Alternatives to InDesign

Alternative apps to Indesign

When it comes to Desktop Publishing Software, Adobe InDesign is (in our opinion) the best on the market. Today we’ll analyse the options, look at the alternatives and probably conclude that Indesign still comes out on top! Competition is healthy though, so we’re hoping for good things from the alternatives.

Adobe Indesign Vs Scribus


Our first contender is Scribus. This approach on Desktop Publishing comes from the open-source community. It’s free! Created with the free Qt toolkit, with public sources for tech wizards and a strong community, Scribus has come a long way since its first release back in 2003.
It was very clunky and unintuitive in its early iterations but the developers worked hard and with each release filled the gaps and implemented necessary features to enable the creation of professional content. The creation of Books, magazines, brochures, and newsletters is possible now.
It supports CMYK, ICC profiles and PostScript colour separation, which makes it great for print and digital content. It features a wide range of templates, so new users have a strong starting point and an easy learning curve. There are lots of tutorials, and the community has managed to create a (slightly dated) compelling manual that will get you started.
Bringing in a complete rework of the interface (as they switched to Qt 5 toolkit), developers have added features that have propelled this tool to the big league. They have added support for InDesign objects and Microsoft Publisher and QuarkXPress.
Scribus has the potential to become a product that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate giants like InDesign and QuarkXPress and seems to get stronger with every release. One to watch.

Pusblisher Newspaper

Microsoft Publisher

If you own a high-end version of the Microsoft Office pack, then you may already have Microsoft Publisher. An entry-level approach to desktop publishing software and targeted towards beginners and small companies that don’t need professional artists or designers. Whether it gets the job done well and without much effort is totally debatable, and many learners that come to us are trying to migrate from the likes of Publisher and word.
There are some positives though: starting with a wide variety of templates. You can pick between various versions of business cards, posters, flyers, catalogues and more. A real time saver if you don’t expect artsy content or breathtaking designs. Another great aspect is that you can import most documents. Microsoft Publisher has great support for typography and text editing, and it’s nice that they also included graphs and charts and even tables directly into the interface. So why do people prefer Indesign? The biggest downfall is Publisher’s lack of support for graphic design. Apart from some basic shade effects and quick shapes, you can’t do much. No vector drawing, no advanced gradients or drop shadows. There is also a big problem with compatibility with .psd files and some essential others. Unless they make some huge improvements shortly, we’re going with our learners on this one and leaving it on the shelf for now.


Microsoft Word

Yeah, we said it. The two words that should not be uttered in the context of Desktop publishing so we’ll keep it brief. Although Microsoft Word is a premium word processor and probably good for working with text documents, it claims to create compelling newsletters and brochures but we found it tricky and inefficient compared to apps (like Indesign) created specifically for Desktop publishing.



Here comes InDesign’s archenemy. In the 90’s, the word QuarkXPress was almost synonymous with the term Desktop Publishing. At one point, it had control of over 95% of the market. It’s a wonder that InDesign managed to beat it and make itself comfortable on the throne. What brought Quark down was a lack of care for customer demands. It took them a long time to figure this out, but eventually (and some say too late) they understood and began to comply.
QuarkXPress 2015 (the latest version at the time of writing) brings many improvements. It offers support for 64bit processing, along with improved usage of RAM memory for better performance, PDF/X-4 print output and fixed layout interactive eBook creation. The great thing about this product is that it acts as an independent platform, allowing graphics creation, rich typesetting options and complex layout creation. Practically, everything you need to produce a professional product from scratch.
It is a solid piece of software, and from a technical standpoint, this is the closest you will get to InDesign’s rich feature list. A lesson to all of us: If you’re making a ton of money, consider your customers, listen to their needs and give something back! Otherwise, you could end up with a tiny share of the market where once you were king.


Most office users have access to Microsoft Word, and some even have access to Publisher. Some can satisfy their needs by creating basic content. Those people end up coming to us here at Londontech Training for Indesign courses when they realise there is a better world out there for creating professional content in-house.

Back to the alternatives: The top 2 alternatives are: QuarkXPress and Scribus.
I want to give the prize of “best alternative” to….Scribus. I must confess that I can’t. Although it gets the job done in its current form it lacks QuarkXpress’ maturity and ferocity. So there you have it. The second best choice on the Desktop Publishing Market is QuarkXPress, a feature rich and fully potent product that still allows you to own it as a standalone product. Remember though this is just an “alternative to Indesign” article as nowadays people tend to recommend InDesign over Quark.

What is Indesign Cc

Indesign and desktop publishing

what is Indesign?

Creating media content used to be a cumbersome process. It involved a lot of people and specialised tools, so the accessibility issues were a problem for most of the people who lacked the resources.

