Product review: InDesign's new capabilities should allow the product to secure a foothold among those needing enterprise-level page-layout tools
When Adobe Systems Inc. first released InDesign, it was touted as a solution that would supplant Quark Inc.'s QuarkXPress and Adobe's own PageMaker as the desktop publishing application for the professional market.
Unfortunately, InDesign 1.0 was buggy and slow, with few features to impress the experts.
The recently released 2.0 version of InDesign, however, adds capabilities that should allow the product to secure a foothold among those needing enterprise-level page layout tools.
One of the biggest disappointments with InDesign 1.0 was its poor handling of long documents. In Version 2.0, Adobe addresses this with the new Book palette, which enables users to add, delete and reorder multiple documents into a single publication. For example, you can number pages sequentially and create a table of contents, index, cross references and so on that incorporate the documents that make up a single book. You can print the entire book or only selected chapters and output them to a single PDF file.
InDesign 2.0 solves another problem for more technically oriented designers: tables. InDesign 2.0 allows you to set up cell-based tables and import data from Microsoft Corp. Word, Excel or any tab-delimited source. Using the dedicated Table menu, you can control features such as row height and width, formatting, heading rotation and so on.
InDesign has always stood out for its typographic control. With unique features such as optical kerning and margin alignment, you can be certain that the text looks as good as possible.
Strong typography, book handling and tables are important issues for professional publishers, but they aren't revolutionary. What makes InDesign 2.0 stand out from the crowd is the introduction of transparency features, which allow users to be more creative. Using the new Transparency palette, you can select any native object or group, including text boxes, and change the opacity level. Because InDesign's transparency handling is nondestructive, you can change it again at any time. This may not sound impressive, but it opens up huge design potential by allowing design elements to become seamless, integrated parts of a page.
Although products such as Corel Corp.'s CorelDraw and Deneba Systems Inc.'s Canvas have offered graduated transparency and the ability to easily apply transparency to layers and individual characters for years, InDesign 2.0 is the first program to offer such capabilities within a dedicated, multipage, text-oriented desktop publishing environment. In addition, drawing packages usually achieve those capabilities by turning their areas of transparency, along with underlying objects, into bitmaps.
Like Adobe's Illustrator software, InDesign 2.0 uses the company's "flattening" system. This actually breaks down overlapping areas into discrete objects that it recolors accordingly. The advantage is that, whenever possible, objects are maintained as pin-sharp PostScript-friendly vectors rather than half-toned bitmaps, a crucial feature for maintaining the readability of text.
Although InDesign 2.0 focuses primarily on print, the program also offers support for cross-media publishing. InDesign supports Extensible Markup Language (XML) via a utility that allows you to set up a document hierarchy by simply dragging and dropping the appropriate elements.
Adobe has overhauled InDesign's output capabilities with a revamped Print dialog. In addition to being more intuitively structured, the print features offer new capabilities such as the ability to print master pages, a transparency flattener, an ink manager and an option to save driver-independent PostScript files directly from the dialog. This is an impressive list of new features that PageMaker doesn't have.
If your agency needs workgroup and large-document support, you'll want to consider upgrading from PageMaker. If your department is already using QuarkXPress but you would like to have unique features, then you may want to consider moving to InDesign 2.0.
Kvitka is a principal of an information technology and Web development company. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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