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InDesign CS5

At a Glance
  • Adobe InDesign CS5

    Macworld Rating

According to Adobe’s research, InDesign isn’t just for print anymore; it’s now used for a wide range of projects, including those targeted to online and mobile devices. These days, customers crave easier ways to add interactivity, export documents to Flash, and create e-books, and seek streamlined techniques for the functions they use day in and day out. When you compare the new release of InDesign to these goals, the result is highly successful.

Flash and interactivity

Many jobs that previously required the prowess (and expense) of a Flash developer can now be handled inside InDesign CS5. In fact, the program now includes many of the same motion presets as Flash Professional CS5. InDesign users can also create their own custom presets to animate literally any object on the page—and those presets can also be used in Flash. The animation process is straightforward, but not for the faint of heart, especially if you are a traditional desktop publishing expert, but not necessarily a Flash jockey. As with most things interactive, expect a little trial and error to get things working the way you want.

As you're building your interactive masterpiece, you’ll surely need to preview it often, and InDesign CS5’s new Preview panel shows you the fruits of your work without having to export the file first. If you like what you see, you can export some or all of it as a finished SWF file, which can now include animations, movies, and audio files, in addition to buttons, page transitions, and hyperlinks. Note that animations created in InDesign work only with SWF and FLA exports, but are ignored by exported PDF files.

Both SWF and interactive PDF files benefit from an expanded range of file formats you can import and use in InDesign CS5. In addition to MOV, AVI, and WMV files, you can now import SWF, FLV (Flash video), and MP3 audio files. InDesign CS5 also comes with Adobe Media Encoder, which you can use to convert other video formats to FLV.

Several new panels provide control for these interactive, multimedia goodies. The new Animation panel lets you choose a motion preset to apply to a selected object so that it's animated when the file is exported to SWF. Other panel controls let you modify an animation’s duration, speed, rotation, scale, and opacity. In addition, you can create your own path with the Pen tool and use the Convert to Motion Path button in the panel to make a selected object follow a custom path.

The Interactive workspace preset provides all the panels necessary to create and control animations. A helpful preview shows you an example of your chosen animation preset—just watch the butterfly.

InDesign CS5 introduces a new type of object called the multi-state object (MSO). You use the Object States panel to both create and control multi-state objects—page items that have multiple appearances. New button actions give the SWF viewer a way to change the states (appearances) of the objects.

The Timing panel (an adjunct of the Animation panel) lets you control the playing order (timing) of two or more animations on a spread—such as bullet points in a presentation or images in slideshow, as well as set the animation to loop or play a specific number of times, link animated objects so they play simultaneously, and more.

Using the Media Panel, you can manage all your placed audio and video, and even scrub through placed video files, if their formats permit. You can even select a single frame from the video (called a poster frame) to represent the video in your InDesign CS5 document when the video isn’t playing. In addition, if you’re working with FLV or H.264 video files, you can pick “skins” for the playback controller, and create navigation points that determine which part of the video plays when you click a button or trigger an action.

Flash Professional integration

If your project requires additional work in Flash Professional, much of your InDesign finesse carries over, including typography and threaded text frames, multi-state objects, and placed video and audio files. For example, any object you animate with the motion presets is automatically added to the Flash Professional timeline as a motion object. The original layer structure of your InDesign CS5 document is even recreated in the Flash Professional timeline, so a Flash developer can easily understand how the pages were built. Sweet!

E-books and Dreamweaver

When you export a document into the ePub file format (a popular format for e-books), you can control the reading order based on your document structure. You can also use CSS (cascading style sheets) to create consistent styling throughout the piece, and add chapter breaks, format tables, and subset fonts (meaning only the characters used in the document make it into the e-book).

Exporting to Dreamweaver was also mildly improved in InDesign CS5. Using the Structure panel, you can control the order in which page content is placed on a Web page when you import it into Dreamweaver. InDesign also now generates CSS that more closely matches the text attributes you set in InDesign.

Increased efficiency

For mere mortals and page-layout experts, InDesign CS5 now requires fewer steps when you’re manipulating page objects. For example, rather than constantly swapping tools for different tasks, you can use the good old Selection tool to align, distribute, rotate, resize, reposition, crop, and scale frames and frame content. You can also apply a color to an object by using the Control panel instead of the Swatches panel.

The Layers panel has also been redesigned, and is now similar to the one in Adobe Illustrator. You can see a list of objects perched on a given layer, plus you can select, hide, name, lock, and change the stacking order of any object right there in the Layers panel. Grouped objects show up, too, with a handy disclosure triangle that lets you see and rearrange items within the group.

