Affinity Publisher marks the end of a cycle for Serif. After years of producing distinctly second-class apps in the form of its PagePlus and PhotoPlus packages, Serif turned things around in 2015 with the launch of Affinity Designer, a vector illustration program that took on Adobe Illustrator at its own game. It worked, as later release Affinity Photo would go on to prove. Serif's Photoshop rival gained rave reviews, and both apps went on to spawn successful iPad editions.
Affinity Publisher, Serif's attempt to take down InDesign in the same way InDesign took down QuarkXpress, is more than a desktop publishing app - it ties the three programs in the suite together in an innovative way. That puts it high up our list of the best desktop publishing software packages right now.
Affinity Publisher Review: Layout and Publishing
Serif has clearly looked at the needs of designers when making Affinity Publisher. There's support for a plethora of image formats, including PSD and AI for Photoshop and Illustrator files, plus you can import PDFs as well as the more common JPEG and TIFF files.
In what feels like an improvement over the Adobe InDesign way of doing things, each object - be it an image, a block of text, or a graphic shape - occupies its own layer. These can be grouped together, but being able to select an object directly from the Layers palette makes precise repositioning much easier. No more desperately double-clicking or selecting "Next Object Below" from a menu because one image is buried beneath another.
Fonts are handled by OpenType, and flicking through the Font dropdown not only shows previews on the menu, but also on any text you have selected. Overall, the ap feels responsive in use, with no lag when you open the Fonts dropdown or nudge images around, text wrapping smoothly out of the way as you do.
Affinity Publisher Review: Features
Affinity Photo and Designer are split into Personas. These are dedicated modes for achieving a specific task: for example, Affinity Photo has Personas for raw image development, HDR image creation, and exporting images. Affinity Publisher's Personas are the other apps (as long as you have them installed). So you click on an image, then shift to the Photo Persona, and you can edit with Affinity Photo's tools directly in Affinity Publisher. Add an adjustment layer, clone out an unwanted background object, apply some sharpening - you can do it all without leaving your Publisher document. The same is true of the Designer Persona - tweak vector graphics without opening a second application.
It's a game-changing development, marking the end of round trips to Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, hoping the image updates properly when you get back into QuarkXpress or InDesign. It's seamless, and very clever. To achieve this, the three Affinity apps actually share a common file format. They're labelled differently to make sure they open in the right app when you double-click one, but all Affinity files should open in any Affinity app.
Should you buy Affinity Publisher?
If you're looking for a pro-level desktop publishing solution, and have no existing ties to Adobe or Quark, then you absolutely should. The apps retail for $50/£50 each, which is an absolute steal compared to QuarkXpress, which is several hundred dollars, or Adobe InDesign, whose subscription model means you'll get about three months' worth for the cost of the Affinity apps. Collecting the three apps to unlock Publisher's Personas gives you a complete creative suite, and while it might not be about to take down InDesign, the king of desktop publishing, this is exactly the sort of plucky new kid we like to see on this particular block.