Affinity Publisher: What I wish I’d known earlier

I recently downloaded a free ten-day trial of Affinity Publisher and used it instead of InDesign to lay out a 300 page manuscript. I liked the program so well I bought it, as well as its companion programs (“Photo” and “Designer”). I am no expert at page layout and book design, although I’ve done it for each of my books (about a dozen books total, some using Pagemaker, some Quark, some InDesign). While my frustrations are fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share a few things I learned after much googling and trial and error that would have simplified my life had I figured them out quicker.

1. Yes, Affinity can open InDesign files but ONLY if you first export them to InDesign Markup Language (IDML). This is easy to do, it’s built into InDesign, but you have to do it before you try to open the file in Affinity.

2. Affinity Photo apparently DOES open Photoshop files, and Affinity Designer DOES open Illustrator files, but I haven’t really tried them. Along with Affinity Publisher, the three programs work together in a cool way, as if they were a single program. I bought all three programs, even though I mostly use InDesign, because the total price was less than $200 with no subscription. Plus, Adobe’s “Creative Cloud” has been clogging up my computer. Since I never intentionally use the cloud, I’d like to eliminate the ap and the maddening notice that “Creative Cloud is needed to resolve this problem.”

3. Exporting to PDF. InDesign saves a pdf file using the file name, so after exporting you have one original file, and a second pdf file with the same name but the suffix pdf. Affinity Publisher replaces your original file with a pdf version. That isn’t what I wanted, so it surprised me. Now I save the file with a different name before exporting. So the original might be “Book.” After I tweak it I save it but also save it as a new file “Book2” which I export to pdf. Then I can return to “Book” to make more edits. This may be silly, because Affinity Publisher will open PDF files, but I just don’t know yet.

4. I wanted a page layout with letter-sized facing pages and a larger interior gutter so I could spiral bind it. No problem, it worked great. But when I sent the pdf to an Office Depot type printing company, it defaulted to printing two pages on each letter sized sheet. It was an easy fix, but I had to pay the printer for my ignorance. Here’s the fix: after I was done creating a file with facing pages (including bigger margins on the binding side of each page) and ready to export to pdf, I just went back to the document setup and unchecked “facing pages.” Worked great. If I had been sending it to a book printer, I would have set up the original pages differently, perhaps on 8.5 x 22” sheets.

5. Resizing photos in A. Pub. In my older (CS5) version of InDesign, when I added a photo to a document, I could resize it just by grabbing a corner and moving diagonally in or out. First time I tried that in APub, the photo did not remain proportionate. Turns out you select the photo, then go to “properties” to determine how resizing will behave. Only four choices, you check one, so it only took a few seconds to figure it out.

6. There are SO MANY online tutorials, both by Affinity and by others, that I now believe any confusion has already been addressed several times. Worth noting is that the company that makes the program is British, so sometimes the search words and terminology are a little different. Google would find “how to use the elevator” for example, but similar tutorials might be labeled “how to use the lift.” If I intended to spend a lot of time using the programs and wanted to look under the bonnet, I’d sure start by spending a weekend watching tutorials.

7. One disadvantage of APub over InDesign is that it can’t directly export to the mobi format for Kindle, or epub for the other readers. I think they didn’t want to make the program more complex and expensive, but it’s kind of a bummer. On the other hand, the free Calibre program can make the conversion for you, so unless you spend all day every day creating Kindle versions, it’s probably not a deal-breaker.

8. After watching a few video tutorials, I am stunned at the power of these programs and how easy they are to use. Part of my wide-eyed “Dorothy-in-Oz” amazement is that my own programs are old and out of date, and I never used all the features anyway. So watching experts fly around the screen changing boundary shapes, creating shortcuts and page templates felt like riding my bicycle to watch The Enterprise beam folks aboard.

Some graphic artist/book designers—who have used design programs for many years—have posted negative reviews. They say the Adobe programs contain more powerful features that Affinity can’t compete with. I’m sure they’re correct, and if you make a living as a designer, the subscription cost is probably well worth it. But for creating occasional brochures and business cards, and designing a few books per year, I think I’ll be happy with my one-time (less than) $200 investment. Especially compared to paying more than that every year for an Adobe subscription.


