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Consumer alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud: practical software choices

Consumer alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud: practical software choices
Erica Sadun
Erica Sadun|@ericasadun|May 7, 2013 8:00 PM

Yesterday, Adobe introduced Creative Cloud, an on-line subscription based suite with $49.99 monthly charges that moves into the Creative Suite subscription space first started back in 2011. Existing customers of CS 3 to CS 5.5 and academics will pay $29.99 per month.

Both Adobe and Microsoft are exploring subscription models in place of buy-once-then-use purchases. This has a number of us here at TUAW looking around to see what apps we might want to jump to as we move away from our premium products into the current marketplace.

Although I am fond of Adobe Photoshop Elements, the consumer-priced version of Adobe's flagship photo editor, it's an app with walls. I accomplish far more using Photoshop and the other Creative Suite products, items I have spent years upgrading at considerable expense.

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Not now

Like many other Adobe customers, I live in the hazy world that stretches between Pro apps at one and and Consumer grade at the other. I've purchased CS because the consumer products aren't powerful enough for my needs, but I'm certainly not a full time "creative" who thinks of the suite as merely an incidental purchase.

As a rule, I have upgraded as infrequently as possible, stretching out my purchases over as many years and operating systems as possible. I live very low on the Adobe consumer hierarchy, trying to eke out whatever time I have left with my CS 4 suite. It's time now to seriously look at alternatives.

On the photo editing side of things, we propose three candidates.

  • Acorn ($29.99) is on sale throughout May. Called the "Image Editor for Humans", it comes with great word of mouth and growing buzz.
  • At just $14.99, Pixelmator's price point can't be beat. This "inspiring, easy-to-use, beautifully designed image editor" has somewhat mixed reviews on the Mac App Stores, but those who love it seem to do so passionately.
  • GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, has a lock on price. For years, this free app has been a stepping-stone app for people who didn't yet have the cash for Photoshop but who wanted access to powerful image editing.

As for the rest of the suite, we TUAWians mostly use Acrobat, Illustrator, and InDesign:

  • With Acrobat, you need look no further than Preview for an app that offers many similar features. Power users, however, may want to consider PDFPen Pro, a product we've covered in the past, which offers extensive PDF editing features.
  • Illustrator users will find a variety vector drawing solutions for OS X including Vector Designer, Intaglio, Sketch, and EazyDraw. TUAW recently looked at EazyDraw.
  • For page layout, Apple offers both Pages and iBooks Author. Swift Publisher from Belight seems to offer good word of mouth as well. Speaking of pages, both iWork and Apache's OpenOffice provide promising alternatives to Microsoft Office.

GigaOM recently posted an excellent list of their take on Adobe Creative Suite alternatives.

Got another alternative vendor to suggest for Creative Suite or Office products? Drop a note in the comments with your suggestion. TUAW will be reviewing many of these alternative apps over the coming weeks.

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Consumer alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud: practical software choices