Adobe InDesign CC: First Look

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…


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 wis
h, 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.

Posted on: May 14, 2013

Mike Rankin

Mike is the Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and He is also the author of several video training series, including Font Management Essential Training, InDesign FX, and InDesign CC: Interactive Document Fundamentals.

27 Comments on Adobe InDesign CC: First Look

  1. Carole Aldrich

    May 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Nevertheless, you need internet access to use these products. That is extremely limiting for those of us who take our laptops to remote places and expect to be able to work. This is not a step forward for me!

  2. Change for Change

    May 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    The fact is, there is so little here to shout about. One suspects this is more of ADOBE’S plan of greed: little change, but lets make some money on what we will call a revision. Little sad.

  3. Carlos Estrello

    May 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Well, in your expert opinion… Is worth upgrade? When will be released?

  4. Nice overview. I especially like the new font tools. The QR Code thing is another matter. Generating vector-based tags is welcome, but too many designers are unaware of the hazards of QR — like directing users to non-mobile-optimized landing pages or giving them no meaningful mobile call to action when they get there (

  5. No macros??? (Or, as PhotoShop calls them, Actions)

    Aw c’mon, Adobe….

  6. Hi Carlos-
    This is just a first look. We’ll do a full review after InDesign CC is released and we can test the shipping version.

  7. Yeah, Actions have been on my wish list for InDesign, for longer than I can remember.

  8. Hmmm not a lot to bring older users in… no improvements to footnotes again?

    Change a skin colour is naff at best.

    EPUB stuff is getting there – but needs to be a WYSIWYG scenario. Hey they have dreamweaver, muse and other things, integrate them to give a WYSIWYG.

    Fonts – NEXT

    QR codes – not widely used here. We setup codes and had them bounce through a variant of the URL and we got 0 hits. Almost never use QR codes anymore. Whatever is happening, we can’t get people to use them. There’s tonnes of Free QR Code generators all over the web. What would have been better is a BARCODE generator! But alas we will suffer.

    New Doc Dialogs – more fluff than anything else. A preview of the page, hardly ground breaking. Still going to get people asking “Hey what’s this 55p? How do I get inches” etc. – wouldn’t it have been an idea to be able to choose what unit of measurement you want in the Dialog Box? I know that you can type any measurement in there, like in, mm, etc. but newbies don’t.

    Adobe Exchange is nice.

    Overall – disappointing – more fluff than anything else. Nothing there has drawn me in. Unlike when CS3, CS4 and CS5 rolled out – with GREP, then GREP styles, then more integration with line styles and then the split columns, span columns etc.

    I’ll pass for a while. But it’s there if I ever need it.

  9. After having spent nearly $15,000 on Adobe apps over the years, I view Creative Cloud as a frustrating development.

  10. It’s an interesting problem… there is no doubt that when compared to most previous InDesign upgrades this one look anemic. However, Adobe did a LOT under the hood. The 64-bit decarbonization was an unbelievably difficult thing for them to accomplish. As the product managers explained to me, they had to invest heavily in that, or else the product as a whole may simply not work any longer in the future. It reminded me of what Quark did NOT do for OS X. Because they did not keep up with the times, Quark suffered terribly when OS X came out. Adobe learned the lesson and spent huge resources updating InDesign from the ground up. But the downside is that we don’t get a lot of new features… yet!

    Personally, I don’t find the CC version hugely compelling unless you’re doing EPUB (in which case, I think it will be super helpful). But it will get more interesting as time goes on, I think.

  11. Salah Fadlabi

    May 16, 2013 at 8:15 am

    For most Graphic Designer this release of InDesign CC it’s very disappointed, and they will stay in Indesign CS6 as long as until the coming of real features that support their design works.

  12. Actually, unless something has changed with this build, you only need a network connection to set it up, initially. The CC apps are installed locally, so they are available anywhere you can take your laptop. Proof of payment for that month is verified every time you connect via the web, but it doesn’t need to authorize before every start up. It just complains if you go for a long period of time without connecting.

  13. Just to clear that up with facts:

    Do I need ongoing Internet access to use my Creative Cloud desktop applications?

    No. Your Creative Cloud desktop applications (such as Photoshop and Illustrator) are installed directly on your computer, so you won’t need an ongoing Internet connection to use them on a daily basis.

