Dear Serif, it's time to optimize Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher for Windows 10 on ARM

Affinity Publisher Windows 10
Affinity Publisher Windows 10 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Serif, the makers of Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher, make some of my favorite creative apps on the market. They're available on Windows 10, iOS, and macOS, and none of them require a subscription. I'm a big fan of the Affinity suite, but its lack of Windows 10 on ARM support is increasingly frustrating.

I have a unique relationship with Serif. One of the first app reviews I wrote that ever got traction was for Affinity Photo. I then actually worked for Serif in their marketing department, including filming the first-ever Affinity Live at which the company announced Affinity Designer for iPad. Some of my old tutorial videos (opens in new tab) are still on Serif's website. I then ended up full-time at Window Central and reviewed Affinity Publisher. So, while I'm not a graphic designer or professional photographer, I'm very familiar with the Affinity suite.

Where's the love for Windows?

Serif Website M

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher are all available on Windows 10, but none of them are optimized for Windows 10 on ARM devices. That means that devices like the Surface Pro X can't use any of the Affinity suite. With pen support, a thin form factor, and the ability to power full displays, the Surface Pro X would be a perfect device for sketching, creating graphics, or doing a whole slew of creative work. Instead, Surface Pro X users have to use other apps.

This month threw a bit of salt in the wound for anyone with a Windows 10 on ARM device that can't use Affinity apps. Within days of Apple announcing its M1 chips, Serif announced support for the new silicon (opens in new tab). In fact, the announcement of support is the first thing you see on the company's website. Affinity users on Macs didn't even have to wait a week to know that they'll be able to use their apps with the new Apple hardware.

In contrast, Windows 10 on ARM has been out in some form since 2017, including two Surface Pro X releases, and Serif doesn't seem to have plans for ARM support on Windows in the near future. I reached out to Serif to see if they have any plans, and all they can say at this time is that they want to add ARM support but that there isn't a timescale at this time. Serif cites that the process to compile for Windows 10 on ARM is more complicated than optimizing for Apple's M1 chip.

I'm not a developer, so I can't gauge how difficult development is. I believe that it is difficult, but assume that it's possible. I'd at least like to know that it's in the works and to see some public statements on it.

Adobe adopting ARM

Photoshop on Surface

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I understand that optimizing for a new architecture can be difficult and that if a platform seems like it's doomed to fail, a company might not want to invest time in it. Windows 10 on ARM didn't always look so promising, and the first batch of Windows 10 on ARM devices running Snapdragon 835 processors probably wouldn't have showcased the Affinity apps well, but things have changed.

Windows 10 on ARM has steadily improved over the years, and Microsoft has invested quite a bit on the software and hardware side of things. The Surface Pro X is a lovely device, and there are other good Windows 10 on ARM devices on the market, such as the Galaxy Book S.

Adobe seems to have taken notice to Windows 10 on ARM's improvements. Adobe rolled out Photoshop for Windows 10 on ARM in beta earlier today, just over a year after announcing its intention to bring over Cloud apps to ARM. The app has native support for ARM64 versions of Windows 10, so it's not like Adobe waited for emulated 64-bit app support.

As an avid Affinity user, it's increasingly frustrating that some excellent hardware can't run some of my favorite apps. The fact that Serif showed love to Apple's M1 chips so quickly and that Adobe jumped on the Windows 10 on ARM train doesn't ease the pain either.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

