Adobe InDesign CC: First Look

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With all the hoopla and ensuing controversy surrounding Adobe's Creative Cloud announcements last week, is it possible that the new versions of the most powerful creative apps on the planet are being a tad overlooked? In any other circumstances, all the talk would be about Photoshop's Camera Shake Reduction filter, Illustrator's Touch Type tool, and InDesign's…

Hmm.

It's hard to single out any new element of InDesign CC, as the one with the "wow" factor, sure to blow people's minds and make them want to upgrade and never look back. No one will be accusing Adobe of packing this release with numerous bells and whistles. And yet, InDesign CC is a milestone release, and one of the most fundamentally important in the history of the product. The program has been completely updated under the hood to offer better performance, more stability, and a modern architecture to support the growth of exciting new features for years to come. This was InDesign's 100,000 mile tune-up. And while it was in the shop, it also got some body work done and a new paint job. So let's take it out for a test drive. Here's what's new in InDesign CC.

64-Bit Support

Much like we saw last year with Illustrator CS6, the most important enhancement in InDesign CC might be an invisible one, with no new menu, tool, or dialog box to show its presence. But this invisible "feature" may end up being most people's favorite thing about InDesign CC. InDesign is now a 64-bit application, making it capable of using of RAM over and above 3 GB on Mac and Windows computers. In past versions, you could pack your machine with tons of RAM, but after a certain point it wouldn't make any impact on InDesign performance. The application simply wasn't capable of taking advantage of more resources. But now the sky's the limit. If you typically work on extremely large or complex files, you could see great improvements in speed and stability.

User Interface

InDesign CC sports a new user interface that gives it a consistent look and feel with its Creative Cloud siblings like Photoshop and Illustrator.

InDesign CC UI

The new default is a dark color theme, well, technically "medium dark." In the preferences, you can choose from four brightness levels: Light (which approximates the brightness of CS6), Medium Light, Medium Dark, and for the truly nocturnal among you, Dark. You can also choose any brightness level in between Light and Dark via a slider, and match the Pasteboard to the selected theme color.

InDesign CC Appearance Preferences

Dialog boxes are also more navigable via keyboard, as you can select almost any menu, field, or checkbox without ever touching your mouse or trackpad.

HIDPI Support

InDesign now supports high resolution screens like the Mac's Retina displays, giving you crisper and clearer views of your documents. In addition, InDesign itself has been polished up with high-resolution font menus and new high-res icons throughout the application.

EPUB/HTML Enhancements

Adobe is extremely devoted to making InDesign a premier tool for EPUB production, and the new version sports many advances in this area. For example, if you have developed your own CSS for EPUB, you don't want InDesign creating unnecessary code that you have to clean out. Now you can export to EPUB without CSS, so that only the classes associated with the styles are marked in the HTML tags; no extraneous override classes are created. 

The Object Style Options dialog box now includes Export Tagging features like Paragraph and Character styles do. And Object Style Options now includes Export Options which allow you to choose custom rasterization and custom layout options.

InDesign CC Object Style Export Options

Support has also been added for index stories and live hyperlinks to indexed terms are present in exported EPUBs.

Among the other EPUB improvements include scripting support for EPUB export, cleaner code for lists (both ordered and unordered), better class naming, and the handling of CSS class name conflicts.

All New Font Menu

This is probably the one feature most folks will notice (and appreciate) right away in their day-to-day InDesign use. The Font menu has been changed to offer new ways of searching, selecting, and displaying your fonts.

Font Search

The Fonts menu in both the Control Panel and the Character Panel now allow you to search for fonts by any character(s) in their names. For example, if I wanted to choose a script font to apply to some text, I could just type "script" in the Font menu and it would display only fonts whose names included the word "script". Likewise, if I wanted to see only my bold fonts I could type "bold". If you prefer the way the Font menu currently works in CS6 and earlier versions of InDesign, you can use an alternative method called Search First Word only.

InDesign CC Font Menu Search 

Browse & Apply Fonts

You can browse fonts with your up and down arrow keys, and apply them by clicking on a font name or pressing the Enter key. Previously, you could put your cursor in the font field and use arrow keys to apply fonts, but you couldn't see all the choices in the menu, and each font was applied as soon you arrowed to it. 

Font Favorites

You can now tag fonts as Favorites, and choose to display only your favorites, eliminating the clutter and endless scrolling of a vast font list. 

InDesign CC Font Menu Favorites

Font Family Grouping

Font families are now grouped together in a collapsed set that you can reveal or hide.

InDesign CC Font Menu Family Grouping 

QR Codes

InDesign now gives you the ability to create QR codes via a new Object menu command. Simply choose Object > Generate QR Code. Then in the dialog box, choose a type (hyperlink, plain text, text message, email, or business card), and a color. When you click OK you get a loaded cursor that you can drag to place and size your QR code as desired. InDesign's QR codes are vector art (black with a transparent background) so you can scale them as you wish, and even bring them into Illustrator for extra enhancements. You can also apply fills and strokes just like with any other InDesign objects. And if you hover your cursor over a QR code you get a tool tip revealing its details.

InDesign CC Generate QR Code 

InDesign CC QR Code

New Document Dialog Enhancements

When you're creating a new document wouldn't it be nice to see a preview of it as you set options like page size, margins and columns, bleed and slug, etc? Well with InDesign CC now you can, thanks to a Preview checkbox subtly occupying the bottom left corner of the dialog box. With Preview selected, you can see your document-to-be behind the dialog box, and any change in the settings is immediately reflected.

InDesign CC New Document Preview 

Also, two icons have been added to the right of the Document Preset pop-up menu, for saving and deleting presets. And now in order to see the Bleed and Slug settings, you click on a triangle next to the words "Bleed and Slug" rather than the nebulous "More Options" in CS6 and earlier.

Adobe Exchange Integration

Also new is the integration of Adobe Exchange into InDesign. Previously, you could download and install an extension to add the Exchange panel, where you can browse, buy, and install plug-ins, extensions, and other add-ons for Creative Suite products. Exchange will also be integrated into other CC apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, InCopy, and Dreamweaver, but the panel will only show resources for the app you're using. So you won't see Photoshop brushes in the Exchange panel inside InDesign. The Exchange panel has two modes, a compact-width mode and a full-width mode.

 InDesign CC Adobe Exchange Panel

InDesign CC Adobe Exchange Panel

So there you have it, InDesign CC. It's been thoroughly overhauled both inside and out. It offers a good number of EPUB enhancements, a slick new font menu, QR code generation, and a marketplace of InDesign goodies right within the application. And it's coming soon to a Cloud near you.

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