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Alternatives to Adobe's Creative Cloud

Duncan Evans | June 18, 2013
Discover the software alternatives when you unplug the Creative Suite drip

There are all the basics such as contrast, exposure, colour, highlights and shadows, curves and levels. Then there are the correction facilities like noise reduction, red-eye, retouching, white balance and removing chromatic aberration. The retouching can be global or brush-based with non-destructive, selective editing. There are also some effects to consider as well, with cross processing, vintage style, toy camera, Cyanotype and sepia. Hovering the mouse over the effect produces a pop-up preview. Output options cover the usual social media if required, but the eye-catching feature is the built-in hard and soft cover book ordering facility.

If you want something that is more reminiscent of Lightroom, then turn your attention to Corel's AfterShot Pro (£80). Though slightly pricey, this offers a great RAW conversion engine, advanced tagging and metadata browsing and searching, plus easy-to-use adjustments for common problems. The asset management is good and it comes with some decent creative options as well as Perfectly Clear, a technology for automatically adjusting and enhancing lighting.

Illustrator vector graphics
The obvious alternative here is CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 but as that's Windows only you'll need a dual-boot system. There is Corel CAD 2013 (£696.97) which is vector graphics, but for mainly for industrial illustration. For vector graphics more in line with Illustrator, then VectorDesigner ($69.95) offers a simple and intuitive interface. It's good for simple shapes, web design, sticks and brochure art with a wide range of tools and smart shapes. You can convert bitmap images to vectors and there are tools for geometric operations and constraining text within irregular shapes. There's also a Flickr browser to allow images and textures to be harvested by the program. Reads PDF, EPS and SVG files and can export PDF and EPS. The main alternative to this, and probably the best like-for-like replacements are Inkspace and iDraw (£17.49). Like GIMP, Inkspace is open source and free. It offers a streamlined interface and features like markers, clones, alpha blending and tracing bitmaps. Editing node points is easy and you can perform complex path operations. However, it bombs out on Mountain Lion and the current version is only rated for Snow Leopard.

Over to iDraw then and this imports and exports vector PDF and SVG documents. It has drop shadows, inner shadows, strokes and fills on objects. Text can be bound to follow any path and there's a Bezier pen tool for editing points, curves and lines. Multiple points can be selected at once. For graphical fanciness there are gradients, vector brushes and shape libraries.

Page layout with InDesign
If you're going to abandon InDesign it's probably time to say hello to QuarkXpress (£799) again. Since Quark's heyday it has extended traditional page design to include create e-books, Android, web and iPad apps. The headline feature though is composition zones, where different people can work on different parts of a magazine at the same time, without separating documents. You can do all the things in Quark that you were doing in InDesign, including design grids for unlimited baseline grids, transparency boxes, CMYK and spot colour support. The typography is the heart of the system with hanging characters, a story editor, conditional style rules, linking and unlinking of text boxes without overflow, bullets and numbering for lists and complete control over text and object alignment. Text can also be styled with style sheets, run along complex paths or converted into graphic boxes so they can be filled with images and gradients. When busy designing new layouts, the Jabber command will fill your page automatically with dummy text, and you can use the automatic kerning table built into a font or tweak it with your own values. The real bonus though is the ability to create tablet and smartphone apps, websites and digital magazines.


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