Best Adobe InDesign alternatives of 2022: Free and paid DTP software

Publishing
(Image credit: Shutterstock / McLittle Stock)

Finding the best Adobe InDesign alternatives is a designer’s dream. 

For creatives who enjoy the advanced features offered by Adobe’s top layout design app but either need industry-specific tools or to avoid subscriptions, it might seem like there are few good alternatives to Adobe Indesign. After all, when it comes to the best desktop publishing software, Adobe’s offering sets the standard. 

The page layout tool comes packed with templates, tools, and fonts - and an effortless user experience - that streamline the design of printed assets. So, if you’re in the market for new software for designing magazines, flyers, posters, and even books, the best Adobe InDesign alternatives need to meet a high standard. 

To try the app yourself, see our guide How to download Adobe InDesign.  

However, Adobe’s popular desktop publishing program has its critics, with users citing the Creative Cloud subscription-only tool and a cluttered interface as major issues. For those not used to working in the Adobe ecosphere, alongside tools like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro, it can undeniably take some getting used to. 

If Adobe’s offering isn’t chiming with you, we’ve tested, reviewed, and rated the best Indesign alternatives to help you create eye-catching designs and publications.

Best desktop publishing software

Adobe InDesign CC (opens in new tab)

Adobe InDesign is our top pick for best desktop publishing software. The layout design app offers pro designers industry-grade features for making magazines, books, brochures, and digital assets with a professional polish.  

Which alternative to InDesign is best? 

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Affinity Publisher

(Image credit: Serif)
Best subscription-free alternative to InDesign

Reasons to buy

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Feature-rich
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Cheap and subscription-free
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Intuitive layout makes designing easy

Reasons to avoid

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No footnotes or endnotes
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No support for GREP-based styles

Affinity Publisher (opens in new tab) is an affordable substitute for designers. With a low, one-off purchase, it's one of the best Adobe InDesign alternatives for those dodging subscription plans.

With a layout that’s lighter and more intuitive than InDesign, Affinity Publisher makes it easier to find the tools that you need. 

That easy user interface doesn’t mean the desktop publishing software lacks functionality. Whether you’re designing for print media or the web, you’ll find an extensive range of features to help you design what’s in your head on the screen. These include a smart color picker and a really useful preflight checker.

However, it’s not entirely on par with Adobe InDesign. There’s no support for footnotes or endnotes, for example. That could pose a major problem for many book publishers unwilling to engage in clunky workarounds. Nor is there support for GREP-based and nested styles, which many InDesign users rely on. 

As far as the best InDesign alternatives go, Affinity Publisher matches most major features. The clean UI is a delightful experience for those frustrated by InDesign’s busy interface. An accessible price-point makes it ideal for designers working to tight creative budgets and tight deadlines.

Read our full Affinity Publisher review

CorelDRAW

(Image credit: Corel)
Best all-in-one Adobe Indesign alternative

Reasons to buy

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Publishing, illustration, and image editing in one app
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Efficient layout tools
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Smooth performance

Reasons to avoid

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High price

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite (opens in new tab) is a complete illustration and design package. 

One reason InDesign is a popular choice is its seamless integration with Adobe’s other Creative Cloud editing apps. Corel packs that toolset into a single app, making it one of the best alternatives to Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator - all in one. And without the sprawling subscription fees, either. 

While perhaps best known for its illustration side, CorelDRAW’s publishing features are just as powerful. You’ll find in-depth layout and typography tools here, and the 2021 release added a multipage view that simplifies the organization and movement of assets between pages.

The slick interaction between various creative aspects of the suite makes CorelDRAW a particularly good InDesign alternative for creative professionals who want to design print or web content with bespoke illustrations. 

Corel’s top DTP software runs quite efficiently, with separate versions designed for best performance on Windows and Mac, and extensive file compatibility.

