Software Review: InDesignCS5

Photoshop may be getting most of the attention, but of all the programs in CS5, InDesign is the one that impresses me most. Adobe has added a host of new features that may not be as flashy as Photoshop’s content-aware fill or Repoussé, but promise to improve productivity for a wide range of everyday layout tasks. (See this video for a comprehensive overview of InDesign CS5.) For example, you no longer need to use separate cropping and rotation tools to modify layout frames—it all can be done with the Selection tool, which also lets you quickly apply various corner effects in real time.

Better Productivity
The new grid mode makes it easy to place multiple picture or text frames on a page (see the video demo). When using the Text or Rectangle Frame tools, you can hit arrow keys as you drag across the page to automatically create a grid of smaller frames. This also works with imported text or image files. For example, you can select four image files, create a grid of four evenly spaced picture frames, and then place the images in the frames, all in a single operation. If you’re creating text frames, they’re automatically linked so the text flows from one to the next.

Another big time saver is the Gap tool, which lets you scale adjacent images while maintaining the gaps between them. This is much faster and easier than modifying the frames one-by-one with the Selection tool. Holding down the Shift-Command (Mac) or Shift-Ctrl (PC) keys, you can use the Gap tool to easily increase or decrease the amount of space between frames.
As with Photoshop CS5, InDesign now features Mini Bridge, a stripped-down version of Bridge that lets you browse and open files from within the application. But it’s even more useful here given the nature of page layout, since you’re typically working with a large number of external files. For example (as with Bridge CS5 itself), you can select another InDesign document and then see all files linked with that layout regardless of where they’re located.

Other Updates
This is just a sampling of the productivity enhancements in this upgrade. Also worth checking out are the new Layers panel (see the video demo); Document Installed Fonts (see the video demo); Track Changes function (see the video demo); and the ability to generate captions from an image file’s metadata (see the video demo). The upgrade also adds the ability to mix different page sizes and orientations within a single document (see the video demo).

Print to Web
With InDesign CS4, Adobe continued moving the program beyond the printed page by adding the ability to convert documents into simple Flash presentations. CS5 extends these capabilities much further with the new Animation, Timing, Media and Preview panels, allowing you to create much more complex presentations that include animation. You can convert these to Flash movies directly via an enhanced SWF Export panel, or export them to Flash Professional for additional modification.

Along with Flash Catalyst, these features provide new options for designers who want to create interactive presentations without learning coding and the other intricacies of Flash Professional. Of course, they also raise the question of whether it makes sense to use a program designed for static page layout to produce interactive media (as QuarkXPress has done in recent years).

E-Books and More
When I first saw these features in January, it appeared that InDesign was well positioned to take advantage of the explosive growth in e-books and digital magazines that attempt to replicate the experience of reading a print publication. E-books have been getting most of the buzz, but we’re also seeing more and more of the digital magazines on many websites and from vendors such as Zinio. In most cases, these are static recreations of their printed counterparts (typically generated via PDF) and are not a good fit for the form factors of most computers. Apple was about to introduce the iPad, and it seemed like this and other tablet devices not only offered a better format for digital magazines, but also held promise for a new kind of publication that adds animation and video to the traditional print experience. Indeed, a day prior to the iPad’s launch, an InDesign product manager told me he was eyeing Apple’s plans with great interest.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few months, you know what happened next. Apple and Adobe, once joined at the hip, are having a nasty spat over Apple’s refusal to support Flash in the iPhone and iPad (if you want to follow the blow-by-blow action, see this missive from Apple CEO Steve Jobs and this response from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen in a Wall Street Journal interview). So this dream of Flash-driven digital publications on tablet devices will remain just that unless the companies work out their differences — or another tablet emerges with similar capabilities and mindshare.

When you hover over the center of an image with the Selection tool, a donut shape appears, allowing you to reposition the photo within the picture frame:


Clicking on the frame allows you to rotate, reposition or scale the image. You can even modify
the corners by dragging on the yellow handles:

The Gap tool lets you scale adjacent images while maintaining the space between them.
You can use the same tool to increase or decrease the gap:


Stephen Beale has been writing about computer technology since before many current Adobe employees were born. His first computer was an Osborne 1 powered by steam turbines and illuminated by gaslight, though his memory is somewhat hazy on this point. He’s the author of seven books on computer applications in the graphic arts and a former news and reviews editor for Macworld.  He’s currently editor of a website for public relations professionals in health and medicine. For more information, see his website.

Other CS5 reviews:

Photoshop CS5
Illustrator CS5
Flash CS5
Fireworks CS5
Flash Catalyst CS5
Dreamweaver CS5
Back to Creative Suite 5 Overview

Adobe Evangelists, including Russell Brown, will be on hand during the HOW Design Conference,  June 6–9 in Denver, to demonstrate the new Creative Suite 5 tools.  




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