This is from my friend Paul Martin Beck, an author, musician, and moose aficionado:

“One addition here from personal experience: I got Affinity Designer (not Publisher, mind you) specifically because of its ability to open all of my old FreeHand documents. (I lament the death of FreeHand to this day.) It _does_ open FreeHand 10 documents, nothing earlier. But, and it’s a big butt, when it opens them it doesn’t include embedded images (e.g. TIFF files) that were placed in those documents. That makes it mostly useless for the one thing I really had hoped it would do.”


The company that makes Affinity is Serif. Here’s info from their website:


Roosters and Dinosaurs

Our new neighbors, a young couple expecting their first child any day, bought some baby chickens. One of them turned out to be a lad, who has grown into a proud rooster. He likes a spot near the fence that separates our properties, about 20 feet from our bedroom window. An ambitious bird, he believes one should start one’s day briskly at four am.

Sure, it’s both rude and illegal to maintain a rooster in our neighborhood, but I haven’t wanted to pester those kids when they’ve got parenthood on their minds. So I get up at about 4:10, sip coffee on the front porch as the sky lightens, and listen to that first bird of the rural morning crow with the confidence of a preacher outside a saloon. Gradually, other birds join in and, before it’s light enough to read a newspaper, an entire avian orchestra rejoices in frantic chaos.

If birds really did evolve directly from dinosaurs, it’s hard to imagine the early morning din of the primeval forest. Did my neighbors’ squawking rooster once inhabit a Tyrannosaurus Rex body with a syrinx (voice box) as big as a car? When he woke the jungle, did he roar and rumble notes deeper than those made by the largest pipes in a massive pipe organ? All the tweeting, chirping, whistling birds of today weren’t piccolos and flutes back then— they were bassoons and tubas and trombones. They were fog horns and sirens and Harley Davidsons. The lovely moss-draped forest we imagine was probably as noisy as Chicago in a bad mood.

A few years ago, Jack Horner published an interesting book called “How to Build a Dinosaur.” He postulated that animals retain all their old DNA as they evolve, with different genes turned on and off. In theory, he says, we could “turn on” the latent dinosaur DNA in a chicken embryo and recreate those charming critters.

Listening to the morning bird racket from my porch, I wonder if the language of the great lizards survives today in their feathered descendants, passed down from generation to generation, only now transposed a few octaves higher. If we slowed down a recording of modern birds, lowered its pitch dramatically, and amplified it to the level of a rock concert, would we be listening to ancient songs and stories composed in the Jurassic swamps? If we could translate them, I wonder what poetry the roosters and robins might sing to an irritated and dilapidated old mammal sipping coffee on his porch?


Here’s an interesting article by Jacqueline Ronson about chickens and dinosaurs:

Alabama Election

It would be a mistake to elect an Iranian ayatollah in America. Not because he looks different or because he’s Muslim, but because he believes that his religious beliefs supersede his obligation to the U.S. Constitution. America works because we all agree to obey a set of laws enacted under the Constitution, even when we disagree with some of those laws. Continue reading →

The Candidates and Their Issues

hanging-chad-guy-570x430I thought it would be fun to compare the presidential candidates’ opinions on the important issues of the day. It would be easy, I foolishly thought, because each one has an “issues” page on their website. (direct links at the end of this post). I’d compare their positions on things like “education” and “national defense” etc. Then I’d whip up a quick, concise comparison that would clarify my own thoughts and make me sound smart when I argue with relatives. Continue reading →

Can I name my new van Tonto?

Naming vehicles is silly. On the other hand, I’ve named blank sheets of paper for a long time, and occasionally make money at it. I named one ream of blank paper “Jumper.” Others pages became Belinda, Marcus, Malcom, Billy Billy Billy, The Magician who was learning electronics, Miss Pounder the exercise instructor who inadvertently taught math, Bruce the Duck who saved the day, the evil Nightsmoke, Pon, Braindead the Algebra Student, and many more. Naming things is kind of what I do. Continue reading →

Cicada Songs, Ebola Dreams

I’ve read several popular books about diseases recently: Rabid, The Hot ZoneSmallpoxDisease, Spillover, and  Deadly Outbreaks. More books on a single topic than usual, but not with any project in mind. It just happened, the way it happens to folks who start to read books by Michael Connelly or Rex Stout. Several focussed on diseases that leap from animals to humans (“zoonotic” diseases). No curious person could resist daydreaming about some of the unsolved mysteries one encounters when reading about diseases like Ebola and Marburg. You play detective in your brain and then you almost certainly come up with your own crackpot theory, just like I did. Continue reading →