Review: Adobe InDesign CS5

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Pros: Span- and split-column paragraphs, multiple page sizes, Illustrator-style Layers panel, numerous simplified transformation options, dynamic metadata captions, text track changes, and an expansive new set of animation and interactivity features.

Cons: SWF export doesn't include scalable animations, no split columns in table cells, longstanding rotation behavior removed, Document-installed Fonts feature on Mac platform supports OpenType and TrueType only.

Rating: 95

InDesign CS4 had the misfortune to hit the streets during a downward economic spiral. Making a business argument for upgrades in a severe recession was not an easy thing to do. Bean counters were unlikely to see the R.O.I. in GREP Styles or Cross-references, so many people skipped CS4.

Even with the recession allegedly behind us, the pressure is on Adobe to deliver must-get upgrades. InDesign CS5 meets that challenge, delivering far more than its predecessor. It improves and rethinks much of how we deal with objects on the page, and it offers additional automation options, dramatic productivity enhancements, and new workflow solutions. InDesign CS5 delivers some long-requested features and many little things that add up to a lot. The new version also introduces impressive new features that let print designers stretch themselves into the new paradigm of document creation, which now includes interactivity, animation, and video.

There's so much to cover in this review that I've broken it into seven pages. You'll get the most out of the information if you read it all, but I've also provided a table of contents with links that take you directly to particular sections of the overall review:

1. Multiple Page Sizes; Span, Split, and Balance Columns
2. Simplified Transformations and Selections
3. The Gap Tool; Gridified Frames and Super Step-and-Repeat; Layers Rebuilt
4. Metadata Captions; Mini Bridge
5. Interactive Documents
6. Workflow and Collaboration; (Not Quite) All The Little Things
7. Buying AdviceMultiple Page Sizes
InDesign CS5 finally adds powerful support for multiple page and master page sizes (Figure 1) to deal with everything from gatefolds to varying ad page sizes to managing any multi-piece project.


Figure 1. In this layout, different-sized pages use the same master so the gatefold flap and full cover share the same margins. Also note the jumbo-sized thumbnails in the Pages panel, and the color-coded labels on each page thumbnail -- both new features. Click this image to see a larger version.

Part of this feature is the new Page tool, with which pages themselves become selectable items. When a page is selected with the Page tool, new options in the Control panel allow for page re-sizing right on the document page, without a dialog box (Figure 2). You can also view an overlay of the master page applied to the selected page(s) and reposition that master page without affecting the master itself, or having to override items on the page.


Figure 2. The Control panel in its new Page mode. Page re-sizing can occur from any of the usual 9 page points (top left, bottom right, center, etc.). Objects can be set to move with the page when it's changed, or not, and the feature works in combination with any existing Layout Adjustment settings. Click this image to see a larger version.Span, Split, And Balance Columns
This is a feature that's long been on the wish list of anyone designing newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and the like: paragraphs that can span multiple columns in a multi-column frame, or split one column into multiple columns (Figure 3). This is a fantastic feature. It's faster, easier and more efficient than creating additional frames in the text flow, or using tricks like anchored text frames to achieve similar results. The only disappointment is that it doesn't also work in table cells.

Figure 3. This text exists in a single, three-column text frame. The headline and deck span all three columns, and the intro spans two. I used Split Columns to flow the bulleted list into two columns.

At the text frame level, another new option is Balance columns, which distributes lines of text in even amounts (vertically) across all columns, regardless of the depth of the frame. The feature is completely dynamic, so as you increase or decrease the number of columns in the frame, they're automatically rebalanced. Note that frame re-sizing and basic text edits will be slower when spanning and column balancing are both applied.

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