First Look: Adobe InDesign CS6

Adobe has focused its efforts with InDesign CS6 on solving the problems of designers trying to create and deliver great layouts for multiple outputs. In fact, this is one of the main themes of CS6 and the CreativeCloud. So if you’re the person being asked to produce content that fits anything from a billboard to a smartphone (and everything in between) this one’s for you. Let’s take a tour of some of the new key new features of InDesign CS6.
Note: This is not a full review. We’ll have that for you after CS6 is available.

The Big Stuff

Liquid Layout
If you’ve ever had to change the page size of a document and used InDesign’s Layout Adjustment feature, you’re well aware of how hard it can be to adapt a layout to a new page size without having to do a lot of manual work. The new Liquid Layout features represent a quantum leap over Layout Adjustment. They provide a set of options called Liquid Page Rules, that govern the size and position of each object in your layout when you adapt it to a new page size.

Create Alternate Layout
As the number of versions of a layout increases, so does the chore of keeping track of them all and maintaining them. So Adobe has included another new feature called Alternate Layout that allows you to store all the different versions of a layout in one InDesign file. As a result, the Pages panel has been enhanced. It can now show you several versions of a document at once.

The Pages panel now shows multiple page layouts in one place.

Primary Text Frame
Another powerful new feature for adapting layouts is the ability to set a Primary Text Frame on each master page. So if you need to apply a different master page to document pages, InDesign can smartly and seamlessly flow the text through the new primary text frame.

You can now set a Primary Text Frame for each Master Page.

Content Collector, Content Conveyor, Content Placer
Sometimes changing the page size (even with sophisticated liquid page rules) isn’t enough to adapt a layout. Sometimes you just need to recreate a layout piece by piece. With the new Content Collector tools, Adobe has tried to take the copy-paste routine to a whole new level of functionality. With the two new tools in the Tools panel, the Content Collector tool and the Content Placer tool, you can grab page items, store them temporarily, and then place them on the page elsewhere. There are options aplenty for transforming and reformatting items when you place them.

Linked Stories and Objects
In CS5.5, you could use the Place and Link Story feature to make the same text to appear in several places in one InDesign file. Now that feature has been expanded to allow content linking content of any kind, within a document, or across documents.

Auto-sizing Text Frames
Text frames can now be made to resize automatically to fit the content within them. This is great for adapting layouts, but it’s also useful just when editing or reformatting text.

Flexible Width Columns
Another enhancement of text frames is the ability to set a flexible number of columns, so that when a frame grows past a certain width, a new column is automatically added.

PDF Forms
If you ever have to create PDFs with forms in them, this feature is huge. You now have the ability to add real, live PDF form objects like text fields, signature fields, check boxes, and radio buttons right in InDesign.

New PDF Forms features let you create sophisticated forms.

EPUB Export
In addition to implementing several bug fixes, Adobe has added several enhancements to EPUB export, including additional CSS support for margins, floats, table formatting, inline and anchored text frames.

HTML Import
You can now place HTML directly into your InDesign files by simply choosing Object > Insert HTML, and if you need to tweak the code, you can do so right from within InDesign, via an Edit HTML command.

Additional Grayscale Support
Have you ever needed to convert a full color PDF from InDesign into a ­grayscale PDF? Well, now you can output directly to grayscale for print and PDF. You can also use a grayscale color profile for soft-proofing onscreen.

Smaller Stuff

InDesign CS6 has plenty of smaller refinements that fix existing problems or extend features for added convenience and efficiency. Here’s my top 5:

  • Align to Key Object: You can now set any object as a Key Object for the purpose of making others align to it.
  • Recent Fonts: InDesign can keep track of the fonts you use and display a handy Recent Fonts list in the Control panel, Character panel, and Glyphs panel.
  • Link Badges: InDesign can display badges on the frames of linked content indicating their status (OK, modified, or missing).
  • Export Interactive PDF as Pages: Previously if you had a facing pages document, interactive PDF would always be created as spreads, unless you took steps to prevent this from happening. Now in the export dialog box, you can pick spreads or pages.
  • PNG Export: Another welcome addition to the export dialog box is PNG. You can export a selection, a range of pages, or document to PNG format.

But wait! There’s more! All this is really just a glimpse at what InDesign CS6 has to offer. For comprehensive coverage of InDesign CS6, see the brand new issue of InDesign Magazine, available now. It’s chock full of CS6 content including my article “Everything You Need to Know About InDesign CS6,” two InDepth tutorials by Pariah S. Burke and Claudia McCue, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the effort to develop CS6 in a revealing interview with product manager Chris Kitchener.

And if you’re not already a subscriber to InDesign Magazine, here’s an added bonus: right now you can use the discount code CP2Y12 to get a whopping $30 OFF a 2-year subscription. That’s 2 years of InDesign magazine (nearly 1,000 pages of great new content) plus access to all the back issues for just $39. It’s an awesome deal, so don’t miss it. Offer good through April 30th.


Posted on: April 23, 2012

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.

2 Comments on First Look: Adobe InDesign CS6

  1. It’s a multi-screen world with your audience accessing content from various devices. InDesign now helps you create multiple versions (not multiple layouts) of your layout to adapt it to different screen sizes AND all this, from a single InDesign file. With all new Liquid Layouts, forget spending time on fitting your content into different sizes based on orientation. See these new features in action ->

    To know more

  2. I used to work for a print magazine doing design and layout and I always hated my writers for making last minute changes. Whether it was due to copy checks or copy fitting, it’s just pissing off to rework the layout, specially if the copy is linked to another page. I’m so glad this new feature in InDesign – has been created. Every designer will be dancing! I bought online from here – to test out its effectiveness with my blog and I have to admit, even the whole liquid and adaptive layouts stuff is pure gold!

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