Legitimate Free, Quality Alternatives to Adobe Products

Yes, Lightroom CAN be that bad…

I was reading a blog earlier today with yet another story of inexcusably horrific customer service from Adobe. Since Photoshop and their other products have a huge market share, Adobe tends to treat it’s customers with utter contempt. The post inspired me to go through multiple articles and links, and post the best alternatives to Adobe, their bad service and even worse prices. I worked on this post eight hours and found FREE alternatives to almost everything Adobe makes.

Almost everything I’m posting here is legitimately free, often open source coding based, and frequently just as good if not close to Adobe products in quality. Many of them are available in Linux, and Windows versions, sometimes Mac as well. I’ll note accordingly where I can. Many of them also have at least a few tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere also.

This will be a LONG post since Adobe has several products. Worth the read though if you’re paying $50 a month plus for access to the full Creative Cloud. Let’s get started.


GIMP: Probably the most well known alternative to Photoshop. Early versions were pretty crude with clumsy interfaces / controls. Newer versions are very close to Photoshop in every regard. Very much worth a look, and it has several tutorial videos and sites out there, even at it’s home site. Just search GIMP Tutorials. GIMP also comes in versions for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Unix-like machines.

GIMP Home Page and Download Page Links

Photopea: Is a cloud based photo editor. While not as nice as GIMP, it does do a fair amount, and is good for people using less powerful PCs. It’s good for people using the ChromeOS (ChromeBooks, etc...)

Photopea Home Page Link


Lightroom is a simplified photo editing program that allows applying filters and other effects quickly with professional results. There are alternatives however.

Darktable: Consistently named the best free alternative to Lightroom. It does everything, or nearly everything, that Lightroom does. The only drawback is a slightly less polished interface. Available for Windows, Mac, and multiple versions of Linux have custom versions. A fair number of tutorials available as well.

Darktable Home Page and Download Page Links

RawTherapee: Another Lightroom replacement with very similar features to Darktable. There are also a decent amount of tutorials out for this program, so for Mac and Windows users, it’s largely a matter of style / interface appearance. Linux users can download an Applmage version.

RawTherapee Home Page and Download Page Links


Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics program typically used for creating logos and other digital artwork.

Inkscape: Is a full featured vector graphics program with an impressive set of drawing tools and effects. It can do anything Illustrator can do. Some lists claim Inkscape’s interface is fairly dated, but it was recently overhauled a few months ago. Decide for yourselves. There are several tutorials out there but I’m not sure how well they carry over to the new release. Inkscape has Windows, Mac and Linux versions available.

Inkscape Home Page and Download Page Links

Vectr: A web based vector graphics “program” (site). It’s been described as sleek and responsive, with the ability to collaborate online on a project.

Vectr Home Page Link

Gravit Designer: A second impressive web based alternative to Illustrator and Inkscape. Said to be great for UI design.

Gravit Designer Home Page Link


Adobe Premiere is their video editing software, used by everyone from movie professionals to YouTubers and vloggers.

DaVinci Resolve 16: Full featured video editor that’s capable of even editing 8K definition videos. Professional quality and more than enough for the average YouTuber or video blogger. There is a paid version if you really want to go Hollywood level. Numerous tutorials available, which attests to it’s popularity as a substitute for Premiere. Mac, Windows and Linux versions available for download.

DaVinci Resolve 16 Home Page Link. Button in middle of home page will open a download window.

OpenShot: A little more basic than DaVinci, but still with a wide array of features that include adding as many layers as you need for watermarks, background videos, audio tracks, and so on. Features like video effects, slow motion and time effects are available on this tool. The program has a simple, clean interface, and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Plenty of tutorials available also

OpenShot Home Page and Download Page Links

HitFilm Express: Another full service video editor that promises to combine the best of Premiere and After Effects into one package. Some features are only available as paid add-ons though. Available for Windows and Mac, but not Linux. A goodly number of tutorials available for it as well

HitFilm Express Home Page (download link there) and Add-On Store Page Link (so you can see what’s a paid extra)


After Effects is for adding visual effects and motion graphics editing. Probably more advanced than most readers will deal with. None the less, there are options out there. Perhaps it’s best to say ONE option that’s free and isn’t tied to a specific video editor.

