Adobe Systems InDesign CS4

Adobe’s cross-fertilisation of tools and functions across its Creative Suite line is a source of both joy and frustration.

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Adobe Systems InDesign CS4
  • Adobe Systems InDesign CS4
  • Adobe Systems InDesign CS4
  • Adobe Systems InDesign CS4

Pros

  • Smart Guides make layout faster, Live Preflight offers easier production, working with hyperlinks and buttons is now much simpler

Cons

  • SWF output limited, Kuler colour-scheme creator can’t compare to Illustrator’s Live Color

Bottom Line

Current InDesign users will want the CS4 version for Smart Guides and Live Preflighting; other new additions make it worth the upgrade price, too.

Would you buy this?

Adobe’s cross-fertilisation of tools and functions across its Creative Suite line is a source of both joy and frustration.

It’s great when innovative tools from one application are transferred to another, allowing you to be more creative or work more efficiently – but it’s also irritating when you can see something in another tool that you want, but can’t have. It’s as if we’ve come to expect all tools to be introduced across all applications.

In the former group for InDesign users is Smart Guides. Introduced in Illustrator CS3, these are lines that appear when something you are manipulating aligns with something else on your document. So if you move or resize an image or text box, green guide lines will shoot out to tell you when an edge matches that of another box. It also shows you when the middle of an element lines up with the middle of another, or the middle of the page.

And Smart Guides’ functionality doesn’t end there. It will tell you when the spacing between three or more objects is equal. Smart Guides is one of those features that you’ll get so used to that it will annoy you if you have to use a pre-CS4 version of InDesign at any point in the future.

However, once you’ve got something great from Illustrator, you want it all. And we want the Live Color colour scheme creation and management system. InDesign CS4 features a new Kuler panel, based on Adobe’s online colour system, which offers many of the same tools — but it’s RGB-based, so there’s no way to limit your designs to process colours or other print-specific concerns.

One great new feature that’s unique to InDesign is Live Preflighting. This keeps an eye on your document and lets you know if it detects anything outside your preflight parameters, which could include low-res or RGB images, overset text or missing fonts. It’s most useful for warning you that the image you’ve just placed has the wrong settings, or that you’ve still got overflowing text, rather than only finding out when you package a document or run a preflight just before creating PDFs.

Each error has a hyperlinked page number to take you to the page in question. However, there are no quick fixes for common problems, such as converting RGB images to CMYK.

Another boost to InDesign’s production tools is the redesigned Links panel, which can give you far more information than before: you can add extra columns to it showing effective resolution, colour spaces, size, scale and suchlike.

Images that appear multiple times in your document sit in collapsible groups to make it easier to see what you’re dealing with. The panel makes it easier to manage your assets from within InDesign, for example quickly replacing all instances of an image.

Other timesaving tools include Conditional Text, where you can set InDesign to create multiple versions of a document through a panel that allows you to specify whether text will be appearing in various versions or not; this is like applying Text Styles.

Conditional Text makes it simple to produce versions of documents with different currencies, people’s names or branch details. It can be used to produce variations of a document using longer and shorter versions of text, with Smart Text Reflow adding and removing extra pages to fit. However, this can be fiddly to set up — especially if images are involved, as these have to be anchored to sections of text.

Flash output has been enhanced: you can transfer InDesign layouts to Flash using the new XFL file format, or by outputting SWFs directly. There are some great new tools here – including easier creation and modification of buttons and hyperlinks through specific panels, a Sample Buttons library panel, and animated page transitions.

However, the level of interactivity you can add to SWFs pales next to what you can add to PDFs. You can’t embed movies or sound to SWFs, or have links overlapping transparent elements.

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