Up until now, designers, illustrators, and other graphics professionals haven't had much incentive to jump to OS X. With the exception of Macromedia FreeHand 10, not many professional-level graphics or layout programs have been rewritten to run natively in OS X.
As early OS X adopters will know, that's not an insignificant drawback. Say you wanted to run Adobe Illustrator. You would have to turn to OS X's Classic environment--essentially switching back to OS 9 to run the application. Under Classic, not only did you lose the benefits of OS X--protected memory, dual-processor support, symmetrical multiprocessing--but in some cases applications ran slower than in OS 9. For the professionals who make their living performing processor-intensive tasks in high-end graphics and design programs, that fact has simply been to big a barrier to overcome.
But with two announcements at the Seybold Seminars in San Francisco this week, Adobe (800/833-6687, www.adobe.com) hopes to give graphics pros a reason to take a second look at OS X. The company has announced new versions of InDesign and Illustrator that, in addition to the spate of features that are part of any update, will also run natively in the new operating system.
You'll have to wait a while for InDesign 2.0--Adobe plans a winter release, meaning the application may not ship until early 2002. Still, news of InDesign's upcoming release is significant, not only because it gives users a glance at some of the 800 new features in the application but also because it reaffirms the OS X commitment from one of the Mac's most important developers.
Some Transparent Changes
Prior to this week's announcement, Adobe has already hinted at many of the features in InDesign 2.0, such as object transparency. Users can now easily change the opacity of text, pictures, or boxes transparent, just like they would in Illustrator of Photoshop. A new Feather feature softens edges and recognizes transparencies in Photoshop files.
InDesign 2.0 adds sophisticated built-in table-making tools--the application can now convert tabular data from Word, and offers the ability to add rows and columns just by clicking and dragging on an existing table. The update adds extensive table-formatting options for the color, character styles, and other features of entire tables or individual cells.
Keeping with Adobe's pledge to make all of its products XML-aware, InDesign 2.0 lets users import and export document content in Extensible Markup Language (XML). On import, users can add XML tags in multiple ways. They can also export all tagged data or just certain tags. InDesign's Show Structure feature splits the main window to give an outline view of XML tags identified by name. In a curious use of the term, Adobe is billing the structural view as a beta release--possibly an acknowledgement that the tool will need some work to make it fully functional.
Besides adding new features, Adobe has worked to enhance InDesign's performance. Mundane but critical tasks such as placing text and graphics should be speedier in version 2.0. The Print dialog box has been reworked to make it easier to navigate.
Some requested features didn't make it into the InDesign update. There's no Story Editor feature to provide a separate window for editing text. Adobe says it will try to add Story Editor in a future release; for now, the company suggests using its InCopy editing application.
Illustrator 10 Comes to X
Unlike InDesign, Illustrator 10 will ship before the end of the year, priced at $399, or $149 for upgrades. The latest version takes Illustrator into uncharted territory. The update introduces templates and a Variables palette that--along with scripts from Adobe and third-party developers that draw from databases--are designed to automate repetitive work for print and Web publishers.
The concept is a common one in direct-marketing pieces, where designers change one part of an otherwise static document, such as a recipient's name in a fund-raising letter. Illustrator 10 will up the ante--in a template, users can apply elaborate effects to text or images, then tag them as variables. Even as the underlying text or image varies, Illustrator 10 retains and applies the elaborate effects.
In what Adobe bills as a first for the Web, Illustrator 10 will produce Web graphics on the fly that retain effects applied to the original. Users can create a template with Illustrator and then generate variations by replacing the data using scripts or with Adobe's new dynamic imaging server, AlterCast. Aimed at e-commerce sites, AlterCast will be available before the end of 2001, starting at $10,000.
The remainder of Illustrator 10's new features are along more-familiar lines. FreeHand users should feel at home with Illustrator 10's Envelope tool, which applies editable effects to raster and vector objects. Also new is the ability to combine multiple shapes into one compound shape that can still be edited.
Symbols and eight "symbolism" tools debut in Illustrator 10. Symbols allow users to create one object, and then re-use and modify it multiple times. Illustrator sports four new drawing tools--the line, grid, arc, and polar grid. The Selection options have expanded to include a Photoshop-like Magic Wand.
Web designers will appreciate the ability to make object-based slices that can be saved out independently in a number of formats, including SWF and SVG as well as JPEG and GIF.
InDesign and Illustrator join Acrobat Reader 5 in the ranks of Adobe applications that run natively in OS X. Still missing from Adobe's OS X lineup is the ultimate killer application, Photoshop. While it confirms that the next major update of the image-editing software will run natively in OS X, Adobe hasn't said when Mac users can expect that release. Until that day comes, graphic pros may need more convincing before they install OS X.