Adobe InDesign 2.0 full review

Version 2.0 is InDesign’s turning point. Version 1.0 could be forgiven for its patchy interface and slightly ropy functionality; even 1.5, a bug fix thinly disguised as an upgrade, was an interim measure. But as a full-number upgrade, 2.0 is head-above-the-parapet time for Adobe. All eyes will be on InDesign 2.0 as it prepares for battle with QuarkXPress. Fortunately, InDesign 2.0 has a good arsenal at its disposal. It begins with the basic philosophy of using floating palettes rather than XPress’s series of inflexible dialog boxes – although InDesign still relies on dialogs for basic functions such as printing, spell checking, find-&-change and most functions accessed through palettes’ contextual menus. Crash starved
There are powerful new features in InDesign 2.0 that score over QuarkXPress, including the transparency options, the indexing feature, WebDAV support, table creation, and so on. But what the new-features list doesn’t tell you is that Adobe has been hard at work making InDesign 2.0 more robust and easier to use – this, for my money, is more important than any single improvement or new feature. It builds an essential trust between the user and the software: for the first time ever, InDesign inspires confidence. Under OS X, InDesign is faster, especially on basics like printing, saving and exporting, and opening files. Version 2.0 is also more stable than previous versions were under OS 9. The painfully long time that InDesign 1.5 documents took to print on PostScript printers using printer drivers of any version other than 8.6, for instance, has been eliminated. InDesign 2.0 at last boasts a Table palette, and its operation owes quite a bit to the page-design tools in GoLive, Adobe’s Web-editing package. Tables can be created from existing text – or simply set up as blanks – for live text entry. There are basic row- column- and cell-editing functions similar to those in spreadsheet programs (including merge and split horizontal/ vertical), and cells can contain text or graphics. Insets can be controlled to 0.001mm, and text alignment, row height, text direction and column width can all be set live. A Preview button shows changes on the fly. Using tools this sophisticated, it’s not hard to imagine an entire document laid out as a table with invisible cell-stroking – making export to HTML easier. InDesign 2.0 can also import styled tables from Microsoft Word and Excel, with styling intact: the Links palette can be used to update or edit the table. Transparent features
InDesign’s new transparency features are lifted directly from Illustrator, and it’s just as much a revolution to find transparency in a DTP package as it was to find it in a vector-based drawing package. Two new commands have been added to the Object menu: Drop Shadow and Feather. The Drop Shadow effect has definable modes – opacity, offsets and blurring, and colour can be picked from a drop-down menu of the document’s already-defined colours, or from the Adobe Color Engine dialog. A Feather effect can have a defined width, and corners (this would more appropriately be edges) can be set to rounded, diffused, or sharp. As you’d expect, the shadow and feather effects can be added to objects drawn in InDesign, and to text. However, because the transparency features also have a hand in the way that InDesign behaves with images imported in other formats, or from other software (there’s support for native Photoshop and Illustrator files), shadowing and feathering can also be applied to suitable imported images. Path finder
Clipping paths are also handled differently. InDesign 1.x converted alpha-channel information into a clipping path, but InDesign 2.0, because it preserves the native file’s transparency, can also maintain feathering and gradients, effectively using these as clipping paths instead. Transparency Flattener, the new flattening feature triggered at the point of RIPing through the Print dialog box, specifies how the transparency of imported graphics, and also that of text and objects given transparency effects within InDesign, flatten on output. The Transparency Flattener appears with three pre-defined styles – medium resolution for instance, is set to a resolution of 300dpi, doesn’t force text to outlines, but does convert strokes to fills and clips complex regions. All these attributes can be edited and saved in custom styles. InDesign’s Index palette is a useful tool for editors and authors, although its sophisticated features will take some learning. A list of topics can be created by the user, or imported from another InDesign document. References (the text entries to which the index relates) can be specified for length (to next style change, to end of section, document or story) and can also be tagged with automatic cross-references, not only as predefined “see” and “see also” but custom cross-references, too. Marked out
