Monday, October 7, 2013

Adobe CC vs Open CS

Yes, I am going there! The Adobe Creative Suite (now Creative Cloud) has been the industry standard for years, and people have had to pay through the nose for it. There have also been open source alternatives for years, and with the recent change in Adobe’s pricing structure ($600/year for Creative Cloud) to mitigate migration to less expensive programs, I think it is high time we recognize how good the programs in the “Open Creative Suite” really are.

First and foremost, I would like to clarify that I am not saying Adobe software is bad. What I am saying is there are lighter weight counterparts that can do just as good a job for those of us who can’t afford their software, let alone the hardware to run it on. I would also like to clarify that these programs offer comparable functionality, not work flow. For example, both Photoshop and GIMP can create a drop shadow. However, the steps to create that effect will be different because they are different programs.

If these free programs have been around for so long why don’t more people use them? Good question. I think the biggest factor is the learning curve. These programs do have different icons and menus, so unless professional designers and editors are willing to take the time to learn a different user interface, they are not likely to switch. (I personally have used GIMP long enough that I now know it better than I know Photoshop.) Colleges and Universities teach industry standards, so unless the professional world is willing to accept these alternatives, these educational institutions will continue to teach Adobe.

Another reason these programs haven't gotten much attention is that many of them are just now coming into maturity. Adobe has been the standard for decades and has a large programming staff to maintain and update their software. Open Source programs are created and maintained by small groups of programers often in their spare time, and most have only been working together over the last five to ten years if that.

If you are a Windows user, you can get all the programs in the Open Creative Suite from and take them with you on a thumb drive. Total size for all five programs is less than one Gigabyte. That is half the size of just one Adobe program, which means you don't need a top of the line computer to run them either!

As a follow up to this article, I will be posting a series of articles showing the basic functionality of each of these Open Source programs to help reduce the learning curve, and to help promote these programs as viable alternatives to Adobe software for those on a budget.

Photoshop (2 GB) vs GIMP (247 Mb)
The GNU Image Manipulation Program is probably the most well known of the Open Source programs, and for valid reasons. It has been called “Free Photoshop” for years to the great fury of Photoshop users. (In their defense, I would be mad too if I spent hundreds of dollars for a program that has a free counterpart.) The toolboxes alone are 80% the same (again referring to the functionality, not the icon artwork). I have been told there is additional professional functionality that GIMP doesn't offer, but in my 5 years since abandoning Photoshop I have yet to find out what that is, since I haven't needed it. If you are curious about Photoshop Elements vs GIMP there isn't even a contest, GIMP wins hands down on the feature count.

Illustrator (2 GB) vs Inkscape (150 Mb)
Confession, I have not done a whole lot with vector graphics, however, what I have seen is possible with Inkscape has matched up quite impressively with what I have seen in Illustrator. My wife recently found an Illustrator tutorial on Youtube for a project she was working on, and we were able to recreate the exact same effects in Inkscape by trial and error in about 15 minutes.

Premier (4 GB) vs Blender (120 Mb)
The thing that scares most people away from Blender as a video editor is that the initial screen looks so complicated they don't think it is worth the effort. After the first three clicks (to set up the Video Sequence Editor) most people would do just fine. I should also state that Blender actually covers the functionality of Premier AND After Effects. My experience is limited to the Video Sequence Editor (VSE), and there are countless reviews about how great the 3D tools and special effects are so I will let you look those up on your own.

The VSE is probably the best kept secret in Blender. I have tried countless free video editors, and none of them even come close to the functionality of Blender. (Windows Movie Maker can only crash so many times per project before you realize you need a real editing program.) The reviews you will find online state that Blender has a “steep learning curve.” I found a couple of well made tutorials about the VSE on Youtube which chopped the learning curve down considerably, and I have been happily video editing ever since.

InDesign (2.6 GB) vs Scribus (178 Mb)
I have been using InDesign since it was called Pagemaker back in the 1990s. Compared to the rest of the Open Source programs mentioned here, I have the least amount of experience with Scribus. One look at the documentation, however, tells me that I am in good hands. There are also many tutorial videos about the basic use of Scribus on Youtube, and from those I know this program is a keeper. This was the last hole I needed to fill in the Open Creative Suite, hence why I am now writing this series of articles.

Audition (2 GB) vs Audacity (40 Mb)
I don't know that many people who use Audition, but Audacity is too good a program to leave out, so here it is. If you need a free audio editor, Audacity is it! Make sure you get the LAME codec so you can edit mp3s and you are set. I don't even know what half the filters in this program do because there are so many of them. I have used Audacity for over 3 years and have never looked twice for another audio recording/editing program.

Operating Systems:
Adobe CC- Win, Mac ($50/month or $600/year)
Open CS- Win, Mac, Linux, etc (100% Free)

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