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Adobe InDesign CS

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At a Glance
  • Adobe InDesign CS

InDesign CS is a subtle yet very powerful update to Adobe's publishing flagship.

The previous version, InDesign 2.0, introduced most of the key features that made the young program a publishing powerhouse: the word-processor–like table editor, the Photoshop-level transparency features, and highly sophisticated typographic control. This version brings enhancements to many of these features, and it has several sensational new ones, such as nested styles and a much more efficient console for accessing text and object attributes. Although InDesign's interface is still somewhat complex, this is a more capable and more functional InDesign; in due time, this program will easily claim the publishing crown.

What You Gain

The best new feature is a seemingly simple one: nested styles. A great use for this feature is creating drop caps -- with nested styles, you can set a drop cap's size, drop, and font, and then use another style for the rest of the paragraph. Apply this concept to bullets, lead-ins, and openers -- for example, set the bullet in one format, the sentence that follows (the bullet heading) in another, and the rest of the paragraph in a third -- and you'll soon discover that nested styles are a must-have.

It would be nice, however, if you could apply a style to the first line of a paragraph, so you could, for example, set that line in small caps -- a common design. But with nested styles, you must specify the number of words or sentences, or insert a format-to-here character.

Two other significant additions are the Separations Preview palette, which lets you see each of the four color separations before you print, and support for rich media such as buttons, movies, and sounds in InDesign layouts exported to PDF. Prepress artists and technicians will appreciate Separations Preview; the multimedia features will be useful for interactive designers who start with existing print documents rather than create multimedia presentations in a program such as Macromedia Director. (QuarkXPress 5 introduced similar multimedia capabilities.)

Most of what's new in InDesign -- and there are more than 100 additions -- are enhancements to or extensions of existing features. Many are minor, but most are truly useful, and users will quickly take to them.

For example, you can now save page specifications in the New Document dialog box as presets, so you can standardize your page sizes, such as layouts for business cards and marketing materials. The ability to keep your objects' text wraps on hidden layers is effective in two key situations: when masking and when you don't want text to reflow simply because you hid a large graphic to speed screen display.

For text handling, InDesign now lets a paragraph style automatically align the first line of each paragraph to the baseline grid; this comes in handy for realigning text after a subhead. There's also a new preference for retaining or suppressing formatting for text pasted into InDesign from other programs. This is great for when you want to strip out unwanted formatting.

InDesign's table function has several similar enhancements, including the ability to create header and footer rows that repeat across each page in a multipage table, and the ability to specify the type of strokes for table and cell boundaries.

Some Borrowed Items

Adobe has integrated several features previously available in InDesign's rival QuarkXPress. The biggest of these is the contextual Control palette, modeled on XPress's Measurements palette. Another biggie is the implementation of mixed-ink colors; now you can combine spot colors or process colors -- and InDesign one-ups XPress by letting you create a graduated palette of such colors, so you can choose from a range of hues that use the same inks.

InDesign CS also has PageMaker's Story Editor feature, a window in which you can edit text separately from your layout. But Story Editor doesn't show the layout's line breaks or text-box limits, so many people will prefer to edit text directly in their layouts.

What You Give Up

InDesign CS has some curious gaps, and a feature has been removed: the ability to save layouts in HTML format for use on the Web. InDesign does package layouts in XML format for use in GoLive, but that's hardly a mainstream approach to Web publishing and print-document conversion.

One gap is a critical deficit: there is no way to save InDesign CS files down to version 2; this will slow the adoption of InDesign CS. Most publishing organizations will need a longer shakedown period before they entrust their workflows to a program whose files can't be used by an earlier version. (InDesign 2 didn't downsave either, but few people used earlier versions of the program, so it wasn't such a problem. An Adobe spokesperson says that the company hopes to solve this problem in a future version.)

The previous InDesign's clumsy workgroup features, which let documents be checked in and out as they moved through a publication workflow, are also gone. Instead, if you have the Version Cue software that comes with the full Creative Suite, you can access files from a set of shared folders and control access to them. But if your workflow requires the check-in and checkout of individual stories, you must buy Adobe's $259 InCopy CS.

InDesign's highly cluttered interface is a continued annoyance; it spreads features all over the place, voraciously consuming screen real estate. With nine additional palettes, InDesign CS all but requires a two-monitor setup or a wide-screen display. Opening and closing palettes involves too much effort. There's a workspace manager that lets you save palette collections for easy opening and closing of related functions, but streamlining the palettes would have been better than providing a tool that hides and opens them in groups. Fortunately, Adobe includes the Control palette. Users can save screen space and time by using the Control palette in place of at least a half dozen other ones, and it's even more powerful than XPress's Measurements palette.

Like QuarkXPress 6, InDesign CS doesn't support OS 9. That's not a big deal, with Apple now into its second major mainstream version of OS X. InDesign CS shipped just before OS X 10.3 (Panther), so it formally supports just OS X 10.2 (Jaguar), but an Adobe spokesperson says that the company has certified it for Panther. Our usage under Panther revealed no serious problems, but the shortcuts for several commonly used palettes (Character Styles, Paragraph Styles, Stroke, and Table) conflict with new Exposé shortcuts in Panther. You'll need to redefine either InDesign's shortcuts or Exposé's.

Clearly the Leader

Like a slow but persistent B-movie monster that eventually catches its screaming victim, InDesign will soon overtake XPress. Adobe has added several QuarkXPress features to InDesign, such as the ability to mix inks and make custom rules and underlines. And it has enhanced the program's superior table-creation and typographic features, pushing forward unique features such as transparency control. Sure, XPress has many features InDesign doesn't, and it may still be easier to flow text in QuarkXPress, via the combination of master pages, automatic page addition, and pre-linked text boxes. But these advantages may no longer be enough to keep people using XPress.

XPress's unique strengths have dwindled to a few little-used functions, and InDesign CS is the program that will relegate QuarkXPress to PageMaker's status of a decade ago. PageMaker users gave up that program's few advantages to move to QuarkXPress, and now QuarkXPress users are likely to switch to InDesign, which, by all accounts, Adobe will continue to improve.


To determine whether the functionality -- and cost -- of the full Adobe Creative Suite is right for you, read " It Doesn't Always Add Up."

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Nested-styles feature eases complex text formatting
    • Automatically manages table headers and footers across pages
    • Better typographic and graphics capabilities than QuarkXPress offers
    • Contextual Control palette
    • Dozens of small enhancements


    • No way to save files for use in InDesign 2
    • Web export limited to XML format for use in Adobe GoLive
    • Features too scattered
    • Too many palettes
    • Time-consuming text-flow process
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