Everything has changed, due to software like Adobe InDesign. Its quarters lie in a small sector of your hard drive. The little people working there are lightning fast and never get tired, allowing you to bring to life any thought or image created by your brain.

We are going to start a small journey through the world of desktop publishing, at the end of which you’ll have a clearer image of how this field can change your life forever.

Desktop Publishing?

Desktop publishing software allows you to create layouts for different types of documents or media content. The great advantage is that the typographic quality is the same as traditional printing, thus allowing practically anyone to produce high quality and ready to print materials without the need to outsource.

Ok, but what does that mean for me, you might ask. First of all, this is a great gateway for wannabe artists who have some brilliant ideas and need an environment where their vision would become a reality. No longer do you have to linger outside the rich man’s door, nor have the excuse that you weren’t allowed to express yourself due to the lack of resources. All you need is a computer and a good piece of software, and that’s it. You can start immediately.
But this is just the beginning. Maybe you want to spread a social message. Maybe you want to create some comic books, or want to shine in your company with original marketing flyers or a corporate newsletter. You might need to help your parents sell something, as you see them struggling with newspaper ads that no one reads anymore. The possibilities and applications of this technology are limited only by your prejudice and preconceived ideas. So take a step forward and join the creative community. It’s easy to enter, and we have tea and cookies!

A Small History Lesson

Pagemaker 1 DTP software

Before we jump into the technical side, a small incursion back in time, to see how it all started.

Pagemaker is Indesign’s predecessor and was released in 1985 when Apple released the LaserWriter printer, which allowed users to print in the comfort of their homes. Pagemaker, created by Aldus, shortly turned into the standard for the newly born DTP industry. As a turning point in history, it allowed the typesetting industry as well as the personal computer industry to develop with the remarkable results now apparent.

a colourful visual history of Indesign

Here Comes InDesign

As with all great stories, we find twists and turns when we start talking about InDesign. Its origins are strongly related to PageMaker, as Adobe purchased Aldus in 1994.
In the following years, PageMaker was bashed by the rival Quark with its QuarkXPress suite, which had a lot more features and popularity at the time. By 1998, Adobe was struggling to survive in the market and at some point Quark made an offer to acquire them and define their position as absolute rulers of the professional DTP market.

The good news is that Adobe refused the offer. They’d been working on a project codenamed K2, which was released in 1999 as InDesign 1.0. With some great marketing decisions, InDesign became in 2002 the first Mac OS-X native DTP software, gaining momentum and becoming more and more popular. When we got to the third version, it was included in Adobe’s Creative Suite, along with a few other killer apps such as Illustrator and Photoshop.

One of the reasons InDesign became the number one option for the professional segment was the wide range of options and innovations. Each release brought a bunch of new concepts, like the introduction of Unicode support, OpenType fonts that used advanced typography, the advanced transparency features, cross-platform scripting. Soon enough they left their competitors behind and built a strong user community that helped them refine their product even more.

Indesign Cc workspace


It would take me a whole book to write about all the features that InDesign has, so I’m going to stick to the most important ones.

First and foremost, Indesign uses a Frame Box Approach, meaning that every element that you work with can be easily rearranged and controlled. This feature gives you a lot of flexibility and allows you to do last minute editing without having to worry that everything will be turned upside down.

The workspace offers a ton of options and can easily be customised according to your needs. The WYSIWYG approach makes it very easy to create different styles that you know will look good once the printing process starts.

Indesign is a multi-purpose tool. Although it has all you need to create high-quality print content, you can easily export your work for digital devices as well. Be it online magazines, e-books or interactive PDFs, with some clicks you can get things done, which means you will spare dozens of hours of extra work.

You can insert video, audio or animations in your documents, creating interactive storybooks and engaging dynamic content for tablets or smartphones. It also supports XML, style sheets and other useful technologies, meaning that you can export your work for other online uses.

When it comes to professional use, InDesign doesn’t have many competitors, bringing us to the next foggy chapter.

A Creative Cloud

Corporate Greed?

After reaching the top of the mountain, Adobe’s Administration Council had an idea. They decided to change their business strategy and switch to a service/subscription model. This huge change sparked a huge controversy back in 2011 when the Creative Cloud was first announced.

The problem with such an approach is that it strips the user of the minimal amount of rights over the product. As a subscription-based service, users pay a monthly or annual fee instead of owning a physical product that can be sold on to others or donated to charity.
Despite strong reactions from the user base and community, the company has held on to their plan, stopped releases for Creative Suite (and have for over two years) focussed on Creative Cloud products.


In the end, Adobe Indesign remains the most powerful desktop publishing software available to both professionals and beginners. We’ve delivered training in Indesign for the last ten years to help people along the path towards success, fame and discovering new skills and abilities. You can find out more about our Indesign courses here.


photo credit: 3D Cloud Computing (license)