AP - Affinity Publisher 2 is Here. Should You Buy It?
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Wow! Good blessed day to you, and what a day (or few days) it has been. As of writing this, it has been just over 60 hours since Serif pulled off the tarp on the strange oblong shape they had in the garage that no one knew about and released new versions of the Affinity suite upon the world.
This new version of Publisher is advertised as containing a swathe of new tools and time-saving techniques that will allow you to make the best PDFs at a price point you can afford. What exactly are these changes? Where can I find them? Will they hurt me? Affinity publisher has released a video detailing exactly what separates Publisher 2 from Publisher 1 but it fails to address a vital concept - how these changes (or lack thereof) affect the ability and the ease of creating the best damn TTRPGs the world has ever seen. That is your goal, after all. Serif hasn't yet found the courage to look me in the eye, so rest assured these are the candid opinions of someone who wants to shove as many TTRPGs in this thing as it can take, and we aren't going to hold back - this is going to be a long ride.
(If you'd like this to be a short ride, you can jump down to our TL;DR found HERE).
So - we are going to give you a direct telling of each of the new changes, and specifically, their relevance for you and your latest and greatest RPG project. With some comparative glances to Publisher 1, and our own thoughts about what's good and what's missing, we'll help you decide if Affinity Publisher 2 is right for you.
First - just to get it out of the way - Pub 2 can do anything Pub 1 did. Imagine Pub 1 with a fresh coat of paint and a brand new working muffler. The old Pub you knew is still here, and you won't have any issues navigating the program. If you were concerned about not wanting to waste time learning all the intricacies that come with new software, that won't be an issue.
The other thing I want to discuss early is the price. Affinity Publisher V2 costs $69.99 USD, or $169.99 if you want to get a package deal with Photo and Designer (saving you $39.98). Just to put that in perspective, Affinity Publisher V1 cost $54.99. Affinity has a friendly history of putting their products on sale, and their new products are currently 40% off for an as-of-yet undisclosed amount of time, meaning you can get Publisher 2 for the price of $40.99 (which *is* cheaper than Pub 1 at full price) and is certainly an appealing reason to get the new program early.
EDIT: Serif has announced that the Affinity sale will last until Jan 25th
The kicker here, of course, is that Publisher 1 is no longer for sale, God rest its soul. Going forward, its Pub 2 or Pub nothing. This raises some concerns, as the difference between a $55 price tag and a $70 price tag is substantial enough to earn Publisher a closer look at what you're actually getting for your money. However, if you weren't able to get V1, this is your new option. For those of you who used V1, we will discuss further in if this price increase is actually worth it, but let's see what all you actually get in this shiny new kit.
The first change you will immediately see is the brand new Pub 2 UI. Like a peacock held aloft to celebrate the opening of a new strip mall, the new UI is bright, flashy, and a big talking point for most of the advertising I've seen so far.
Sure, it seems a bit obligatory what with the new version and all, but it's not bad. A bit more color here and there helps things pop. Not to mention, the real gem of this UI change is found in the menus.
Everything from the studio submenu has been moved to under the "Window" section, which is a welcome change. Instead of accessing what felt like a full menu inside a full menu, it's been portioned out to give the window drop down a bit more utility. It's worth noting that anchors, hyperlinks, ToC, and some other key items have been put within a "References" submenu here, rather than just with everything else. Muscle memory has already cost me a couple minutes trying to find them each time, which happens often considering how important they are.
Have to put the kings in the courtroom, I guess.
Keeping in line with the new menus, the Help menu is certainly more robust. It includes links to youtube tutorials, the Affinity forums, a quickstart guide that new Publisher users should definitely read, a link to the 'What's New' video we discussed at the top, and a link to a separate learning portal that redisplays all those things and more. I appreciate that they are clearly trying to make Publisher as user-friendly as possible with this, and a lot of these resources are legitimately wonderful for new users learning the program.
Additionally, the process of creating new documents has changed. Now, starting a new document comes paired with a handy visualization of how your pages will look. With how creatively indie TTRPGs handle layout, this is a nice addition. Unfortunately, the number of presets seems to have strangely decreased between the two versions for no reason I can find. However, it's still easy enough to edit the presets, and if you're like me, you'll be using your own templates 90% of the time anyway. Speaking of, porting your templates from Pub 1 is easy and takes all of twenty seconds, so no problems here.
Also, finally, with the sound of trumpets and angelic choruses, we now have Word Count! This was a painful exclusion in Pub 1 so seeing it included in the new UI is such a sigh of relief. If anything, it's ridiculous we didn't have it until now, but I'm just so happy it's here I'll cut Serif some slack. A godsend for anyone doing gig work editing or writing in Publisher.
Now then, starting off on the new tools, the Text Style Picker is honestly not something I ever considered the notion of, but it's certainly exciting. Located along with the color picker, the text style picker can take the text style from one line of text and reapply it wherever you want, essentially identical to the color picker. But for words.
This tool goes firmly in the useful pile for me. Being able to quickly apply different text styles without going through the text style menu is a boon for any creator. For TTRPGs where we often have a generous variety of different styles on a single page due to our headings and subsections, this is absolutely going to save you some time when it comes to using different styles in quick succession. We love to see it.
The next new thing is Place Auto Flow. What a name. This is essentially a function that will automatically insert your collection of images or words into whatever series of frames you ask it to. This is a fine function, but when it comes to TTRPGs I think this will be most useful for anyone who enjoys doing their writing in a word processor before porting it into the layout program, as you can now automatically generate as many pages as you need for your project. Niche, but a valuable time saver for those who use it.
Quick Grid, Oh quick grid, my sweet beloved. This is easily my favorite new function of the bunch. When creating a new text or picture frame via mouse drag, you can now press the arrow keys to instantly duplicate your frame, and hold down the arrow key to increase the margin between your new multi-frames.
