InDesign long ago overtook PageMaker as Adobe’s publishing flagship, but the company has let the OS 9–only PageMaker 7 languish on life support. Even with the new InDesign CS, Adobe is not quite ready to let go. PageMaker lives on, sort of, via the new PageMaker Plug-in Pack that adds to InDesign CS eight PageMaker modules, three of which are from version 7. Though it’s marketed as a transition aid for PageMaker users, the pack isn’t a bridge from PageMaker; rather, it’s a collection of PageMaker tools that InDesign should have featured in the first place, along with some InDesign interface enhancements.
Data Merge Improvements
The most useful plug-in of the pack is Data Merge, which lets you create documents featuring variable text, form letters, catalogs, and business cards. Just set up a comma-delimited or tab-delimited text file with your data (text and/or links to images), and import the data into InDesign. This process is similar to using Microsoft Word’s Mail Merge feature, except that Data Merge has no way to set up conditions for variable-text handling. That means you can’t insert or remove words condition-ally (say, to create a form letter addressed to both individuals and couples).
Adobe has fixed a bug in the PageMaker 7 version of this plug-in so that it properly lays out merge items destined to be placed several times on a page, such as for printing labels.
Plug-in Pack’s bullet and numbering features are welcome, since InDesign has no simple way to produce these things; they work as they do in Word, renumbering automatically as needed. As with Word, you can’t choose the bullet type, and adjusting the spacing means modifying the paragraph. I’d prefer a more sophisticated implementation.
Plug-in Pack also includes a lowly apprentice production’s InBooklet SE tool to create folded brochures. The plug-in arranges the pages in the correct order for printing — double-sided and ready for folding. It’s easy and can even adjust each page’s layout automatically to allow for creep — a phenomenon that occurs when material on the outside pages creeps into the fold due to the thickness of the folded pages. In addition, Plug-in Pack comes with templates and a template viewer.
Plug-in Pack also adds two interface features. One is a handy toolbar taken from the Windows version of PageMaker 7 that gives you one-click access to common functions such as opening a file or inserting pages. This adds yet another palette to InDesign CS’s cluttered interface, but it’s worth it. The other is the Position tool; it selects an object’s container or content contextually, instead of forcing you to pick the correct tool, as you would with InDesign. But you’ll still need to use InDesign’s Selection and Direct Selection tools since the Position tool doesn’t completely replace them.
Finally, Plug-in Pack lets you import PageMaker 6.0 files, in addition to the PageMaker 6.5 and 7 formats that the standard edition of InDesign supports.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
PageMaker Plug-in Pack will prove useful to many InDesign users. It adds long-established PageMaker automated-bullet and -numbering tools, as well as options that simplify access to InDesign’s various functions. It’s a good deal for $49.