Although Adobe and Microsoft make some good software, in an architectural office it is not always necessary nor financially feasible to buy their products.
Especially, as these products might not get used every single day in the typical architectural workflow – unfortunately, neither Adobe nor Microsoft offer floating or network licenses for small offices to facilitate sharing of such valuable resources.
Although there are some open source alternatives like Open Office and GIMP, which mostly have the same capabilities as e.g. Word or Photoshop, we find that their interfaces are at times not as refined as their commercial counterparts.
So we did some research, testing and now consider the following to be good and surprisingly cheap alternatives:
Photoshop > Pixelmator @ AUD 29.99
Illustrator > Sketch @ AUD 41.99
Indesign > Apple Pages @ AUD 20.99
Adobe Acrobat > Apple Preview @ AUD 0
total (per 1 license each) > AUD 92.97 versus Adobe CS5.5 Design Standard (upgrade price from CS2/3) @ AUD $1062
Please note that Adobe CS6 has been announced to be released in the first Quarter of 2012, however there will only be reduced cost upgrades available to current CS3 users and prices are also not yet available.
Microsoft Office 2011 @ AUD 210 vs. Apple iWorks @ AUD 62.97 (Numbers, Pages & Keynote @ AUD 20.99 each)
Please note that the apple iWork suite typically works well unless you have to collaborate directly on DOC or XLSX files frequently with 3rd parties – which in our experience does not happen very often.
Regarding the argument of not being used to the above alternatives, we find that all of the above Apps are actually much more user friendly, thus easier to use and although they may be missing some of the advanced features that Adobe or Microsoft products offer these are hardly ever used in the typical architectural workflow, unless you are already a power user.
The potential savings are obvious, and we think anyone should consider their options especially as there are fee trial versions available for all the aforementioned products.