functions in the free version, less suited for professional use, data security should be considered (online storage)|
|VivaDesigner||Desktop and web versions available, cross-platform||Free version, paid full version||Free version also available for commercial users||Full range of functions only for paying users, otherwise severely restricted|
|Canva||Purely web-based application||Freemium model||Short training period, simple and intuitive tool||Not a full alternative to InDesign|