When Adobe first shipped InDesign 1.0, the page-layout program felt premature as if the company needed to get something out the door but had only a square table with three legs. Sure, it was usable, but at what cost in the time and energy of users? Fortunately, Adobe mobilized its forces, stayed focused, and took advantage of InDesign’s modular structure to release version 1.5 only six months later, solving many of the first version’s most glaring errors and omissions. InDesign 1.5 is a table with four legs now, though it still wobbles something fierce every now and again.
Adobe paid attention to users and reviewers when it came to fixing some of the most glaring deficiencies of InDesign 1.0 (see Reviews, December 1999). Version 1.5 improves on the crippled path-editing tools you can now select and modify more than one point at a time on a path (or even points on different paths). And InDesign 1.5 boasts text-on-a-path features that not only match QuarkXPress’s but far exceed those in Adobe Illustrator.
Adobe has also slightly improved InDesign’s frustrating text-runaround features. Instead of relying solely on physical frames for controlling text wrap, InDesign 1.5 can recognize embedded paths and alpha channels in bitmapped images. Unfortunately, InDesign is still brain-dead when it comes to EPS files created in Illustrator or FreeHand: the only way to run text around the shapes of such graphics is to either create a frame based on an image preview or drag the images into InDesign. The latter solution is less than ideal, as it transforms your single image into a collection of objects.
InDesign 1.5 can also use the alpha channel or path information to create a clipping path for a placed graphic. However, unlike QuarkXPress, InDesign makes you convert clipping paths into frames (boxes), so it’s still infuriatingly easy to move an image while leaving its clipping path behind. Adobe needs to rethink its entire concept for working with frames and clipping paths in InDesign.
Other new features include an eyedropper for sampling and applying colors, vertical justification for text frames, and new control characters that indent text or send it to new positions. Adobe has also resolved one of version 1.0’s most glaring deficiencies: whereas InDesign formerly required a separate (and expensive) program to trap files, the new version’s impressive native trapping feature can trap to its own objects as well as to placed raster graphics (though not to placed EPS images).
Palettes in the Midst
InDesign 1.5’s redesigned interface lets you center text vertically and place it along the outside edge of the frame.
Despite all these new features, InDesign needs many more before we’ll consider it a killer app. It still lacks long-document features such as table-of-contents generation, indexing, and style and page-number synchronization between documents. You can’t yet combine spot and process colors, as you can in QuarkXPress. PageMaker users who switch to InDesign won’t find a Story Editor feature. And unbelievably, InDesign still has two separate keyboard shortcuts for accessing the Grabber Hand: the option key when you’re inside a text block, and the spacebar when you’re not.
You should ignore Adobe’s minimum hardware requirements; most users report that they need a G3 or a G4 with at least 128MB of RAM to use InDesign with any degree of efficiency. In addition, because the program opens so many files as part of its plug-in architecture, some users have had to upgrade to Mac OS 9 to avoid error messages warning them that they have too many files open. Finally, watch how your Mac OS RAM usage expands while InDesign is running an increase from 40MB to 70MB is not uncommon.
Even when your system meets these requirements, InDesign can run surprisingly slowly. Just a few graphics on the page can slow down screen redraw; you may find that even a text-only chapter gets terribly bogged down. And InDesign can take forever to spool a short document to a laser printer.
One of the most interesting aspects of InDesign 1.5 isn’t a feature or a performance enhancement, but its upgrade policy. When Adobe first announced an upgrade price of $99, existing users had a quick and loud reaction. Adobe backed down and offered the upgrade free to anyone who had paid full price for InDesign 1.0; for everyone else, it changed the upgrade price to a much fairer $30. Within a week after Adobe posted the new upgrade policy, the revolt was over. (InDesign 1.5 is not backward-compatible, so if one person in a workgroup decides to upgrade, everyone else should follow suit.)