Geek On The Hill

Good Replacements for Adobe Creative Cloud Applications

My relationship with Adobe ended last year around this time. Not only did I cancel my Creative Cloud subscription, but I had Adobe delete my account. I had decided I never again wanted to have anything to do with Adobe.

It was sort of a bittersweet parting for me. I’d been using Adobe applications (especially Dreamweaver and Fireworks) since they were still published by Macromedia, before they were purchased by Adobe. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I loved those two programs. I fully expected to go to my grave clutching my copies of Dreamweaver and Fireworks to my chest. But alas, Adobe’s purchase of Macromedia was the beginning of a long, slow death for Dreamweaver and Fireworks.

Dreamweaver is still around and being updated, but it’s a dead man walking. Every successive version for the past five years or so has been more bloated, buggy, unstable, and frankly unusable than the preceding versions. When I canceled my Adobe subscription, I was still using a version of Dreamweaver that was several versions old.

If Dreamweaver is a dead man walking, then Fireworks is a dead man in his casket waiting to be lowered into the grave. Adobe doesn’t even pretend to maintain it anymore. It doesn’t even get security or stability updates. It can still be downloaded — assuming one has a subscription — but trying to get it to work reliably on recent versions of Windows or MacOS is an exercise in futility. It wants to run, but it just randomly crashes in the middle of projects. The only way to get it to run reliably is on an older machine or a virtualized version of an older machine.

Adobe’s abandonment of Fireworks was the last straw for me. I always resented the subscription model because I’d paid thousands of dollars for supposedly “perpetual” licenses for pre-subscription versions of their software, with options to upgrade to each successive version if I wanted to at a discounted price. To be told that I now had to pay ransom a monthly subscription fee — forever — even if I didn’t want or need the newer versions, didn’t sit well with me.

Bear in mind that I was still using versions of Dreamweaver and Fireworks that were several years old when I canceled my Adobe subscription. They were one version newer than the perpetually-licensed Adobe CS6, which I’d purchased in 2012, and which was the last Adobe Creative Suite version that had been available for outright purchase. So I was paying every month to use to use one program that was three or four versions behind, and another which was no longer actively supported; and Adobe expected me to keep doing that forever.

As long as Fireworks was getting at least stability and security updates, I held my nose and paid. I didn’t like it, but I paid. Adobe’s abandoning Fireworks to unsupported status, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Once they stopped supporting Fireworks, I decided to cancel my subscription when it expired. I used the time remaining on my subscription to find capable replacements for Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps.

I’ve been Adobe-free for about a year now, and I thought it would be nice to share with my followers (both of them) the best replacements I’ve found for Adobe Creative Cloud apps. These are not the only replacements, mind you. They’re just the ones I like best.

Just to be clear, when I say “best replacements,” I mean that these are the programs that have worked best for me, given my needs and my workflow. Maybe they’ll work for you, too. Or not. They all have free trials available, however, so you’re not risking anything by trying them. Also, please note that I never used all the software included with an Adobe CC subscription, so this article addresses only those applications that I did use.

Here are my choices for the best replacements for Adobe Creative Cloud Web Development software.

Best Replacement for Adobe Dreamweaver

I’ve actually found two excellent replacements for Adobe Dreamweaver, both published by the same company. Rapid PHP Editor is a full-featured IDE that supports PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and several other languages. It also has a built-in preview pane that actually works, which is very refreshing.

If you code mainly in PHP, then this excellent, affordable software deserves your consideration. If you also need ASP, Perl, Ruby, and Python, then consider WeBuilder, which includes everything in Rapid PHP Editor plus the additional coding support for those languages and platforms.

Please note that neither Rapid PHP Editor nor WeBuilder are WYSIWYG editors. I never used that capability in Dreamweaver, so it wasn’t important to me in a replacement. If you need WYSIWYG, then I’m afraid you’ll either have to learn to hand-code, or look elsewhere for a WYSIWYG editor.

Best Replacement for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Fireworks

I am as much in love with Affinity Photo as I ever was with either Photoshop or Fireworks. I consider it a perfect replacement for Photoshop, at least in terms of how I used it. There is nothing I did with Photoshop that I can’t do with Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo is a less-perfect replacement for Adobe Fireworks because it can’t edit existing layered PNG files created with Fireworks. This is due to Adobe’s proprietary changes to the PNG format, which never has natively supported layers. Affinity Photo can open those files flattened, but it doesn’t recognize the layers.

Sadly, I haven’t found any way to export whole Fireworks PNG files in such a way that other software will recognize the layers. That’s an Adobe proprietary trick that they’re not releasing — which makes me hate them even more. I mean, really, if you’re abandoning the software anyway, then why not release the code to open-source?

If you have multilayered PNG files created by Adobe that you’ll need to edit in the future, the only thing that I can guarantee will work (and even then only partially because some things like text will be saved as graphics) is to use Fireworks to save each individual layer of the PNG file as separate files. Then you can reassemble them using Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, or some other image-manipulation software.

For creating new images, however, Affinity Photo is every bit as capable as Fireworks was. Simply save the files in .AF format (or some other layered format) for future editability, and export them to the format you need now.

Please note that I used Fireworks mainly for editing images for the Web. I didn’t use things like its wireframing or HTML abilities. Affinity Photo won’t replace Fireworks for those functions, at least as far as I know.

Best Replacement for Adobe Illustrator

Affinity Designer is a very capable replacement for Adobe Illustrator and can open AI, EPS, and most other files that Adobe Illustrator can. I rarely worked in those formats other than to convert them to PNG files for the Web, and Affinity Designer does that as well as AI did. But my brother, who (unlike me) is a competent graphic artist in his own right, is very impressed with Affinity Designer and compares it favorably to Adobe Illustrator.

I’ve also read posts on the Interwebs from some folks who said that Affinity Designer can work with Fireworks wireframe projects if they’re first exported to AI or EPS files. I don’t know if that’s true because I never worked with wireframes. But it would cost you nothing to try.

Best Replacement for Adobe Premiere / Premiere Pro

Before people start flaming me (which would actually be kind of cool because it would mean that people actually read my blog), I admit to having used maybe 10 percent of Premiere Pro’s capabilities, if that much. And for that 10 percent that I used, I’ve found Magix Movie Edit Pro Premium to be the best replacement for Adobe Premiere Pro.

Don’t get me wrong: Magix Movie Edit Pro isn’t a drop-in replacement for Premiere Pro if you’re a really advanced video editor. This is not the kind of software that I think Spielberg would use. But I’m not Spielberg, and for me it works just fine. It’s easy to use, stable, fast, and impressively powerful for such inexpensive software.

My one criticism is that it doesn’t export to WEBM (at least the last time I checked); but there are plenty of transcoders, many of them free, that you can use if you need WEBM files.

Best Replacement for Adobe Acrobat

There are a lot of choices for this one, including some freeware solutions; but the one I like best is Gaaiho PDF 5. It certainly does everything that I ever needed Acrobat to do. They also publish the freeware Gaaiho Reader, which does allow a certain amount of editing.

The previously-mentioned Affinity Designer can also work with PDF files; so if you’re thinking about installing Affinity Designer, I suggest you try its PDF functions before purchasing PDF-specific software.

That’s all, folks. Although Adobe Creative Cloud includes many other applications, I either never used them or hadn’t used them in years by the time I canceled, so I didn’t need replacements. The above software is what I personally have found to be the best replacements — not the only replacements — for those Adobe Creative Cloud apps that I actually used. Your mileage may vary.



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