Adobe Creative Suite Alternatives: A Poor Girl’s Guide

I have always wanted a Creative Suite.  I’ve been using WebEasy Professional (by Avanquest Software) to do my website designing work; and don’t get me wrong, I like my WebEasy Pro 8.  It has enough of bells and whistles that the software does great jobs for most people, novice and pros alike.  For photo editing, I have PhotoStudio (by ArcSoft), which has also been working wonderfully for both my professional and personal photos.  Both WebEasy Pro and PhotoStudio are fairly affordable ($50 – $79, with free updates and discounted upgrades available).

But Adobe CS is still on my mind.  After all, PhotoShop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver are industry standards (I found that out while job-hunting); and then there’s Flash…  But have you seen the prices of CS, any version?  Each practically costs an arm and a leg, starting from $1,300 (standard) or $1,900 (premium) and up.  Even the upgrades are $500+, and student/teacher versions are at least $400 (plus you have to prove that you ARE a student/teacher/qualified person).

What’s a casual home user, a cash-strapped small business owner or a poor IT Pixie gonna do?  I went online and did some research on CS alternatives.

As it turns out, there are quite a few open source, free alternatives out there.  Here’s the short list:

GIMP stands for GNU Image Manuipulation Program. The program has the ability to edit bitmap images and photos. It saves files in formats that will work with other bitmap editors, including Photoshop (jpeg, tiff, gif…). There is also a modified version of the client for Windows called GIMPshop, which “skins” the interface to emulate Photoshop.

Also mentioned is Paint.NET (Windows only).

Pixie Update 5/18/2011: GIMP works well in Windows Vista (64-bit), but it was struggling a bit (really slow start-up) in Windows 7 (Home Premium 64-bit).  I have been lazy and relying on PhotoStudio instead of taking the time to really get familiar with GIMP; however I have seen a lot of people in the hobbyist anime wallpaper community using it, so it must be a worthy alternative.

Pixie Update 9/30/2012: I have been notified that GIMPshop’s site has been hacked and infected with malware.  Until further notice, please do not visit gimpshop[dot]com.

Inkscape is an open source 2d vector graphics editor. Supports all of the standard drawing features. Curves (bezier), lines, freehand drawing including calligraphy stroke together with geometric figures can be used to build your drawing. Advanced gradient fill tool, bitmap tracing – and will let you export your drawing as both png and postscript. All normal file handling is performed natively in scalable vector graphics (svg) file format.

Another alternative for Linux is Xara Xtreme.

Pixie Update 5/18/2011: Inkscape works quite beautifully in Windows Vista (64-bit) and Windows 7 (Home Premium 64-bit).  I feel this is the alternative (of all the ones listed here) that really gives Adobe a run for their money.

Kompozer is an open source web development tool built on NVU (another editor but currently not under development). The project strives to fix bugs in the NVU project and add new features to it. Offers WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing mode, a CSS , HTML and all other regular features allowing you full control of layout as you work with your web design.

There is an extension for Kompozer called HandCoder that allows you to run your HTML through Tidy whenever your save, or whenever you view through a 3rd-party text editor. The link for HandCoder is here: The link for Tidy is here:

Bluefish is another option for various platforms (Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, Gentoo, Mac OSX, AltLinux, OpenSolaris and Windows).

Pixie Update 5/18/2011: Of all the alternatives for different Adobe software, I found Kompozer is the least effective.  It errors out quite often in both Windows Vista and 7 (I couldn’t seem to get it to work in Windows 7 at all).  It could be just me and my computers, so if you are using Kompozer and it works great for you, I would love to hear about your experience.

Scribus is a popular open source desktop publishing tool. As a DTP tool it supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation. Scribus also has additional features not normally found in a DTP tool such as vector drawing tools with SVG support and it even has support for OpenType Fonts. Scribus is available in more than 25 languages.

Synfig is actually very powerful. You can do much more than you can do with flash. Synfig is an industrial-strength vector-based 2D animation software package, designed from the ground-up for producing “feature-film quality animation” with fewer people and resources – and its free. So now you can create all those animations that you always wanted to do. is another option.

While Avidemux doesn’t have all the features of Premiere, its great for simple linear editing and encoding. This allows you to input MPEG, Quicktime, AVI, ASF, images, H.263 format, and more. Output your work into AVI, MPEG, MP4, or OMG. While an advanced user might need more control, this will do the trick for the majority of users.

VirtualDub is an open source video processor/editor. Its not for non-linear video editing, but it has powerful features for processing your video clips. The features include real-time downsizing, noise reduction, support for AVI2 (OpenDML), de- and re-compression of video and audio and an advanced set of filters. These filters include blurring, rotating, image adjustments and more. VirtualDub is a great video toolbox.

DVDStyler is simple and easy to use – it provides a quick and simple interface for adding DVD menus to your own movies. Adding movie clips is as easy as drag and drop. Menu screens are created by first loading a background – and then adding buttons. Then actions are assigned to the buttons to indicate which movie clips should be played when pressed.

Pixie Note: Encore no longer exists as a stand-alone program in Adobe CS since it was rolled into Premiere in CS3.

Cinefx brings the power of movie editing and effects to the open source environment. Whether is comes to painting video, create and edit effects in real-time or perform advanced composition – Cinefx lets you do it. You can even handle HD with ease.  Cinefx is very similar to After Effects. The one thing missing is the After Effects library. Not to fret though, since Cinefx comes with a slew of their own effects. It even lets you import projects from Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, Lightwave, Maya, 3DS Max, and more. It lets you export your projects into many formats too.

Basically a stripped down version of Soundbooth with the same amount of power. Don’t worry though, because you’ll be able to download all the sound filters you want through the web site. Handles all the major audio file formats (wav, mp3, aiff, ogg vorbis).

Pixie note: This is one software that I actually have used a fair amount and I like it!  From a casual user stand point, Audacity’s functionality is more than plenty.

So there you have it!  If you’re interested in finding more open source software, ZeroDibs is a nice resource.  I’m hoping eventually I will be able to get a Creative Suite.  For the time being these open source will do…

Has anyone used any of the above?  What are your thoughts and reviews?  Or do you have suggestions of better alternatives?  Tell me about them!


Free Open Source Alternatives for Adobe Creative Suite by SurfPark
Say Goodbye to Adobe Creative Suite by Varun Kashyap
Parsons Projects