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This article is from April 23, 2010, and is no longer current.

Michael Ninness Answers InDesign CS5 Critics


Michael Ninness has held a number of different jobs since I met him fresh out of college in the early 90s — UI design at Adobe (he designed much of the current Creative Suite look and feel), product manager at Microsoft (on what later turned into a key app in the Microsoft Expression family), and a popular presenter/trainer at conferences globally. But it was as senior product manager on Adobe InDesign that he has influenced the largest number of designers around the world. He arrived on the InDesign team as CS4 was being completed, but quickly shifted to helping shape and build InDesign CS5.

Ninness very recently left Adobe to work as vice president of content at However, he has so much time, energy, and sweat invested in CS5, he has taken time to respond personally to people’s concerns about this upgrade. I sent him a few questions, indicative of the type I’ve been hearing and reading since Adobe announced CS5 last week. His (rather extensive) answers are below.

David Blatner: I think many InDesign users are surprised about how many interactive features there are in CS5. Why did you head down that road?

Michael Ninness: The answer to that question is quite simple actually: Our customers told us to. Let me explain, in three parts I’ll call “The Process”, “The Customers”, and “The Pitch”.

Part 1: The Process

When we started planning the feature set for the CS5 release, the InDesign team adopted a research process called Sync Dev. It is called Sync Dev because key members of the product team all travel together as a core team on an intense round of customer visits over a very short period of time. The core team consists of a representative from product management, engineering, quality engineering, user experience, and product marketing. By traveling together as a core team, everyone hears the same feedback from customers at the same time. This ensures that all throughout the development cycle, the entire team is aligned and knows what it is we are adding to the release and why.

Rather than going on somewhat arbitrary customer visits and asking them what they want us to add to the product, we instead present to them what we plan on building upfront, before we’ve written a single line of code. We show them mock-ups and prototypes and explain what the features do. We then ask them a very simple but important question: If the product we just showed them were available tomorrow, would they buy it (or upgrade)? If their answer is no, we ask them what we would need to remove or add to the feature list to change their minds.

The point of the exercise is to end up with a list of features that add up to a balanced product release that provides value to all the key stakeholders that make up the purchase decision.

No one on the team likes cutting features during a development cycle, especially if we’ve been working on a given feature for several months or longer. But how can we know in advance that we are making the right feature decisions? After all, we only have a certain amount of Engineering and QE resources, so we have to prioritize so that our customers will get the best return on our and their investment.

Sync Dev makes it so much more efficient because we end up cutting features our customers don’t really care about before we make any development and testing investments. Trust me, there is no shortage of new feature ideas. The team maintains a long running list of requests we hear directly from our users, from attending conferences and participating in online communities such as And just about everyone on the team has their own pet feature they’d love to see added to the product. Sync Dev makes sure that we don’t make decisions randomly, or blindly. It forces us to pre-validate the feature ideas so that when the product ships, we already know our customers are going to love the release, find it valuable and that it solves their business problems.

Here is an analogy I shared often with the team to help them understand the benefits of adopting this approach to product development. Before Sync Dev, imagine the team had twenty darts to throw at a dartboard. (In this analogy, the darts are features and the dartboard is the product release.) Now, some of the darts thrown would hit the bull’s-eye. However, some wouldn’t quite hit the center and in fact, some darts wouldn’t even hit the board at all! (Those darts would be called feature cuts.) But, as long as ten of those twenty darts hit the mark or pretty close to it by the time we had to ship, we hoped we’d end up with a compelling release. With Sync Dev, you don’t start with twenty darts – you only start with ten. And you want to know before you even throw the darts that all ten of them are going to hit the bull’s-eye.

Sync Dev allows our customers to tell us what darts to throw, before we throw them. At the end of the process, we have what we refer to as the MVP, Minimal Viable Product. Meaning, what must be in the release to ensure that our customers will be willing to pay for the upgrade. The best part about getting to the MVP is that it unites the team and provides them clarity about what we are chasing. During any product development cycle, there is always a risk that feature creep or noise will distract the team and our darts will miss their target. Whether it comes from a well-intentioned senior vice president, or a developer who’s come up with some interesting technology looking for a problem, all we had to do anytime these distractions came up was to ask this simple question — Is it part of the MVP? If the answer was no, we would decide with confidence that we didn’t need to be distracted and move on.

I am extremely proud of the fact that for InDesign CS5, we didn’t cut a single MVP feature from the final shipping product. Every dart  our Sync Dev customers told us to throw made it in the box, or, er, onto the dartboard. And along the way — because we didn’t waste resources by spending time on features that then had to get cut — we had time make a lot of those little tweaks that every user can appreciate. (Like sticky preview checkboxes!)

Part 2: The Customers

Something that is both a privilege and a challenge for the team is the fact that InDesign has a very broad set of users, each with their own particular workflows, needs, and wants. It was important that when we planned our Sync Dev customer visits that we made sure we met with the entire range of our user base instead of just focusing on one particular type of customer.

To that end, we met with ad agencies, large magazine publishers, regional magazine publishers, digital magazine publishers, book publishers, newspapers, design studios, corporate design groups, prepress & production service providers, media companies, interactive agencies, government agencies, and freelance designers. In total, we visited over 30 companies in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, London, Hamburg, as well as customers in Eastern Europe and India.

One key aspect of the customer visits is that whenever possible, when we visited a particular customer site that all the key decision makers were in the room. For those of you who don’t work for yourselves, you can probably relate to the fact that you as the end-user of InDesign are not always the one that gets to decide if you will be able to upgrade.

Often times, that decision is impacted by the opinions of owners, managers, art directors, IT staff, trainers, etc.
These visits were completed within a six-week period, making it a very grueling (but invigorating) schedule. We met with two customers a day, for three hours each. The first hour we did as little talking as possible. That was the customers’ opportunity to talk freely about their business challenges, what they liked and didn’t like about Adobe and the products they used, show us the types of projects they worked on, etc. It was our job to simply listen, take lots of notes, and see if they talked about any of the issues we would be addressing with the features we were there to pitch them about.

During the second hour, we would walk them through the feature explanations and mock-ups. We avoided explaining why we were pitching the features, allowing them to form there own opinions about whether or not what we were pitching was relevant and meaningful to them.

The third hour was probably the most fun. That is when we asked them what features we had just showed them stood out, and then asked them why. After that, we asked them to prioritize the list of features we had just walked them through. We did this via the $100 Test. Each attendee was told they had (an imaginary) $100 to spend on the features that matterend most to them. There were only three rules:

  1. They were not allowed to spend the same amount on every feature, as that doesn’t tell us anything.
  2. They didn’t have to spend any money on any features they didn’t care about.
  3. They could add any other feature that we didn’t pitch but that they wanted to add to the list. However, if they did so, they still only had the $100 to spend.

We captured how every individual spent their $100, and noted their role (Designer, Art Director, Production Artist, Account Manager, etc.). After all of our customer visits were completed, we had a rich set of data that allowed us to see how each different stakeholder valued the features. Finally, the last exercise was to show them a list of features we said we were not going to be working on. We then gave them one more opportunity to move features from the not doing list. If they chose to do that though, they had to take something off the list they’d already prioritized.

For InDesign CS5, the results of all this customer engagement and direct feedback were fascinating, in some cases very surprising, and, most of all, inspiring.

