Adobe InDesign CS4 review

As well as benefiting from Design Premium’s cross-application interface revamp, InDesign CS4 offers a number of welcome productivity boosts. For example, the Links panel has been redesigned, with each link now offering a thumbnail preview. If you have multiple links using the same file you can view these in expandable groups, while each entry in the panel offers a direct hyperlink to pages containing the file. As well as the data shown for each file in the LinksInfo Panel, the Panel Options allowed us to add columns to the Links panel, presenting and organising selected information in list view.

The conditional text feature is a handy way to create multiple versions of the layout from the same source document without using layers or duplicate text frames. After specifying a certain condition such as a UK or US version of a catalogue, a short version for printing or a long version for PDF delivery, you hand code the relevant elements, such as prices in differing currencies.

While you still have to manually input the conditional text, InDesign uses a new feature called Smart Text Reflow to automatically add new pages with a frame threaded to the story if the subsequent changes cause text to overflow.

The new Cross-reference dialog is another plus, especially if you’re working on a long document or book project. You can insert a cross-reference anywhere that will link to specific text in the layout. Once target text is found, InDesign automatically inserts the new cross-reference at the text insertion point, and a new hyperlink is created. Unfortunately, if the target text is changed, this link doesn’t update the reference automatically, but it does deliver a warning and an auto-update whenever you try to export, print, or package the layout.

Possible export errors are highlighted during layout as the new Live Preflight feature is turned on by default. If any conditions exist that contravene the default preflight profile, a red circle and a figure showing the total number of errors in the document appears in the status bar. Custom profiles can be created and used instead and can be shared with team members.

Get smart

InDesign now makes use of Smart Guides. These lines automatically appear to indicate a moving object’s alignment with nearby page elements or if the white space between an object you’re dragging and an adjacent object is exactly the same as the space between two other objects in the window. They will also appear to display the angle as you rotate an object, and appear on any other objects in the window that match this rotation. Other useful innovations are ‘Smart Dimensions’, figures on horizontal and vertical guides that display the measurements of objects as you resize them in relation to adjacent page elements, while a Smart Cursor dynamically displays position, size and rotation values when you move and transform items with the selection tools.

On a similar theme, the Rotate Spread feature can turn spreads in 90º increments. This is useful for creating documents such as calendars or invitations that need to be folded when printed and read in different angles.

New too in CS4 is the ability to convert almost any element, including frames, custom shapes, placed images or a group, into an interactive button. A dedicated Button panel can be used to add event/actions controls to such custom Buttons, as well as set the destination of hyperlinks and specify the transition effect if the button activates a page turn. Another panel, containing a library of Sample buttons, offers a way to drag and drop these controls onto your layout with ready made actions. You are able to assign different types of page transitions to individual pages or ranges of pages within the same layout.

When you click Export you’re given the option of saving the layout in a number of formats, including SWF or XFL (the new Flash professional format). Another new panel is in evidence here, controlling scaling of the Flash document, whether text should be rasterised or converted into outlines or editable Flash text, and transitions. However it seems that SWF files exported in this way can’t include movies or audio files, so further editing in Flash is required for true multimedia output.

OUR VERDICT

InDesign CS4 gets a plus in the productivity stakes, with the Live Preflight, Smart Guides/spacing, Conditional Text and Links Panel being particular timesavers. Though now facing stronger competition from QuarkXPress, which introduced similar type-based features with version 8, InDesign is cheaper and on the interactive front offers tighter integration with Flash.

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