Open source software for design company
April 13, 2007 3:50 AM   Subscribe

Open source software for a professional web design company.

Design filter.

I've been running my company for nearly 2 years now and is now concerned paying the premium for software for my staff.

I've already converted the office in to using OpenOffice which works brilliantly.

What Im looking for is opensource / paid software (reasonable cost) that is similar to:

1) Dreamweaver (doesnt matter if there are 2 separate sofware for CSS and xHTML)
2) Photoshop (I know Gimp is there any better?)
3) Flash
4) Quark Xpress

I cant live without Adobe Fireworks and is willing to pay for that. Its just when you look at the full package (all software) per staff its roughly £1500 / $3000.
posted by spinko to Computers & Internet (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
What features of Dreamweaver do you use? Do you use it essentially as a specialised text editor, or do you use the visual layout tools and get it to write the code for you? And do you rely on the site/file management tools, like templates, synchronisation, stuff like that?
posted by chrismear at 4:01 AM on April 13, 2007


Oh, and is this on Windows, Mac, or both?
posted by chrismear at 4:02 AM on April 13, 2007



1) Nvu. Not quite as feature packed as Dreamweaver, but the price is right.

2) The Gimp. Yeah, you mentioned that already. But if you're looking for a nice transition you may want to consider Gimpshop, which is the Gimp with menus rearranged to be more Photoshop-like.

3) Nothing (yet) (that I know of) equivalent, although large swaths of Flash are open standards (ECMAscript, et. al.) and I expect Flash will follow Java within five years in becoming completely OS.

4) Probably Scribus. I haven't used it much, but it definitely has its followers and is worth digging into.

All of these will (supposedly) work on Mac, Windows and Linux, although I've only tried them out on Linux, so YMMV.
posted by the dief at 4:22 AM on April 13, 2007


Its all on Windows.
posted by spinko at 4:41 AM on April 13, 2007


With Gimpshop, do you have to install Gimp 1st? as it doesnt seem to work in Vista.
posted by spinko at 4:46 AM on April 13, 2007


Obviously I can't speak for your company but we tried this for a bit and went back to Pro apps... two big reasons - productivity and compatability.

Compatability probably doesn't matter so much to you as you aren't in print design but we get artwork supplied in Illustrator, Indesign and Quark formats all the time.

Productivity. Say you charge £70 per hour for development. Is it worth double the time on a project because you've ditched Dreamweaver and your developers are desperately trying to get the same functionality out of nvu and a text editor?

Each to their own but you get what you pay for and if it's a professional outfit then there's something wrong if you can't pay for the tools of your trade.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love for Open Source software to be up to scratch but it isn't and imho you will end up frustrating your staff with substandard tools and ultimately your clients with substandard designs.


But to answer your question, here's what we tried (all mac based):

1) Nvu for Opensource. If you want to spend around £50 per user then CSSEdit and TextMate

2) GIMP - nothing comes close. But it's still a steep learning curve, especially if you have staff trained in Photoshop. PhotoGIMP helps but still, you'll find nothing comparable to Photoshop.

3) Nothing.

4) Scribus or Inkwell might do the job. But seriously, if you don't want a holy (and possibly costly) war between yourselves/clients/printers when something doesn't get printed as expected then stick with Quark or Indesign.
posted by twistedonion at 4:51 AM on April 13, 2007


Why are people saying there's nothing for Flash? What's all this then? In particular, this and this? (No seriously, I want to know why these don't meet the poster's need.)
posted by DU at 5:05 AM on April 13, 2007


DU, you got me really excited there... I don't think are comparable to the Flash app though in the same way that say GIMP is like Photoshop or OpenOffice is like Word (as in wysiwyg develpment tools)... maybe I'm missing something though but it's like suggesting a text editor to replace Dreamweaver, which i admittedly did.