Part 3: The Pitch

In no particular order, here is the list of features we pitched during all of the customer visits:

  • Simplified Transformations
  • The Gap Tool
  • Live Corner Effects
  • Copyfitting
  • A Layers panel like Illustrator’s
  • Paragraphs that Span Columns
  • Multiple Page Sizes
  • Interactive Documents & Presentations
  • Handoff to Flash Professional
  • HTML authoring
  • CS Review
  • Track text changes
  • Synchronized settings
  • Table improvements

In no particular order, here is the list of features we indicated we were not proposing to be part of CS5, giving them the opportunity to tell us we had our priorities wrong:

  • Kern Pair Editor
  • Camera Raw Import
  • Footnote improvements
  • Endnotes
  • Non-destructive image enhancement (Curves, Levels, Hue/Sat, etc.)
  • Content aware scaling of placed images
  • Layer groups
  • Paragraph shading
  • Linked (external) style sheets
  • Soft-Bottom text frames
  • Color swatch groups

A side benefit of the Sync Dev process is that because you perform so many visits in such a condensed timeframe, you start seeing patterns emerge and commonalities across user types that you might normally miss. For us, the most surprising thing we learned during the visits was how InDesign was being used to create presentations by every customer/company we visited. Right away, in the very first two visits, within the first ten minutes of the meetings, someone would mention how they wished InDesign would export a PowerPoint file. At first, we just kind of laughed it off and dismissed the comment. But it came up every time, and after a while, it became clear what they were actually asking about.

They weren’t talking about the standard bullet-point type presentations that first come to mind when you think of PowerPoint. In many cases, they were using InDesign to layout their project proposals and mood boards. Of course, they were actually creating their content in Photoshop and Illustrator, and then laying out the presentation in InDesign to present to their clients. At the last stage, they wanted their presentations to be more engaging. They wanted to incorporate animation, slide transitions as well as audio and video content. The problem was that they had no elegant way to go from InDesign to PowerPoint. They certainly didn’t want to begin in PowerPoint because then they would be giving up the most critical aspect of why they wanted to use InDesign? typographical control. Quality type and layout was so important that they were exporting their spreads as JPEGs and importing them into PowerPoint to complete the presentation.

It became clear very quickly how little InDesign users know about the capabilities of interactive PDFs, and using full screen PDFs as a presentation format. But even if they were aware of interactive PDFs, that format wouldn’t support the additional capabilities they were hoping to take advantage of.

And as you might imagine, it isn’t that big of a leap to go from authoring interactive presentations with InDesign to full-on rich interactive documents. Given the pressures and competition facing traditional print media, almost every customer we visited told us how difficult it was for their designers to learn how to use tools like Flash for authoring interactive content. Over and over again they told us that they wished they could use their favorite design and layout application (InDesign) to create interactive documents in addition to print documents.

When all customer visits were completed and the dust settled, here is how the individual features we pitched (and those we didn’t) ended up being prioritized by the participants:

  1. Interactive Documents & Presentations
  2. CS Review
  3. Multiple Page Sizes
  4. Simplified Transformations
  5. Live Corner Effects
  6. Handoff to Flash Professional
  7. The Gap Tool
  8. Layers Panel like Illustrator
  9. Track Text Changes
  10. Paragraphs that Span Columns

What was even more amazing to us was that the interactive feature set was ranked in the top 3 by eight of the nine roles we collected data from  Freelance Designers, Art Directors, Designers, Production, Editorial, IT, Training and Support and Management. The only group that didn’t include the interactive features in their top 3 was the Interactive Designers — in other words, the people in the room who were already using Flash Professional. But even for them, it was still ranked number 5.

So, what did this whole experience tell us? Our customers not only gave us permission to evolve InDesign into a layout and design tool for more media than just Print, they outright pleaded for us to do so.

DB: There are some InDesign users who say that InDesign should only focus on being a tool for Print, that adding features for authoring Flash content is just a bunch of hype and is a sign that Adobe doesn’t care much about Print anymore. How do you respond to those thoughts?

MN: Yes, it is true that Adobe did a lot of work to enhance the interactive design capabilities of InDesign CS5. That said though, we also made sure (via the Sync Dev process I described above) that InDesign CS5 would turn out to be a balanced release, with something of value to all our user types, including those users who do not yet have a need to author content for any medium other than Print. Long requested features such as Multiple Page Sizes and Paragraphs that Span (and Split!) Columns are two great examples of that. And then there are the new innovative features such as the Gap Tool, Live Captions, Live Corner Effects, Live Distribute, Auto-Fit, Mini Bridge, Document Installed Fonts, and many more.  Quite frankly, the interactive feature set was the minority investment for this release, not the majority.

But, now that I have your attention, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you this provocative question in return — What is a document? I ask this and write the following in response to your original question, which is basically a variant of ,”I know other people like it, but I hate the idea of InDesign becoming a production tool for anything other than Print. There are other products out there for that”?

Hmm. Let’s talk about this a bit. I spend a lot of time surveying the publishing landscape. Here are some recent entries to the running list I’ve keep of how the Print industry is evolving.

US News & Weekly Report is now selling a subscription to a digital version. This is unique content, separate from their Print version, and Print subscribers get it as part of their paid subscription. This digital version is delivered as a PDF. That pretty much rules out Flash as their authoring tool.

Christian Science Monitor does not offer a print version any more! Their publication is digital only, and delivered as PDF. Again, what product do you think they are creating this publication in? Or put another way, what product do you think their staff (who would love to stay employed) know how to use? Here’s a hint: it isn’t Flash.

My point is we should be talking about what the word “document” means today. Does it always explicitly mean that a document isn’t a document unless it is printed? If the answer to the above question is no, than what implications should that have on a product like InDesign?

Is the message the medium, or is the medium the message?

The two examples I listed above chose to deliver their message as a PDF document. While these could be printed by the reader, it is likely that they won’t be.

Does PDF offer publishers a chance to extend the value of their content? Does it provide an opportunity to enhance the experience the reader has when consuming their content?

Now, from this perspective, is it much of a leap to consider delivering the message as a SWF instead of a PDF, or in addition to a PDF? Or how about this — a hybrid PDF? What’s a hybrid PDF you ask? A single document that has both a high quality interactive experience AND a high quality print experience?

Regardless of file format choice, or even choice of medium, what do all of these scenarios have in common? They all need to be well designed. Layout matters. Typography matters. They all need to be differentiated from their competition. They all need to engage the reader.

Which community already understands the nuances of typography, composition, and effective communication design? The print designers. Which tool do they already know how to use? InDesign. Which tool has the best feature set for layout and typography? InDesign.

My job as the InDesign product manager was to ensure that InDesign continues to be the best tool on the market for print design. But if that is all Adobe optimizes it for, it won’t be enough to stay relevant in the long term. Publishers and consumers now have a wide spectrum of media choices to deliver their content. Print will always continue to be one of those choices. But it isn’t the only choice.

What about the emergence of publications that never had a print version? Take a look at iMotor, FLYP or VIVmag. These are digital publications that do not have a print version. When you look at them, squint a bit so that you don’t see the edges of the web browser chrome the document is housed in. These publications look every bit as compelling and well designed as the best print magazines. And guess what – every spread you see started life in InDesign.

Humor me for a few more minutes and take a look at these URLs:

What do you see? Do you see a web site? Do you see a Flash application? I see an interactive document that happens to be deployed in a browser running the Flash Player. I see pages with buttons that you can click on to jump to other pages. I see beautiful typography and pleasing layout. I see a compelling presentation that tells an effective story in an engaging manner — which should be the end goal of any document.

