InDesign CS6 makes quick work of designing for multiple platforms

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As an increasing number of designers now cross the divide between print and Web—and further between Web, tablet, smart phone, and a vast number of devices where designs must hold their own—Adobe has crafted InDesign CS6 to be the workhorse to carry the heavy load. InDesign takes over many tedious and time-consuming tasks, from gathering and saving content to mocking up pages for different devices, so designers can concentrate on the creative process rather than on mechanics. Here are the highlights of the new InDesign CS6.

Adaptive Design

While designers have always been called on to reformat existing projects to accommodate new page formats and dimensions (such as creating a printed ad from a Web page or vice versa), the demand has never been as prevalent as it is today. Because of the popularity of the iPad and other mobile devices of various sizes and configurations, designers now commonly create multiple layouts that share the same content. Adobe’s new Adaptive Design tools promise to make that process easier. Adaptive Design tools include Alternate Layouts, Liquid Layout, and Linked Content.

Alternate Layouts Before CS6, if InDesign users needed to produce multiple dimensions and formats for one publication, they had to create and maintain separate documents or duplicate objects onto multiple page sizes in a single document. With CS6, you can add one or more alternate-sized layouts to an existing InDesign document, and InDesign copies your existing content onto the new page size.

This ad is intended for an iPad magazine, and is shown in both its vertical and horizontal orientations. These two layouts exist within one InDesign document, and are shown side-by-side using the new Split Window feature.

Now, you get the option of letting InDesign re-shape the existing content to an appropriate size for the new pages, or simply copy everything as-is onto the new pages. This is handy for generating a horizontal iPad layout from a vertical layout, for example. Once you create the Alternate Layout, it behaves exactly the same as any other InDesign layout—but new objects added to the original layout are not duplicated on the Alternate Layout.

You can control the way InDesign handles the conversion of page objects to the Alternate Layout by adjusting the Liquid Layout rules, and by customizing the text styles in the new layout. Helpfully, InDesign duplicates the styles from the original layout into the new layout—you can change them in the new layout, and it won’t affect the styles in your original layout.

The Liquid Layout panel provides controls over how every page object, or the entire page, is handled when InDesign re-shapes it for new page dimensions. This item will resize in both height and width, with its top left corner “pinned” to the page (to not move).
When exporting your project to a .folio file (used by Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite for generating an iPad app), both the horizontal and vertical layouts are automatically included.

Liquid Layout When InDesign converts a layout to new dimensions, it resizes and repositions objects based on Liquid Layout rules you defined or chose for each page or object. If the shape of your new layout isn’t much different from the original, you can choose a simple Scale or Re-center rule.

You can also drag out special Liquid Layout guides to control how different columns or rows of frames resize, or you can apply specific rules to individual frames to control whether they resize, from what origin point, and whether their content should scale. No matter how carefully you apply the rules, you’ll probably still need to adjust objects manually after the conversion.

InDesign can show you a live preview of how your objects will change. Just use the improved Page tool to drag the corner of your page to your new size and watch as objects move and resize.

Linked Content As you might imagine, keeping track of changes that occur simultaneously in multiple layouts can be a logistical nightmare. Adobe’s approach to managing text and graphics that should remain consistent across multiple layouts is similar to the concept of placed graphics. When you place a graphic into an InDesign layout, it isn’t copied into the layout—InDesign merely remembers its location on your network. If you change the graphic in another program, InDesign’s Links panel warns you that it has changed and you can choose to update it in your layout.

In CS6, you can link text, graphics, or anything else in a frame (such as interactivity settings) across pages, layouts, or documents. If you change the original “Parent” object, the “Child” objects indicate that the Parent has changed and you can choose to update each one.

When linking text frames, you can’t link just the words—styles are always linked too. Use the new Link Options in the Links panel to apply a Style Mapping rule to the child frame to control its appearance. You can also preserve changes to the child frame such as appearance, size, shape, frame content, and interactivity.

Content Collector tools

The process of repurposing content for new layouts typically involves a lot of copying and pasting, so to alleviate that tedium, Adobe has created three new tools: Content Collector, Content Conveyor, and Content Placer.

Use the Content Collector to copy an object or group of objects to the Content Conveyor, and then use the Content Placer to place those objects into a new location in any document.

You can think of the Content Conveyor as a beefed-up library, because it not only stores items for re-use, it also lets you maintain live links between the original object(s) and the copies that you place elsewhere. If you change the Parent object, the Child object displays a badge that lets you know the Parent has changed and you can update the Child with the changes. Additionally, when you open a document that contains Child objects whose Parents had been changed, you’ll be prompted to update all the links.

The Content Conveyor holds objects you wish to use in other layouts or documents. When dragged onto the page, objects can be linked to their original (Parent) objects, so that when the Parent changes, the Children can be updated with the changes.

You can collect objects or groups of objects into the Content Conveyor by clicking on them with the Content Collector tool, or you can use a button on the Conveyor to load the Conveyor with all the objects from one or more pages, and optionally include objects from the Pasteboard. If you click a text frame, you can choose to include all text from additional threaded frames.

