Free Desktop Publishing Software for Windows

These free software programs have powerful publishing capabilities

Man holding magazine working on computer


Hero Images / Getty Images

Many of the free desktop publishing software downloads are specialty utilities. They are fine for a specific job — such as labels or business cards — but they aren't full-featured page design tools. However, a few free programs for Windows have powerful publishing capabilities, including page layout, vector graphics, and image editing programs.



Henrik Hüttemann / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

What We Like

  • Familiar interface for Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress users.

  • Available for Windows, Linux, MacOS, BSD, and Unix.

  • Drawing tools more capable than other similar programs.

What We Don't Like

  • No spell-check.

  • Steep learning curve for those new to graphics programs.

  • No support for InDesign and QuarkXpress file formats.

Scribus is free desktop publishing software with many of the features of pro packages. Scribus offers CMYK support, font embedding and subsetting, PDF creation, EPS import/export, basic drawing tools, and other professional level features. Scribus works in a fashion similar to Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress with text frames, floating palettes, and pull-down menus — and without the hefty price tag. As great as free is, this might not be the software you want if you have no prior experience with desktop publishing software and don't want to devote time to mastering the learning curve. 

After you download the free Scribus software, check out these Scribus Tutorials.



What We Like

  • Similar in capabilities to Adobe Illustrator.

  • Intuitive interface, especially for those familiar with Illustrator.

  • Works on Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

What We Don't Like

  • Can be buggy when working with other file formats.

  • Documentation is not as organized as it could be.

  • Would benefit from more keyboard shortcuts.

A popular free, open source vector drawing program, Inkscape uses the scalable vector graphics (SVG) file format. Use Inkscape for creating text and graphics compositions including business cards, book covers, flyers, and ads. Inkscape is similar in capabilities to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. It's a graphics program that is more flexible than a bitmap photo program for doing many desktop publishing page layout tasks.

After you download Inkscape, learn to use it for desktop publishing with these Inkscape tutorials.



What We Like

  • Comparable in features to Adobe Photoshop.

  • Lots of community support.

  • Compatible with Photoshop plugins.

What We Don't Like

  • Geared more toward creating and editing single images.

  • Steep learning curve.

  • Sometimes runs slowly.

The GNU Image Management Program (GIMP) is a popular free open source alternative to Photoshop and other photo editing software. GIMP is a bitmap photo editor, so it doesn't work well for text-intensive design or anything with multiple pages, but it's a great free addition to your desktop publishing software collection.