This could easily have been deployed as an interactive PDF. Or perhaps in HTML5. Or as some other file format yet to be developed in the future. My point is that available file formats should enhance and extend our understanding of what a document can be, not limit it.

So, do you think a designer should be able to create documents like this with InDesign, without having to write a single line of code?

I do.

DB: Long-document publishers are bemoaning the fact that InDesign’s footnotes are still somewhat limited (some would say crippled). In fact, there don’t seem to be many new long-doc improvements in CS5 at all. Why not?

MN: With the exception of Paragraphs that Span or Split Columns (which is very relevant and useful for long-document publishers), no other long-document feature was ranked high enough during the Sync Dev customer visits. Now that CS5 has been announced and is almost available, now is a good time for long-document publishers to let the InDesign team know what feature investments should be made for the next version of InDesign. You can submit your feature requests here (and yes, the team does actually receive and read the submissions!):

What do you think? Write back to Michael (and the folks at Adobe) below.

David Blatner is the co-founder of the Creative Publishing Network, InDesign Magazine, CreativePro Magazine, and the author or co-author of 15 books, including Real World InDesign. His InDesign videos at LinkedIn Learning ( are among the most watched InDesign training in the world.
You can find more about David at

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  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Can you search the wishform? Can you search for “footnotes” since CS2 all the way through to CS5? If you can – can you tell me how many hits that brings up? I’m just interested.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    If you can – can you compare that to “Flash export” from CS2 to CS5 ?

  • @Eugene: I don’t think Adobe lets you search the results of the wishlist form. It’s a one-way message to the product team. They keep their own databases and spreadsheets and so on.

    I know what you mean: It seems like there must be more requests for “footnote” features than “flash” features, but Michael’s explanation is pretty compelling. (I have been in one of these sync devs — for another product, not ID — and his description is accurate.)

    That said, it is also clear that if every InDesignSecrets reader/listener wrote in to the wish form and says “improve footnotes and tables” then they will do it in CS6! My hope is that CS6 has a lot of improvements to the long doc features (better index features, toc features, footnotes/endnotes improvements, book panel improvements, etc.)

  • Fred Goldman says:

    Can someone please ask these customers what they plan on doing with the interactive features?

    Even e-books, where a lot of the market has gone, is not using PDF rather epub. I don’t mean to criticize, rather I am very curious. Is there a market for interactive PDFs?

  • Jonathon says:

    Give us endnotes! Improve footnotes and tables and long document features!

    I’m honestly baffled that these things didn’t make the cut. I work for an academic publisher, and I’m tired of the awkward and complicated kludges I have to use to get semi-decent endnotes. How has InDesign gone this long without supporting endnotes at all?

  • Garrett Guillotte says:

    Can’t say for sure until I get to play with it, but improving Flash’s typography and releasing Flash Catalyst took a lot of the air out of the InDesign interactivity feature.

    But I can’t tell you, for the life of me, when I’ve ever heard anyone ask for InDesign-to-PowerPoint export, or even for presentation tools for InDesign. I’d love to talk to someone who did.

    BTW, David, you mentioned a conflict between footnotes and spanned text earlier. ( What was the problem?

  • @Fred: I think Michael did a pretty good job explaining the need for interactive PDF — major magazines and newspapers. They are not going ePub. And, of course, smaller magazines such as InDesign Magazine (all PDF) and LensWork Enhanced.

    ePub is great for novels, but it’s a terrible format for non-linear design. There is no doubt that Adobe should have done more for ePub in CS5. Personally, I think they underestimated its importance when they were designing CS5. It’s good, but not as great as it should be.

    But for magazines, catalogs, and that kind of thing… PDF and SWF (to some degree) are the formats to use.

  • CalvinFold says:

    I have to wonder when they say “key players” do they mean “the people using it” or “the marketers who have no clue how these programs get used day-to-day”, or worse, both? Working in marketing I learned long ago that “want” and “need” are two different things, and only the actual users know the difference (usually).

    When Adobe approached these key players for these Sync Dev sessions, did they accidentally skew to certain multimedia companies at the expense of the much broader *actual* userbase? Feels like it.

    Yes, cross-media publishing is important, and I can see more e-book support and interactive PDF support, but there is still alot of untouched territory in print document creation. They were on such a roll too (I mean nested and GREP styels, wow), I figured they’d continue to wow us with more of this sort of “we really get it,” nuts-n-bolts, i-dotting, t-crossing kind of stuff.

    Don’t get me wrong, mixed page sizes and other new features ARE cool! But this release feels skewed to multimedia.

    To me, this is alot like the whole “my program lets you publish to the web” trend, which just gives web developers either laughing fits, or moans of pain and rolling eyes.

    Yeah, and I can create newsletters and brochures in Word and manage databases in Excel too…

  • By “key players” I think they mean “large installs” … companies with dozens, hundreds (thousands?) of InDesign licenses. Large publishers, ad agencies, giant marcomm departments, like that.

  • Glenboid says:

    Having now seen live demos of CS5, I love it… yes footnotes could be better, there’s a lot of extras I’d love to see…

    Is it enough of an upgrade to make me take the leap… from CS4 to 5, yeah, on balance I think so.

    The way I look at upgrading is do I want the new PhotoShop features, if yes, then anything else new is a real bonus. PhotoShop looks awesome this version… InDesign falls under the I love that bit, but why didn’t they do that. Whilst I’d love footnotes to get a real overhaul, the span columns feature is something that will help me daily.

    My only complaint is the upgrade from 4 to 5 should be a lot cheaper and seeing as I’m in the UK, the pricing here is yet again a bit strange, the exchange rate seems to be largely ignored!

    Mind you, it could be worse, I could still be using that other layout app!

  • Garrett – You asked what the problem is with footnotes and span columns. Tim Cole addresses it here:

    To summarize briefly, when you span or split columns, InDesign divides the page into chunks. For placing footnotes, InDesign basically treats each chunk as a separate page. So if you add a footnote to a paragraph above a spans/split paragraph, the footnote number appears above the span/split rather than at the bottom of the page. It can get ugly fast.

  • albastru22 says:

    Not exactly “live” caption, as it creates a text box that doesn’t follow the picture box. I can’t see the big improvement here – I think I can find a script on the net that can do captions just as good as this new feature… Am I missing something?

  • Jongware says:

    @albastru22: yeah I get what you mean. On first read, I thought “now that’s really useful”, on 2nd (and further) reading I found myself thinking of how to script it. Not Impressed.

    I am impressed by the clear and non-defensively explanation by M.N. He makes a good point — if I was in his panel perhaps he’d have me swayed.

    For the record, when CS5 drops into the office, I promised my boss to take a look and ask our clients if they would be interested in having an interactive version of their books, and what form it should take.

  • @albastru22: “…am I missing something?” Yes, two things. 1.) A “scripted” version would not update the caption text if the metadata of the placed file was updated outside of InDesign. Live Captions in CS5 does. 2.) Live Captions in CS5 can follow the picture. By default, a Live Caption text frame needs to touch the image frame it is referencing. That allows you to keep the caption text frame and image frame on two different layers. However, if that isn’t a requirement, then you can group the two items. Now the caption will follow the image frame when you move the group. And before you object that “grouping” is cheating, here’s the clever little secret about this method — when grouped, the two items do not need to be touching for the caption variables to populate.

