InDesign CS 2, by Adobe
Posted: 26-May-2006

5 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Adobe Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Diane Love Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Adobe InDesign is a professional page layout application which is geared to producing printed output such as magazines and brochures, as well as to PDF and the web. It works with other members of the Adobe CS2 suite, for example by exporting to GoLive and importing from Photoshop and Illustrator as well as from Microsoft Word.

Installation
One thing to note is that Adobe has now taken more control over the activation process. Unlike previous versions, just entering a serial number will not allow you to use the software. Adobe switched to an activation scheme similar to Macromedia Studio, where you must go through an Activation process that connects with Adobe's server. This Activation keeps track of the number of activations that serial number has, and with CS2, you are limited to two (allowing you to use the software on two machines).

This new activation process will thwart software piracy, which is likely the intent of this change, but it could also be an issue if you need to reload the software on your computer after a crash, or perhaps if you are moving the software from one machine to another. Activation is an extra step that makes it harder to use what you own. If you go into a store and buy a hammer, you can use it without phoning the manufacturer. On the other hand, I have always found Adobe telephone support for previous registration issues to be very good. I was disappointed with some installation issues I had, which seemed to be related to installing as admin and then using on a different account to access the software.

After installing and activating InDesign CS2, you are ready to start using the software.

InDesign versus Word processing
While there is overlap between word processing and page layout, the focus of word processors is to originate content, whereas page layout is about presentation of content that may be originated in other applications. The hallmark of page layout is the capability to place multiple text flows, each in multiple connected frames which can be adjacent or on separate pages. By contrast, while many word processors have a simple text frame capability, a word processed document is generally a single flow from beginning to end. InDesign offers drawing and word processing functionality including drag and drop text editing and spell checking.

With InDesign your starting point is that you have a set number of pages to fill - for example you may have decided in advance to produce a 4 page newsletter or a 40 page magazine. In general when you open a magazine you are looking at a left page and a right page, which taken together constitute a "spread". InDesign encourages you to design to those spreads and displays spread pages side by side.


A Spread Page


Like Illustrator, InDesign works with the true-to-life concept of an artboard where you put the final work, while you keep scraps of things you are working on off on the side.

In the end you may want to print onto paper twice the size of your magazine and fold it in half. You won't print the pages in spreads, but in the order that they will be in the folded pages. For example, for a 16 page magazine you would have to print page 16 on the left of page 1, turn over and print page 2 on the left of page 15. Word processors in general can't do this. InDesign comes with a handy plugin, InBooklet, that looks after this for you for a simple document and can be upgraded to create documents with more complex bindings.

InDesign versus scissors and glue
In the early days of page layout applications, using a computer was more efficient and accurate than the old fashioned methods, but far less creative. With a phototypesetter, a process camera, scissors, glue and technical pens you were not confined to vertical and horizontal alignments of rectangular text frames. Today with InDesign, I am hard pressed to imagine something I could do manually that couldn't be done with InDesign, whereas InDesign suggests all kinds of things that would have been extremely time consuming at best, or more likely impossible to do in the olden days.

For example, although InDesign lets you set type in evenly sized vertical columns if you want to, it's equally possible to choose a layout that's more in keeping with its subject, in this case the megaliths of northern Scotland. All the time of course, the text flows after each tweak of a corner of the containing frames.


Text Flow and Positioning


As well as text editing, positioning, and typographical features (such as glyphs and kerning), InDesign has drawing tools similar to Illustrator's. One point to note is that there are small differences in the palettes between Illustrator and its siblings. For example in the tools palette, the tools with multiple options can't be torn off like they can in Illustrator - in this respect InDesign is like Photoshop.

Learning InDesgin
InDesign is easy enough to come to grips with for anyone who has used a page layout or desktop publishing application in the past. Experience with Photoshop or Illustrator will make the user interface familiar. There is a comprehensive help system with tutorial sections which cover the most important "getting started" topics. If you are moving to CS2 from CS, the splash page can take you to the InDesign CS2 website where you can watch short but concentrated Quicktime videos of tutorials on the new features.

