If you are like me, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on tools for your Macintosh. When it comes to graphics manipulation, you hear the words Adobe Photoshop and in some cases Adobe Illustrator. They are indeed fine pieces of software, but the “Creative Suite” (currently version 5 at the time of this writing) costs an arm and a leg to obtain. You already have spent a good deal on your Macintosh system and if it is older, you are hopelessly outdated in the case of the new versions of the Adobe Products. What is a person to do?
This article is about some really cool alternatives that I have discovered, there is a comprehensive list of “must have” applications that I could recommend, but this article is going to highlight 4 of them and they are all under $100 each, in fact, if you buy all five, you will spend a total of $274.00 as opposed to $600.00 for Adobe CS5 Design Premium.
What are these apps and what are their counterparts?
- Adobe Photoshop is replaced by two apps: Pixelmator and Graphics Converter
- Adobe Illustrator is replaced by Sketch
- Dreamweaver is replaced by a much nicer app called Rapidweaver, can be more closely matched by adding TextMate which is a good “programmer’s editor”.
Time for a side note: What about open source? The answer is that there is nothing wrong with the open source solutions, for me personally, the graphics offerings do not work well in the Macintosh environment because they add overhead to your system by requiring X11 to run while they run. If the open source alternatives did not have this additional overhead, they are indeed the least expensive. I am focusing on low-cost alternatives here.
From Here I will summarize each application and give information on how to obtain trial versions to try them out for yourself.
First up, Pixelmator. This little graphics editor is gaining momentum. The cost is $59.99 from Smith Micro (or it is available at Microcenter in Overland Park, Kansas off the shelf). This software allows basic graphics editing and creation and is available as a trial from the UK team that wrote it. The trial can be downloaded at http://www.pixelmator.com. If you decide to bite the bullet and buy it, not a bad thing — then it is available immediately from shop.smithmicro.com.
Next is Graphics Converter. This program has been around since I bought my first Macintosh in 1995. It has deservedly gained the reputation of being the “Swiss Army knife” of graphics apps. I recommend getting this $39.99 gem in any case for quick work. It does resizing (though they call it “trim” where the industry calls this function “crop”), converting easily from one graphics format into another. Like Pixelmator, it supports a good deal of the formats that graphics are in. The trial for Graphics converter can be downloaded at http://www.lemkesoft.com and is currently at version 7.
We have covered bitmap graphics conversion and editing now, but what about Vector Graphics? For me, it is important to be able to edit Adobe Illustrator (.ai) files and so I chose BohemianCoding’s Sketch. This software allows you to work with vector graphics. It is the only suitable replacement that I have found for Adobe Illustrator. The cost is $40. The trial can be obtained at http://www.bohemiancoding.com.
These next two apps are only necessary if you want to do web based work. I think that the first one is a definite “must have” for anyone. That program is Rapidweaver. Rapidweaver allows you to create great websites without having to know anything about HTML code or CSS. The software trial also allows for 3 pages on a site without ever buying the software, but I am sure you will find that extremely limiting, so by all means, support the developers! Rapidweaver is the most expensive of the apps I am recommending here, setting you back $79.99. The trial for Rapidweaver can be downloaded from http://shop.smithmicro.com.
The final program on my list of Adobe CS replacements is a program called TextMate. This program is classified as a “programmer’s editor” which means it is a text editor which highlights code to separate it from text. This one is very cool adn very Macintosh like, though still maintaining a strict adherence to UNIX editing standards (the underpinnings of your Mac OS X based machine). This program is not necessary if you don’t plan to look at code, but if you do any coding on a website or script writing or even editing of files, it is not only a necessary utilitarian editor, but a very nice coding editor as well. All the power while still user friendly. The cost is $54 and the trial can be had by jogging over to http://macromates.com.
There you have it folks, Mike’s top 5 design applications that won’t break the bank!