You can add objects to the Content Conveyor by clicking on them in your layout, or through the Load Conveyor dialog. This dialog lets you select multiple objects to add them as one Conveyor item, or add all the objects from one or more pages.
A group of objects on the Conveyor can then be placed as a group—with their relative locations maintained—or as individual objects. By default, using the Content Placer removes the object from the Conveyor, but you can also choose to keep it on the Conveyor for future use. This is handy for objects you plan to use over and over, such as boilerplate text, logos, or your CEO’s head shot.

ePub enhancements

You can now paste or place interactive HTML content into an InDesign layout, and when you export the document to HTML, EPUB3, or .folio format, the interactivity stays intect.

The EPUB Export dialog box has been redesigned, and EPUB documents now support custom bullets and numbers and more-robust tables.

PDF advancements

In previous versions of the Creative Suite, you had to use Adobe Acrobat to add interactive form elements to a PDF, even if you created the PDF in InDesign. In CS6, you can use the new Buttons And Forms panel to create a text field, radio button, check box, combo box (popup menu), or signature field, as well as buttons for printing, submitting the form by email, and clearing the form. InDesign includes several button designs, or you can convert your own objects into buttons.

You can even include tooltips, set the tab order for form fields, and show and hide form fields based on triggers, such as responses to other questions on the form.

The tab order in a PDF file determines which form field, article, or other content is selected next when you press the Tab key on your keyboard. When a document is read aloud by an application with accessibility features, the application follows the reading order; if you tab to a different area of the document, it’s highlighted as it’s read.

Adobe also added the ability to export your PDF from InDesign in grayscale, which reduces file size and complexity when printing with only black ink, gives you the choice to export each spread as a page (as in earlier versions) or to split the spreads into individual pages.


Here’s how the layout will look if printed in grayscale, or exported to PDF as grayscale.

To help you visualize what your layout will look like in grayscale, the View -> Proof Colors command now includes grayscale options to preview a job in black and white.

You can now preview your layouts as they will appear if printed in grayscale. These grayscale profiles appear in list of profiles in Proof Setup.

Increased productivity

Each time Adobe releases an upgrade to InDesign, it adds an assortment of useful one-trick enhancements. Some are based on user requests, while others are added because they support the program's new features. Here are some examples. The new Split Window feature lets you view two different pages or layouts in one document at the same time. When viewing at Actual Size (100 percent), InDesign now takes into account your display’s resolution so that your design appears closer to its output size.

The Align feature borrows a trick from Illustrator: you can choose a Key object to align other objects to. A text frame with multiple columns can now automatically add or remove columns when you resize the frame. You specify a maximum width, and if the columns grow wider than that, InDesign creates a new column. Previously, InDesign could perform basic math functions inside number fields, such as simple addition and multiplication. With the CS6 version, InDesign can now resolve complex functions that use multiple operators.

You can now Zoom in directly to a linked object when you view it in context from the Links panel. The Extension Manager now lets you save, enable, and disable extensions in groups you define.

You can now export objects, pages, or your entire document to PNG format, a lossless image file format. Saving your InDesign document for backward compatibility is now more intuitive—the Save As dialog box now includes “InDesign CS4 or later (IDML)” as an option.

Text-handling and language support

Font menus now list your most recently used fonts at the top. Preferences let you control the number of fonts it remembers, and whether it lists them alphabetically or chronologically.
Text is the natural adjunct to page layout, and InDesign CS6 offers numerous improvements. The Font menus now group your most recently used fonts at the top, sorted either alphabetically or by recent use. Paragraphs that split or span columns can now have their “Keep” options set, to ensure that all paragraphs that need to stay together will do so.

When adding or removing text from a text frame, auto-size options now let you determine whether the text frame will get taller, wider, or both, and in which directions.

The open-source Hunspell dictionaries are now used by default, and you can choose any of more than 100 dictionaries to install.

When you link a Child text frame to a Parent text frame, you can map styles so that the Child text can have a different appearance from the Parent.

There's new support for Indian languages, including Hindi Marathi, Gujarati Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Telugu, Oriya Malayalan, and Kannada.

Previously, Middle Eastern versions of InDesign were supported by third-party companies. In CS6, Adobe has taken over development, support, and sales of such versions. New features in the Middle Eastern version includes support for tables in the Story Editor, improved Kashida justification, enhanced diacritic positioning, and other text-handling improvements.

System requirements

For the Mac, InDesign CS6 requires a multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or 10.7, and 1GB of RAM (2GB recommended). It also needs a 1024-by-768 display (1280-by-800 recommended) with 16-bit video card.

For Windows, InDesign needs an Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor, Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 3 or Windows 7, and 1GB of RAM (2GB recommended). It also needs a 1024-by-768 display (1280-by-800 recommended) with a 16-bit video card.

[Jay J. Nelson is the editor and publisher of Design Tools Monthly, an executive summary of graphic design news.]

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Vastly improved tools for repurposing content
    • Many user-requested feature enhancements
    • New tools to create PDF forms
    • ePub creation tools now usable
    • Can save documents back to CS4
    • Multiple layouts in one document


    • Liquid Layout rules difficult to master
    • Parent/Child item linking lacks flexibility
    • Yearly paid upgrade cycle
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