  • @Jongware: “…He makes a good point ? if I was in his panel perhaps he?d have me swayed…”

    Just to clarify, the InDesign team wasn’t there during the visits to sway the participants. It was they who had the opportunity to sway the InDesign team.

  • Christian Nelson says:

    Whenever you hear a corporate rep say, “Our customers told us to”…that’s baloney.

    Maybe some customers who live in the pie-in-the-sky world…but I don’t think any “customers like me” told them to do it.


  • @Christian Nelson: Interesting theory Christian. Thing is, I am not “a corporate rep”. I am no longer an employee at Adobe, nor am I an Adobe stock share holder. While I do wish Adobe well, and the InDesign team in particular, I have no financial interest whatsoever if users purchase CS5 or not.

    I am however, proud of the work we did for this release and care very much about the design community and the InDesign user base. I was simply trying answer David’s questions about how InDesign CS5 came to be as transparently as possible. It is certainly your prerogative to choose to not believe me.

    I for one am grateful that so many passionate and generous users, with feet firmly planted on the ground doing great and inspiring work with the product, were willing to share their time and thoughts with us. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to ship a product release that satisfies everyone. Good product management is about making informed decisions that benefit the largest amount of people possible. In that context, I stand by everything I shared.

  • Garrett Guillotte says:

    Bob, thanks for that link on spans and footnotes. It’s not as bad as I’d feared, but it sort of neutralizes the usefulness of spans for the sorts of things I spend most of my time working on. Hopefully they’ll fix it in a point update.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    I don’t the think the customer research is at all reasonable?

    How many of these people asked about what “features” they wanted are InDesign users on a day to day basis?

    Sure say Flash and Epub and Animation to people I work with and they look at you like you’re Santa! Ask them about footnotes and it’s a little less interesting, right?

    I don’t fully agree with a lot of the explanation about how they came to the decision to include things and not others.

    The other week the staff in my job were dazzled with the the Paste Formatting feature in Word that “IT Staff” discovered. And it was like Christmas for them. But I’ve been using that feature since the 90’s.

    I don’t know how in 5 years a feature that was never improved on before is suddenly gazumped by a feature like export to Flash and Animation Panels? In my mind I cannot comprehend how that happened.

    I’m not saying I’m not happy with CS5 and I’m not criticising the advances it’s made. I’m all for the Flash and the animation and the stuff. What troubles me is letting features that need to be updated and improved upon slip past, again and again and again.

    How about export of grayscale pdfs? Where did that rank? I still get grayscale jobs rejected by prepress for full colour registration marks.

    I’ve asked about footnotes in every InDesign place I know and the same response keeps coming back “It’s obviously too expensive” or “it’s too hard” etc. But today I read “It wasn’t important enough”?

    I know I’m going on and on and on about improving footnotes. But it’s not just about that. It’s about improving what’s already there to make it better.

    What about allowing paragraph numbering in variables, or variables over two lines, or letting cells split over frames/columns? What about improving table styles in a whole? When has the Book Panel been improved? Or packaging of documents? Or adding basic edits to images insitu? Or what about the facility to allow a footnote in a table? Why aren’t these being improved? Why do a half-job with them and then add fancy new features and pretend like it’s not important enough to make better? I mean these things were added to the program to make the program better, but instead of making them work better they are put to the bottom of the list for fancier tools that the “customers” want.

    There’s a whole list of things that need improving, yet we get a Flash thingy that perhaps corporate people have heard about iPads and ePubs and want to improve their online market – but perhaps these people haven’t sat in front of InDesign for 10 hours per day 6 days a week making publications.

    From what I see is that we’re given a new feature and when the next version of the software is released it’s not improved upon. How about in CS6, will it be the same Flash export? But HTML 5 will be all the rage then.. so HTML 5 support comes along and Flash isn’t improved upon?

    It seems to me that Adobe is following the trend, which is fine, I don’t blame them.

    But at least improve on the current features too. As I said earlier – Adobe added them, why? Because people asked for them. So why not improve these features and make them better???

  • CalvinFold says:

    Heheh, my company has nearly 100 seats of the Adobe Suite, and if anyone would have been invited to a meeting with Adobe, it would have been me, I’m the department InDesign trainer and manuals/forms/documentation/collateral go-to/guru (though Mr. Blatner has nothing to fear here?). I could give a laundry list of day-to-day things even my NOVICE users picked-up on as needing improving in InDesign (much less the “sneeze wrong and get into Isolation Mode” in Illustrator, Photoshop quirks, etc?).

    To me, it sounds like a case of “we had these neat things we want to do, let’s pitch them to those most interested to build a case for it.” Our consumer insights group would cringe at such methodology. ;p

    But enough complaining. Let’s hope this is a wake-up for Adobe that they need either a nice maintenance release (a “.5” release) or CS6 goes back to nuts-n-bolts tweaking and super-charging existing features.

    Us, we don’t don’t trust Adobe releases anymore, so CS5 is at least 6?9 months away (we just got CS4 in January). Fresh Illustrator versions are always flakey as heck, and it’s our mainstay. Reliable counts more than all the cool features on the planet.

  • collywolly says:

    i’ve just read the main article and the replies and tend to agree with eugene that the customer research wasn’t reasonable.

    reading the main article in part 2: customers, the 3 hour sessions with customers to me sound like:

    1st hour: let the customer rant and rave about their problems and we’ll write down their problems, but not act on them;

    2nd hour: show the customer what we made earlier (before they actually told us what they wanted);

    3rd hour: ask them what they thought of what we made and in closing, maybe find out what they want.

    in my mind, its a fallacy of telling a customer what they want rather than asking them what they want. it almost feels like while other elements of the creative suite were upgraded, the indesign upgrade was really an afterthought and that someone said “oh, we’d better put a few new bells and whistles in indesign so that has to be upgraded too”.

    i use indesign purely for print purposes, as that’s what it does best. IMHO using indesign to produce on-screen content (whether it be for web, phone, ipad, or removable media like DVD presentations) is a bit like hammering in a nail with a screwdriver… it can do it but its the wrong tool for the job.

    look, i do like some of the new features such as the spanning columns feature (something which admittedly we HAVE been asking for and thank goodness its there now) and picture handling features, but where are all the features which were requested by customers using the wishlist? i agree with eugene that greyscale PDF and improved footnotes should’ve been there at least!

    i think adobe would’ve been better off reading its own forums and finding out what customers are complaining about, what they like, and also what they’ve scripted because indesign currently doesn’t do what was requested – some of the scripts stored on are a great example such as the multipagepdfplacer2.2.1 script.

    i think the other thing that adobe has to be aware of is that customers don’t like upgrading their software – it costs money! working for an offset printing company, we don’t have a choice but to upgrade because our customers do… but the reality is that for what we’re creating in our own creative dept (not prepress section) we could have probably stopped at CS3. upgrading also has side effects, such as reliable trusted scripts and plug-ins no longer work; files archived from years ago can’t be opened in the new version, and new bugs crop up. to use a metaphor, if i had to buy a new car every two years because the roads had changed, i’d stop driving!

    so that’s both barrels from me :D. on a final note, i noticed that after watching the new features of CS5 from the indesigner, that when a new WEB document is created, the Registration color is in the color palette (along with RGB colors). why would Registration color need to be there? its a color useful to print only!

