By Monte FergusonFor many consumers, and office workers, their idea of a page layout program is their word processing program. While these programs can handle basic desktop publishing projects, they quickly show their limits when put to the test. If you make your living working with the printed page, a word processor is too blunt of a tool. You need a professional, precise, and predictable page layout program.
The choice of a professional page layout program, in the past, has boiled down to two options, PageMaker or Quark Xpress. At the end of the 90’s PageMaker, now owned by Adobe, was really showing it’s age. Adobe decided to replace it with a brand new program called InDesign. By doing so they could start with a clean page. Adobe has been very committed to it’s professional page layout program. They’ve cranked out 4 versions in less than 5 years. While Quark has only produced two updates.
One thing that you have to keep in mind, as you use InDesign, is the concept of layers. InDesign looks at everything on the virtual canvas as a layer. That can take some getting used to. But it’s also a powerful metaphor. Just think of Photoshop with it’s layers and you can begin to appreciate how it can be useful.
As you might expect, InDesign looks an awful lot like it’s siblings Photoshop and Illustrator. That’s not an accident. Adobe has been working steadily to make all three programs have a consistent look and feel. The upshot is that once you get familiar with one program you have an understanding of how the others work. InDesign can even place native Photoshop and Illustrator files directly into a layout.
There are always a bunch of features that are listed with a release. Not all of them are stand out features. We’ve highlighted three that make using InDesign much better.
Page layout programs have been known for laying out text, not composing it. With this release Adobe has added what it calls the Story Editor. It’s an integrated word processing engine. You can also edit your text in layout mode. But the advantage of using the story editor is simplification. There is no formatting, it’s just text, formatted in the font, size and spacing that make it easy for you to read. It’s also easier to follow the text as it’s shown as one continuous, left-justified column without interruptions like page breaks.
Separations Preview palette
The new Separation Preview palette lets you do a soft proof. That is an onscreen preview to make sure color separations look good, before sending them to the printer. It aids you with Varnishes and other coatings which can be transparent. To help you review a varnish by itself InDesign makes the varnished areas appear black. It allows you to identify areas that will print as rich black or process black, which is an ink mixed of multiple colors for a richer color and increased opacity. You can then preview the document to identify areas where ink coverage exceeds the press's limit, requires guidance from your Printer as to limitation of the press they use. You can also preview how blending, transparency, and overprinting will appear in color-separated output.(It does not let you preview trapping, emulsion options, printer's marks, and halftone screens and resolution.)
Flattener Preview Palette
InDesign introduced a really neat effect, transparency. It looks great on screen and works well in PDF’s but can have very mixed results in print. For print the various layers, and their transparency settings, have to be reduced to a single layer.
The new Flattener Preview palette lets you evaluate the transparency flattener presets affect on transparent objects. (A transparent object includes drop shadows, feathered objects, transparent Photoshop or Illustrator files, and the text or graphics that interact with them. Example, our masthead for the newsletter.)
The areas of the artwork in the visible spread where a selected highlight option applies are highlighted in color, while the rest of the artwork appears in grayscale.
Other New Features
Who can complain when one of the features is a performance boost? Zooming, scrolling, wrapping text around objects and importing Photoshop, Word and Excel files are all faster. You can now save commonly used file settings, such as page size, columns, and margins, as document presets--similar to Printer and PDF Export presets--which you can quickly select when you open a new file. You can now apply complex text formatting easily. The trick is to define character styles and then nest them within paragraph styles. Just apply a paragraph style and the nested character styles get applied automatically.
A new Info Palette shows statistics like number of character, words, lines and paragraphs in a text frame (or the actual and original resolution of images you import and resize, as well as the color space and type.) Workspace management allows you to customize your work environment. You can save palette locations as custom workspaces. You can also use the control palette, located above the page, to make quick changes to text and objects. Palettes now collapse in bays that tuck in along the side of your screen. Export Acrobat 6.0 (Adobe PDF 1.5), 5.0, and 4.0 files directly. Even export InDesign layers as PDF 1.5 layers without flattening them. You can also embed movies and sounds, add bookmarks, and create interactive buttons that play back movies 1 sounds, turn pages, and more in PDF files exported from InDesign. Import and print native Photoshop files with transparency, duotone, tritone, and quadtone PSD files, as well as PSD and TIFF files containing spot channels.
Lastly, like all releases, there are those features which can come in handy for some folks. It’s not exactly something you’d pay an upgrade price for, but they can make your day easier. Bleeds and slugs can vary in size per page, must be setup during document setup, and you can specify if they appear in print or pdf output. Imported text can be placed without formatting, and you can determine if placed text is linked or embedded. If you’re ever wished for a measure tool like the one in Photoshop or Illustrator, well now InDesign has one. Adding a feature from Illustrator, a new Pathfinder palette allows you to turn several individual shapes into a compound shape. Text and graphics handling improvements allow you to double click on a text frame and switch to the Type tool, then make changes to the text. You can now maintain a text selection as you move a text frame. A dynamic text preview lets you see text composition changes as you move or resize a text frame. You can edit a linked file, and have it automatically update in your InDesign composition, by Option+ double clicking on it. Text wrap now gives you the option to apply your text wrap settings for hidden objects or layers. Combine two inks--such as a spot color and a varnish or a spot and a process color--to broaden the range of colors available in a two-color print design. Set up a mixed ink group in which the base swatch is a parent to related swatches. Editing the base swatch then automatically updates the related swatches.
Adobe Version Cue
And then there is Version Cue. Adobe has added a collaboration feature across it’s entire product line called Version Cue. It’s really a separate, yet integrated, product rather than a feature. Version Cue can be used to: Create file versions; Maintain file security; Organize files into private or shared projects; Browse files by thumbnails; Search file information and version comments; Review file information, comments, and file statuses in private, and shared projects, while browsing. If you setup a Version Cue server you can do quite a bit more.
There are several very nice, and appealing features of this program. I find it’s export to PDF features both powerful and flexible. It’s one of the most convenient features of the program. I also use the automatic Table of Contents creation. Between those two features alone I save valuable time. Other features that are useful are: Transparency,for drop shadows; Easy text formatting by using the eye dropper tool to apply styles; and adding native Photoshop or Illustrator files. It also runs well under Rosetta on Intel Macs. I also like the palettes docking against the side of the screen.
Speed has been an issue for me. Oh I know I can turn down the graphics display
quality to gain back some of the speed. But the point of using a WYSIWYG (What
You See is What You Get) program is that you can SEE your results in as they’d
appear on the page. I also wish there were a way to strip off line endings for
placed text. Palettes could be simplified. There are a bunch of them.
Overall I didn’t find this upgrade to be revolutionary. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t
have merits. It is faster than the version it replaced. It has gained some note
worthy features. If you’re using anything older than version 2.0 upgrade. For those
using 2.0 you’ll have to carefully consider wether this version is worth the cost of
Posted: Friday, December 14th, 2007