But a comprehensive design suite commands a comprehensive price: a one-off $859/£659 or an annual subscription of $269/£319. It’s a sharp hit that could prove more affordable than an Adobe subscription in the long-run. 

Note that the one-time purchase doesn’t include access to any future updates, whereas the subscription does. Companies also face a further fee for Corel software maintenance that’s tied to all business licenses. 

Read our full CorelDRAW review

Microsoft Publisher

(Image credit: Microsoft)
Best InDesign alternative for beginners

Reasons to buy

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Beginner-friendly
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Familiar MS interface

Reasons to avoid

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Basic feature set
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Windows only
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Subscription required

Microsoft Publisher (opens in new tab) is an accessible layout designer with a broad reach but low on features. It’s a long-serving member of the company’s office software suite, alongside Word, Excel, Powerpoint. 

If you’re familiar with the Microsoft stable, it’s one of the best Adobe Indesign alternatives, as it features the same ‘second-nature’ interface found across all Microsoft 365 apps (and yes, unfortunately, Publisher does require a Microsoft 365 subscription).

When it comes to professional-level features, the magazine-making software can’t stand up to the likes of Adobe InDesign. 

Layout and typography tools are much less flexible. There are no numeric transform controls. No in-depth color management tools. For users familiar with a feature-rich toolkit, the list can feel endless. 

Publisher is worth considering if you’re a design beginner or small business looking to produce marketing documents. Experience is no barrier with this desktop publishing tool. 

It’s a smooth, hassle-free app, and it’s easy to get started without having to learn too many technical skills. 

Read our full Microsoft Publisher review

QuarkXPress

(Image credit: Quark)

4. QuarkXPress

Best old-school alternative to InDesign

Reasons to buy

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Good features for print and web design
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Built-in image editing tools

Reasons to avoid

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Premium pricing

QuarkXPress (opens in new tab) used to wear the ‘best desktop publishing software’ crown. First released in 1987, it hit peak popularity in the 90s. And despite Adobe stealing the program’s thunder (and crown) in recent years, the program still receives regular updates and remains a powerful alternative to InDesign.

It’s a versatile tool, effortlessly handling print materials like books and magazines. It also enables you to create web content optimized for desktop and mobile devices. With a large set of effects and image editing tools, you get in-depth control over all aspects of your design. 

The built-in image editing and illustration tools are a welcome touch, helping to keep workflows within one app. They are similar to the ones that you’d find in Photoshop and Illustrator, though lacking the depth of either. 

The biggest downside is the price: QuarkXPress has a one-off fee of $699/£517 or an annual subscription of $249/£184. 

Design veterans and Quark-driven business will be happy to invest - and it’s money well-spent. This is one of the best InDesign alternatives out there, with the reputation and heritage to back it up. But with most competitors more affordably priced, it can be difficult to justify the cost.

Scribus

(Image credit: Scribus)
Best free alternative to Adobe InDesign

Reasons to buy

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Open-source
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Most functions of paid equivalents
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Great color management tools

Reasons to avoid

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Can’t import other DTP software’s file formats

Open-source desktop publishing tool Scribus (opens in new tab) is easily the best free InDesign alternative for designers on a budget. 

Considering it’s free, Scribus stands up well against its competitors. Though it’s unlikely to ever be as powerful or in-depth as InDesign or QuarkXPress, it does have almost all the features that you’d expect in its paid-for equivalents. 

A particular highlight is the software’s color management tools, such as color separations, CMYK, and a color blindness simulation mode to make your designs more accessible. It also features extensive PDF support and direct editing of vector drawings. 

The interface is similar to InDesign, so it’s easy to navigate but the toolset can be harder to master. For beginners, there are several templates to get you started. A passionate developer community has blossomed around Scribus, so it sees regular updates and support. 

It’s a great tool for designing magazines, brochures, newspapers, and books. The only real downside is that you can’t import files made in other programs, such as InDesign or Quark.