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    I’d just like to add that:

    I’m not giving out about Michael’s explanation or having a go at Adobe, or anyone, or anything like that. What they did to get a customer response was amazing and I applaud them for that. I am very impressed with the improvements to InDesign in CS5. But just to say that what I’m disappointed with is that a lot of features that were added before CS5 go untouched, unimproved upon once again.

  • albastru22 says:

    Thank you Michael for the reply. Yes, people are getting harder to please, there are many new cool features in CS5. But when you think of it… Adobe raised the expectation bar for us with so many improvements over the years.
    But I also think that a few more darts should have been thrown :)… Adobe built us a place for discussions, for wishlists… I know grep styles would have never been in top 10 of whishes, and now we all appreciate it. Still, more transparency on this part (adobe could even make a top ten on its forum) and the critics would have been less vocal… :)
    On the live caption side: I dont use that often the update metadata, but i do change the shape of the image a lot, so let me expect more from adobe than I can get from a script. If you resize the group… the caption gets screwed… For the caption to be really “live” it needs to be accessed thru object properties only and to follow the object. Group isn?t really a solution.

  • Roland says:

    I don’t mean to go off-topic here, but there have been many comments and posts about interactive PDFs, but I’ve yet to run across a PDF that showed me the possibilities.

    Does anyone have an example file that shows exactly what an interactive PDF is or is capable of?

  • @albastru22: “…I also think that a few more darts should have been thrown…”

    Yes, it would be nice to have more darts (resources). But alas, for most of us, regardless of what we work on, there are always constraints and limits we must operate in. That is a fact (and responsibility) that all designers should be able to relate to. Some of the first questions asked to a client should be what their constraints are, such as desired outcome, budget, schedule, etc.

    Also, the dart and dartboard metaphor in the original article was just that — a metaphor to illustrate how the “marquee” features were validated. In other words, there are more than “10 darts” in InDesign CS5.

  • @Roland: As David suggested in one of his own replies to this article, check out InDesign Magazine, which (ironically?) is a digital-only publication published as a PDF. I have a hunch that future issues will start to leverage the new interactive capabilities of ID CS5 where David and the editorial team see that it can enhance the overall experience and add value to their readers. You can get a free issue by visiting

    Bob Connolly, the author of a book about interactive PDFs, has a terrific “gallery” page of compelling samples, available here:

    The book is Dynamic Media: Music, Video, Animation, and the Web in Adobe PDF, and is published by Peachpit Press.

    Finally, while a bit of a tangent, I encourage all of you to check out Think of it as a “YouTube for Print”. This is a web site where anyone can “publish” or share a digital document. A large percentage of the examples are magazines. Many of them have a print version, but many of them don’t — they are digital only. The issuu site provides a publishing platform for those who want to design and share beautiful publications with an audience, but do not have or want to spend the money required to print and mail physical documents.

    As you might guess, a lot of these publications were created with InDesign, exported to PDF and uploaded to issuu. The interactive nature of these publications are limited. I’ll be interested to see how publishing platforms like issuu evolve in the coming years to take advantage of easier interactive authoring and tablet devices.

  • @Eugene Tyson: “…a lot of features that were added before CS5 go untouched, unimproved upon once again…”

    Yes, it is true that Footnotes were not improved in ID CS5. I get that you are disappointed about this, and understand if that was the only feature you would upgrade for that you’ll be skipping CS5.

    While you can site other features have not been revisited, it is not true that the InDesign team does not revisit, rewrite and rearchitect existing features to make them better. I can only speak about the releases during my tenure on the team (CS4 and CS5). I won’t list everything, but here are just three of many examples in CS4 and CS5 of existing feature areas that were improved, and in some cases, completely rewritten and architected.

    Live Preflight in CS4: The existing Preflight feature hadn’t been touched for several versions. Live Preflight was a complete rethinking of the feature to provide “design-time” feedback instead of the previous “run it at the end” approach.

    Links in CS4: The Links panel and architecture for managing placed files was completely rewritten in CS4. Out of the box evidence of this was all the various ways a user can customize the Links panel to show the information relevant to them and things like Relink to Folder. For our developer customers, the new Links architecture allowed them to pretty much make a link to anything. Instead of only linking to a file on disk, links can now be bi-directional, be URI or URL based, and much more. This was a huge win for those leveraging automated, data-base driven publishing workflows.

    Styles in CS4: Nested Line Styles, GREP Styles

    Layers panel in CS5: An existing feature untouched for several versions, made much better.

    Multiple Page Sizes in CS5: While this may seem simple on the surface, this was a very complex and “expensive” feature that required a lot of existing code to be rewritten because so many other feature areas interact here. Master Pages, Pages, Guides, Paste Board, Printing, PDF Export, etc.

    Simplified Selections & Transformations in CS5: One could argue that none of the “little changes” that fall under this bucket of changes would be considered a marquee feature by itself. However, taken as a whole, this collection of over a dozen changes was a result of the team going back to the whiteboard and rethinking everything when it came to working with frames and frame content. What came out of that effort are things like rarely having to switch from the Selection Tool anymore, the new Auto-Fit setting for Frame Fitting Options, being able to transform multiple selected items without having to group them first, Live Corner Effects, grid mode, Live Distribute, and many more.

  • Scott says:

    Not to be too nit picky or anything, BUT:

    How can you honestly say that Flash was more important to your “Focus Grouped” customers than, say fixing footnotes and endnotes when you specifically and deliberately took them out of consideration? As in: “Oh, I can’t spend my $100 on footnotes?!? Oh well, give more Flash then, I guess.” Kinda like the glass eggs and plaster Dalmatians bought at the end of a “Wheel of Fortune” prize spending spree. (Ouch, I must really be getting old!)

    I still say, if there is something wrong with the accessibility of Flash Pro, then fix Flash Pro; don’t dork up InDesign. And for those of you who have been around long enough to have witnessed it first hand, there is a historical precedent here that I can illustrate how dangerous this obsession with Flash can potentially be (as in, sacrificing core feature improvements in order to chase fad whims); with one, simple question: Design many web pages with Quark Xpress lately?

    I’ve never seen any useful info come out of focus groups. They always end up asking for silly stuff they think they WANT (InDesign as a PowerPoint competitor, REALLY?!? Was there an open bar?) and almost never ask for the more mundane/productivity enhancing things they really NEED. (They probably also asked for CS5 to be free too, didn’t they. ;-) )

    P.S. If you’re considering stuff for CS6, how about adding something to InDesign that’s actually related to its core functionality, like folding Acrobat in. (Never understood why it was a stand alone app anyway.) Or at least let us add forms to PDFs without Acrobat Pro.

    End of rants, I promise. Focus Groups. Ug. Shudder. Maybe I need a nap.

  • Yes, Scott, a nap is always a good idea. ;)

    However, I believe there is a common denominator to those who are complaining about interactive pdf/swf in InDesign: You don’t have CS5 yet. This is like people complaining how the iPhone or iPad is going to be a total dud a month or two before it ships.

    Look, I am as disappointed as any of you (perhaps even more so) that it doesn’t include about 50 features that I had hoped for (and described in detail to the Adobe team). But as Michael has pointed out quite cogently, Adobe has limited resources and they’re trying to add features that will make a very wide range of users happy.

    I strongly encourage you to try CS5. Even if you totally ignore the interactive features, you’re going to find it an awesome and very-worthwhile upgrade.

