In the publishing world, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop are hugely popular for layout and production while Microsoft Word is the premier choice for writers. However, these software (especially the Adobe Creative Suite) can be prohibitively expensive for content developers on a tight budget.

Another issue is getting locked in for a year with some products like Adobe Creative Suite. You might only need three months to get a manuscript ready for a Kindle book, but you’re now locked into a year’s contract (if you went for the cheaper price).

Thankfully, there are some great free alternatives for self-publishers or content developers in 2018. Some are open-source, some are mainstream, but all are free.
Default Software                       Alternatives
Microsoft Word (writing)              Google Docs,, Office Online, Zoho

Photoshop (image editing)            GIMP, Pixlr,, Kitra

Illustrator (Vector art)                    Inkscape, BoxySVG, Gravit, Vectr

InDesign (Manuscript Layout)     Scribus, Canva, LucidPress, Vivadesigner, (Your word processor)

InDesign (eBooks)                           Calibre, Sigil Ebook, PressBooks, Kindle Tools

Kindle Books

Not so much an alternative as a note. For creating books for Kindle, Amazon offers a variety of great tools and resources for free that you can use to create your manuscript. Most only require that you have your manuscript created in Microsoft Word or Google Docs so that you can import it into one of their tools, like Kindle Create. I would recommend these tools as the easiest way to create your Kindle manuscript and again, they’re free!

For simpler, text versions of books, use your word processor to create these types of files. These work especially great for ebooks. You simply upload your manuscript document, and they take care of the rest. Sometimes, simpler is better.

Access to Your Files Is Critical

It’s important to remember that not only do you need the software, but you also need access. Programs like Office Online allow you to create and share your documents. However, if you are writing on the road without wi-fi access, you will have to wait. Software with both online and desktop availability, like Google Docs, will ensure that you have access to your files no matter where you are.

Remember That Sometimes It’s Worth Paying

It’s also important to note that sometimes you may need specific software, despite it coming for a price. For example, Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for creating print and digital books and actually has less of a learning curve than some of the free alternatives. Purchasing access to just that one app may save you time and energy than trying a free alternative. You can also get an Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom package for just $9.99 per month, which is an excellent price if you need to spend a lot of time editing professional photos. Of course, these suggestions are based on your technical learning curve.

Looking for alternatives? Feel free to drop me a note and I’ll see how I can help.