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A R e v ie w b y L I B E N D E T

As we find ourselves well into the year 2000, graphic arts professionals wonder how our way of working will change in the near and far future. Since Adobe released InDesign 1.0 and its newer version InDesign 1.5 there has been hope that something has come along that will facilitate our way of working in page layout. Using the model of plug-in technology as its design architecture, this flexible program allows the user to take part in designing the program to his or her needs. For print media specialists, the status quo of must-know applications in publishing and advertising has been Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and QuarkXpress. The main objective in this review is to observe Adobes InDesign from the point of view of beginners, discovering new ways of working as designers.

InDesign offers more professional typographic capabilities that reflect type shop quality. Hanging punctuation for example is automatic here without going through a lot of formatting; hyphenation algorithms are more sophisticated than most desktop typesetting has offered in the past, and type looks better due to built-in look ahead spacing that evens out type distribution from line to line. The ability to design type and turn it into outlines and use the type as a mask for images is also an exciting development.

As this writer is a retoucher working in imaging and print production, the ability to take a layered image from Photoshop into a layout and design program is amazingly helpful. It makes it easier to determine whether the placement of composed Photoshop elements in a layered file are in the right proportion to the page design without having to take the time to collapse the file and create a TIFF or EPS file. One would not choose to output an uncollapsed file, but to test the image in the context of a page layout is invaluable to the designer. InDesign does not require text or picture boxes in order to bring elements into your layout. The drag and drop technology can be used to bring in graphics, making this program a more dynamic work experience. Another great option in 1.5 allows the user to create clipping paths based on alpha channels in images created in Photoshop.

© Li Bendet 2000

This screen shot shows a picture which was dragged and dropped into an InDesign page. The word China was typed in, changed to outlines and then converted from type content to picture content.

The same image, ghosted and cropped in Photoshop was placed inside to match original picture placement. This is an example of how simple it is to work on a design idea on the fly without having to use other applications to perform these tasks. In order to see exact palcement, the user can use the option of viewing the image in high resolution.

Adobe has made some changes in the 1.5 version which reflect the Illustrator interface. Both programs have dockable palettes, a feature in the new Illustrator 9.0, that allows the user to make the most of on screen space. Users can use InDesign for drawing objects in the same way they can in Illustrator. Pencil tools are also similar and both programs offer smooth tools to fix jagged paths. And there is new support for type along a path with the ability to control the type precisely and give it proportion. Other parallel developments are free transform tools that enhance the users ability to draw in InDesign the same way they can work in Illustrator and Photoshop. Master pages can be changed on the fly, making the changing of documents more fluid . Now the document layout palette displays a binding spine along with other options on the page icon display. The master pages are different from Quark as they are expressed on the bottom of the palette and are brought up to the top to where the page layout is displayed.

Another great advantage in 1.5 is built-in trapping technology which allows the user to send documents to any PostScript level 2 or higher imagesetter and also offers Adobe In-RIP Trapping available in some PostScript 3 imagesetters. The technology is sophisticated in that it evaluates each color intersection of abutting colors and finds the neutral densities of those colors, even those of imported files. Using the parameters you specify in the print dialog box, a trap is created.

Some good news is that Adobe has allowed for Quark users to create a keyboard command set that reflects that of Quark, making the process of working in the program easier to get used to. Quark files can be converted to InDesign files, but not the other way around. However, in looking over the menu, there are ways of exporting your type from InDesign into other formats such as RTF. Also the document itself can be exported as a EPS, HTML, Acrobat PDF or a Prepress file.

Basically everything you know about Quark type-setting and paragraph formats is familiar, but imagine that it is configured to look like the palettes youve seen in Illustrator and the way Photoshop preferences are configured. When formatting your style sheets, for instance, you just have to keep clicking on the field next to go onto the next format you want to style. Later, you can apply these styles on text as you would in Quark. As you make changes in type formats, you can see the changes take place as you set the formats up. Instead of linking text boxes, Adobe refers to it as threading text and it seems that here too, moving pages around and changing the design of your document is more flexible than it is in Quark. The eyedropper tool is really unique in that it works on both type and color. Users can point to an area of type and get readings on the attributes of the formatting. Then in the dialog box they can apply the attributes they choose on other areas of type. The same is true about color and it even works with imported images where the user can apply the CMYK values of color and match it in InDesign. Speaking of color you are used to in Illustrator, you will have no trouble creating colors and gradients and applying them. Colors in 1.5 can be displayed as large or small swatches and there is support for drag and drop color.

Fonts are now easier to handle in 1.5. A "Show Font" useage dialog box will alert the user to missing fonts which it highlights in pink. This also lists versions of screen and printer fonts to eliminate confusion about which version was used. You can replace one font for another globally or in just one location. In pre-flighting your document, it will alert you to missing fonts in placed files, although you cannot replace fonts from imported files.

As in all new applications the user has to go through a learning curve in order to develop a feel for the tools at hand. For instance, moving and cropping placed images is a bit awkward and operates differently than expected. This user finds moving pictures around in what seems to be a double picture frame cumbersome and hard to get used to.

Service Bureaus ask their clients to use programs that they can handle easily, troubleshoot and print without problems. In talking to one vendor, printing is more stabilized with version 1.5. In the first version the vendor found exporting to postscript and dropping it on the rip proved to be the best way to output on the imagesetter. Their main complaint is that printing was not straight-forward due to the interface of the program, where functions are embedded in the palettes and hard to find. However this seems to have been straightened out in 1.5 where you can set and apply Print and PDF Export styles to set up consistent output settings which is as easy as setting up style sheets.

Even with these concerns, InDesign 1.5 is worth seriously exploring. In all, the feeling this writer has come out with is that InDesign is like taking Illustrator and making it a dynamic multi-page application. However, it offers powerful Masterpage control and typesetting abilities along with the combination of the strong drawing capabilities we have come to know in all Adobe products.

While there is no real pressure at the workplace to change over, this reviewer highly recommends that designers get a feel for what they can create and how they can use this program to their advantage. InDesign might be the new layout and design program, but it has far-reaching uses in that Adobe wants the end user to be able to repurpose files from print to the Web enabling us through the use of Acrobat to export to HTML technologies. Photoshop and Illustrator are being designed to interface even more closely with InDesign which will make working with this program more attractive than ever.

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Li Bendet is a free-lance high-end retoucher on the Mac platform and was the in-house retoucher at DArcy, an advertising agency for 3 years. She has been an active NYMUG member since 1992, having run the original Electronic Imaging SIG.

Li also teaches private Photoshop and Prepress classes and has moderated the MacWorld Expo San Francisco seminar "Avoiding Costly Prepress Mistakes".

She can be reached at 212-598-4022 or via email to libendet(at)finepeter(dot)com.

    Lynda Engstrom web designer for NYMUG Online InDesign Review

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