  • John Feld says:

    I think that MN did a great job explaining their process. He also has been a wonderful PM and we will all miss his presence.
    I also think that the new version will be an awesome upgrade. Although I create almost no interactive documents at this time, InDesign is already a kick-ass application, and it is just getting better and better. So maybe I will not be creating many documents that end up in Flash, I do create lots of documents that end up as static PDFs. And CS5 will make them better, or at least reduce my designing time.
    If you have troubles with InDesign, just cast your mind back to Quark.
    Thanks Michael, and good luck at

  • albastru22 says:

    “If you have troubles with InDesign, just cast your mind back to Quark.”
    Heeei, that’s below the belt… Nobody is comparing id with quarkxpress. Of course they are decades away…

    Well, if adobe wants to sell more in the future they should learn something from all the criticism. I really think that they can afford to be more transparent with the wishlist. If they want to add features that aren’t on that wishlist… it will be a bonus.
    They can even drop the expensive sync dev thingy and just listen to David… :D
    And that wishlist… will be a shame to contain things like “fix the x feature”. That needs to be fixed right away… :D.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    For CS4 I decided to wait and see what the bugs were. And it turned out that the text style import was broken. And this single handly stopped me upgrading. It honestly did. Then I heard that it couldn’t be fixed until CS5 – hmmm. It was a whole year later when it was fixed. At this point it was only 6 months until CS5 was released.

    I listed a whole host of things which I am disappointed with. But I also am totally fully happy and delighted with the advances InDesign has made.

    The only problem now is that because I couldn’t upgrade to CS4 because of one thing that was broken, I won’t be able to get my CS5 file back to CS3.

    I’ve already ordered CS5, and I just hope that something that is important is working properly.

    I’ve been living with non-column spanning footnotes since CS2 – I can handle it.

    I can handle non-grayscale pdfs, and all the other things I mentioned. I get by currently. So if it’s not improved upon it’s disappointing, but I’ll just keep going the way I’ve been going.

    It’s still beyond me how “Animation” got ahead of improving footnotes? And how variables don’t work “right” in every situation. I have to buy another tool made by someone else called “Power Headers” to do something that Ventura could do since the last decade.

    I am absolutely thrilled with all the advances and cool things for CS5.

    Ok I may have Generalised a bit that no improvements were made to features already in InDesign.

    God bless the person that came up with the Gap Tool. That’s excellent.

    – Really really happy with these features.

    But what I’m getting at it is, these improvements are great, not giving out about them – I’m delighted with them. But it seems like a sugar coating. No other Adobe App does footnotes. So who was sitting down and developing the tools that are only native to Indesign and improving them? For a print production program that can’t make Grayscale PDFs from Export it comes across as a massive fail. For a typesetting program in the Adobe Suite that can’t do endnotes . Can’t handle variables over multiple lines. Table styles over complicated. Auto Numbering not appearing in variables for running headers are just some of the small complaints I have – and they are small complaints. With all the new features I shouldn’t really complaining.

    I do agree that massive improvements have been made, made to how they should have always been implemented and how they are implemented already in other Adobe Apps. I mean like you come from Illustrator and you go “How do I get the rotate handles on the frame?” “Oh you can do that in CS5.. it’s a new feature!”

    It seems like the question was “how does it work better in other apps?” “Oh we could do that and call it a ‘new feature’!”

    I understand that not all features could be added or improved on. And I know that a lot of things have been improved and added and perhaps made to work similar how other Apps work. Which is great.

    As an example –

    Span Footnotes across columns – endnotes etc. all the footnote features mention on the Adobe forums in the Feature Request forum – just do a search for “footnotes”.In fact I just searched that forum. 11 results for Footnotes. 6 results for Flash. And 0 results for Animation. That’ s Adobe’s official Feature Request Forum.

    So yes fancy things added to InDesign. Going to make using Indesign better. I agree. It’s great. I have ordered two copies of it already.

    It’s just going to be painful to say to someone “Yeh I can export this as an animation”, “Eh can you span those footnotes across those columns?” “Sorry no you can’t do that. But watch this, I’m going t omake the wheels on the car spin!”

  • eugene says:

    just wanted to add. I’m not criticising the new features in CS5 at all. I just wish other things were improved.. Iknow they couldn’t all be done..

    i can keep plugging away and requesting these things and i hope they are updated for the next release.

    i can see how animation and flash became priority with ebooks and ipads making a strong case to be heard.

  • Igor Freiberger says:

    Well, I really like these interactive features included in CS5. And also think the process Michael described is good and valid. But I don’t think this must be the definitive criteria to include or exclude features from a release.

    Let me do an example: GREP styles. I’m pretty sure that, if the same customer research would has been made for early CS releases, hardly 2 or 3 customers (from 30) would ask this feature.

    And if the Adobe team had been showed GREP styles for these customers, probably most of them would not visualize the huge possibilities the feature brings. (GREP seems so much technical and intriguing at a glance, it needs some examples and more than one hour to hook the user.)

    So, using just this criteria I’d bet GREP styles would be let outside the past releases.

    What I mean is that there are some features which are immediately engaging and other that are less impressive. But these less impressive ones, as long as they got understood and applied, completely change the way people work.

    These long document features most of people are asking here (and in many other sites) fall into the less-impressive group. They do not produce fuzz, but they consolidate through time and make the release absolutely indispensable.

    So, although I liked the interactive news in ID CD5, I’m still waiting for long document improvements. And if Adobe will decide just based on these researches, probably CS6 will still lacks endnotes and others very needed improvements.

    Time to write Adobe ?again? asking these features.

  • You know, reading over Michael’s answers and reading people’s comments, I realize that there are three pieces of really important information missing.

    First, how did Adobe come up with their initial list that they were pitching. Some commenters here seem to think they pulled it out of thin air. Not so: The original list of topics came from: reading posts and comments on forums and blogs (such as this one), reading the wishlist items people email in at, talking to customers around the world, and so on.

    Second, the list was refined by the engineering team before it was pitched in sync devs because they already know they cannot do all the features people want. So they negotiate, consult, and try to get the list down to something they believe they can release. Only then do they pitch their ideas in sync dev to ensure that the decisions they made were the right ones.

    Finally — and this is perhaps the most important thing of all — the part of software development that always surprises me is that some features take more than one product cycle to write. I heard this time and time again from people at Adobe, during CS2, CS3, CS4, and CS5. Some features are so big and time-consuming that they cannot be done in one version, or they have to be done after some other feature has been created.

    You can’t do Photoshop transparency effects until you have a flattener. You can’t do grep styles until you do nested styles. One version sets it up, and then next version hits the home run.

    Plus, the features that take the longest are often the ones that seem like they should be the simplest. I remember talking with an engineer at Adobe once where I thought I was asking for the world’s simplest change to a feature. He carefully stepped me through the issues, explained some of the programming behind it, and I was left being a) amazed that any of it worked at all; and b) sad, resigned, but more understanding why they weren’t going to change it now… and best of all: I felt heard, and I was pleased to know that he would try to change it over time (he didn’t like the feature any more than I did).

    But look, Adobe’s engineers can’t come here to explain it all; there are trade secrets involved, for one thing. The fact that Michael wrote so honestly and openly about their process was amazing. So please, guys, stop giving him a hard time.

    I know you’re disappointed that they made certain decisions. Yes, they can do better at footnotes. They know that. Believe me, I have talked with some of them, and they feel as bad about the whole footnote thing as you do, if not more. But it clearly wasn’t in the cards for CS5. No one knows what will be in CS6 at this point, but I do know that they’re listening: they appreciate it when people offer helpful and constructive ideas, but ragging on people or the company doesn’t help a lot.