Read our full Scribus review

Xara Page & Layout Designer

(Image credit: Xara)

6. Xara Page & Layout Designer

Best InDesign alternative for beginners on a budget

Reasons to buy

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Empty List

Reasons to avoid

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Empty List

Xara Page & Layout Designer (opens in new tab) is a really accessible desktop publishing program for those new to designing digital documents. 

The interface is simple to get around, and easing you on your way are a selection of ready-made templates. So, even if you’re a complete beginner, you’ll be using the software to design magazines, brochures, and business cards in no time. 

However, the feature list is shorter than InDesign’s. Quite a lot shorter. That’s going to limit the tool’s appeal for professional designers and advanced users who will find Xara fine for quick tweaks and edits, but will otherwise rapidly outgrow it.

For everyone else, Page & Layout Designer is a welcoming introduction to designing magazines and printed assets. 

The price, too, makes the Indesign alternative an attractive offer for creatives on a budget. A one-off $89.99/£49.99 cost, or as part of the Xara Designer Pro+ subscription plan, which bundles the desktop publishing software with a photo editor and website designer that reviewed very well.  

Screenshot of Lucidpress in action

(Image credit: Future)

7. Lucidpress

Best alternative to InDesign in your browser

Reasons to buy

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Easy to use
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Great for beginners
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Design in your browser

Reasons to avoid

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Lack of features
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Not always stable in browsers

Lucidpress (opens in new tab) is a DTP tool that works in your browser. That should immediately clue you into how powerful this layout designer is: not very. But don’t write it off just yet - especially if you have little experience in publishing. 

The drag-and-drop interface lets you easily design digital assets and print materials like flyers, newsletters, and brochures. And to give your publications the personal touch, you can import, embed and share designs through integrations with Google Analytics, Dropbox, Slack, Facebook, and YouTube. 

Lucidpress lacks the impressive feature list of other alternatives to InDesign (and even InDesign itself). This isn’t a top-flight desktop publishing tool - but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to act as an accessible entry point for beginners and those who don’t need to spend hours working up designs.

You can sign up for a limited free account that’s really more of a free trial than anything else. Extra features are unlocked with the Pro, Team, and Business monthly subscription plans. 

How to choose the best Adobe InDesign alternative for you

Choosing which InDesign alternative is best starts with understanding what you’re trying to avoid with Adobe - interface, costs, workflow, or something else. Look at where each software sub mirrors or diverges from Adobe’s top DTP tool. 

If you’re new to digital desktop publishing, try an alternative for beginners - simple user interfaces don’t always mean losing out on powerful tools. If you’re an adept designer, select a feature-rich program like Affinity Publisher that lets you innovate even without Adobe. 

It’s worth factoring in the pricing model. You can still find alternatives to Creative Cloud subscriptions, while others offer one-time purchases. High-quality free alternatives to InDesign are available, only Scribus really delivers on its promise as software for designing magazines. 

Most importantly, choose the software that perfectly chimes with your creative workflow.

How we test the best alternatives to Adobe InDesign

When we test the best InDesign alternatives, we’re assessing how closely - or differently - the DTP software matches Adobe’s toolset and performance. 

The very best alternatives to InDesign must pack in plenty of features, to compete with the industry powerhouse - necessary when crafting professional page layouts. We’re looking for a broad range of powerful tools, how well they’re implemented, and how well they deliver on their promise. 

But we also recognize that some alternatives provide more of an entry point to desktop publishing. In those cases, we test how easy it is for digital design tool beginners to get started.

One reason why Adobe products dominate the creative market is the simple, intuitive interface. Designers of all skill-levels have the potential to master InDesign, and we measure all alternatives against that effortless user experience.

Find out more about how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar.  

Kieron Moore is a freelance writer based in Manchester, England. He contributes to Future sites including TechRadar and Creative Bloq, focusing on subjects including creative software, video editing, and streaming services. This work draws on his experience as an independent filmmaker and an independent TV watcher.