Alternative software

Time is money.
(Ben Franklin)

Words and pictures, text and images. Above all, the story. But as I write this, it is easier than ever for graphic artists to produce images for social media, web, and print media. Now, I know you’re good. The best. But you’ll still want to check out new Adobe Express ... the recently re-branded and improved Adobe Spark, which came out in 2021. Express will save you a great deal of time, at the expense of your originality. AI-enhanced template-driven tools like Express may be the future for graphic art. We’ll see. In the meantime, it can’t hurt to try it out.

And yes, you’ll use Photoshop and Illustrator, Word and PowerPoint. But there are other equally good programs out there – at far lower cost. Perfect if you are starting your own company! Real savings if you make ads, brochures, short reports, and general graphic images – check out software from in England. Their base program, Xara Photo & Graphic Designer at less than US$100, combines both line art (vector) and bitmap (raster) imaging with easy page layout. One program, replacing 95% of your needs for Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, and Word. Way faster, cheaper, better. Xara also sells their high-end program, Xara Designer Pro, which includes webpage and website creation features. Designer Pro comes in desktop and desktop subscription versions. There is also Xara Cloud, that lets you work on the internet from anywhere with a zillion easy templates.

Art? For years, I’ve used inexpensive Paint Shop Pro, and many other simple imaging programs. I also value older Photoshop 7, it’s all you need for almost all jobs... get a (free) copy from an older friend. On any program, you’ll need to master basic graphic art skills like using layers, color correction, knocking out backgrounds, and so on... but again, this is two-year college kind of stuff, and great fun to learn. Adobe Lightroom is also great for editing photos – like adding light in the shadows, and increasing color vibrance. Also very special – all sorts of excellent inexpensive graphics programs from Akvis in Perm, Russia. I’ve used their Artwork and Sketch for years. Love this little company!

And – very important – Microsoft PowerPoint. Sure, you can use the Xara programs to make PowerPoint-compatible presentations. But I wouldn’t. Learn PowerPoint itself – it’s what corporate and government workers use for presentations. An absolute must. PowerPoint’s a sleeper... it has an elegant set of vector drawing tools that hardly anyone ever uses, and a wealth of pre-made business graphics that you can copy-paste into other programs. You can also use Apple’s Keynote as an alternative, but nobody else does. You will often create files and send them to others. JPGs and PDFs are standard... but for presentations, it’s always PowerPoint PPTXs.

Writing? Any word processor. Xara programs if you are setting up a 24-page or smaller print publication. Word, Open Office Writer (free), or Framemaker (still used by many technical publications departments). At work, you’ll use whatever the company has standardized on, probably Microsoft Word. But they are all pretty much the same... and can most programs can export Word’s .DOCX text filetypes. If you like to just write without getting bogged down formatting, inexpensive Editpad is great, as well as Microsoft Wordpad, that comes free with every PC.

Next, there’s animation, for medical, scientific, defense, or advertising purposes. Programs like Adobe Captivate, that make it easy to generate complex elearning modules. And Adobe Character Animator – fun!

That’s about it. The real message here – your takeaway – is to remember that you better pick the right thing to do... so you don’t waste 10,000 hours getting really good at something you really don’t like to do. If your bohemian Mom and Dad are pushing you to be an artist, but you really want to be a financial hedge fund manager, stop right here – and go pick up a copy of Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street!

back to Contents

Next chapter

to Index

Need your help to make this ebook better!