48 Comments
  • Ok,
    1st of all Serif is bringing Affinity to Windows on arm,
    2nd I tiped this news to Dan and Zac, they didn't seem to care,
    3rd It's MS's fault for not bringing WPF to Arm so Serif decided to rewrite UI which is the reason for holdout.
  • I emailed Serif PR this morning and they said they didn't have a timetable for it and that it's something they want to do. That doesn't sound like confirmation of it coming in the near future or even confirming that it's on the way.
  • Mark said in 1 of his tweets that it's coming https://twitter.com/markingramuk/status/1276783592144867329?s=19
  • Based on the other comments, perhaps an alternate article title would be "Dear Microsoft, it's time to bring Windows Presentation Framework to Windows 10 on ARM". Aside from that, keep fighting the good fight! :)
  • Are you guys saying the Affinity apps are coded in WPF? Do you have confirmation? And wouldn't that mean that it's in managed code, so it would be natively portable to ARM?
  • Yes, it's using wpf and it's coming to windows on arm eventually. We're just waiting on MS.
  • WPF works on Arm64, at least since .NET 5 (which just came out). Microsoft was late, there's no doubt. But it's there now.
  • Is it out, or just a preview /beta?
  • As of 10th of November as per this blog post:
    https://devblogs.microsoft.com/dotnet/announcing-net-5-0/
    I guess it would be fair to give Serif both time to test and verify the new release before they implement a port to the new platform.
  • Copied from that link
    "The .NET 5.0 SDK does not currently contain the Windows Desktop components — Windows Forms and WPF — on Windows Arm64. This change was initially shared in the .NET 5.0 Preview 8 post. We are hoping to add the Windows desktop pack for Windows Arm64 in a 5.0 servicing update. We don’t currently have a date to share. Until then, the SDK, console and ASP.NET Core applications are supported on Windows Arm64, but not Windows Desktop components."
  • "Serif is bringing Affinity to Windows on arm"
    From Affinity on Oct 2:
    "Hi there! We hope to develop on ARM64 in the future, currently we rely on Windows Presentation Framework, which isn't supported on ARM - hopefully this can change in the future :)" "We hope it should run in an emulated x64 environment (as some users have managed to get the app running on Linux using this) - however we certainly don't recommend this, so your mileage may vary!"
    🤷‍♂️ I'm not holding my breath. Maybe sometime in late 2021.
  • Won't be any time soon for sure, but it's coming.
  • "Serif doesn't seem to have plans for ARM support on Windows in the near future. I reached out to Serif to see if they have any plans, and all they can say at this time is that they want to add ARM support but that there isn't a timescale at this time. Serif cites that the process to compile for Windows 10 on ARM is more complicated than optimizing for Apple's M1 chip." I don't understand what you're arguing. In the article I clearly explain what Serif PR told me, which lines up with everything else we've read. Maybe you should direct your frustration at Serif for not making their apps work on ARM.
  • Sorry was this reply meant for me? I'm not frustrated, sorry if you got that idea, just sharing what little intel I have. This entire mess is MS's doing for trying to ditch WPF before having the replacement (WinUI 3) ready instead of having it on ARM day 1. Imho Serif is not the one that should be blamed as they are trying their best. They are a business after all and have to make their decisions based on potential return.
  • WinUI 3 isn't a replacement for any of their development frameworks, since it isn't one. WinUI is strictly UI and UX, and 3 will be usable in WPF apps. And I agree that is pretty annoying that WPF can't build Arm apps. But it's coming.
  • Original plan was to ditch wpf
  • For what? UWP?
  • > Windows Presentation Framework, which isn't supported on ARM Where's open letter to Microsoft asking them to show some ARM love by supporting WPF on it? > I'm not holding my breath. Maybe sometime in late 2021. Is that the answer you got from Microsoft PR WRT WPF on ARM?
  • WPF is on the roadmap for ARM64 - tentative 21H1. See
    https://github.com/dotnet/wpf/blob/master/roadmap.md Also .Net5 will have ARM64 support, which is big news. It is currently in pre-release. WPF needs .Net5 as foundation. It is clear, that if Serif relies on WPF, that they have to wait until it is supported.
  • > It is clear, that if Serif relies on WPF, that they have to wait until it is supported. What is unclear is why Rubino anc Co. decided to blame Serif for that publicly and noisily...
