Adobe InDesign CS4 for Mac


$699; $199 upgrade. Educational price $199.
Upgrade requires a previous licensed version of Adobe InDesign CS, CS2 or CS3, or PageMaker 6.0, 6.5 or 7.0 software.

Adobe’s InDesign CS4 offers a number of new and updated features, including robust support for creating interactive documents, that are sure to be welcomed by page designers. Best for most users, though, are a number interface enhancements that simplify and speed up the process of laying out and modifying documents and make this a very worthwhile purchase or upgrade.

New to InDesign CS4 is a streamlined Application bar just under the Menu bar with buttons for changing screen mode, view options, zoom level and arranging multiple documents as well as a button for going to Adobe Bridge. The Application bar also has a search field for accessing Adobe’s online help, and a pull-down menu of customized workspaces (you can save your own by choosing New Workspace).

A handy way to get an overview of CS4’s new features is to choose the What’s New workspace in the Application bar menu. This workspace displays only the palettes and buttons that are new or updated, and adds a blue highlight to new menu item.

There are two choices for interacting with your workspace in InDesign 4CS - Application Bar view and, new to the Mac, Application Frame view. The Application Frame view groups all the workspace elements together in a single resizable window, with tools and panels (these are called palettes in Photoshop) anchored on either side. In Application Bar view the workspace elements are free-floating, which allows other applications and the Desktop to be seen in the background.

I quickly came to prefer Frame view, finding that I spent less time moving panels out of the way to view my documents. The Application Frame view offers another advantage – multiple documents open in tabs rather than as free-floating windows. This makes it easy to toggle back and forth between documents. The menu choice for changing your view option is located near the bottom of the Windows menu.

Smart Guides and Smart Spacing are familiar concepts for FileMaker users. Smart Guides appear as temporary lines when you align, rotate or resize an object; showing when a graphic is centered in a column, for example. The object’s length and width displays right next to the cursor so you can monitor resizing without opening a separate panel. Smart Spacing aligns and resizes multiple objects so they are evenly spaced. Used with Multi File Place (introduced in CS3), Smart Guides creates the same frame size for placed objects and centers each object in its frame to keep it the same size as the other (selected) objects on the page. How cool is that?

Live PreFlight checks for potential production problems as you work rather than at the end of the design process. A slim panel next to the scroll bar at the bottom of the document window shows a green dot when no errors are found. If a problem crops up – overset text, or a graphic that’s the wrong resolution – the dot turns red and the number of errors is listed. Double-click to open the PreFlight panel which describes each error and takes you there when you click the page number.

When your design has rotated elements (think of a For Sale flyer with sideways tear-off phone numbers at the bottom), Rotated Spreads lets you rotate a page of your document in 90° increments so you can work without craning your neck.

Conditional Text is extremely useful for creating multiple versions of a document. For example, the Newsbreak newsletter is produced in two PDF versions: one with vendor codes that is emailed to members, and a public version posted on MUG ONE’s website with vendor codes removed. Previously this meant producing two different documents.
Now in InDesign CS4, different conditions can be set (Members edition, Public edition) and selected text can be tagged to hide or show for a particular version simply by checking a check box. Other situations when this feature would be handy include teacher and student editions of texts or documents with prices for multiple countries.

New features for producing more complex documents include a Cross-References panel under the Hyperlinks panel which enables you to set text to update in multiple locations when edits are made and a customizable Links panel for managing your document’s placed files.

For designing interactive documents that can be exported as SWF files (a file playback format), InDesign CS4 adds panels for Buttons and Page Transitions as well as an enhanced Hyperlinks panel. Documents can also be exported as XML files to Flash CS4 Professional, where text and graphics can be edited and animations and navigation elements can be added.

To learn more about InDesign CS4, check out the videos Introducing InDesign CS4 and InDesign and InCopy CS4 Feature Tour, part of the wealth of free instructional videos at

–Elsa Travisano

Adobe InDesign CS4
System Requirements:
PowerPC® G5 or multicore Intel® processor
Mac OS X v10.4.11–10.5.4
512MB of RAM (1GB recommended)
1.6GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on flash-based storage devices)
1024x768 display (1280x800 recommended) with 16-bit video card
DVD-ROM drive
QuickTime 7 software required for multimedia features
Broadband Internet connection required for online services.

Copyright ©2009 by Elsa Travisano. This review appeared in the March 2009 issue of Newsbreak, the newsletter of MUG ONE - Macintosh User Group of Oneonta, NY.