Design pro-quality pages for less.
Behold – a brand new desktop publishing app for the Mac! Serif’s Affinity series (Photo, Designer and Publisher) – developed from scratch for both Mac and PC, with Publisher expected to join the others on iPad too – was originally conceived with a page layout function at its heart, tying the whole creative process together neatly.
That’s exactly what Publisher now does. If you buy all three apps (optional, but still over 50% cheaper than an annual subscription for InDesign alone), the StudioLink feature lets you switch to Photo or Designer tools while working in Publisher. To tweak a picture to better match other elements on a spread, for example, you can apply adjustments to it right there, instead of switching to an image editing app and trying to guess colour and placement without the page in view. It’s something Adobe and Quark have tried to an extent, but here it really works. You can even open Publisher files in the other apps to edit relevant items.
Serif’s uses Apple’s Metal 2 to deliver exceptionally smooth performance on the latest Macs and iPads in Photo and Designer, as well as supporting Retina and DCI–P3 screens. But layout is less processor-intensive, and Publisher shows off even on older machines. On an ageing iMac that’s regularly used for magazine pages, it put InDesign to shame, zooming smoothly in and out to further extremes than Adobe allows, and reflowing text around objects as we moved them.
The interface will feel familiar to those who’ve used InDesign or QuarkXPress. For file compatibility across the Affinity suite, it treats every item as its own layer, which makes for a lot of layers, but is ultimately logical. We fully expected to run up against limitations but all core features seem present and correct. An exception is digital publishing: there’s no ability to add interactivity other than hyperlinks, no delivery platform, and no EPUB export. But we’re OK with that.
Beyond the fonts supplied with macOS, you’ll need to buy your own to use with Publisher. And Affinity’s docked panel interface is a mixed blessing, making some settings visible that rivals hide in modular dialog boxes, but in other cases doing the reverse, splitting up status info that should be in one place, and lacking clear labelling for sets of options that aren’t easily distinguished. Many InDesign key shortcuts are reproduced, but some important ones aren’t, and there are minor failings like being unable to detach individual items from master pages. But with full typographical controls, grids and guides, columns and text flow, transparency effects, effectively infinite undo (with history saving) and more, this is a real DTP rival at last – and at a fraction of the price.