Adobe CS6: What You Need to Know About InDesign CS6

upgrade to adobe indesign cs6

This is the second part of a series about Adobe Creative Suite 6. Read about Photoshop CS6 changes and the new Creative Suite subscriptions here.

The big story with InDesign CS6 is a new set of features for publishers targeting the iPad and other tablets. Adobe’s InDesign team began moving in this direction with CS5.5, but the process for creating layouts was still rather cumbersome because of the multitude of tablet formats. For example, when designing an article for the iPad, you had to create separate InDesign files for vertical and horizontal orientations. If you wanted to target the Kindle Fire, you had to create two more documents—one vertical and one horizontal—for its 7-inch screen.

New features in InDesign CS6

Alternate Layout

InDesign CS6 simplifies this workflow by letting you create alternate layouts within the same document via the Pages panel. For example, you can begin with a vertical layout, and then use the Pages panel to create an alternate horizontal layout. When InDesign generates the alternate layout, it creates a new set of paragraph and character styles based on the styles in the original layout. And the content is linked—if you edit text in the original layout, you can easily update the alternate layout to reflect that change.

Adaptive Design

Liquid Layout

Of course, this isn’t all that useful if you still have to resize and rearrange each element to accommodate the new layout size or orientation. So Adobe has added a set of what it calls Liquid Layout rules to make this easier. You can apply one of four rules to each page depending on the layout, and InDesign will automatically adjust the layout based on that rule. For example, the Scale Rule resizes content to fit the new screen dimensions. Re-center, as you might expect, centers the content.

For most layouts you’ll want to use the Object-based or Guide-based rules. The Object-based rule lets you anchor objects to specified edges of the page. You can also specify whether objects can be resized horizontally or vertically in the alternate layout. The Guide-based rule lets you drag special Liquid Layout guides across objects that should be resized in the new layout.

Neither rule is all that intuitive—as an InDesign product manager explained to me, these features address needs unique to tablet publishing and don’t correspond to any existing tools used in print or web publishing. However, InDesign’s Page tool makes it relatively easy to experiment with the rules and preview how the layout will be adjusted when they’re applied.

In most cases, you’ll still have to tweak the layouts after the rules are applied, but the rules should save you considerable time compared with redesigning the layouts from scratch.

Once you’ve created these layouts, you can use InDesign’s Folio Builder to combine the articles into folios and preview them on a tablet device or smartphone. You’ll need Adobe’s separately priced Digital Publishing Suite to deliver those folios to readers via iPad or Android apps.

Content Collector

Also new is a pair of tools known as the Content Collector and Content Placer, which make it easier to share content between InDesign documents or even within the same file. Using the Content Collector, you can copy objects in groups or one at a time into a repository known as the Content Conveyor. From there, you can use the Content Placer to drop those items into a new layout, in a manner similar to using the Place command.

As with alternate layouts, placed objects can be linked, so changes in the original source content can be automatically reflected in the placed items. You can also map styles between the original and placed content.

One potential use for these tools is adapting a print version of a publication to a digital edition. Using the Content Collector and Placer, you can collect the articles from a print version of a magazine and place them into digital layouts targeted at tablets.

Ironically, Adobe is offering these tools at a time when an anti-app backlash seems to be brewing among some magazine publishers. The arguments were laid out in a widely read article by Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of MIT’s Technology Review. As Pontin explains, publishers first saw the iPad and other tablets as potential saviors at a time when the internet had decimated their old business models. But now he regards his own magazine’s foray into tablet apps as a mistake, citing the high expense, Apple’s 30 percent take on App Store sales, and the limited number of subscribers who have purchased digital subscriptions. Instead, he expects that publishers will eventually move to HTML5 instead of apps to deliver content on a multitude of devices.

InDesign’s new Alternate Layout and Liquid Layout features address many of the technical obstacles in producing digital publications, but certainly not the economic ones. On the other hand, these features are not necessarily limited to digital publishing—for example, a print designer could use alternate layouts to create multiple versions of a print ad at different dimensions. And if you’re working for a client or organization that still sees value in app-based publishing, these tools promise to be huge time-savers.

Read more about CS6 in our stories on Photoshop CS6 and the rest of the new Creative Suite.

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