From Signals question though I got the impression that he was looking for similar functioning tools to what he already uses.
posted by twistedonion at 5:31 AM on April 13, 2007


Where did I get Signal from, Spinko... sorry
posted by twistedonion at 5:32 AM on April 13, 2007


I just started looking at this last night myself, so I could be way wrong, but I don't think it's quite as bad as a text editor replacing Dreamweaver. There are plugins for Eclipse for instance.
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on April 13, 2007


Most of the opensource flash tools are actionscript editors / compilers / exporters, etc., i.e.:good for programming, not so much for layout, design, etc.
posted by signal at 6:09 AM on April 13, 2007


twistedonion has it right: this is a false economy. There's a reason these guys can charge what they like for software, and it's because there's virtually no competition (this is also why Photoshop is effectively resting on its laurels these days).

If you make your staff try to use shitty, alien software, they'll reject it and reject you. The good ones will leave.

Also, you type "is" for "I'm"? Weird
posted by bonaldi at 6:12 AM on April 13, 2007


..good for programming, not so much for layout, design...

Well that's good news for me, even if not the poster.
posted by DU at 6:17 AM on April 13, 2007


Spooky, I mention signals name and up he pops!
posted by twistedonion at 6:22 AM on April 13, 2007


For #2 I'd suggest you take a look at Paint Shop Pro. It started out as freeware, then shareware, and now it's a full featured program for around $80.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:31 AM on April 13, 2007


...and I have to add on to that if you hire professional designers in your business, they'll likely be more productive using what they know, which is most likely the industry standard tools that mentioned in the original question.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:35 AM on April 13, 2007


Open-sourced Flash competitors: Some are good, but none offer the feature set and compatibilty of Flash itself.

Gimp instead of Photoshop: A robust application, requires a very long relearning curve, and antagonistic to nonprogrammers trying to perform complex tasks. Fails to do some things Photoshop can do. Does not properly handle Photoshop CS2 files.

When a client asks for Dreamweaver/Contribute compatibility you'll have to manually construct the template files and DW-instruction comments in the HTML files.

And so on. You will eventually embarass yourself by telling a client you can't do for them what one of your competitors can do.

The reason Open Office works so well for you is that you don't depend on it to generate your end product. And with the existence of fully-fledged open-source applications and environments in other fields (gcc, emacs, and so on), it's tempting to assume that graphical applications are close as well. Unfortunately they're not.

If you're begrudging three grand per desk for every eighteen-month product cycle, that amounts to (40 working hours * 75 working weeks) one pound per desk per hour. Increase your rates accordingly. And measure your response when a client tries to beat down the price of the software you're writing for them.

I'm not totally down on using free software. In fact, I've been auditioning Aptana lately, and it looks very promising, although it needs generous screen real estate.
posted by ardgedee at 6:56 AM on April 13, 2007


Sorry for the side question, but maybe it's relevant -- is there some kind of list/documentation detailing what Photoshop can do that Gimp doesn't currently do?
posted by amtho at 7:09 AM on April 13, 2007


[biased, since I'm in the software business]

If you are being asked to pay $3K for flash, dreamweaver, and photoshop, you are being ripped off. Let's run the numbers again:

CS2 creative suite $900. (if you whine, cdw will discount it thus)
Macromedia suite $900.
total: $1800
life of software = 3 years.
annual cost of software per seat: $600.
hourly cost of developer's time: $20 (low for sake of argument)
hourly overhead: (insurance, rent, hardware, training, cost of hiring, etc.): $10.

So buying name brand is a break even proposition if it saves 20 hours a year. Assuming a 2000 hour year, you break even if the name brand tools are 1% more efficient than the open source competition. Anything over that is gravy.

That, to me, is a no-brainer.

[/biased, since I'm in the software business]
posted by mrbugsentry at 7:12 AM on April 13, 2007


Paint.NET is an excellent little "photo editing" tool, but it can be used for a lot more. For most of the web stuff I do, it works. Really depends on what level of graphic design there is involved though.
posted by purephase at 7:18 AM on April 13, 2007


Are you really going to take Photoshop from your designers hands?!

That seems like that would hurt your talent pool i.e. be pennywise and pound foolish.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:33 AM on April 13, 2007


Also, Inkscape. It's basically the open source equivalent of Adobe Illustrator.. but lots of people use Photoshop for things they should really be using Illustrator for, so it's worth keeping in mind. It has good Windows builds too.
posted by wackybrit at 7:45 AM on April 13, 2007


If you are being asked to pay $3K for flash, dreamweaver, and photoshop, you are being ripped off. Let's run the numbers again:

CS2 creative suite $900. (if you whine, cdw will discount it thus)
Macromedia suite $900.