  • Cuz they delivered Mac ARM versions before ARM Macs even arrived. To anyone not familiar with the matter this seams like a mistreat of Windows users and anyone would be rightfully frustrated. I myself took the liberty of giving Serif c%@p for not bringing gpu compute to Windows seeing how it made Mac counterparts up to 10x faster. Not their fault MS is putting all of it's efforts into new settings icon, cool concept videos and promotion of those 2 instead of working on bringing those APIs (and consistent UI).
  • > Cuz they delivered Mac ARM versions before ARM Macs even arrived. Did Apple dropped on the floor the framework, they used to build their UI? If not, I fail to see your point. Until Microsoft starts treating ARM as the first-tier platform, nobody else will.
  • My point is that Apple made it a lot easier to port existing software to arm and that many people not familiar with it blame the developers (Serif in this case) ofc it's MS's fault.
  • To be fair, Apple most likely has a single framework for UIs, while under Windows it is popular using quite a few more. WPF is the last piece in the puzzle - as Winforms, WinUI, GDI etc. is already supported.
    It is just that Serif decided to go with WPF - which is going to be ported to ARM64 in conjunction with .Net Core 5.
  • https://github.com/dotnet/wpf/blob/master/roadmap.md
  • As a longtime hobbyist Xcode programmer (Mac), I can tell you how easy it is to port an app from Intel 64-bit Swift code to M1: a simple recompile of the code project. This is true as long as you keep your code clear from third-party libraries and maintain the Swift code. I do not know anything about Affinity’s code situation for Mac, but their quick turn-around (they probably started porting this summer on a leased Developer Kit unit with A12Z CPU) tells me that they have pretty clean code. Which framework they use, I’m not sure. But, Apple really made it simple to port apps generally.
  • It is no different with Visual Studio under Windows. You open an C/C++ project, choose ARM64 and recompile - thats it.
    It is just that under Windows you have many different frameworks and some, like in this case WPF, is still not supported. Thing is, that the Serif Apps are using .Net and C# in conjunction with WPF on Windows.
    It just happend that on Microsofts roadmap WPF is the last piece arriving on ARM64 - while other .Net technologies like the C# compiler, the runtime and the WinForms framework are already available.
  • So if one (microsoft's, not 3rd party) of frameworks isn't supported, it's not a 1 click recompile, now is it? It's been 4 years since WoA was announced and MS is still taking it's sweet time.
  • .Net is on a larger upgrade cycle and they decided to put ARM64 support into the next release, which happens to be .Net Core 5.
    There is nothing much wrong with this, despite my whishes it would go faster.
  • Makes sense, yes. I’ve also dipped my toes in Visual Studio 2015 with a fresh universal (UWP) app project, trying out some basic GUI code with XAML and drag and drop of buttons and textfields, etc. I noticed it was easy to compile for both Intel 64-bit and ARM (32-bit back then, I guess). Sounds like WPF (launched in the Vista days ..?) was underestimated by Microsoft in terms of priority. So ... more than four years for Microsoft. Well, Apple has been doing macOS for ARM in the ways of compiling macOS frameworks and iOS frameworks for .. who knows how long? MacOS X in its original shape was already CPU independent from the original design. They have their misery that was the stagnation of classic MacOS and the big loss of marketshare to the Microsoft OS monopoly in the 1990s. I was a kid back then and remember it, lol. Because of it, they were determined not to lock themselves into a stale CPU-dependent OS codebase I suppose. NextStep helped them achieve that goal with Jobs’ help and his high, pedantic standards. Every MacOS X version ever, supported Intel chips, as revealed on stage by Steve. Even those that came before MacOS X 10.4 Tiger that I started with on my first Macbook 1,1 model. Anyway, long story short ...
    Apple has probably compiled MacOS X, OS X and then ”macOS” as well as iOS (which is just a stripped down macOS with different GUI and frameworks) on both Intel and ARM since maybe early 2012 or 2013 (?), because in the autumn of 2013 they announced the 64-bit Apple A7 had ”desktop-class performance”. That would give them 7 years to properly try out iteratively improved software and hardware. Most rumours have pointed to Apples’ attempts starting 5 or 6 years ago, though. Who knows anyway. So .. again .. over four years for Microsoft seems logical. Also, please note! Apple has been very aggressive about deprectaing and removing support for old frameworks like Carbon and other similar frameworks. They were quick with getting rid of 32-bit OS support, as I found out in 2011 with OS X Lion not working on my Macbook 1,1 (I have moved on to newer Macs since then). The kernel continued to be 32-bit for a while I think, or at least the EFI firmware. So many times, this frustrated us Mac users, but in the end .. here they are, with an insanely vast library of ARM-ready first- and third-party apps.
