Adobe InDesign CS5 review

With InDesign CS4, Adobe tried to turn graphic designers into all-singing, all-dancing creators of interactive projects – turning print layouts into blinged-out fully animated Flash websites. Most designers ignored this, enjoying the few new layout tools like Smart Guides and Live Preflight and complaining that there’s no way to automatically convert RGB images to CMYK before output.

With the InDesign CS5 version – as with much of the new Creative Suite 5 – there’s a refocus on creativity and efficiency. There’s still no quick ‘RGB image’ fix, but there are quite a lot of new creative tools that will appeal as much to print-only designers to those looking at wider media.

Grab and go

It’s the simplest tools that make the most difference to the way you work day-to-day. To make working with images faster, Adobe has introduced the Content Grabber, which makes the Direct Selection tool almost redundant. Using the Selection tool, run the mouse over an image and a semi-transparent doughnut appears in its centre. Grab this and you can drag the image around inside its frame. Click on it, and brown image borders appear for you to scale or rotate. It’s a great little time-saver; we only wish we could use the Content Grabber to scale (using modifier keys as with the Gap tool).

Equally nifty are the Gap tool and a quick way of creating frames grids. The former allows you to select the gap between frames and move it, with the frames being automatically resized to fit. Holding C-Ctrl and dragging will adjust the size of the gap. Holding Shift and dragging will affect only the boxes directly next to the cursor. Holding Option and dragging will move all items around the gap. It can get confused
by complex layouts, but most of the time it works perfectly.

To create grids of frames for text and/or images in InDesign, drag out a box and tap the arrow keys to add rows or columns. It’s an inspired little addition.

Less appealing are Live Corner Effects, though only because you know that they’re going to be overused just like Live Effects in CS4 were. Creating rounded corners used to be fiddly, but with grabbable handles you can more easily chart the right path to stylish, not cheesy.

With a wide set of applications in CS5, it’s no surprise that Adobe has indulged in a little theft from other tools when looking at what it could add to InDesign’s toolset. Illustrator CS5 added support for multiple artboard sizes in a single project, and InDesign CS5 does the same for documents. If you’re building different sized pieces from the same elements – say, a brochure, flyer, sticker and event banner – this
is a great way to keep everything together.

From Photoshop, Adobe has purloined the Layers panel. No longer something you only look at late in a project when you can’t click through the frame you want, now this panel has everything on your page stacked. If you want to put elements together, you just group them and move them together. It’s change that comes with a learning curve to modify your workflow, but it makes sense in the end.

For text, there are a few notable additions. You can set paragraphs to span columns – great for subheadings – you can track text changes, and create captions dynamically.

Adobe hasn’t completely ignored InDesign’s interactive toolset, and it’s been tidied up immensely. But InDesign is still the wrong application for interactive design.

InDesign comes bundled with a subscription to the CS Review, which allows clients to post comments on your layouts. It’s a nice idea, but after a year you’ll have to pay up again.

OUR VERDICT

By concentrating on new design tools rather than whizz-bang interactive features, Adobe has made InDesign CS5 a must-have upgrade. We look forward to the RGB image fix in CS6.

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