Natron: Most sites I searched listed this as “having the same basic features as After Effects”, for what that’s worth. SO, it might not be ideal for somebody producing the next Star Wars movie, but I imagine it will be fine for most other folks. It’s site has several community created plug-ins available also. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. As usual, plenty of tutorials are available via YouTube and elsewhere.

Natron Home Page Link (download available from home page)


Audition is Adobe’s sound editing program. I found three potential replacements here of varying complexity & features

Ardour: The closest thing to a match in terms of features, and capable of supporting almost any audio editing need. As with almost every program I’ve listed today, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Only a modest amount of tutorials, so it’s probably not suited for a rank novice, but if you’re familiar with sound editing already, the controls are very standard.

Ardour Home Page and Download Page Links

Audacity: Has been around 20 years with it’s latest version released last month. It at least comes close to Ardour in features level. With more tutorials available on YouTube and elsewhere, it may be better suited for somebody with less experience recording and editing audio. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and other platforms.

Audacity Home Page and Download Page Links

Sodaphonic: A more basic audio editor that’s web based, again making it ideal for people with older PCs or using Chromebooks. Availability of tutorials seems limited however. It should be capable of handling basic audio editing needs.

Sodaphonic Web Page


Animate, AKA Flash rebranded, is Adobe’s 2D animation software. Once again, I have options for you.

Synfig Studios: described by multiple sites as a great all around animator with powerful tools. It even allows some vector art editing as well. Synfig has it’s own wiki and several tutorials. That makes it an ideal option for beginners or experts. You’ll be asked for a VOLUNTARY donation at the download screen but it’s not required. Available for Windows and Linux, and I believe Mac also, but I was having trouble verifying that.

Synfig Studios Home Page and Download Page Links

Pencil2D: A more simple 2D animation tool with an an interface similar to Animate’s (or so I read). Described as fairly basic but easy to work with. A good option for complete beginners and users who just want to play around with 2D animation occasionally. There are a fair number of tutorials available also despite the program’s simplicity. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux

Pencil2D Home Page and Download Page Links

OpenToonz: A truly professional quality animation tool with numerous features, some provided via free plug-ins. Numerous tutorials available also. It looks like it would have a little bit steeper learning curve than the other two, but give you powerful creative options in the end. While it is supposed to be Windows and Mac compatible, one of it’s plug-ins is available for Windows only. No Linux version.

OpenToonz Home Page Link (downloads available from home page)


Adobe Indesign is the company’s desktop publishing app; similar to MS Publisher. It’s used primarily for creating posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, books etc… I have two options here, depending upon intended use. One is my only paid recommend of this post, but it’s fairly inexpensive.

Scribus: If you’re doing any sort of simple desktop publishing for emails, flyers, magazines, etc… this looks like an absolutely amazing program with a ton of features, and it is free. It makes my copy of Microsoft Publisher look pretty pale by comparison. It’s Scrivener for desktop publishing. Tutorials abound, and it’s available for Windows, Mac, several flavors of Linux and a few other OS as well.

Scribus Home Page and Download Page Links

Scrivener: If you’re writing a book, even a short one, this is THE way to go. You’d need Microsoft Office’s most expensive edition to do everything that Scrivener does. You can even organize notes on characters, locations, etc… right in the program, all the way up to detailed storyboarding. The price has currently been bumped up to $50. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still worth the investment, and still less than half the price of MS Office Home and Student Edition. Available for Mac, Windows and iOS. Tutorials abound also.

