First Look: Adobe Makes Page Creation Easier

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Make no mistake: Page layout involves a lot of repetitive work. Compositors and designers cut, copy, paste, apply styles, tag images, and so on--thousands of times a day. While Adobe Systems' Creative Suite 2 as a whole has refined its workflow (particularly with the addition of Bridge, the new asset manager), in InDesign CS2 the company has focused on reducing the steps for repetitive tasks. An early look at a beta version of the app seems to indicate that it has succeeded.

Adobe's InDesign CS2.
Adobe's InDesign CS2.
Several improvements streamline the layout process, including finer control options for text and paragraph styles and more tools for object manipulation. Text editing is more word processor-like; with tools like drag-and-drop text editing, as-you-type spell checking, and support for footnotes (either in an imported text file or created in InDesign).

You also have greater control over what comes in when you import text files, with enhanced options to map or rename styles.

Easier Viewing Options

A new Object Layer menu lets you view all of the layers in a Photoshop file on the page. This feature is touted for in-house composition, so a designer can simply place an unflattened Photoshop file in one InDesign document and then view different versions by toggling layers on or off, rather than making several PDFs for review.

The Object Styles control panel lets you save a wide range of style settings, including fill, stroke, and corner effects; transparency; and text and paragraph styles, allowing you to apply one or a dozen styles to objects with a single click.

A few quirks remain. You still cannot open QuarkXPress 5 or 6 files; if you have been using Quark 5 or 6 and have substantial archives, expect to keep both layout programs on your machines. Also, to save down to InDesign CS1, you must still export documents in Interchange format, which requires CS1 users to get a plug-in to read CS2 files.

More XML

InDesign CS2 has expanded XML support; I successfully imported a complex XML file that included a table and captions. I mucked around a bit with the standardized color management features, but until I can put these files through a printer's prepress process, consider them untested.

If you are a Quark user with no plans to upgrade other Creative Suite apps, the $699 price for InDesign CS2 might be too steep to justify a switch. However, Adobe's attractive $169 upgrade price and inclusion in its Standard ($899) and Premium ($1199) suites may help it make even more serious inroads into QuarkXPress's territory.

The Rest of the Suite

Here are links to our reviews of the other parts of Adobe's Creative Suite 2 Premium:

Adobe InDesign CS2

Beta version, not rated
Streamlined design process and improved XML support make this update a winner.
List price, $699; upgrade from InDesign, $169; upgrade from PageMaker, $349; also part of Adobe Creative Suite 2: $899 (Standard), $1199 (Premium)
Current prices (if available)
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