  • Roland says:

    Thanks Michael for those examples. There are a couple cool ones out there, but I don’t see any of it being put to use in my particular field of work: catalogs. Who knows, I may get new clients who do require snazzy PDFs :)

    One must wonder though, why Adobe doesn’t send out an invitation to all registered customers to fill in a simple questionnaire that says “Hey folks, we’re working on product X, which you say you use, so tell us which feature(s) you want to see added out of this list. The top Y features will be added/improved.”
    Of course, in the end, the person who works for & by him- or herself is nowhere near as important as a large agency due to income for Adobe. But unless focus shifts back to InDesign’s core, or non-web-related new and/or improved features get more time in the spotlight, upgrading will become less and less natural for folks, while a quick torrent download will become more viable for small business users.

  • erique says:

    @ Roland : I wonder how the number of users working for themselves stack up against the users working for ‘more important’ clients like large agencies. For instance, 100,000 self employed users make a big group, bigger than any large agency I can name. Shouldn’t that carry some weight?

    @ everybody who’s looking forward to CS6 : come on guys, most of us haven’t even seen CS5 yet. Let’s stay with the program. And anyways, history tells us that there’ll be plenty of missing updated features to gripe about when it does come.

    CS5 : yes! Let’s have it already!

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on CS5 and start using it. I guess I won’t fully appreciate the new features until I start using them.

    The explanations here are great and thanks for posting them.

  • Barton says:

    Two things: Adobe has limited resources ? really? Why use those limited resources on adding fluff. I think Scotts comment about diluting the focus of the program, “Design many web pages with Quark Xpress lately?”, speaks volumes about what is wrong here.

    My second point being, an interactive document; is that not something which we already have a solution to in a web page? PDF is a great way to send a job to the printer, but why try to compete with current methods of delivering interactive content over the web? Sure PDF can be downloaded and used offline, but there are quite a few methods for doing the same thing with web content. The web development world is at pains to reduce things like image size and http requests so as to keep page serves fast and limit bandwidth, yet all of a sudden companies will start sending out PDFs as single large chunk files and negate the dynamic characteristic of web based content delivery. It doesn’t make sense. Why not use the resources that already exist in Indesign and make it easier for the average user ? aka users that do not have the resources or know how to build custom solutions ? to take the data from indesign files (formatted content and styles etc.) and deploy in other media, or vice versa? I have used the trick of saving an epub file and then pulling the CSS out of it, it’s a convoluted hack though. The data is already there, make it easier to use and share.

    On the topic of wishlists, things that could have been improved, how about making the xml features a little less arcane. I use xml to great effect, but it all feel like a bit of a kludge.

  • Chris says:

    Michael: I suspect this is not an atypical response to InDesign CS5’s announced feature set. Is this the reaction you were expecting to see? Do you think that this negative reaction is coming from a small-but-vocal segment of your user base, or does it call into question the validity of your SyncDev work?

  • Irotama says:

    this looks very interesting!!

  • Rhiannon says:

    @erique: I also wonder if there’s some selection bias: are people who work on technical and academic books (more likely to need footnotes and complex tables) more likely to work for smaller companies, and so less likely to get to take part in this sort of consultation? I know that a lot of large academic publishers outsource their work to many smaller suppliers.

  • @Rhiannon & @erique: I had wanted to include the names of the companies the team visited in my article, but unfortunately, I didn’t have permission to disclose that information. What I can tell you is that the team did include a significant number of Freelancers (self-employed designers), because the team agreed with the sentiment in the comments here that that group does represent a huge amount of the InDesign user base.

    In addition, the team did visit the US and UK corporate headquarters of one of the largest academic and technical book publishers in the world. Keep in mind that theses visits were not necessarily “love fests”. During that first hour, many of the participants were very vocal about things they were frustrated and/or disappointed about InDesign and/or Adobe in general. And yes, footnotes, endnotes and XML improvements were all discussed at length, contrary to the comment that we “specifically and deliberately took them out of consideration”.

    What was interesting to us is that they still prioritized investing in digital publishing over those other areas because transitioning from a Print only business to a Print & Digital business was (and will continue to be) their biggest business challenge in the years ahead. It was very cool to hear first hand how they were imaging what books of the future would be like, and this was a year and a half before anyone was talking about devices like the iPad. They confirmed over and over that EPUB is great for reflowable textual content, but they were hoping eventually they would be able to publish books with much more immersive and engaging content where audio, video, animation and interactivity could enhance the learning experience.

    The magazine publishers (both big and small) essentially said the same thing, and in most cases, even more emphatically than the book publishers since EPUB is really a non-starter for their class of publications. @Barton: your comment about “a web page” already being a solution doesn’t quite ring true for this class of document/publishing. Pick up just about any printed magazine on the newstand, like Wired or Sports Illustrated for example, and then go take a look at their companion web sites. While the information might be the same in both, the design and format (and experience!) are not. Why are print publishers so excited about the emerging class of tablet/slate devices? Because it finally provides them a surface and a platform that will allow them to deliver the same combination of editorial voice (vetted and trusted content) with design (layout, typography, hierarchy, etc.) that the printed page has provided for generations.

    Now go take a look at the prototypes of how they are imagining what the experience and design of their future (or in some cases, already available) digital versions will be like.

    Sports Illustrated


    Popular Science


    Those don’t look like typical “web pages” to me.

    Now, if you are an InDesign user and you agree that this is the direction that publishing is expanding towards, do you want to participate in the design and production of interactive documents like this? Do you want to be able to apply these principles to other kinds of documents like catalogs, brochures, books and more?

    Or, do you believe that InDesign should not evolve to support the authoring of these kinds of documents, and that you should start learning Flash and ActionScript, and/or the combination of HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and AJAX?

  • Smartmac says:

    Hi there,
    A lot of people spoke of TOC lacks, but how many had to make INDEXES?
    It’s a real PAIN when you have hundreds of entries.
    I really spent more time doing that, than making a 800 pages book.
    Could not Adobe simplify this feature?
    Marc, ACE IDCS4

  • Smartmac says:

    Me, again,
    I’m surprised by the fact you can’t disable page numbering for the flap pages that you can create with the new feature of different sized pages.
    In other words the flap itself is counted as a full page.


    Marc, ACE IDCS4

  • Ariel says:

    I’m not going to repeat everything that’s been said above, so I’ll just say that I agree with pretty much all of Eugene Tyson’s comments above, and share his frustration.

    Worse, from what I know of the span columns feature + balance columns (which is the main “long document” feature in this upgrade), it’s is basically useless. It is extremely slow, has a serious bug with footnote placement (mentioned above), and is pretty much unuseable.

  • Egads, Ariel, how much experience have you had with the span/split and balance columns feature that you can say it’s “basically useless”? The product hasn’t even shipped yet ;-)

    I think it’s one of the best features in CS5 and extremely useful, along the lines of Apply Then Next Style or GREP Styles. Saves alot of time and is snappy and reliable, in my experience. People who lay out newspapers and magazines will especially love span/split, I think.

    Let’s not turn this into a flame war okay? Can we at least give the new release a few months of project work before casting judgement?

  • Smartmac, re disabling page #s for flaps (and spines too), that’s a great feature request for CS6!

