A new version of Serif's Affinity Publisher layout application addresses most of the shortcomings of the V1.8 version about which columnist Kevin Slimp wrote enthusiastically in November.
While Slimp warned users not to "jump off the InDesign or Quark ship right away", he says those who have the onetime US$50 (or less) product on test have been enthusiastic about what they've seen.
The V1.9 version - for which a beta has been available for some time - provides users with "almost all the tools they are used to using in InDesign and QuarkXpress, and a few more".
Slimp mentions a couple of areas where work may still be needed: "Affinity has recently added the ability to merge data from Microsoft Excel and other databases in Publisher documents, but having played with this feature for about two hours yesterday, and still don't feel like I've figured it out yet."
He says Publisher has the ability to create tables, "and they work fine", but the process requires more steps than tables in InDesign and QuarkXpress... although many designers rarely use these features in any case.
Additions and improvements since the November review see the PDF workflow working "very smoothly now", giving users the ability to let a PDF file 'passthrough' without any changes to the original or to open and edit the PDF file in Publisher. "Trust me, you will rarely, if ever, want to edit a PDF file from an advertiser, but the ability is there," he says.
Issues with paragraph styles, called 'Text Styles' in Publisher, have been fixed, as have earlier issues with guideline. "Frankly, as far as I can tell, everything is working as it should," he says.
Slimp reports half-price offers, 30-day versions, and a free update for those with version 1.8. A complementary (not complimentary!) Affinity Photo product allows photo editing while working on a page in Publisher.
"No way have I lost my love for Adobe products," says Slimp, who still leads webinars in advanced InDesign techniques. "My relationship with Adobe goes back a long way, but my love for the printed word is greater.
"For many newspapers, it might be a way to save hundreds of dollars each month, with no loss in productivity."
He's still advising publishers to get a copy of Affinity Publisher and have a designer begin working with it to create ads and report his/her findings. "Then, if/when the time is right, make the move to Affinity."
He points to the ability of IDMarkz to convert InDesign documents to Publisher, and says he "has a feeling it won't be long before a lot of newspapers and magazines will be creating pages and ads using Affinity Publisher.
"But there's no rush. Try it out, and see if it's for you and your staff, but in the meantime, don't get rid of your copies of InDesign and QuarkXpress."
Slimp will run a two-hour Affinity software webinar on March 5 at newspaperacademy.com.