29th March 2017
Affinity – One Year Review
So it’s been just over a year since my last post on the new design software Affinity. Since then, Serif’s Affinity software has hit a few big milestones. Their two initial programs, Designer and Photo are now available on Windows and they have released version 1.5 on both programs as well. I will be going over both of these events in this post, along with my personal take on the updates and what’s next for the software. If you would like to read my first post on Affinity, visit Appreciation for Affinity – A Designer’s Review.
Windows is only the beginning
The software has been released on Windows, making the software cross-platform. It made quite a splash in 2014 when the software was released on Mac, winning awards and being recognised by some big names as valid professional software. From newcomers to experienced designers, people like it. And this move to being cross-platform software will surely only increase its chances of pushing the big dogs off the top. That may not have happened yet but with this step to Windows and with the iPad version being released later this year, Affinity seems to be hitting all the right notes and getting good reviews. The Windows version of the software matches the Mac version feature for feature, so you will be able to experience the speed and features the software provides at the same price and the same no subscription deal. So things are looking up for Affinity and with the release of their new update in late 2016 this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
The 1.5 Update
The new update is version 1.5, released in October 2016 for both programs. They added a host of new features; a mixture of what they needed and what their users have requested. The updates have been out for a fair while now, which in turn has allowed the forums and Vimeo page to fill up with updated, 1.5 content. Affinity’s Vimeo page has over 300 videos to help you use Affinity’s programs and over 50 geared towards the new updates for both programs. A helpful tool if you are a designer who uses the Adobe Creative Suite that wants to make the switch. The video tutorials can get you up and running so that you can do the rest. Let’s dive in and pick apart the update for each program and what it means.
Firstly, Affinity Photo has an abundance of new features with the 1.5 update. I am only going to choose a couple to talk about here but jump on Affinity’s website to see what else the update has to offer in Affinity Photo. One update was batch processing. It makes this action simple and manageable. Simply select batch processing in the menu and away you go. Select the file format you want to use, where you want them to save with a few other options like dimensions and the relative aspect ratio and you’re good to go. From the few times I used the feature it ran pretty fast. I wouldn’t like to promise this for every machine but it seems to stand up to its statement of fast processing.
Another update was 360 image editing. Photoshop already does this but after reading and watching Affinity’s version it again seems a lot simpler and easy to use. Personally I haven’t used this feature in either software but with the popularity of 360 cameras and VR, this sort of feature is going to become a main focal point of photo editing software in the near future. One thing I noticed about doing some of the edits within 360 live editing in Photo can be destructive editing. This isn’t ideal but with the pretty much unlimited history panel it is something that can be fixed. Again Affinity’s Vimeo and forums have plenty of information and tutorials to help you along your way.
Designer has a host of new features from MacOS Sierra optimisation and asset management through to export improvements and UI tools. Affinity make it clear that the bulk of these updates are a big push to making Designer “The perfect tool for UI and UX designers”. On release they actually had an offer on: 20% off and a Free UI Kit. This round of updates are a reminder of how everything is becoming more and more dependant on the digital world and how a designer like myself needs to stay ahead in the digital aspect of my trade quick as it is becoming a necessity. So with this in mind and the fact I have a few digital projects under my belt now I wanted to go through the updates for Designer with a more personal view. These may not be the most impressive features of the update but from my perspective, they are the features that I expect would benefit me most in my development as a digital designer.
A quick point to make is that the creative suite has an application called Xd or Experience Design. This focuses on being a cross-platform tool, able to design for website and mobile apps in one place. Now in the studio we have looked at this program, but old habits die-hard and our digital workflow are based around Adobe. So for the moment I view the Affinity Designer updates on the basis that I haven’t used Xd. A few updates really stand out most in Affinity Designer – the asset management panel, symbols, constraints and text styling.
The asset management tool works much like the Adobe Creative Suites. From having a go myself and watching videos on how the assets can be used a little more extensively, it is a highly useful tool. The ability to import and export assets makes it easy to get what you need when you need it, and know that it is styled like all other instances you have used them in. Combining this tool with the symbols and constraints features, can be a very powerful tool and can make your workflow quicker and more efficient. After having a little trouble in the studio with Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries, Affinity seems to keep everything simple and easy to use. A definite plus if work is coming thick and fast, you don’t want to be flapping, trying to get the right assets.
Symbols & Constraints
Symbols are a welcome addition. Symbols work like your equivalent to smart objects. As they put it in the Affinity video, you can create a button you will be using across your design and make it a symbol. So every change you make to one will amend them all, which is helpful for keeping your buttons consistent. But what happens if you have a button sitting on a similar colour background? You’ll want to change the colour of this one particular button without disrupting the others. A simple “Sync” check box allows you to do this easily. Symbols is a great feature if you have a big website or app with plenty of buttons. A simple feature that works great. I haven’t fully tested it on a large-scale project but I don’t see why (if you are organised in your files) there would be any problems in a larger file.
Constraints is another new feature to come in with the 1.5 update. Again geared towards digital design, allowing you to change the properties of certain objects. With a button in digital design you will probably need wider versions to accommodate for more text as a different call to action. Constraints allows you to manipulate a button in plenty of ways to get the desired effect. Once you add this feature to a wide range of elements in your design, you can change the art board dimensions and the buttons will change with it in a responsive manor.
I feel when working in anything but inDesign type formatting is very basic or a little more cumbersome to use. A new update to the text styling in Affinity Designer is more extensive and easy to use. It brings together features that you normally get in one program and not the others together. For example, text styles from InDesign and Typing on a path from Illustrator are all available in Affinity Designer. This makes it easier to edit and develop styling throughout your design without having to go through every text box individually. Overall I feel Affinity Designer brings features together that are needed throughout the digital design process into the one program and keep it simple and easy to use. The ability to also create large files with as many art boards as you see fit it starts to look like a very viable option as digital design software as it suggests.
Whether or not the Affinity programs are pushing the boundaries of design software or simply trying to do what others have done but to a higher standard is totally up to your own interpretation. I think the Affinity programs are stripped back, simpler than the Adobe programs but focus on making the tools and features they have the best they can be. One thing to mention is that the price has gone up a smidge from when originally released back in 2014 but still works as a one off price of £48.99 per program and free updates rather than the subscription format of the Creative Suite.
Personally the small price increase is definitely worth it with the new features introduced to both programs. In our office, the Adobe Creative Suite is king still, but my personal work may be created using Affinity software in the near future especially with the beta of Affinity Publisher being released sometime this year, which could complete the big three programs.
So what’s next for Affinity? Well both programs currently available, Photo and Designer will be coming to iPad sometime this year and beyond that a Digital Asset Management tool could be in the workings. Just from reading a few Affinity forums this seems to be a popular request from users. So hopefully there will be a third review to these blog posts come the end of the year reviewing the above and hopefully much more.