PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Adobe InDesign v2 Rocks

June 2002

Adobe InDesign 2.0 page production software shipped recently, and only the familiar inertia of incumbent software can now be saving Quarkís sorry Xpress from extinction. I got enthused about the original InDesign product when Adobe started to break away from the very useful and worthy but ultimately limited PageMaker for something that clearly was determined to have Quarkís lunch at last.

Iím only referring to the Windows implementations here (sorry Mac fans), and version 1 was initially buggy; which was mostly fixed in version 1.5. But the recent version 2 gold release is the business. Dogs everywhere have been emasculated to provide it with features like comprehensive table handling, graphics tweakers for feathering, drop shadows and transparency that mean you donít have to dip in and out of Photoshop quite as much. And noticeably better handling speed with large documents.

Itís funny how seemingly obscure issues can cloud impressions, but the inability of 1.5 to remember the various tool palette positions on my Matrox dual display system drove me quietly nuts. But now I can lay out the tools alongside the document in separate windows and the result is delightful. (Mac users remain silent, but please you enjoy your fleeting moment of smugness if you like. They are rare enough.).

This cut incorporates ever more of the familiar Adobe points of reference and ensures that the family likeness is ever more reminiscent of one of those Appalachian mountain communities where they donít get out too much. This is indeed the banjo-playing Cousin Billy-Bob of the Adobe design family.  Thereís also a world of XML support in this version (remember, Framemaker is now an Adobe product) thatís going to force me to catch up on my XML reading at last. And my only real criticism is that once again, to try and export to html is still to travel in hope. Itís like asking Cousin Billy Bob to give a rendition of Beethovenís 5th on his banjo, and equally discordant. Still, it gives the Adobe developers something to occupy them between now and the next release.

There are very few unnerving moments that I have been able to trigger (and I have hammered it).  The nightmare of Windows font management can occasionally be relied on to undo most Adobe programs, since Adobe has been largely instrumental in the evolution of standards for fonts and PostScript, their applications tend to be very prim and proper where fonts are concerned, and I have accumulated a few pretty rough examples from various internet downloads over the years. So I would rate font handling, naming and organising as an area where a bit more utility integration would not go amiss.

The pdf output has been flawless so far, and I have given it some very tough exams that previously found 1.5 wanting. The inexorable march of Acrobat pdf format in the print and repro trade is now just about complete, and hoorah for that. The alternative process of the past 15 years of DTP has been better than the age of hot metal and engraving, but working with a fancy page layout program by shifting the original files, images and fonts around in a zipped up bundle contained too many surprises along the way from screen to paper.

Now my local printer likes to describe his £10m 4 colour monster web offset line as one of the biggest network printers around Ė since heís arranged that a pdf exported from InDesign can be beamed directly into an FTP folder on his Internet site, and the next thing you know is that there is a lorry outside with 100k copies of your 200 page colour magazine.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I think weíve reached desk-top publishing Nirvana. Too bad print is now dead, and itís all about online delivery, together with micro broadcasting. Nevertheless, youíll find Billy-Bobís unnervingly familiar kinfolk ready for those challenges, too.  

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