InDesign is now a sturdy competitor for Quark
by Alan Zisman (c)
First published in Business in
Vancouver, Issue #655 May 14-20, High Tech
Maybe the basic page
layout tools in your word processor do everything you need. But if you
regularly create more complex page layouts for brochures, menus,
advertisements, fliers and the like, then you're probably using page
design, or desktop publishing, software. And for a decade or so, the
market leader has been Quark XPress, which supplanted
PageMaker, owned by Adobe.
Adobe gave up trying to
redesign PageMaker as a Quark-killer, instead trying to reposition it
as a mid-level business tool. The company built a new application,
InDesign, aimed at professional users. First released in 1999, InDesign
offered designers the same interface as the other Adobe products (such
as Photoshop) that they already owned, and a number of innovative
features. But version 1.0 was buggy, a resource hog, and lacked some
basic tools. While version 1.5 was better, the product garnered a lot
of interest, but relatively few sales.
Now, with a new InDesign
2.0 ($1,050, $225 to upgrade, with special deals for XPress and
PageMaker owners), Adobe is trying again. While still needing a
powerful computer, the new version's performance has been tweaked while
features have been added to make it match or surpass XPress.
InDesign is available in
PC and Mac versions. The Mac version will run natively in both the
classic Mac interface and the new OS X, but will operate faster and
with better stability in OS X.
Designers will be
pleased with the program's support for layers and transparency. Both of
these features improve the ability to use graphics created in Photoshop
or Illustrator in creative page designs. As well, almost any object can
now get a drop shadow.
Less sexy, but much
needed is new support for tables. While this has long been a standard
feature in word processors, until now, neither InDesign nor XPress has
made it easy to create and customize layout of data. Now, tables can be
created or imported from Word or Excel. Type tools make it easy to
create attractive blocks of text, with rivers of white space
automatically eliminated. Support for UniCode fonts makes it possible
to add text in non-Western languages such as Chinese. Dictionaries for
12 languages are included.
Knowing that many
customers will have previously worked with XPress or PageMaker,
InDesign can import files from those programs. (While pretty good,
users may need to tweak imported page layouts.) Designs can be exported
as HTML or XML as Web pages or in the popular Adobe Acrobat PDF file,
without requiring the additional Acrobat product. These features make
it possible to use a single design for print and online versions,
though it's not a replacement for a dedicated web page design program
like Macromedia's DreamWeaver or Adobe's own GoLive.
Unlike earlier InDesign
versions, the new one allows users to print to non-postscript printers,
and to preview pages before printing.
While aiming primarily
at designers creating stylish short documents, Adobe has added tools
for book production, such as the ability to group multiple files as
chapters, synchronize their colours and layout, and create a table of
contents. These tools are not as powerful as their equivalents in
Adobe's FrameMaker, however. InDesign's features can be
expanded with plug-ins, extra-cost add-ons from Adobe or third parties.
Adobe hopes many of these will emerge in the coming months.
Designers working with
short and medium-length documents will find that the new InDesign
offers features to better unleash their creativity than the
industry-standard Quark XPress 4. It will have added appeal to users
who already work with Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator. Quark has an
extremely loyal customer base, however, and the company has not been
standing still. A few weeks after InDesign, Quark released its
long-awaited XPress 5. More on that next week.