Pro File: Future Designs

While nature abhors a vacuum, Mac users are just as put off when key applications are missing in action. So with a Mac OS X-native version of QuarkXPress still on the drawing board, publishing-software giant Adobe figures the time is right to convert Quark customers to its rival page-layout application, InDesign. Macworld recently spoke to Susan Prescott, Adobe's vice president of cross-media publishing, about her company's efforts to attract new users to InDesign, XML support in the page-layout application, and Adobe's network-publishing strategy.

Q: You're vice president of cross-media publishing. What does that encompass?

There are three business units at Adobe. There's the ePaper unit, the Graphics Unit and the Cross Media Publishing Unit. Cross Media focuses on the publishing tools all the way from the aggregation applications -- like InDesign, InCopy, PageMaker and FrameMaker, and GoLive -- and extends all the way down through PostScript technologies.

Q: So it's a sort of an umbrella, or a bridge between a number of publishing disciplines?

It's Web and print, which is an important reason for the terminology we're using -- cross media.

Q: Then, what distinguishes InDesign from being just a page-layout program?

We don't often refer to InDesign as a page-layout program but rather as a layout program designed with a forward-looking mentality. We believe it's critical that it works optimally with high-caliber results in one of the most precise contexts, which is print publishing. But we also believe it's critical for the content used in an application like InDesign to be used beyond print. So we look at InDesign as a world-class print-publishing tool that also supports our customers in deploying design content to multiple media, beyond print to the Web and beyond that.

Q: So to borrow a term from Apple -- the Digital Hub -- in a sense InDesign is the cross media hub.

That's a great way to describe it. As you look at it, we have the advantage at Adobe at the core of that cross media hub, to integrate the applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat.

Q: It separates itself, then, from being just a page layout program because it's more of a platform for source material or source design.

We had an ad campaign called "Tools for the New Work" that was primarily used in New York City. InDesign 2.0 was the beginnings of that, but obviously it's just a beginning for the product line where there's built-in support for importing and exporting XML files, SVG files, native interchange with Photoshop and Illustrator, all of which really deliver tools for the new work. We like that slogan.

Q: You mentioned XML, a popular buzzword recently. No one really knew what it meant, or what it does. Could you explain what XML is, what it does, and then how it relates to InDesign?

XML is just a descriptor for information. In a sense, to interchange information, but it doesn't magically do something. It's a great syntax, or infrastructure, that enables you to capture information and store information and reuse information in very powerful ways. So if you look at the XML implementation in InDesign, what we've done is take advantage of that kind of descriptor, if that's the best word...

Q: I've heard XML described as essentially a value-neutral markup language.

It is a markup language. Extensible Markup Language. It really gives a lot of flexibility. And the beauty from our perspective is it can be based on the content, not just the aggregate design. So by having XML built in to all of our applications, it's an interchange format for content to flow. For example, from a tagged InDesign template, you can take the same content and put it into another tagged InDesign template, and have a completely new look and feel.

Q: Content being images and text?

Images, text, graphics, headlines, captions. Depending on how you have the XML hierarchy setup, you can have different levels of control -- but not only in a print publication. When you're moving, for example, from print to the Web, XML gives you a really great container to hold the content -- that photograph, that headline, that caption, that article -- and allow you to flow it automatically into a Web template. The tags will automatically help the data populate the right places. So you'll have a good-looking Web design. We don't believe, in most cases, [that] people want to take a design that's optimized for print and slam it into a Web medium.

Q: That was an early mistake that some developers made in assuming that the two different media were somehow the same. People weren't going to take a brochure and then just trace it over for a Web page.

Right. We know that just doesn't play.

Q: And so XML takes advantage of the fact that you can take the same elements and send them into a different presentation format?

You can populate any tagged layout with XML content. So you can quickly create XML files from any document. You can open InDesign and autoflow XML into InDesign templates.

Q: How does one make an XML file from an InDesign file?

It's a simple export option in the application.

Q: Rather than exporting as PDF, you'd choose XML?

Right. It's one of several options. You can export to PDF, XML, SVG, or PostScript. Similarly, it's an import option as well. So you can import XML files, and drag and drop their content onto pages to interactively create your design. You can use XML files, then, to easily update content between publishing teams, such as print and Web design teams.

Q: Early on I'd learn about DTDs, or Document Type Definitions, which are essentially the keys that help unlock XML files, or, at least, place them into the correct formats. Does InDesign help you to create these? Or do you even need them?

In InDesign today, it doesn't allow you to create DTDs. But if you have DTDs, InDesign supports that. And moving forward, we'll be continuing to deepen our structure to support a more elegant solution in InDesign, including deeper support for DTDs. If you look at a product like FrameMaker, you'll see we have incredibly deep experience in structure and XML content. And that would be benefiting InDesign.

Q: FrameMaker is an application that is mainly for long book length and technical documents.