  • "So .. again .. over four years for Microsoft seems logical." Not to customers who bought snapdragon 835/850 based machines thinking they'll be able to run PS (demoed on stage during announcement) or browser of their choosing at virtually no performance loss. Costumers were screwed into another MS's side project yet again and MS should be ashamed.
    As for Apple depreciating old frameworks, it showed results.
  • I still think it’s logical from a development planning schedule point of view. The mistake however, was promising or announcing things prematurely. It was clearly the wrong move to make for Microsoft since they could not handle it. Customers are right to be disappointed. This is where Apple and Microsoft really are completely different companies: Apple makes mistakes, misses deadlines internally and what not, but they frequently do this in secret, only disappointing themselves. We have exceptions to the rule. The best example: AirPower. It was a really awkward moment, prematurely announced. It never came to market. They scrapped it because of utter failure, really weird. Icloud, MobileMe, .Mac? Oof, they have been around for ages and they have had multiple issues over so many years, and only recently it started working really well (still not 100 percent, but really well on a daily basis), but they still cannot beat the Google cloud stability, or Azure. Microsoft on the other hand talks wide open about plans, releases beta and insider alphas, etc. Their hardware is usually really cool, but the OS software bugs? Even on their own Surface line are .. well, they aren’t perfect. I think their strategy with supporting Word 95 on Windows 10 .. that level of backwards compatibility .. has caused this situation with ARM support delays. It’s just droves of old and new Windows frameworks out there to maintain and develop, as has been discussed here with WPF. Btw, I did buy the Nokia Lumia 920 and 1020 Windows phones and totally believed them when they said they would solve the app gap with Android emulation. Well, that was enabled for a while on some models, but failed, so they removed it. They promised Windows 10 Mobile on 920 and 1020, only to retract and remove the support. So yeah .. I know what it’s like to be disappointed by Microsoft, technically on ARM products.
  • These apps are desktop-oriented anyway. They're not really for the ultra-ultra-mobile crowd WoA is now targeting. In the case of Apple, their laptops are moving to their ARM chips en masse. That's a different story. I just don't get the frowny-face analysis here. Ask yourself: What do you get out of, say, a Surface Pro X that you don't get out of, say, a Surface Pro 7? If the answer is "SO PWETTY" maybe you should have just gotten the SP7.
  • Mobility (LTE), form factor, battery duration in a 7W TDP device. All this i am not getting from the Surface Pro 7. That having said, the Serif Apps would be an excellent complementation to the Surface Pro X.
  • The battery life is about the same. It's the ability to get that battery life with LTE always on that is the difference. There's no "form factor" difference - just a nicer screen and a slimmer device for the SPX, plus the nifty way to store and charge the pen. The rest is extremely similar - except for power (SP7 wins for the higher end models) and compatibility (SP7 wins easily). This is no secret. Unless you're a really, really mobile worker (some people are) then there's little reason to have a pity party over Serif not supporting WoA yet. Just get an SP7 and be done with it. It's not like you didn't know there would be compatibility issues in the short run.
  • Battery life is not the same. I own an sp7 and an spx. Sp7 i5 averages around 4-5 hours using onenote and word. Spx averages 8-9 using onenote and word.
  • I do have both devices (technically the Pro 7 is my wifes device), battery duration is longer on the Surface Pro X doing essentially the same stuff. Slimmer device = form factor. In addition the Surface Pro 7 can get hot on the back when using it, while this is generally not the case for the Pro X - which comes at no surprise given that the Pro 7 needs to dissipate up to 15W power.