The Add All button locates all incidences of a reference in a document, and creates an index marker for each one. In future versions, it would be useful to have a duplicate-topics search in the Index palette, especially because InDesign treats capitalized and plural topics as separate – so sun, suns and Sun make three topics. Elements of InDesign 2.0 documents can be hyperlinked internally, to pages (which can be zoomed) or text anchors in the same document, or to live URLs – these trigger the launch of a browser. InDesign files with hyperlinks that are exported to PDF format can have their internal links and URL hyperlinks preserved. The Find/Change dialog box in InDesign 2.0 is an impressive sight. Not only can it do the usual text searching, but includes the ability to search for format, a general heading – including searchable attributes, such as basic (font, size, kerning, case, leading, tracking and position) and advanced character formats (horizontal/vertical scale, baseline shift and skew); indents and spacing; Keep options (which preserves paragraphs rather than flowing them over pages); drop caps and Composer options; character colour; and OpenType font features. Find/Change can also search unopened InDesign documents. However, there’s no searching for imported art, placed images or objects, such as lines or polygons, created in InDesign. Output options
InDesign 2.0 includes expanded export formats – InDesign 1.5 could save as PDF, EPS and HTML, but 2.0 adds export as XML (via the XMedia UI plug-in) and Adobe’s own Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format – both compressed and uncompressed – to the list. The presence of the XMedia UI plug-in opens an XML can of worms in InDesign 2.0: InDesign can open XML files, flowing tagged text and graphics into frames, and basic editing can be handled in the plug-in’s own Structure View window and Tag palette. Unfortunately, the plug-in is poorly explained and supported in online Help, and only experienced XML programmers are likely to be able to make full use of it. The Print dialog box has been redesigned, and the result is a truly useful pro-level tool. The new dialog includes handy features, such as the ability to specify printing of separate crop marks (which can be custom defined), registration marks, colour bars and page information. The option to print objects specified on the page as non-printing, together with visible guides and baseline grids, are particularly useful. Designers checking overprints can specify trapping sequences for each individual ink, and the Transparency Flattener even has a definable resolution setting. All these options can be saved in a Printer Style for instant recall. Mac users who are wedded to Günther Blaschek’s PopChar – the useful control panel that displayed all a font’s characters for quick selection – will be pleased to see a new Glyphs palette under the Type menu. This palette, when used with standard TrueType or PostScript fonts, shows all characters available under a given font, including those with odd key-combinations. InDesign 2.0 also has expanded support for OpenType fonts, a new font format that includes alternate glyphs, swashes and ligatures: the Glyphs palette makes all the alternate characters available. So that the Glyphs palette can be used with OpenType fonts, InDesign 2.0 ships with OpenType versions of Garamond, Caslon and Caflisch. InDesign 2.0 supports WebDAV server technology for collaborative working. In the WebDAV environment, files are stored on a central server and checked out for viewing and working, while protected against unauthorized, multiple changes or overwriting. InDesign allows uploading of managed files to the WebDAV server, and sets up Workgroups through which files can be opened, worked on and then updated and saved back to the server. Support for WebDAV is likely to be a useful tool for users with multiple-document projects distributed across a team of workers – a common working scenario for the large design offices that form Adobe’s main target users for InDesign. The new Display Performance settings – in the View menu – can be used to balance display speed against quality of display. Optimized, Typical and High Quality settings can be defined in the Preferences dialog box: here, you can set greeking, anti-aliasing, and the display of raster and vector images and transparency to grey out, display proxies or display as high-quality equivalents. Compared with other Adobe software, and against its own sub-£400 version 1.0, InDesign 2.0 is expensive at £569, although it’s a lot less than QuarkXPress’s £1,000. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Adobe has pitched its price at what the market expects to pay (or has got used to paying), rather than keeping it in line with other software in its stable.
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