This is, without a doubt in my mind, the most significant addition in regards to making TTRPGs. It is very common for TTRPG templates to utilize a two-column look, and this makes it incredibly easy to make multiple text frames of the same size and width for that exact purpose. Ideally, this tool will be a shining star when creating your own templates. You can create a series of text frames that are all automatically lined up, side-to-side, top-to-bottom, I just adore it.
Books is a new function that allows you to link multiple separate Pub files into a single document. It's clearly designed for larger projects, and the old Pub did have a reputation of struggling a bit when your file got big enough, so this addition certainly makes sense. This could see use in those robust, multi-hundred page RPG tomes, but I'm more keen at the prospect of using it to collaborate more easily between individual creators. Individuals could create a portion of a collaborative project, for example, and then link their files together for the final product. Again, a bit niche, but possibly a huge timesaver if utilized.
Some of the new features are just not the most applicable for our chosen field, as tragic as that is. Being able to import DWG files and linked layer visibility is certainly useful to their respective communities, but I would struggle to find a purpose for them in TTRPG design (remind me to update this blog post once someone in the future inadvertently releases Architect Design: The TTRPG). Another of the items I doubt will see much use in games is the Notes function, a new tool that helps create page footnotes by linking to a bank of citations for academic work. Frankly, notes was a big letdown for me. Originally I had hoped to use this to include footnotes on images to provide a method of entering alt-text, but unfortunately it only works on words within a text frame.
This leads me to the unfortunate note that Affinity Publisher 2 has not made any improvements in the accessibility features department. No alt-text, no tagging PDFs. This was a huge demand for a lot of folks with V1, and to see no steps towards implementing these tools in V2 is, in all honesty, saddening. As of writing this, there does not yet appear to be any current plans for creating these needed tools.
And, well, that is pretty much all the new changes when it comes to Publisher 2. There are a few new things we skipped over in the interest of time and relevancy, like Select Same (a function that, well, selects identical objects in your document) and Converting Text to Artistic Text (a function that...converts text to artistic text). If you're interested in those other features, Affinity is certainly eager to introduce them to you on their website.
So - how does Affinity Publisher 2 stack up against its predecessor? Its not bad, but in personal honesty, I expected a bit more. Affinity Publisher 2 is riding on these new big tools to justify an increase in price that I don't quite think makes the reach, and the continued lack of accessibility tools is just a shame. That said, I will certainly enjoy using the tools it *does* provide, and I certainly do not regret my purchase. It's appreciated they were willing to make sure you could continue all your previous work with very little change or adjustment required.
As stated earlier, Affinity Publisher 1 no longer exists in the eyes of Serif. This means, among other things, no more updates or bug fixes. Users were already reporting a not-insignificant amount of crashes relating to newer Windows updates and I would expect these issues to grow more prevalent as time goes on. Whatever operating problems the program faced, it seems this new version is Serif's final answer, and it's worth considering the upgrade just for stability.
If you are currently in a happy marriage with Pub 1, there aren't, as of yet, *too* many reasons to switch, and you could likely comfortably continue using your current edition of Publisher for the foreseeable future. I would recommend making the leap if you:
Have been experiencing technical issues and crashes with Publisher
Are interested in future Publisher updates and want to take advantage of the launch sale
Are just really really jazzed about one of the aforementioned new features
The launch sale here is likely the biggest reason. 40% off is a significant margin, and although Affinity has a generous track record of putting their products on sale, it's never a guarantee. Purchasing this product now may save you some cash if you think you'd want to make the switch down the line, especially since all future updates will be V2 only.
The price increase isn't ideal, but considering the program at full cost is the same as a tank of gas here in Alaska in the year of our lord 2022, I'm willing to let it slide. Publisher is still miles more affordable than Adobe Indesign, and that alone is reason enough for me to recommend giving this purchase some thought. And, to be fair to Affinity, the current sale has V2 available at a price cheaper than the old standard price of V1, so you're certainly not getting cheated if you haven't bought the program before now.
TL;DR Affinity Publisher 2 is an excellent program that includes a selection of new tools over its predecessor that don't completely justify its increase in price, and still lacks some ideal functions. With future updates and support being cut for Publisher 1, it's likely worth making the switch for returning users who are looking forward. New users are limited to buying the new version, and any version of Affinity Publisher is an excellent option when looking at creating TTRPGs. Even with the new price, Affinity Publisher punches significantly upwards when it comes to enabling its users and makes for a great program for creators at any level of experience.
For me here at Bogus Cheesecake, I am happy with my purchase. I was running into a unwelcome number of crashes when working in Pub 1 despite implementing workarounds, and some of the new tools in Pub 2 are honestly pretty exciting. Not as exciting as finally having a word count! Paying the $41-on-sale price tag did feel redundant, but I'm excited for potential future updates and frankly just grateful Affinity still operates on a one-time-purchase model in this day and age.
The launch sale still does not contain a end date, but if you're considering purchasing Publisher 2, now is as good a time as any. If you are new to TTRPG design and looking for a quick and powerful way to generate PDFs, Affinity Publisher certainly fits the bill. With a 30-day free trial, there's no reason to not at least give this new version of Publisher a shot.
EDIT: If you decide to try the 30-day free trial of Pub 2, please be aware projects edited in Pub 2 will no longer be able to be accessed in the original program. Please be cautious and always maintain multiple backups of your work.
EDIT: Serif has now looked me in the eye and mentioned this review. Very Humbling.
This review is ad-free and corporate-free. Help us keep it that way!
Join our mailing list! A confirmation will be sent to your email.
Have a question about Affinity Publisher V2? Reach out to us on Twitter!