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Battle of the design tools – Canva vs Microsoft Designer

I’ve been using Canva for many years now and pay for the Pro version. £9.99 per month is not that cheap but I have definitely received value from my investment so I continue paying. I am also a Microsoft 365 Home subscriber as well as Business (I also happen to work for Microsoft – disclosure), but I pay for these personally. This post is not in my capacity as a Microsoft employee but as a user of creative design tools. If I can get a tool that does the same job as Canva but can be roped into an existing subscription, thus saving me money, I’d be a happy chappy. But even better, Microsoft Designer (referred to as MD from now on) is currently free and paying may never be needed. In this post, I’m looking at MD to see if it might be a viable alternative from a functionality point of view, going through the following breakdown.

The above image comparison contrasts the two tools – scroll left or right to see the basic tool functions and the first thing you should notice is the difference in options. Far more in Canva than in MD but that is to be expected as the latter is just out of the starting gates. Besides, sometimes that’s a good thing 😉

As you can see from the featured image of this post, I used MD to create it. The creation of a featured images which I use in blog posts, is one of the basic functions I use Canva for. MD was just as able, at a basic level. But, and there are lots of these, let me dig in and make some comparisons on two levels, basic and advanced and then some conclusions.


  • For basic image creation, I could just as easily create an image in the right dimensions in MD, source a DALL-E inspired image and use it in my creation. So far so good.
  • The above assumes I wanted to use a DALL-E inspired and created image. I typically use the Elements function in Canva – this provides a host of options (images, graphics, charts you can edit, etc.). Besides Canva has its own AI enabled image creation tool called simply, Text to Image. The Elements function is totally missing from MD for now. You get free and paid for elements with Canva – millions of them, many of the editable – so the options are staggering.
  • In both cases, with DALL-E or the Canva options of AI generated artwork, I’d say the results are interesting but by no means perfect. Look below at the examples based on similar prompts. Images are decidedly funky but then that’s kind of accepted these days.
  • One interesting function from MD that has some additional intelligence built in is something called Copilot. It’s fashioned on PowerPoint Designer and makes intelligent suggestions on how you can tweak designs. It’s pretty cool because you can tweak the whole layout in seconds just by scrolling through alternatives and picking the best looking one.
  • But aside from this, there is a lot of overlap and even look of functionality between Canva and MD. For instance you get templates in both, Style options, you can create Brand Kits (artwork that conforms to your brand identity), etc. I think clearly MD has copied rather than reinvented the wheel and why not when Canva has done phenomenally well and has millions or happy users.


  • I’ve been using Canva for video editing recently. It’s pretty cool and has loads of templates to choose from. The editing capability is also just fine. Basic compared to professional video editing software but good enough. And MD does not have any such capability at present, so Canva is at least better in that sense. Having said that, Microsoft does have ClipChamp but this is separate, for now. Combine the two and I would be supremely happy because ClipChamp is awesome. I think this is mooted but to be confirmed 🤞
  • Canva for wireframes and smart mock-ups for app or web design. This generally falls into the templating capabilities that Canva offer which are superb for starting on anything, as mentioned. This is just a little more specialised. Again not of the standard that you would get from tools like Figma for example, but for quick design mock-ups, super awesome and easy. By many of its users, (Canva includes many countless start-up’s as its members), this would be just fine. Microsoft would probably compete with this through its Visio software but I hardly think there is a basis for comparison. You can even build a website on Canva (not that you would want to beyond the most basic) or make your designs visible via the web and this is super easy and effective for sharing.
  • Documents, brainstorming, whiteboarding, presentations, etc. (AKA Office productivity). Documents are a fairly new offering by Canva but the others in this little line up not so. These are all worthy tools and capabilities in their own right. If I were however, to continue comparing with Microsoft, then things change. Microsoft has Whiteboard on the whiteboarding and brainstorming side and of course the entire M365 and Office suite of tools that are now starting to incorporate ChatGPT for a truly compelling proposition in this space. Documents could be seen to compete with Word but I think Microsoft’s content creation capabilities go far beyond that. I think when you consider other competitors like Google Workspace, Monday.com and others, this is going to be a fairly hard pitch by Canva.
  • Collaboration. This is probably where Canva falls down the most. With all of Microsoft Teams capabilities to collaborate on its many tools for content creation, it wins hands down. On the paid version of Canva I’m on, I can add 5 collaborators so that’s something but the collaboration is not extensive.


  • Canva wins hands down in terms of breadth of features and functions but that is to be expected for now. I would venture to say that MD is going to advance rapidly in this space because of Microsoft’s designs on positioning itself as a creativity powerhouse (pun intended) as I have predicted previously.
  • On the pro side, you get a ton of features in Canva and then some – and they all come together in one App. On the other hand, Microsoft also has a ton of tools but alas, they are not all combined into one app. This may or may not be a good thing depending on your views on focus and how you are most productive. If its just design tools you are after, right now Canva still wins.
  • Cost wise, at the moment I would say I’m going to continue paying my monthly fee for Canva but as MD advances, I’m hoping that at least I will be in a better position and could possibly make the choice to stop doing that. Because why pay more if you don’t need to 💸

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