The Best InDesign Alternatives: A Breakdown of Top Design Tools

Posted on September 28, 2023 | Updated on November 9, 2023

Adobe InDesign has long been the go-to software for graphic designers. It provides some of the best tools for layout and publication design. It has always had a great reputation but is one of many choices. 

Some designers opt for alternatives to save money or prefer a simpler interface. Others may choose InDesign alternatives due to certain features it may not offer. For instance, you may seek software that caters specifically to your industry. 

While InDesign offers many features, you may seek something more flexible or specialized. If Adobe’s offer does not fit your needs, there are better alternatives to consider.

1. Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft Publisher has a user-friendly layout designer with a wide user base and simplified features. As part of Microsoft’s Office suite, it sits comfortably alongside Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For those that know Microsoft’s systems, Publisher provides a familiar touch. It has an easy-to-use interface like Microsoft’s other applications.

However, when compared to Adobe InDesign, Publisher’s toolkit appears somewhat limited. You may find it’s missing extensive typography options and color management tools. Yet, Microsoft 

Publisher still makes a great choice for small businesses and beginning designers. Its simple nature ensures even those with limited design background can easily use it. If a straightforward design experience is what you’re after, Publisher delivers.

2. Postudio

Postudio offers a refreshing approach to design, as you can use it as an on-demand creative studio entirely in the cloud. This platform has a suite of post-production tools, ensuring creators have access to their projects anytime. 

What sets Postudio apart is its pay-as-you-go model. Whether editing for two hours or twenty, you’re billed solely for the time you spend. It eliminates hefty upfront fees and only charges for actual usage.

From intricate color grading tasks to animation and editing, Postudio has lots to offer. The platform’s flexibility allows for seamless tool switching as required. Moreover, Postudio offers collaboration and security. Teams can work in real-time with live collaboration features through a centralized storage system. This ensures assets are easily accessible and modifiable by permitted users.

3. Affinity Publisher

Without hesitation, Affinity Publisher makes a strong contender against InDesign. Launched in 2018 as the third in Affinity’s suite, its experience feels similar to InDesign. Affinity Publisher provides numerous layout tools for print and digital media. You can even import InDesign files, including raster and vector files. Plus, it has a pre-flight checking system to ensure your designs remain error-free.

However, Affinity Publisher is exclusively for PC and Mac users. Although, it integrates seamlessly with its sibling apps, Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. While an iPad version is yet to be released, users can still interact with Publisher files through the iPad versions of Designer and Photo. Overall, it has a mix of user-friendly features and affordability, making it a top alternative to InDesign.

4. Scribus

Scribus is an open-source InDesign alternative for those seeking a budget-friendly design tool. As a free desktop publishing software, it compares well to its pricier counterparts. While it may not match InDesign’s full depth, Scribus packs a punch with various features. It has color management abilities, such as color separations, color blindness separations and CMYK. 

Additionally, its PDF support and ability to edit vector illustrations make it versatile. Scribus’s interface also mimics InDesign. Although, mastering its tools may require some time. As a beginner, you’ll appreciate the template options available to help you get started. Plus, Scribus has frequent updates and dedicated support. 

Scribus is ideal for making magazines, brochures and much more. However, its biggest limitation is the inability to import files from other programs like InDesign. 

5. QuarkXPress

QuarkXpress makes a great InDesign alternative. Though Adobe InDesign frequently takes the spotlight, QuarkXpress has a great toolkit and a large following. It has a strong offering of typographic controls, layout and color handling. 

Another thing is the option to buy QuarkXpress outright instead of paying for a subscription model in the Adobe plan. You can purchase it up front, but it has a $299 maintenance renewal plan you must pay to support updates. 

The platform is easy to transition to if you’re an InDesign user since it supports its file imports and offers integration with other design tools. However, you might find it to be a slight learning curve as a first-time user. 

When compared to Adobe InDesign, you’ll also find it rich in features but not as vast as its counterpart’s plugins and resources. Still, it supports web content creation, built-in image editing and illustration. Though they’re somewhat basic, you get the consolidation of tasks within a single platform.

6. Swift Publisher

For those seeking publishing software that’s easy to use and affordable, Swift Publisher makes a great alternative to InDesign. With an intuitive interface, Swift Publisher simplifies your design processes. Users can dive into its library of templates, graphics and layouts for various projects, including newsletters, business cards and flyers.

One standout feature is its clipart and image library, offering numerous quality visuals to enhance your designs. While it may not have as intricate typography or features as InDesign, its cost-effectiveness makes it valuable. 

Swift Publisher suits those on a budget or in small business. Its one-time purchase model makes it a practical choice without compromising design quality.

7. Marq

Marq — formerly Lucidpress — is great for beginners and those desiring a user-friendly alternative to InDesign. This platform has a drag-and-drop interface and offers a large amount of free and paid templates. Therefore, you can ensure you’re creating content efficiently, whether digital or print. 

Marq integrates with Google Docs, Dropbox, YouTube and more for content import and publishing. While it may not be as feature-rich as InDesign, its ease of use makes it an ideal starting point for beginner designers. Plus, the platform’s access from any device sets it apart from tools like Swift Publisher. The free version offers a taste, but a $10 monthly subscription becomes essential to access its full potential.

Making an InDesign Alternative Choice

You can see there are plenty of InDesign alternatives to choose from, but the final choice comes down to your needs and budget. Are you looking for something in-depth or basic and affordable? Consider reviewing the highlights of each publishing software to narrow your options. Take advantage of the free trials and test a few to see which of these you like most. The top selection will come down to your budget, skillset and feature preferences.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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