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:


5 replies on “Affinity Publisher: What I wish I’d known earlier”

  1. Marsha Swenson says:

    Now retired, but still actively creating page layouts, I’ve been a PageMaker (windows) user since it was born, even for word processing. Microsoft no longer allows importing it on my now dead computer’s replacement. I purchased Affinity because it looks like the best replacement, but it would be helpful to have a chart or something that shows command/command replacements. Does such a thing exist? And after many failed attempts to at least get text from old PageMaker files, I’m begging for some way to do that.

    • Kenn says:

      Wish I could help, but it’s been decades since I used Pagemaker, and I’m a Mac guy besides. Serif, the company that makes Affinity has a number of helpful videos, and at least one “manual” ( that might be helpful. There are a ton of videos that explain individual features. I just google my problem and can often watch two or three short videos that help a lot. As to rescuing your Pagemaker text, I wonder if you could find someone who still uses the program, have them open your files and save them as text-only files? Maybe on some Adobe forum? Good luck.

  2. Eversorich says:

    Thanks for the article. I now own an m² iPad Pro and since leaving the graphic design world, only use design software now and again for my business — point being my design hardware is no longer a desktop device. It’s not worth my investment to continue using Adobe CC so I’ve been searching for a non-subscription alternative and Affinity looks promising. Good stuff.

  3. Dan says:

    Nice write up. Affinity’s software is pretty great, with some things I wish I could change, but definitely better for me than Adobe and their price.

    About saving a PDF: “Save” can only create an .afpub file. Whereas “Export” gives the option to create a .pdf—along with other options such as jpg and png. The design of how it works, and my experience, is you can’t export to PDF and have it replace the .afpub file. Only guess I have is you may have saved the .afpub to a different location than you realized, and when you exported a PDF to the location you thought the original file was you perceived it to have replaced the .afpub file—and thus the original .afpub file still exists just in another file on your computer. Or maybe something else happened, but what you describe isn’t how it is designed to work.

    Resizing Photos: If you press a modifier key—Shift or Command—while grabbing the corner or side of a photo, it changes how the photo resizes, whether by stretching, or proportionally with the corner anchored, or proportionally from the center. For me, grabbing the corner to resize—with no modifier key—keeps the proportions. Perhaps the “properties” setting you mentioned is a setting I changed in the past that made it work this way, but just now, in a quick attempt to figure it out, I did not find it. Can you explain how to change it?

    • Kenn says:

      Thanks for the comment. Since writing this post, I also learned to resize using the shift command and no longer recall how I got it to do that. Sorry. As to saving a pdf, I got in the habit of exporting but changing the name just a bit, so it hasn’t been an issue.

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