InDesign CS

InDesign CS icon

Adobe recently updated their main product range as the ‘Creative Suite’ (CS), and with it, what would’ve been called InDesign 3 – InDesign CS. InDesign is their flagship desktop publishing/graphic design application, created as a rival to Quark Xpress, which had been without competition for years. I’ve been using v3 (sorry ‘CS’) for a few weeks now, and I offer here my initial thoughts.

InDesign 2

For all its negative points, Quark has never been a hungry app. It has a low minimum spec. Conversely, ID2 ran sluggishly on my G4, the beachball was a regular sight. For users with OS X however, running Quark in the classic environment was never a happy experience. Problems with screen redraw were partly solved by a free plug-in, but general erratic behaviour made InDesign a more inviting choice. ID also offered many features tha Quark users could only dream of – Multiple Undos, Open Type support, PDF output, native PSD support, transparency… the list was huge.

Quark still inhabits a price range normally reserved for high-end 3D applications – for less than the price of Quark, you can buy Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat! Add to that the delay of an OS X version and the offensively dismissive comments from Quark’s CEO towards Mac users, and you get a lot of unhappy Quark users converting to InDesign. Judging by the strong Quark presence at this years’ MacExpo, they realise they need to recover some ground.

My main problem with using ID has been that most other studios and printers are still on Quark v4 (released 1997). Printers able to take files as press-ready PDFs tend to only be very large outfits. If I create a design spec for another designer or typesetter, I can’t use ID and expect them to buy new software and learn it. Hopefully, this will become less of a problem in the future, as PDF workflows become more commonplace. For now, I use InDesign whenever I can, and resort to Quark when I have to. Anyway, onto the new version…

InDesign CS (or v3):

First of all, the packaging and branding, redesigned by MetaDesign, look amazing. The Creative Suite CDs come in a ‘fat DVD case’, an improvement on the all the seperate jewel-boxes they used to use. However, its seems that what was the last bastion of printed manuals has now given in. The Adobe CS comes with the dreaded ‘getting started’ leaflet with all the manuals provided as PDFs. To their credit, they do include a ‘Video Training CD’, but I couldn’t get this to work. Its sad, Adobe were always the reliable ones. Nothing beats a printed book to get information quickly.

These are the new features I’m excited about:

  • Bleed setup – Its about time this basic feature was introduced, InDesign got there first.
  • Preview separations and flattening – All the stuff that could go wrong at the last stage can be caught earlier, without having to wait for proofs.
  • Mixed ink support - This is something that Quark had been able to do since v3.
  • Speed - The sluggishness of ID2 is much improved. Page zooming was a particular problem area, but now much better.
  • Options palette – There is now a Photoshop style options bar at the top, giving easy access to all the common tools. This is context-sensitive, and changes depending on the tool you’ve chosen.
  • Side palettes – these can be hidden and shown like drawers on a single click, which helps de-clutter the palette frenzy. The only downside is that the palette headings are vertical, and those ‘in the background’ are very hard to read.

All of these features work exactly as you expect, and make working in ID that little bit easier.

The downside:

According to the manual, you can save files back to InDesign 2, but they have to be exported as ‘InDesign Interchange Format’ . ID 2 users then have to install a Scripting plug-in and the XML Reader plug-in. These are apparently downloadable from the Adobe site, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Then I found this little note after a lot of searching on the Adobe site:

Saving InDesign CS documents for use with InDesign 2.0
The InDesign CS user guide and help documentation includes information on using the InDesign Interchange format export option to save documents for use with InDesign 2.0. This information should be disregarded, as this export option does not support InDesign 2.0 compatibility. Opening InDesign CS documents is not supported in InDesign 2.0.

Eh? ‘This information should be disregarded’?! A polite way of saying “we cocked up’! So if you want to use InDesign CS, you’ll have to wait until your suppliers/repro houses have caught up!

However, an Illustrator eps can be saved for previous versions, using ‘export as illustrator legacy eps’ (read ‘save as some old crappy thing’). Incidentally, Illustrator CS is also noticeably snappier, apparently this is something that was addressed with this upgrade. Its still my preferred illustration package to Freehand.


InDesign has continued to be more refined and powerful with an emphasis on elegant typographical control and integration with other Adobe products. In short, this is one of the few upgrades I’ve bought recently that I felt was really worth it. Just one major flaw: no way to save files back to version 2. Surely they’ll have to do something about this if they want to encourage more users to convert to it.

Oh, and a printed manual would be nice…