Also new is the Auto-Fit option that controls what happens when you resize a graphic frame—does the graphic resize along with the frame, or does it get cropped? This comes in super handy when you’re using the new Gap tool, which lets you adjust the white space between multiple objects while maintaining the overall page chunk the objects occupy.

InDesign CS5’s redesigned Layers panel lets you show, hide and lock objects, and change the stacking order of grouped objects within their group. The circle in the middle of the dog graphic is the Content Grabber you can drag to reposition content within its frame, while seeing a preview of the entire image—even the stuff outside the frame.

If you’re new to InDesign, you’ll appreciate the new Tool Hints panel that tells you the basic function of each tool and how you can change its behavior using modifier keys. Experienced users will appreciate an arguably more logical arrangement of certain menu items.

You can also use Adobe Bridge to preview individual pages in an InDesign CS5 document without launching InDesign. However, you can only see previews beyond the first two pages if you’ve done two things: changed the File Handling preference setting in InDesign CS5 to save those previews, and saved the document in InDesign CS5—it doesn’t work with earlier versions of the program. Bridge is also happy to collect and quickly let you view the graphics and other media files you placed into a document, with just a right-click of your mouse.

Bridge can output to PDF with watermarks and rename files in batches. And you don’t even have to leave InDesign CS5 to access Bridge—you can use the new Mini Bridge panel. And speaking of PDF documents, yet another new timesaver is the ability to continue working on a document while the PDF file is being generated.

Text handling and page layout enhancements

Addressing a longstanding user request, paragraphs can now span multiple columns in a text frame, a real timesaver when you’re creating headlines and captions. Also, paragraphs in one column can be reformatted as multiple columns within that column (great for lists of short items).

A new Balance Columns feature keeps the length of all the columns in a multi-column text frame balanced—even as you edit the text. The new Live Captions feature generates either static or live captions for an image using its metadata, such as the photographer’s name and copyright information.

Probably the biggest structural change in InDesign CS5 is the ability to include multiple page sizes in one document, which makes it much easier to maintain consistent formatting across various items in a project, such as ads, brochures, business cards, and the like.

It’s also a lot easier to add a grid of picture frames or threaded text frames to your page—you simply press the arrow keys to add columns and rows as you drag. And for those designers who just can’t get enough rounded corners, the new Live Corner Effects feature lets you drag one or more rounded corners of a frame to change their radius, rather than having to type numbers into a field in the Control panel.

Collaboration features

InDesign CS5 can also keep track of text additions, revisions, and deletions in a document (and who made the changes)—you can accept or reject changes using options similar to those in word processors. This feature also integrates with Adobe InCopy (InDesign's companion program for writers and editors), as well as Adobe CS Review, a new Adobe CS Live online service that lets you share documents for online review within InDesign. Your collaborators don’t even need to spring for InDesign—you can import and export text to Adobe Buzzword, an online word processing tool in Adobe CS Live.

The new Document-Installed Fonts feature is a huge timesaver for anyone who shares files, especially output providers (such as service bureaus). As in previous versions of InDesign, when you package a document, you have the option to include a copy of the document’s fonts in a Document Fonts folder; however, in CS5, when that document is opened on another computer, InDesign activates all the cross-platform fonts in the Document Fonts folder (for use in that document only). Once you close the document, the fonts are deactivated. While this feature works with OpenType and Windows TrueType fonts, it may not work with Mac OS fonts on Windows, or PostScript fonts going across platforms. You’ll want to test that your specific fonts work with this feature.

Macworld’s buying advice

If you're a print publisher who is taking the plunge into interactive and electronic documents, InDesign CS5 is an absolute must-have. The new tools for adding Flash interactivity, video and audio, plus its smooth integration with Flash Professional, gives designers unprecedented control over a range of publishing options and formats. But even if your work is focused on just producing traditional print documents, CS5’s new productivity enhancements will shave tons of time off your daily workflow.

[Lesa Snider is the founder of, chief evangelist of, and the author of Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual (Pogue Press/O’Reilly) .]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating


    • New interactive features.
    • Multiple page sizes in one document.
    • Streamlined tools.
    • Tracking of text changes.
    • Some improved menu item locations.


    • Multi-page preview in Bridge requires preference change.
    • Minimal Dreamweaver integration improvement.
    • Few long document improvements.
    • Online collaboration tools will be fee-based after a year.
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