Adobe InDesign CS

$699; $169 upgrade. Also available as part of Adobe Creative Suite, $1,299 Premium, $999 Standard. Academic pricing available.

Adobe customarily releases new versions of its applications one at a time, to allow each its own moment at center stage. It came as quite a surprise, then, when Adobe announced the simultaneous upgrade of four of its core creative applications – InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and GoLive. The reason? All four applications have been optimized to work together as components of the new Adobe Creative Suite collections. Each of the applications can still be purchased and used separately, but they’re designed to function optimally as an ensemble, orchestrated by the new Version Cue utility which is available only as part of the Adobe Creative Suite.

Adobe InDesign CS benefits enormously from the new integration, but it is also a terrific application on its own. InDesign CS’s interface, newly resdesigned to bring it more in line with Illustrator and Photoshop, is a pleasure to use. The familiar floatingTool palette is still here (two new tools have been added, the Gradient tool and the Button tool), but it has been joined by the Control palette, a bar that sits above the work area. Clicking on a tool in the Tool palette loads the appropriate collection tool modifiers into the Control palette. This is a particular boon for formatting text. When the Text tool is selected, all the standard character and paragraph formatting can be adjusted right from the Control palette, without having to burrow through menus and floating palettes. It’s a huge time-saver.

Collapsable palettes are another workspace enhancement. Groups of palettes, such as Pages, Layers and Info, or Paragraph Styles, Character Styles and Swatches, are tucked against the right side of the work space, with their names written on tabs aligned sideways like on the spine of a book (OK, the spine of a book shelved upside-down). Clicking on a tab slides out that collection of palettes, and clicking another tab in the same collection brings that palette to the front. Clicking the open tab again slides the whole collection back against the side of the workspace. Slick! Floating palettes can be collapsed, rearranged, and docked around the workspace. Best of all, you can save a particular arrangement as a customized workspace, that can be selected at any time.

Speaking of customizing, you can now create Document Presets to apply commonly used document settings, such as page size, columns, margins, and, for designers using printer’s marks, bleed and slug areas, to new documents. And if you’re preparing separations for a print provider, you’ll appreciate the new Separations Preview palette, which allows you to preview overprinting, check single and multiple plates, and look at ink limits before your document goes out to be printed.

For my way of working, the Story Editor is the greatest single improvement in InDesign CS. A mainstay of PageMaker, the Story Editor allowed editors to edit text and formatting in a simplified environment. The Story Editor was missing from earlier versions of InDesign, but it’s back with bells on. Typing Command-Y opens any text in a separate, resizable window like a mini word processor. Text is displayed in a simplified form, without layout, formatting, automatic text wrapping, or other potential distractions. It’s especially handy when you’re editing or writing to fill a particular space, or editing text that appears in multiple frames. I actually prefer to do my writing in Story Editor whenever possible, as it reduces importing headaches. (I’m writing this review in the Story Editor window).

This souped-up version of Story Editor can be extensively customized through a Preference pane which allows you to choose the font, font size, spacing, text color, background, and cursor behavior. You can even choose presets, like amber text on a black background, to emulate various typesetting environments. My own preference is for 18 point Times with black text on white background – easy on these nearsighted eyes.

InDesign CS shows marked improvements in integration with other applications. Native Illustrator files can be imported or copied and pasted as editable objects. To create an Acrobat PDF file, all you have to do is choose from a menu that displays a choice of PDF Presets – or you can create your own. The Package for GoLive command lets you reuse InDesign layouts for web pages. Finally, InDesign CS opens QuarkXPress 3.3–4.1x and PageMaker 6.5 and 7.0 files directly, as well as files from earlier versions of InDesign.

The InDesign CS jewel case includes a Video Workshop Training CD from Total Training. Be sure to take advantage of what must be among the best application training available anywhere.

– Elsa Travisano
Adobe InDesign CS
System Requirements: PowerPC G3, G4 or G5 processor, Mac OS X v.10.2, 128MB of RAM, 350MB of available hard-disk space, CD-ROM drive, 256 colors at 1,024x768 monitor resolution , QuickTime 6.0 required for multimedia features. For Adobe PostScript printers: Adobe PostScript Level 2 or PostScript 3.
Copyright ©2003 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the December 2003 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.