What's new in CS2?
InDesign CS2 is a major upgrade over InDesign CS. The new features can categorized as fabulous, workflow oriented, so-so, and euphemistic.

Fabulous new features include anchored objects, object styles, and support for layered objects. Anchoring objects allows you to define precise positioning of a graphic relative to a paragraph (for example) and to lock that position against accidental mouse gestures in the vicinity of the object.

Object styles allow you to define a reusable named format for objects in your InDesign document and reapply them to other objects. If you change a previously styled object manually, the style offers you the option to reapply the manual change to all other objects of that style. Example applications include applying consistent positioning and drop shadows.

Layered Objects
If you import a layered Photoshop file, InDesign can now allow you to hide and show layers in the Photoshop file without going back to Photoshop; the same is true for layered PDFs. Here are some illustrations of this feature in use.


Importing Layered Photoshop Files


Import a photo with several layers into InDesign. Select Object Layer Properties and, in this example, turn off the layer containing the sea, ensuring Preview is checked. Now it's possible to pour text into the blank area by setting InDesign's Text Wrap tool to follow the alpha channel of the image:


Text Wrap Tool


Unfortunately, although the layer control works, on the review machine (1GHz 17 flat panel G4 iMac with 1GB memory and 80G hard disk with about 5 GB free at best) it worked extremely slowly, sometimes taking up to 25 seconds to respond to a command to turn on or off a layer - which would be achieved in an eyeblink in Photoshop. I hate to complain that it didn't "beachball" while I was waiting - but I have to, because without the beachball I could continue to turn preview off and on and lose track of what InDesign was supposed to be doing and end up going round in circles. Once I developed the habit of clicking once at a time and then waiting with one eye on the second hand of my watch, I began to believe that it worked.

Workflow-oriented features include improved import of MS Word and RTF, XML support, plus InCopy assignments. For Word import, you can now define how Word styles map to InDesign styles. InCopy assignment refers to the capability to assign articles within your magazine to named members of your editorial staff using InCopy, a separate copy editing application that is not part of the CS2 suite under review.

For the home user, the so-so new features are likely to be Adobe Bridge and InDesign snippets. With Bridge we seem to be reinventing a wheel that has already been invented once by the Mac OS X with the column browser, Expose and Spotlight and reinvented by iLife. It's basically a browser that lets you organize and find all the files that you might want to import into your InDesign file, including Photoshop, Illustrator and Microsoft Word files. Bridge can zoom in or out on its content so you can see enough of a candidate file to decide whether it's the one you want without actually opening it - if the Mac OS X column view doesn't already do that for you.

Snippets is the name for the capability of dragging bits of your InDesign file out into Adobe Bridge and leaving them there for use in different files later - again, something that's possible to some extent in Mac OS X. Perhaps in a professional setting these features could save time, but I suspect what you get out of Bridge depends wholly on how much time you commit to organizing your media within it.

Finally, there's one astounding euphemism in the new features list. With Microsoft Word we are all used to version after version of Word producing files that are totally compatible between versions (although the new Microsoft XML format on the horizon is going to put paid to that in the near future). Seemingly though, InDesign CS2 is not file compatible with InDesign CS. What to do? Write a conversion application and have your marketing team claim it as a feature. Honestly!

Summary
Adobe InDesign is an industry standard page layout application which is geared to print publications and capable of exporting to electronic media and the web. It offers unlimited flexibility in bringing any visual design you can imagine into print, and the CS2 version has some new features which add to usability and improve workflow. Adobe InDesign CS2 is recommended for professional users and for serious amateurs, especially those who have access to the discounts available for students and educators.

Pros

  • Totally flexible positioning, rotation, scaling and transformation
  • Drawing tools
  • Anchored objects
  • Object styles
  • Can hide and show layers in Photoshop and PDF files

Cons

  • Activation
  • Performance issues with layered Photoshop file manipulation
  • File format can't be opened by InDesign CS without conversion


Overall Rating:

5 out of 5 Mice