In this post I will share some apps which I find very useful in my everyday work and that I use (or have used) as an alternative to one of Adobe’s applications.
When doing UI Design work I rely on a tool that allows me to mock up interfaces and create graphical elements in both vector and raster/bitmap formats. Adobe Fireworks was perfect for this and it was my most used application in the Adobe suite. I started to use Fireworks in early 2000 when it was part of Micromedia and I grew quite fond of it. Adobe had acquire Fireworks back in 2005 as part of the Micromedia acquisition. Then in mid 2013 they announced that Fireworks was going to be phased out and no longer supported, except for some security updates and bug fixes. This left many loyal Firework fans, including myself, with a dent in their hearts and forced them to either migrate to Photoshop, Illustrator or other alternative to accomplish their Web Design work.
Being reluctant to use Photoshop for UI work I decided to see what else is out there that can be faster, leaner, and more focused for Web/UI work. So that’s when my search for a Fireworks replacement began and along the way I found other gems that I have started to use for my work and have served as a replacement to one of Adobe’s products.
So here is the list of the alternatives apps I have found that are so good at what they do that they definitely deserve your attention, especially if you have been secretly trying to break free from Adobe.
Fireworks (Fw) → Sketch
Fireworks has proven a hard application to replace due to its unique set of features. Fireworks made life so much easier for UI/UX designers to create mockups, wireframes, and prototype all with one tool. UX/IU Designer and long time Fireworks user Mike Locke describes it best in his video about Fireworks. When Adobe decided to sunset Fireworks I was motivated to search for that one app that can handle the work that Fireworks did so well. After some sleepless nights and some long hours on research I finally found one that met my needs, and it is called Sketch. I have been using Sketch now for about a year and it has become the go-to app for all my UI work. Although it may lack some of the advanced features that Fireworks provided it more than makes up in other areas. Sketch has an easy to use interface, it is fast, and it is super extensible via a huge plugin library. Especially noteworthy is InVision’s Craft plugin which makes Sketch even more powerful and a real time saver for UI/UX designers. It will not be long before Sketch exceeds Fireworks capabilities.
Another noteworthy alternative to Fireworks is Affinity Designer and Graphic from Autodesk.
I must say that Xd is a noteworthy tool and one that I have been paying attention to since the beta release. It is my hope that Adobe will evolve this application into what Fireworks used to be but even better. But so far that has yet to happen and although the tool is still in beta it looks like Adobe’s plan for Xd is to make it a light weight UI design tool and have it more focused on the fast prototyping feature.
As an alternative I think the Craft plugin for Sketch would be an good choice. InVision will soon release this feature for the plugin making it super easy to do prototypes inside of Sketch. Check out Ran Segall’s review of the Craft plugin prototype feature here. For the moment my prototyping tool of choice is Principle. But I have also used Marvel and InVision for some projects. Both Marvel and InVision are web based SaaS applications and both offer a free account with limited projects which is good enough for me at this time.
Photoshop (Ps) → Affinity Photo
Photoshop has been my go to application for anything involving image manipulation and retouching, but after discovering Affinity Photo I have haven’t had the need to use it much. Every feature I was using in Photoshop is pleasantly found in Affinity Photo and many of them can be done at 2x the speed (sometimes faster!). The application is super fast and the tools set are well laid out. To me it is a joy to use compare to Photoshop so I find myself going back to it over and over again.
Another noteworthy alternative to Photoshop is Pixelmator.
Illustrator (Ai) → Affinity Designer
My second favorite Adobe application after Fireworks is Illustrator. Illustrator can handle any vector work you throw at it. So it is no surprise that it is one of the most (if not the most) widely use vector program in the world. But when I came across Affinity Designer I started to pay attention. Once I took Affinity Designer for a drive it gave me goose bumps. The application can handle many of the tasks I was performing in Ai with ease and at 2x the speed. I have been impressed with Affinity Designer and now it is a welcome addition to my toolkit.
Other noteworthy alternatives to Illustrator are Graphic from Autodesk and Inkscape.
