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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 Advice

Multiple 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.

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is an award-winning graphic designer, trainer, and author of Adobe InDesign CS4 Styles: How to Create Better, Faster Text and Layouts (Adobe Press). He's also the author of several InDesign-related courses on lynda.com including InDesign for Web Design, Learning GREP with InDesign, and InDesign Styles in Depth. You can view Michael's work and learn more at www.vinestreetdesign.com.
Michael Murphy

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Posted on: May 6, 2010

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is an award-winning graphic designer, trainer, and author of Adobe InDesign CS4 Styles: How to Create Better, Faster Text and Layouts (Adobe Press). He's also the author of several InDesign-related courses on lynda.com including InDesign for Web Design, Learning GREP with InDesign, and InDesign Styles in Depth. You can view Michael's work and learn more at www.vinestreetdesign.com.

22 Comments on Review: Adobe InDesign CS5

  1. With the advent of CS Adobe did a pretty good job implementing little intuitive features that made the use of CS products more efficient (like double clicking a text box to automatically switch the text tool for editing). However, there is one of these features they still haven’t gotten around to that would make my life much easier, namely clicking and dragging text to move it rathr than having to cut and paste every time you want to move a word or phrase within a block of text. Word and many other programs have had this feature for years and it is second nature to me now. How about it Adobe?

  2. This can be done by editing your InDesign preferences, under Type > Drag and Drop Text Editing. Click on Enable in Layout View and Enable in Story Editor.

  3. Not only “No Split Columns in Table Cells” BUT there is absolutely no improvement to TABLES in general. It’s as if they forgot. It’s such a heavily used feature but yet nothing. I guess it’ll be another 18 months.

  4. Excellent review of the new features of InDesign CS5, so often overshadowed by the advances of Photoshop CS5. I also appreciate the video demonstrations, which are brief but very instructive. Good work. Sharon Chester, Wandering Albatross

  5. Thorough and informed review of the high points of the new features in InDesign CS5. Very well done, Mike! And good catch on the SWF-in-PDFs problem.

    I guess the one thing I’d want to argue (mildly) is, when you said “Sadly, there’s no preference or option available that auto-enables Track Changes for all new text frames.” That’s a feature that sounds like it’d be great, until you use it, and then you say What was I thinking … LOL

    If that was actually possible, and you enabled it, then anything you added to one of those new text frames would get the “added text” markup. So it’d be useless, really. The whole thing would be one big markup. Try turning it on manually for an empty frame, then fill it with placed or pasted or placeholder text, and look at that in the Story Editor to see what I mean.

    I loved the videos, they really added a lot to the review. A superb job.

    Anne-Marie
    indesignsecrets.com

  6. This is by far the best review of any of the CS5 products!

    Thank you Michael Murphy and CreativePro for delivering this enormous work.

    Now I’m going back to finishing it!

    Bill Eger

    ——–
    An old man, a writer who likes people, living in the middle of the Pacific ocean near volcanoes, in tradewinds and soft bird songs.

  7. The InDesigner

    May 7, 2010 at 1:36 am

    I hear you about the lack of table enhancements. It’s one of several features I would have liked to have seen receive some attention in this release. Had Adobe not updated any existing features in this release, and only added new ones, I would have come down harder on that. But when I see things like the new Layers panel and a feature like Multiple Page Sizes (which is new, but something we’ve been begging for version after version), I can’t really fault them for not doing everything we might want.

  8. Hi!, anyone know how to disable that damn Content Indicator?!
    I keep selecting it! argghh!!!

  9. Great review! Congrats on a thorough job. I’ve used inDesign since the very very first version as i swore after a ruined experience with Quark tech support I would never ever go back to Quark. Now while I wish Quark would stay competitive to keep this industry from being a monopoly, I sure think this product just continues to get better and better. I look forward to the install…

    My one question is legacy use: Things like multiple page sizes surely won’t be backwards-compatible to CS4, but are there any other issues? Does the ‘save as Cs4′ option exist?

  10. The InDesigner

    May 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    I think Adobe figured some people might not adjust well to the Content Indicator. To disable it, just go to View > Extras > Hide Content Grabber.

  11. The InDesigner

    May 10, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    If you export a CS5 file with multiple page sizes to IDML format (the only backward-compatible option) and open it in InDesign CS4, the custom-sized pages are converted to the default page size at which the document was created.

  12. >>No more grabbing content, you perv!< < :)

  13. If your pages are set up as facing (in spreads), PDF (interactive) will not output as single pages, but in spreads.

  14. The mentioning of CS4 coming in the middle of a down economy does nothing for those who bought it and now find that CS5 is out. How often does Adobe expect us to shell out those hundreds of $$ for the upgrades?

  15. I agree fully with the previous poster. I only upgraded to CS4 last year—approx. 6 months after its launch—now I’m being asked to shell out again? On top of that there will be the inevitable Plug-in upgrade costs. For all the extras, CS4 & CS5 should really be a single upgrade. I think that these ” major” upgrades, which I’m coming to dread, are way too frequent.

  16. Please disable this anoying feature!!!

  17. I know this is long after the review in question. . . but there is an apparent issue with legacy files whereby an export to PDF will “fail” for no reason. This might have something to do with the Background Export feature, but there are no real fixes noted in Adobe’s InDesign Support Forum. This is such a devastating bug that I banished ID CS5 from the Dock and went back to CS4.

    I’d love to know if this ever gets solved.

  18. This is really WELL DONE! I just found it while looking for the same article on CS5.5 Hope you’ll do a new one soon!

    Question: How do you do the moving landscape background? Your screen shots says loop, but I’m having a hard time getting it to work. What parameters did you use? THANKS SO MUCH!!!

  19. dear all .

    i want to receive daily indesign tips ..on my id efydes8@efyindia.com please help me for that..

    thanks

    Ankit chaauhan

  20. I think the tables situation seems to have been fixed. And yes…Adobe is a bit behind a bit on the copy and paste.

  21. I really appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank God I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thanks again…

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