ISSUE 527: The high-tech office- Nov
InDesign finally offers competition for Quark
If you do any work at all with graphics, Web
design or page layout, you know that Adobe Systems and its
products, such as Photoshop, pretty much dominate the category for
professional photo editing.
But while Adobe's PageMaker pretty much created the
idea that pages could be designed and edited visually on a personal
computer screen, somewhere along the way that product lost the hearts
and minds of graphics designers. Now, most professional page design is
done with QuarkXPress.
Adobe has given up any hope of redesigning PageMaker
to topple Quark. Instead, PageMaker, with its latest version,
has tried to reposition itself for the nonprofessional general business
market, bundling in a large number of general-purpose templates. The
company recently released InDesign, a new from the ground up rethink of
how to allow page designers to get the job done creatively and
Not everything's new. InDesign borrows much of its
interface from its Adobe siblings. The palettes are from PhotoShop,
drawing tools from Illustrator, and more. The result is a comfortable
fit for any long-time Adobe user. But it also borrows from the
competition. It uses Quark-like frames, multiple master pages and
seemingly infinite precision. It imports Quark documents and even
allows ex-Quark users to continue with their familiar keyboard
commands. You can also easily create your own customized commands. (It
will also open PageMaker 6.5 documents, though users of older PageMaker
versions are out of luck.)
But if InDesign is to have any hope of winning over
Quark's customers, it has to up the ante. In many ways, it succeeds.
Automated functions improve the appearance of blocks of text, for
example, looking at a whole paragraph instead of a single line when
adjusting word spacing. Master pages can be based on one another -- so
changes to one will cause all the rest to change as well. Frames can
nest inside frames, allowing a simple way to control complex designs.
A favourite feature is the unlimited Undo/redo command
(and hopefully that will show up in the next version of PhotoShop as
well). Also nice is the ability, shared with PhotoShop, to have
multiple views of the same file. In this case, it means you can work on
one page and see how your changes will affect other pages. Text always
remains editable, no matter how you flip, stretch or rotate it.
InDesign exports files to Adobe Acrobat PDF format, a
common way to distribute complex documents electronically. It also
allows you to save documents as Web-friendly HTML. You can't open and
edit PDF documents, however.
Still, it has its share of annoyances. The drawing
tools, while powerful, are complex. Printing to common LaserJet-style
printers removes the advanced printing features. And while the program
does a credible job of making it easier to produce creative short
documents, it simply lacks the features needed for working on longer
documents. For example, there is no tables of contents or indexes.
There's no table editor -- though I suppose creative designers don't
want to work in any structure that's so prosaic! Unlike Quark, colour
trapping features designed to prepare a document for professional
printing are minimal.
Adobe designed InDesign to be modular, making it easy
for Adobe or other companies to add features. Hopefully extensions will
quickly bridge its built-in limitations. More than 35 companies have
already released InDesign plug-ins. It won't, however, allow ex-Quark
users to use their collection of Quark extensions (aka
The program requires new and powerful hardware. Mac
users need to be running Apple's OS 8.5 or later on a PowerPC
604 or better. PC users, on the other hand, need at least a Pentium II
processor. Don't bother trying to print to an older Postscript Level 1
printer. And since it's a pro-level product, expect pro-level pricing
at around $1,150, though most potential customers will be able to
qualify for some sort of reduced upgrade rate. You should be able to
find upgrades on sale for less than $500 through the end of the year.
InDesign will certainly prove tougher competition for
Quark than PageMaker was. But it may be difficult for Adobe to break
Quark's hold on the hearts and mice of its users, many of whom are
waiting to see how that company responds with its next generation Quark
Xpress 5.0, expected sometime next year. *