    You will need to be online when you install and license your software. If you have an annual membership, you’ll be asked to connect to the web to validate your software licenses every 30 days. However, you’ll be able to use products for 3 months (99 days) even if you’re offline.

    So thats a non-issue.

  14. What I would really love for this update is some major interface tweaks. WHY do I have to have different Swatch pallets for every app? Why does Pshop Swatches bring up “Color Picker” and not swatches? Why are my color previews SO small. Look at all that wasted space in the InDesign (far right) pallet.

    Ugh. These are the things that frustrate me. (64 bit support will be nice, I can bog ID down)

  15. The biggest change I see is the way the apps (or suites) are paid for. No more searching for bargains, it all comes from Adobe – only. And from what I’ve seen Adobe is only giving current users of CS a year of a discounted price; they used to always have an upgrade path. What does that say, money/profits. They’ve always had expensive software/suites, but if one upgraded and shopped around you could save some money. No more…

  16. The indexing world is excited about having live epub indexes created during EPUB export. Yes, search is probably what most people use first in an ebook, but having access to an analyzed index, and being able to use it, is a real benefit for non-fiction, catalogs, and other books requiring additional navigation tools.

  17. unsatisfied ex user

    May 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I bought I’d cs5.5 18 months ago and thought it was great! But then I found cheaper software that did more especially with interactive PDF (serif’s pageplus). This CC subscription stinks of corporate greed and I can’t believe so many are falling for it. I for one am doing all I can to avoid using adobe software. There is soLee much more better software out there. Even open source.

  18. The dark interface is dreadful. I do not understand the infatuation for dark, user-hostile interfaces that so many developers seem to have. Aside from that, I’m sorry that I won’t get to take advantage of a 64-bit version, but I will not participate in the Adobe extortion scheme.

  19. Macros? Please learn scripting! A bit of Extendscript knowledge goes a LONG… way. The incredible extensibility of InDesign is its greatest beauty.

  20. “Subscription-only” ransome-ware, rental-status means it’s a dead in the water.

    No deal.

    Pass on CC! Bring back CS.

    CS6 forever, CC NEVER!

  21. Stephen Deleski

    May 23, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    We are sitting on CS5 until customers needs drive us up to CS6 then away from adobe if we are forced into the cloud. Indesign costs us thousands of dollars a year in bad click from a leased copier. You must watch when printing a document and only wanting 1 page. It defaults to print all pages after each page is printed. Make a tweak, print a page and forget to select the page number again and the whole document will print. At a cheap .05 per click and 100 page documents are $5.00 each X a few mistakes a day X weeks in a year. Yea it gets expensive and this costs more than the upgrade.

  22. I don’t care much for Adobe having it’s paws in my wallet all of the time so I’m passing on this. As of right now, I plan on revisiting Multi-Ad Creator because I’ve a lot of older files done in that app so there’s no learning curve for me; plus the latest version of MAC claims to have the ability to open .idml documents–this will allow me to port my InD files back to the MAC. For those not famliiar with MAC, suffice it to say that it beats InD hands-down (simplicity-wise) albeit not quite as powerful. What works is true.

  23. Still nothing for books/long documents: endnotes, less emotional cross-refs etc. etc. etc. Not for me. I reckon CS6 will have to work for me forever! Fingers crossed.

  24. Will CS6 InDesign be able to open CC documents when there are so few differences in the program output?

    Do you want YOUR documents to be inaccessible when you no longer wish or are unable continue to pay the on-going rentals?

  25. The same procedure for downsaving to older versions is in place with InDesign CC. You choose File > Save As or File Export and select InDesign Markup (IDML). This creates a file that can be opened by CS4 or later. Of course, most items that were created by the new version won’t be in the downsaved files. Though interestingly, QR Codes ARE kept in a downsaved file (I just checked, downsaving a CC file to CS6). They’re maintained as embedded EPS files.

  26. If there was ever a time for Quark to come back from the dead, this is it. I want to buy software. Not rent it.

  27. Excellent look at InDesign CC but my question is still unanswered or I can’t find a post for it.

    When I create a new document in comes  up in mm and A4, everything is British, even the word color is spelled colour.

    How can I make the change to US English?

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