That's exactly what FrameMaker is for. So we don't suggest FrameMaker as the right product for the design community. But we are one company so we do share resources. That depth of knowledge and the recent release of FrameMaker 7.0... you realize that we have a lot of people here at Adobe who have a lot of experience with XML that will be brought to bear in the InDesign product line, not only today but in future releases.

Q: You're almost saying that there may be something akin to the desktop publishing revolution, that there's something going on right now.

The term Adobe uses to describe that, which encompasses exactly how we're investing in our InDesign product line [and], really, across our product line is Network Publishing. That Network Publishing vision is really around the next generation of publishing beyond desktop and Web publishing that points to the ability to take visually rich and personalized content and be able to view it anytime, anywhere, on any device. And if you take that as the vision that Adobe is driving toward, through our own implementations and with partners, then you see how the evolution of InDesign in our mind really nails the future requirements for design.

Q: InDesign has a plug-in architecture, rather than an extension architecture. Is there a parallel?

Something of a parallel. You may have heard this analogy before, but we talk about InDesign as a car fully loaded with its features, in terms of a lot of plug-ins Adobe has already developed that are part of the core product as it is shipped. For example, if you look at the Quark architecture, it's a real cool product that depends on filling out its functionality through the XTensions from third-party developers. That said, InDesign is a more complete and robust product out the gate in terms of the features we've chosen to include inside the box. But there's still an analogy that our plug-ins can still take the product another level further, to customize it for specific needs. So if you look at CCI or, for example ,DTI, those are some major integrators in the newspaper space -- the London Daily Telegraph, the New York Times or the Boston Globe -- that are customers now using InDesign because of our ability to allow third-party integrators to develop plug-ins that meet specific needs of those newspapers.

Q: For the single user, a lot of the plug-ins are effects, which are similar to Photoshop's plug-ins, like drop shadows or transparency support that are integrated into InDesign already.

What we've done is make sure it's a robust plug-in architecture by having our own developers develop the product with a series of plug-ins. We've chosen to do exactly as you describe, include a greater amount of core functionality as part of that base product. But we recognize the experience of designers goes far beyond the box so we certainly don't believe it's necessarily everything they need. Products like Photoshop and Illustrator, products like InCopy, and, importantly, plug-ins that may be developed by partners like Extensis or Gluon or Managing Editor or ALAP -- all of these are developing plug-ins for InDesign, and it's a pretty large list. Gluon has released its Proscale, Cropster and Slugger tools for InDesign 2.0. DiamondSoft and Extensis will both release support for their font activation tools, FontReserve and Suitcase, respectively. ALAP is actively releasing its InBooklet, StarBurst and InPrint stuff. And there's more. We're pleased and we really value the third-party developers, and we try to make it a good experience for those developers.

Q: When InDesign first came out, a lot of people who had been using PageMaker in the pre-OS X days were a little worried about transition over to InDesign, or that Adobe would drop PageMaker altogether. Neither of those things seemed to have occurred. The transition is very easy, due to the products' respective similarities, but PageMaker hasn't made the leap over to OS X.

At this point we've not released a version of PageMaker for OS X. We did release PageMaker 7 [in 2001], and, at that point, the decision was made that it wasn't the right time to include the OS X support. We wanted our OS X resources focused on some of the products where OS X support was a little more critical for our target users. At this point, we're evaluating what the right thing is to do with the next version of PageMaker, with regard to OS X support.

Q: Where do you draw the line between PageMaker and InDesign?

With PageMaker 7, we've changed the tagline to something we think helps define that distinction. It's now the product encompassed by the phrase "Business Publishing Made Easy." That's not to take away from the deep and rich feature set of PageMaker. But PageMaker has, at this point, largely seen success as a high-performing, easy-to-use business-publishing tool. Lots of templates, lots of support, for people who really want high-quality professional output, but may not be experienced designers. But I want to be careful to say we do have some very well-educated design professionals working on PageMaker, and we do believe that at the right juncture in their professional development take a real good look at InDesign. And we're going to make that easier and easier for users. We have a lot of success stories where some of those high-end professionals have made the move from PageMaker to InDesign, and we hope more and more of those PageMaker users who want additional power in their design tools will also make the move to InDesign.

Q: What about Quark users? Obviously, you're making a concerted effort to reach Quark users. How do you convince them to switch to InDesign?

One of the things that Adobe has done, that we think the design community has noticed, is early and deep support for OS X, making sure that we will have the most experience and the premier design experience on OS X. In the current environment, that remains an advantage. Quark will be releasing an OS X version, but by that point, we've had over a year of experience on the operating system, and we're confident that we're going to have a very high quality, very robust experience on OS X. One of our very strong selling products is our Design Collection, which is InDesign along with Photoshop, Illustrator, and Acrobat. A second advantage for InDesign is the very tight integration with Adobe's other applications, which are very often on designers' desktops. That integration starts to mean great productivity and efficiency and ability to do more with your design. In terms of overall feature set, beyond the Adobe integration, we have some pretty great features -- the transparency we integrate, the table capabilities, and the typography are really unsurpassed. We're doing a lot to support users who are making the transition from Quark to InDesign. And we're starting to get a whole lot of experience understanding what those users want and need to be successful.