    I also need LTE as tethering with the phone is no option for me. The better screen is just the icing on the cake, but for me was no big factor for decision.
    I do not have any compatibility issues nor do i have a pity party over Serif - as i am not an artist. In the bigger picture, there is not much wrong about complaining about lacking app support - as with less compatibility issues - more people buying Windows ARM devices.
  • They make Affinity Photo for the iPad as well. It would be great if they made a touch friendly version for Windows devices as well. WoA is not targeting only the mobile crowd. It's in the Surface Pro X and that's the same form factor as the Surface Pro. It's meant to be an ultrabook-like device. Mobile, but still a full desktop experience. It doesn't run mobile apps, it runs normal Windows apps so I think asking for this particular software is valid. SPX gives users better instant on. It runs cooler. It does not require a fan. It uses less power. The battery lasts longer. It has a larger screen. Of course the SP7 has advantages as well, but it's not just about the looks.
  • The iPad versions are not the same (not as fully featured). The good news is you can just buy an iPad if you don't mind the differences. The SPX has similar battery life to the SP7, but with LTE - that's the selling point. The SP7 comes in fanless configs, and those that have a fan are way more powerful than the SPX. The SPX is a beautiful device and is brilliant for the ultra mobile - but otherwise it's not a revolution. If you don't need the ultra mobile features of the SPX but are complaining about the lack of compatibility (which you should have known about at purchase), then you got the SPX because it was prettier than the SP7, and that was a dumb move.
  • One big difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Apple have committed 100% to their new CPU, thus ensuring that all future customers of their hardware will be using their CPUs. It is a given that the future customer base for computers running on Apple silicon is going to be very large. However, the customer choice for ARM Windows machines is limited, along with a lot of other choice from Intel and AMD hardware too. The future customer base for ARM based Windows machines is unknown. Essentially (as I see it), it is far less risky for Serif to commit precious resources to updating their apps to run on Apple silicon than it is for updating their apps to Windows on ARM.
  • It is not about resources. Serif has mentioned on several occasions that they would like to port their apps to Windows ARM asap. It is just that the WPF framework is missing, and this needs to be provided by Microsoft.
  • demand & supply
    why bother write for windows on arm.
  • Apple will sell more m1's on launch day than MS has ever sold woa devices back to the original surface rt. I own an spx and love it, but it's got zero sales traction. I've literally never ever seen one in the wild besides the one I've got.
  • ARM is the future....MSFT needs to really make their first-party apps (Browser, Office, Frameworks, Visual Studio 2019 etc etc) Native on WoA.....If msft doesn't do it no other developer will.....they need to show the developer community they are serious about WoA.....Just releasing SPX like devices will not help..SPX is beautiful and expensive....it's just waste of money for anyone to buy SPX and can't run apps on it or run in emulation with degraded performance....
    Apple's execution of the ARM transition is phenomenal.....MSFT has to get their execution right...they should focus to get their first party apps on WoA as soon as possible and the developers will follow
  • Browser, office, etc are native on ARM. What you talking about
  • Edge and Office are native on ARM64. "etc" is an easy way of dismissing their point. Logical fallacy much >.> Their point is that Microsoft is not committed and doesn't even want to make their own products work well on their own devices! Skype went from UWP -> React Native UWP -> ReactXP Electron. An easy example of them shooting themselves in the foot. There are tons more examples, like WPF not supporting ARM64, despite Microsoft trying to make ARM64 Windows devices a thing. Apple gets it right not because of it's simple development process but because of its determination. Apple makes teams work together.
  • Sadly Snapdragon 8CX2 was a flop. A developer managed to run WoA on Apple's M1 chip confirms that X86 emulation was as snappy as Rosetta 2. The reason why everybody keeps blaming Microsoft but not Qualcomm was because they taught that Microsoft did a poor job with X86 emulation without considering the hardware limitation.
  • It's Microsoft's fault as always: github.com/dotnet/wpf/issues/1817