Good replacement for Adobe InDesign?
April 17, 2014 6:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm running Mavericks now, and I'm hesitant to install InDesign CS3, which was my go-to software for creating documents for our small business. I don't need anything nearly as complicated as InDesign. I need to be able to convert to PDF, add shaded boxes for clients to initial alongside text, and possibly add some photos into a document. I'm creating things like price sheets, contracts, forms, etc. There seem to be a lot of negative reviews about Pages (iWork), but it looks like that's the type of app I need (something simple, easy to learn). Are there any others I should look into?
posted by okay-quiet-time to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Some options here from

It is worth noting that everything you mention in your post can technically be done in MS Word. (Not saying Word isn't terrible in many ways. It is! And probably isn't a good enterprise-level alternative. But if you just needed a kludge...)
posted by Wretch729 at 7:05 AM on April 17, 2014

Apple upset a lot of people (myself included) when it updated Pages recently because it dropped a lot of useful features. They've been adding them back incrementally.

The thing is, Pages is like Word in that it is really intended for linear documents. I have both, and I do most of my work in Pages. Then again, most of my work is linear.

InDesign is intended for more complex documents where you have sidebars, articles continued on non-consecutive pages, that sort of thing. Also, CS3 is ancient at this point, and I'm not even sure it would run under Mavericks.

There is an open-source page-layout program called Scribus, which would cost you nothing but time (and, perhaps, aggravation) to try out.

What are you using now, and what about it is not meeting your needs?
posted by adamrice at 7:08 AM on April 17, 2014

@AdamRice - I was using InDesign, but I just upgraded to Mavericks and like you said, I'm not sure how compatible it's going to be with InDesign CS3. I would rather not pay the costly subscription to Adobe to ugrade InDesign because it's just a lot more than I even need.
posted by okay-quiet-time at 7:22 AM on April 17, 2014

You try to actually use the app on Mavericks. Reports I've seen around the web says it works with Mavericks.

But there's no guarantee that it'll work with the next version of the OS. Definitely look into using program.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on April 17, 2014

I mean, Pages should be able to do everything you want. Unless you're dead set on finding something free, you're overthinking this. There will be negative reviews of everything always. I would be more suspicious of people who LOVE their desktop publishing software.

You could try QuarkXPress 10 at like $800. MS Word at ~$80. Your old CS3 at free but possibly janky. Indesign CC is $20/mo.

Or Pages, at $20 once.

If you buy Pages, and it doesn't cut it for you, next month fork over a credit card to Adobe.
posted by fontophilic at 8:15 AM on April 17, 2014

As a loooooong-time Quark user/addict who recently went back to it for a project, after years using Indesign…stay away. All the things that Quark used to do that pissed me off, in version 3? Yup, still there. Just in case you were considering that as an option.

I agree with fontophilic -- try Pages at $20, and if it doesn't work, go to the subscription.
posted by liquado at 8:27 AM on April 17, 2014

For simple non-designy forms I use OpenOffice and save to PDF and it's all free.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:53 AM on April 17, 2014

If you can't get InDesign to work, you will probably be okay with Word. Word can be really wonky when you're trying to do layout, but one great trick I learned for making forms, one sheets, etc., is to use tables with invisible borders. That keeps everything neat and lined up.
posted by radioamy at 9:06 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

InDesign CS3 works just fine for me under Mavericks (although I don't use it as often as I used to). Depending on what you're using it for, Pages is actually pretty solid and makes nice documents. Hell, I'd rather use it if the document I'm creating isn't complicated and I just want it to be simple and pretty.
posted by General Malaise at 9:41 AM on April 17, 2014

Here's a lightweight, Mac-oriented DTP app for $30 - iStudio.

Also, the new rev of Pages is infuriating. I used the old version to whip up a sticker chart for the kid, and it took all of five minutes, most of which was deciding on the font and colors. The new rev, I flat out had to give up after two hours of screaming at my Mac.

The new Pages stripped all of the awesome, user-friendly intuitiveness and replaced it with minimal design that pleaseth the Ive, and a surly user-hostility. Whoever masterminded that mess needs a firin'.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:10 AM on April 17, 2014

I had a vague idea you could still get a free trial of Pages, so I googled around for it. Turns out you sort of can.
posted by danteGideon at 5:53 AM on April 19, 2014

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