Unfortunately, UK list prices are simply more expensive. The new CS3 Web Premium lists at £1,195 before tax, which is about $2,350. The US list price is $1,599.
posted by chrismear at 7:45 AM on April 13, 2007


Unfortunately, UK list prices are simply more expensive. The new CS3 Web Premium lists at £1,195 before tax, which is about $2,350. The US list price is $1,599.

This is stopping me from upgrading and is a reason why this question is of interest. Adobe are completely ripping off the UK buyers which is why I had a look round myself.

Anyone know if you can get an international English version from the US and bring it over with you? Could get a "free" holiday out of that one
posted by twistedonion at 7:57 AM on April 13, 2007


So, WHY are the international prices higher? Is there an official statement from Adobe about this? Is there any discernable reason for the price difference?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:59 AM on April 13, 2007


Anyone know if you can get an international English version from the US and bring it over with you?

I don't know if you can get a version in the U.S. that has colour spelled with a U or not. But at these prices, who cares? You can bring it back to the UK, but you might have to pay VAT and duty.

So, WHY are the international prices higher?... Is there any discernable reason for the price difference?

Prices in the UK are almost always higher. The most important reason is that it is what the market will bear. People will pay higher amounts so why would a business sell for less?

Costs are higher as well, though. For one thing, everyone else charges more, so doing business in the UK (in order to set up support and distribution channels) will cost more because they have to pay the same higher prices to others. The additional regulatory protections for customers probably makes selling goods and services more expensive. Finally, you don't have the same economies of scale as in the bigger North American market.
posted by grouse at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2007


As an aside, the U.S. price for a software upgrade of the CS3 Web Premium suite is $500, not $1600. If you've already got this software, the cost burden is considerably less onerous than you claim.
posted by ardgedee at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2007


Is there an official statement from Adobe about this? Is there any discernable reason for the price difference?

From the Register:
An upgrade to Creative Suite 3 Design Premium from CS2.3 costs an American $471.90 with Californian sales tax. The exact same upgrade in the UK costs £546.38, equivalent to $1080.31 as of going to press. That's a markup of almost 130%, significantly beyond the usual price-doubling that Brits have reluctantly come to expect.

When contacted regarding all this, Adobe said: “We set pricing in each market based on customer research, local market conditions and the cost of doing business ... the EU has 10 major languages, 4 major currencies ... the costs of doing business in European markets are significantly higher per unit of revenue than in the US.
posted by twistedonion at 9:21 AM on April 13, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was all ready to buy CS3 here in the UK myself and even put aside some money for it, but two things put me off.. firstly, they announced it just after the end of the tax year (total idiocy, everyone likes to spend their profits before new tax year!!), and secondly.. they're reaming us. I'm looking to go over to open source solutions when the current stuff gets old myself.
posted by wackybrit at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2007


The exact same upgrade in the UK

Since it's in the UK doesn't that mean it's not the exact same? and thus is the cost coming from the fact that Adobe, an American company, codes in USA English and then converts to other languages and has to test the versions in said languages?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2007


Brandon: That's some of the cost. Other costs are listed in both my and twistedonion's comments.
posted by grouse at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2007


Since it's in the UK doesn't that mean it's not the exact same? and thus is the cost coming from the fact that Adobe, an American company, codes in USA English and then converts to other languages and has to test the versions in said languages?

You know, for a $600 saving, I'd put up with colour being spelt as color.
posted by bonaldi at 12:14 PM on April 13, 2007


Pretty sure that it's the same software with all language options included wherever you buy it, although the CS3 downloadable versions are region-locked in some way.

I'm in the UK and just bought Creative Suite 2 from Amazon US. Yes I know it's a version old, but it was my last chance to upgrade to the suite from the ancient Photoshop 5.5. Saved a fair amount after import tax and shipping paid.

I don't think price differences that large can sustain.
posted by elliot100 at 1:00 PM on April 13, 2007


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