Affinity Publisher (Beta) - First Impressions

Serif and Adobe

Serif, the company behind the Affinity products has worked hard with developing a complete replacement of their old software suite (PagePlus, DrawPlus and PhotoPlus) from scratch. Due to Adobe leaving the fixed fee price model and focusing on subscriptions it has caused a bit of a stir in the lower-budget markets who doesn't want to pay for a continuing subscription fee when it's not something they do not use every day, week or even months.

For larger and professional printing companies, a subscription model is not that bad compare to a huge starting investment. AdobeCC sure has some downsides such as sometimes can at rare times cause trouble with managing the licenses/activated devices but overall it's a better solution and now all the updates are free and has solved the issue of version incompatibility in the past.

Professional use

The very attractive part with Affinity is that it's not just for home users, but it's also capable of professional use. When Affinity Designer first launched on MacOS it made a lot of people unintentionally starting using vector graphics when drawing and designing, which in the end is a good thing for everyone.

With Affinity Publisher we finally have the complete circle of a design chain and the future looks very bright. Adobe however will still be the "golden standard" in the design/print industry for a very long time, but at least there's a cheap alternative that's also capable of professional use.

Screenshot of Adobe Publisher with a quick demo project

Two years late..?

In a press document from early 2015, Serif had planned the release of the complete software suit at the end of 2015. However, it's now late 2018, so what happened?

After the release of Affinity Designer but more so after Affinity Photo there was a big demand of a Windows-version so from what we know they started to port their software to Windows which I can see there could had been a big development-hurdle because it was originally written with plenty of MacOS-specific technologies. Later on they also started making iOS development for the iPad which all I could imagine lead to pushing Affinity Publisher further back in the schedule.

Notes from a Adobe user

As a InDesign and overall Adobe user with many years of experience I feel like the people behind Affinity know who they are designing the software for, and has a drive to improve on a lot of the areas as they did start over from a clean slate. All their software is pretty easy to get going but there's yet much to learn and I feel once the stable version is out, everyone should at least try it out because at the moment it has some bugs and it crashed a couple of times.

Affinity has the perfect zoom tool

For some years now, zooming in Adobe software has been a bit of a frustration because they changed it so it would work better with a touchpad, but sadly at the same time they made the zoom worse. Sometimes it  flips out, you can't zoom enough, and it's been a hassle since but often overlooked which Adobe still hasn't fixed.

In Affinity, things like scaling/zooming photos and drawings is a lot more natural, the zoom super smooth and more powerful than in InDesign or Photoshop. And you can zoom into what feels like an infinite compare to Adobe I need to use desktop magnification from the OS, which isn't giving a perfect clear picture but a workaround.

Some missing features

PDF exporting options

One of the great feature in InDesign is its export options, mainly for PDFs, which even I can feel have some limitations at times when I export a lot of separate sheets. Some of the things I wish Affinity Publisher is things like:

  • Numbered pages/sheets.
    Sometimes you create a a document but want to export into separate files.
  • Range of pages/sheets.
    Sometimes I want to exclude the first page and/or some pages at the end.
  • Being able to specify a Offset for example print/cut marks.

Masking of text and images

In InDesign you can create your own lines with plenty of nodes to mask and crop images, text-boxes etc. without modify the actual resource. In Affinity Publisher I could only find text wrap options which you expect is more of a word processor feature which even tho I tried to use 'Edit text wrap outline' it didn't do anything.


Preview-mode in InDesign is a handy feature that seems missing in Affinity Publisher. It's an efficient tool that hides all the guides, helpers, grids etc. at one click.

UI Improvements

Font size

I'm sitting on a couple of 1440p displays and the "Font UI Size: Default" option was way too small for me as it made it hard to read even tho I can understand the point of saving as much screen space as possible. Maybe at that lower font-sizes you need a more clear font.

Default (left); Large (right)

One thing is improvement of the icons itself, some of them took me a while to understand, example the drinking glass is the 'Transparency tool" which doesn't represent transparency at all, something such as a black/white checkered pattern would make a lot more sense.

I do think Adobe's solution of using grayscale color icons is easier to recognize what the icon represent. In recent Photoshop updates you also get a pop-over short video explanation for newcomers of how you use the tool. I can imagine this feature will come to InDesign in some upcoming release as well.

Affinity Publisher (left); Adobe InDesign (middle); Adobe Photoshop (right)

Something I want: A 'Ticket numbering' feature

When you create numbered documents, it's a bit of a hassle in InDesign and is something I wish maybe Affinity Publisher can get in the future. Right now how to do it in InDesign is that most people use automation with data-merge and use an external text-file/excel file with a list of numbers. It's not a good solution, but a workaround that works. Another solution is to create duplicates of your spread/pages which isn't that good of a solution either.

End notes

Overall for a beta it's a good piece of software in terms of features. I highly recommend people to try it for free. I'm excited that there is new competition into the publishing field to spark new creativity which is one of those software that's very important but often overlooked. Some of the things I've mentioned being missing could just be me not finding it or is hidden, but that's it for now.