DreamWeaver (Dw) → Pinegrow
I started to use Dreamweaver at around the same time as Fireworks. As someone who was just starting out in Web Design, it was a dream to be able to use this program as it allowed you to design visually. It made it so easy to drag elements to a blank canvas and be able to visually see how the structure was being built. After some years I discovered that there were just too many feature I was not using in Dreamweaver and started to look for lighter and faster tools that had just what I needed to get the job done. Notepad++ and Brackets were amongst the tools in my toolkit at certain points in time. Right now, I love using Atom for any coding tasks. But Atom does not allow you the convenience of dragging elements to a ‘canvas’ and built something ‘fast’ visually. That’s when Pinegrow came in to fill the gap. Pinegrow has so many useful features that I would not do it justice on this short section. I will encourage you to check out their website and see how this tool can save you time, especially if you are a Bootstrap and/or WordPress developer. It will also integrate nicely with Atom.
A noteworthy alternative is Scarlet (not yet released). Ever since I got acquainted with Macaw this is what I had hoped Macaw would eventually evolved to. So when Scarlet was announced, I thought my prayers were answered. But it has been a while since Scarlet was announced and very little info is released about its progress. It has since been acquired by InVision and I am not sure what the future holds for this project. I do hope they continue development and delight us with a release date in the near future.
Muse (Mu) → Webflow
I never got into Muse or have used it for any projects so far. I hear new features are constantly rolling out and I have read that Adobe has big plans for Muse to make it the best tool for designers that prefer to stay away from code. But I think Webflow is far ahead in this category. It is the best tool I have come across that allows you to build a completely custom website without writing a single line of code. In Webflow you cannot just drag elements on the page and move them around freely as you would do in Muse. Rather, you actually drag elements to create the blocks that make up your page much like you would if you were hand coding the site and previewing it in a browser. Of course you will get much more out of the tool if you know HTML and CSS but even with just the basics you can still produce great results. The code that Webflow produces is ‘clean’ and of course this is based on how well you structure your pages and your use of semantic elements to identify your content. I have really enjoyed using Webflow ever since I heard Mike Locked and Ran Segall mention it on their Youtube channel. Check it out on Webflow.com.
Noteworthy alternatives: StackHive. This tool is similar to Webflow with the main difference being that you can access and edit the code, and it uses Bootstrap as its front-end framework.
Animate (Flash) → Hype Pro
When I think of Flash I think of Dave Werner’s student portfolio site, which is one of the best uses of Flash I have ever seen. I always thought it would be really cool to do a super cool multimedia rich website in Flash but by the time I got around to it Adobe announced a cool new Animation tool called Edge Animate. I became so acquainted with Edge that I decided to use it to do the FileFlux product demo website. Now Flash has been phased out or perhaps I should say ‘integrated’ into Adobe Animate, and the only tool I can think of that can match Animate’s capabilities is Hype Pro. I have been so impressed by Hype that I have been using it to develop my next product demo site for MusicZen. Check out Hype Pro if you want to see all the cool things you can do with this powerful web animation tool.
Premiere (Pr) & After Effects (Ae) → Hitfilm Pro
I decided to place these apps together because Hitfilm Pro is such a great tool that it allows you to not only edit your videos but also do some awesome compositions with very cool effects all in one single application. Although it may not be as mature as Premiere or After Effects and there are some file formats that are not yet supported (in the express version at least) I think Hitfilm is the best alternative in this category. Check out their site for some great resources on this really cool video editing and Fx program.
Noteworthy alternatives: Final Cut Pro with Motion make a great combo and alternative to Pr and Ae for those that own a MAC.
Adobe Captivate → Camtasia Studio
I want to mention an app that I use for all my screen recordings and screencasts and I think it is a good alternative to Adobe Captivate. I pair it with SnagIt for screen capturing and they are a joy to use.
Cloud Library → Lingo
Finally, I will like to mention this cool app I have been using to manage assets. Lingo is super handy and it allows you to store unlimited assets on the cloud for free on a personal account. As a solo freelancer you can’t ask for more. Check it out at lingoapp.com.
Well I hope this list was useful. These are the apps I have found to be able to lessen the need for me to reach for an Adobe application. I hope that this list has helped you in some way or another especially if you have been pondering less expensive options. If there are any programs that you think should be on this list please let me know in the comments.
Thanks for checking out this blog.