Scrivener Home Page and Download Page Links


Here is the one program where replacement options are fairly limited. PDF readers are a dime a dozen, and even most browsers can open PDF files. If you’re trying to create a PDF file, Microsoft Word and similar programs will allow you to save your work in PDF format.

Actually EDITING a PDF file like the full version of Acrobat will do… that’s more limited.

There are a few free options though:

First, the previously mentioned Inkscape can be used to do a moderate degree of editing of PDFs.

Microsoft Word (2013 or newer) will also let you edit a PDF, *if* you convert it to a DocX format first. Convert, edit and save back as a PDF. To be honest, I’ve had mixed results with the program’s ability to do this properly.

LibreOffice’s “Draw” program will let you do some PDF editing as well.

Sedja Online PDF Editor: This is a mostly full service PDF editor that’s web based. There are a handful of limitations to keep your PDF work free however. PDFs have to be smaller than 200 pages, less than 50 megs in size, and you can only work on three PDFs per hour. Beyond that, it seems to be able to do most everything Acrobat can do. Uploading PDFs from other websites is not an issue either.

Sedja PDF Editor Website Link

PDFelement: I could describe this as the least bad option as opposed to a good option. PDFelement does everything Acrobat will, BUT unless you’re paying the annual subscription fee, the program watermarks every page of your document. Annoying, but that’s the trade off for the free version of the program that truly will keep up with Acrobat.

PDFelement Home Page (download links on home page)

5 thoughts on “Legitimate Free, Quality Alternatives to Adobe Products

    1. Silk Cords Post author

      it’s funny because I was getting ready to bite the bullet and get some Adobe products myself to help with publishing. After reading Cristain’s experience though, I remembered how many times I’ve heard similar stories AND the free options I’d found in the past.

      At that point, I figured “Why pay $650 a year to use Adobe’s stuff?” :).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Hinoeuma

    I remember developing a dislike for Adobe over a decade ago. They were a GIANT pain in the ass for the Texas General Land Office. They charged a huge fee for contracting assistance. GLO wanted the ability to have donors (monetary gifts for coastal clean-ups or hurricane response or veterans issues) be able to fill out documents online and send them back, electronically. They had a devil of a time getting that to work with the money they paid out. They could make the PDF documents with open fields to fill out. But, they couldn’t get the data to *stay* in the fields when the donors sent them back. Thousands upon thousands of dollars later, it still didn’t work right.

    I remember when they bought up Macromedia. They wanted control over a web programming software package. Totally destroyed it.

    Have you seen the latest? They are shutting down Flash as of December 31, 2020.

    All of the stuff you’ve named above, I’ve heard of about 1/10 of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Silk Cords Post author

      I’ve heard WAY too many stories along those lines. The state should have sued Adobe for breach of contract. Anyway, those stories are why I’m going with the freeware. GIMP doesn’t have as polished an interface, but it can do everything Photoshop can. Scribus is absolutely amazing. I wish I had it when I was still doing real estate.

      Dreamweaver was revolutionary for web development when it was a Macromedia product. It’s a shame what Adobe has done to it.

      Flash… No big loss IMO. Given your background, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how many security holes it’s had. Animate is supposed to replace Flash anyway (and probably have more bugs and holes).


      1. The Hinoeuma

        I am aware of GIMP but, never used it. I have Corel’s Photo Studio and used Photo Suite a LONG time ago before Roxio bought it. I have never had the desire to use Photoshop for a variety of reasons. For quick updates, I use free Photoscape.

        They never sued. They “renegotiated.” My former team/partner Dave used to rant about dealing with Adobe over the phone.

        Dreamweaver, I used extensively. FrontPage was never as flexible. When Adobe f***ed up DW, I started using NotePad2.

        I knew Flash was highly problematic but, I never programmed in it. The web programming job I had didn’t use it and it was somewhat new back then. My employer had a static site that I worked on. They brought in outside developers to build a dynamic one and bypassed the internal programmers. I was shuttered back to database management after that.

        Liked by 1 person


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