Q: How, specifically?

Things around keyboard shortcuts, for example, that we've incorporated. We've enhanced that and tried to make it an even easier experience so, from a usability perspective, it's more of what the Quark users expect as they sit down. We have had requests for other capabilities that developers are providing, and we're supporting those developers. But one of the most significant things that customers have asked for is not so much a feature in the product, but [something] actually outside the box. It's making sure that we're bringing up-to-speed and helping a lot of service providers to be ready and available to take the InDesign jobs. And most significantly, that training is available. That's the number one request. At the end of July we announced free CompUSA training for anyone who has purchased a copy of InDesign anywhere. And that's one of the steps we've taken to make sure we've eliminated the barriers to people interested in moving from Quark.

Q: Weren't InDesign's export functions as PDF the answer to service bureau support? You don't have to send your source file, just a high-end PDF, which it seems is fast becoming the format of choice for many printers and service bureaus.

That's absolutely correct. You can have the genuine Adobe PDF output directly from the product.

Q: And in as high or low resolution as you prefer. So for soft-proofing, it's very easy to send a low-res PDF that comes from exactly the same source document as the high-res ready-for-print PDF.

So, just as you've said, without any change to the file, you can proof and, with pretty high confidence, send a high-end file for production, and know that you're going to have a successful run. And the PDF format solves some issues in terms of error rates as well.

Q: Because, among other things, it embeds fonts?

The Graphic Arts Technology Foundation out of Pittsburgh has a study that says 57 percent of print jobs fail when they go to service providers. And the reason for those failures was exactly what you're talking about. Fonts weren't embedded properly, graphics weren't embedded, there was a shift on operating systems that couldn't be accommodated by the application file, most of those top ten were attributable to the application file, where a PDF can address all of that with all the right job option settings.

Q: This also talks to OpenType, which is a completely cross-platform file format for fonts.

We think that advantage cannot be underestimated. As you said, the biggest advantage coming out of the OpenType is the ability to eliminate one of the biggest sticking points for designers, which is keeping type with integrity as you move from one platform to another. We're very proud of the investment we've made to bring those typefaces to market and that technology to market. We think the benefit for the design professionals is the biggest benefit of all. The integration of OpenType into InDesign underscores our commitment to world-class typography.

Q: Does InDesign bundle any OpenType?

Yes. Adobe Caslon Pro-4 weights and styles; Adobe Garamond Pro-4 weights; Caflisch Script Pro-1 weights and styles; Kozuka Mincho Pro (Japanese)-2 weights; Kozuka Gothic Pro (Japanese)-2 weights; Kozuka Mincho Std (Japanese)-6 weights; and Kozuka Gothic Std (Japanese)-6 weights.

Q: Now, you've mentioned InCopy a couple of times, and I want to ask you about it. InCopy is really an enterprise level application, isn't it? The individual user can't go out and buy InCopy. What is InCopy?

InCopy is a copy-edit tool associated with InDesign that enables environments that would likely have editorial and a central design desk, but also multiple contributing writers, for example, working together on a publication. It ensures integrity of documents, manages available space and word count, style and format, without the contributing writers having to be professional designers. It's based on XML, by the way, that lets writers contribute in a way that their work flows seamlessly into the original design document.

Q: Where does it live? Is it a server-based application?

It's an application that lives on the Mac that the writer is using, but the power comes in the server. It's a server where things are resolved into this final document.

Q: A print version of WebDav, where you check in and check out?

It leverages WebDav, actually, where what is represented on the server is the most current stuff. It's like a story editor on steroids.

Q: So why don't we have a story editor in InDesign? We used to have it in PageMaker. We don't have it in InDesign.

If you look at some of the top requests from our customers, it is to bring story editing to the individual user, as well as to our more robust copy solution. So all I can say is it's one of the top ten requests, and I'll also say that we do have lots of experience with PageMaker and InCopy building some pretty robust story editing capabilities.

Q: Is InDesign meeting expectations?

We are delighted with InDesign, especially in difficult economic times. We think that InDesign 2.0 came along at a time when users were ready to take another look, when OS X support started to be really important to the publishing community, and we have been really happy with the response. I mentioned the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the London Daily Telegraph, and we also have the Australian Consolidated Press, which is the largest magazine publisher in Australia, with more than 65 titles. Glamour in the UK, others I can give you a whole slew of really exciting [publishers] using InDesign, and most important to us, they're loving InDesign. We are going to remain very committed to InDesign in our march forward to realizing Network Publishing. We're really happy with the short-term progress. We knew from day one that it was not going to be overnight. But we're very pleased at the progress.

Q: How is development with Jaguar?

We're in great shape. We've already done some robust testing with Jaguar, and the good news is there are no major concerns at this point for our users using InDesign on Jaguar. Obviously, it's still evolving, but we've seen some areas where performance is actually better. I think the bottom line with InDesign is that we're not sitting still. With InDesign, we're attempting to set the standards for design for the future.

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