CS3: Best way to be creative?

I’m Nathan Chapman, Guest Blogging on Clazh from Pixl Design.

Adobe’s Creative Suite is one of the best productivity products of, perhaps, all time. And yet, does it really serve to be the perfect product for everyone?

Adobe Logo
With Adobe’s not-too-recent acquisition of Macromedia, the next release of a Creative Suite would be sure to include Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks. CS3 sure did, but at a cost: over AU$2,000 (US$1,500) and that’s just for Dreamweaver, Illustrator and Photoshop! For both Macromedia and Adobe’s Products, you would fork out AU$4,445 (US$1,399). There just has to be a better way!

Luckily, there is. There are several open-source and shareware/freeware options out there.


  • The Gimp is a open-source “photo manipulation program”. With excellent flexibility, loads of plugins and a interface that looks suspiciously similar to the real thing, The Gimp is an excellent alternative to Photoshop.
  • Paint.NET, which utilises the Microsoft .NET Framework to create a stable, lightweight app with nearly every major function the home user could want, from a Lasso tool to Gaussian blur. The interface is completely familiar, with the added benefit of translucent panels that make it easy to see what’s going on when the windows get cluttered. Paint.NET doesn’t yet support RAW format, however, which certainly limits its range.


  • The only major free competitor for this vector image editing program is Inkscape, again open-source, which is very responsive and extensible. Easily a very good, well written program. Sure, it looks a bit different, but when it comes down to it, Inkscape’s interface is still very easy to use.

Adobe Acrobat

  • Adobe’s Own free version of Acrobat. Mind you, it’s laggy and is for viewing pdf files only.
  • Foxit Reader is the pdf viewer that I personally use, and is very compatiable with different forms of pdf files. It also has basic editing tools, and may, in the future, come with a built-in OCR software.


  • Nvu is an excellent, intuitive program that I was using at one point. The interface is very clean, and Nvu can (like Dreamweaver) edit in WYSIWYG or code view. The produced code is very clean and user-firendly, validates and uses CSS.
  • RapidWeaver, (Mac only) is very similar to Apple’s own iWeb software in both its looks and designs. The code produced is valid, although not as nice-looking as Dreamweaver or Nvu.
  • Edit

  • Notepad ++ is an extraordinarily useful replacement for Note pad. However, its main feature (for me) is that it supports automatic code highlighting, enabling it to be a replacement for Dreamweaver’s Code View. Open-source, useable and light-weight, Notepad ++ is perfect for coders (it supports many languages, Python, HTML, CSS, C, C+ etc etc).

Summing Up

Here are the best alternative that I would use to replace the Creative Suite. However, with these programs, you don’t get the “combined” interface that CS3 has, and there are not (due to licensing restrictions) alternatives for every product.

Me? I use CS3 (a legal copy; remember, pirates are losers) and because I could afford it, I prefer it to these Alternatives.

8 Responses

@nathan great list of alternatives. I would have added Notepad ++ ;) too but I guess most people wouldn’t approve of that.

I love Notpad ++! How would they not approve. It’s perfect editing almost any text file, from php, to Trillian’s stixe code :)

I quite agree, i can’t believe that I overlooked notepad ++. I’ll just add it to the list now!
Thanks for the reminder.

Just read this article on Gimp coming up with 2.4.0 … Read it at http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=NTkyMw

A little note on InkScape: when browsers all become scalable vector graphics compatible, it will be possible to create your entire page using scalable vector graphics. This is no big deal for most of the world, but it is a pretty big deal for groups who divide programming and design into two groups. The designer could use inkscape (or other SVG programs) to make a mock-up of the final page, then the programmer could put the inkscape-generated information (in XML format) to make a page (using PHP, AJAX, etc.) without having to worry about cross-browser compatibility, screen resolution of the person reading the page, window size, etc. With SVG, everything would just shrink or grow to fit into the browser window as customized by the end user.
If the mock-up is intended to be vertically scrolled, the scaling could be based on the width of the display window. If you want your page to be vertically and horizontally scrolled when it does not fit the window, this would not add much of a benefit to the final page appearance, but it would still make the programmer’s job much easier if the designer wants the end page to look exactly the same on all browsers and computers. Reportedly, it will also aid in accessibility for blind people but I don’t know whether that was based on making text items separable for the programmers or if bump displays and audio scrapers were able to decode the SVG/XML. (I’m guessing that the bump displays are already being sold with SVG functionality.)

Ahh yes, notepad++, my favorit, all you need really – except firefox and CS3. I (btw) really like the new interface in CS3, got use to it after a few hours.

On a keynote, a minor typo ? extroardinarily / extraordinarily ?

@Ken Comer. Wow. Wouldn’t that be nice to have SVG supported, and to design like that.


@Torben. Thanks for pointing out my typo in this post.


for vector graphics xara for linux is also open source and in my opinion a little bit better then inkscape.