    In the meantime remember you could just increase the width of the page with the flap … so no new page is added. I show this method (along with the “add a page” method) in the ID CS5 New Features videos I did on

  • Barton says:

    Hi Michael,

    I have seen those prototypes, and they don’t strike me as anything other than websites (with a bit of extra UI eyecandy thrown in to transition pages). There is nothing to stop those companies that you refer to from providing the same experience via their websites: I believe that it has more to do with revenue than anything else. I suspect a PDF as discreet package suits their failing business model better .
    It is funny to refer to these as books of the future: they aren’t really books anymore. It is a new paradigm and one of the reasons over the last few years web design UI has taken a leap forward as it has been treated more for what it is ? dynamic, hyper media ? rather than ‘pages’ from a book that can be navigated.

    I guess time will tell, and I do think these features are cool, I am just worried that they take development attention away from the stuff that we really need. I was pretty sure Dreamweaver and Flash already had all of this stuff covered.

  • @Barton: “…I was pretty sure Dreamweaver and Flash already had all of this stuff covered…”

    Aye, there’s the rub. Yes, DW and Flash have all of this stuff covered… if you like to write code.

    I, like a lot of designers, would rather spend the majority of my time designing, using a tool that “gets” the way I think as a designer.

    Is ID trying to replace all of DW and Flash? No. But, the ID team believes a designer should be able to accomplish quite a bit without having to resort to learning code first. When you reach the limits of what ID can do directly, then you can hand off your design and layouts to Flash Pro to complete the work there.

  • Barton says:

    by the way: that new gap/autofit function looks killer.

  • Roland says:

    @Michael Ninness: I’m really glad to hear you guys did visit freelancers as well as large corporations. It didn’t sound like that from the post itself, at least not to me, so that’s why I brought up the self-employed.

    Would you consider sending out questionnaires to a percentage of users (around the world) to find out which features they think need improvements? You guys could make a shortlist of items your team could work on considering the time-restraints and take the top X most picked to improve in CS6 and/or re-write for CS7.
    Of course such a questionnaire shouldn’t be sent until at least 9 months after CS5’s release, and ideally be repeated several months later to take into account later adopters.

    My crystal ball broke a long time ago, so I don’t know how well those interactive magazines will work, not to mention if iPads and their Android & Windows cousins will be widely adopted by the public.
    But should it all take off like some predict, then you’re absolutely right; it’ll be a blessing to have a program we’re all familiar with be able to re-purpose our existing files with (relative) ease.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    This is by far one of the coolest new features of InDesign – I mean it really does rock

    I don’t really know what the flash looks like on the other end – but it looks promising at least. The only problem is it’s going to be hard for SEO and things like that. But if you’re not hosting on websites and just doing flash presentations for display it seems to be pretty cool.

    It seems to work quite well and seems relatively easy to use. So I have to hand it to the Adobe team on a fine job with that.

    But I can’t really give it all the thumbs up until it’s used in real world application. But I can’t wait to find out.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    News this morning on various websites indicate that Adobe has given up trying to get Flash on iPhones and iPads, as Apple is going to lock it down.

    Where does that leave all the iPhone and iPad users regards to Flash export from InDesign? I’m not sure everyone will have the resources to repurpose their content in HTML5, CSS, Javascript or H.264.

    Is this the new betamax v VHS or HD DVD vs Blu Ray?

    Interested to know how this effects the latest release of InDesign Cs5 in regards to Flash and authoring to the web.

  • Smartmac says:

    AMC said :

    Of course, indeed and so on?
    BUT so, you loose the fold marks it creates automatically when printing/PDFing by spread. :-|

    (by the way, I saw all your movies on Lynda’s site, listening to your soft voice) ;-)

  • Smartmac says:

    Sorry, for the “white” quote
    AMC said :
    In the meantime remember you could just increase the width of the page with the flap ? so no new page is added. I show this method (along with the ?add a page? method) in the ID CS5 New Features videos I did on
    Of course, indeed and so on?
    BUT so, you loose the fold marks it creates automatically when printing/PDFing by spread.

    (by the way, I saw all your movies on Lynda?s site, listening to your soft voice)

  • You like listening to my soft voice, hmmm? Let me tell you about my OTHER videos available online … ;-)

  • Smartmac says:

    Let me tell you about my OTHER videos available online ?

    I’m blushing?


  • Ariel says:

    Just to show that I’m not all anti: Now that beta-testing is over and it’s back to CS4, I’m already missing that little feature upgrade where you can set the “patient mode” delay to zero. Definitely addictive!

  • Bob Wolfe says:

    The 800 lb gorilla in the room is the fact that the coolest interactive device best suited for the new publishing paradigm, doesn’t and won’t support Flash.

  • @Bob

    The device you obliquely reference is only the “coolest interactive device” of the moment because it was first to market. By the end of the year it will no longer have that distinction. Four years from now people will be saying, “hey, didn’t Apple make an early, failed prototype similar to the HP, Android, Palm, Windows, and BlackBerry tablet devices?”

  • Bob Wolfe says:

    Heh. @ Pariah, get back to me when HP, Android, Palm, Windows and Blackberry are actually shipping their tablet devices. BTW, Sister Lola called, she wants her crystal back.

  • Lindsey Thomas Martin says:

    @David: You wrote: ‘ePub is great for novels, but it?s a terrible format for non-linear design. There is no doubt that Adobe should have done more for ePub in CS5’.

    I agree with your assessment of ePub but I’m not sure that much more can be done with it in ID at the moment (page breaks without needing to export separate files will be a great help). The main limitations are in the spec., which belongs to the IDPF, not Adobe. The IDPF is aware of the limitations but, since it is a standards body, its decisions come slowly.

  • Sage Evans says:

    Well, I for one, am absolutely thrilled with ID CS5 – I’ve been up all weekend since the download and hate to sleep! I’ve been designing multimedia ebooks since the early 90s (used PageMaker and caveman Acrobat) – but it worked. This latest offering has cut my workload down by 75% – cheers to the folks at Adobe. (the developers, at least, I’m still not in love with tech support)

    That said – does anyone have a source for information how to get the HTML 5 video or animation into the .epub document? There is a book (I think it’s Alice in Wonderland) – that’s being displayed on the iPad with animation. How did they do it?

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Well Mini Bridge sorta works for me?

    When I drag the panel with the mouse it’s fine, but when I let go it goes blank.

    Any Ideas?

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Kuler Panel also coming up blank and behaving the same way :(

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Hmmm I can still click button on the panel in the black screen. Then when I hold down the mouse on the title bar I can see what I clicked… so the panel is working, but it’s Blank screen is all I see.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    New screen shot – if anyone can help that would be great

    Windows XP SP3

    Intel Core 2 CPU 6400 @ 2.13ghz

    2.00 GB RAM

    Nvidia Quadro FX 3450/4000 SDI

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Actually going to copy this to the forum – if you want to remove these posts that’s ok – or leave a link to the Forum posting


  • @CalvinFold: agree, i sure hope they talked to the users and not the managers!

  • Ion Georgescu says:

    You do ask “Do you like bananas”. And I answer “Yes, of course” (because I do). Then you try to sell me bananas. You didn’t ask if I want bananas. Why? Because it is not what YOU wanted to sell. So this Sync Dev process is in fact a way to justify what YOU want, not what the customer wants. So please, cut the crap.

  • @Ion: Actually, to use your analogy, we didn’t ask them if they liked or wanted bananas. We asked them if they’d buy bananas.

    In other words, the entire process is about changing the conversation from their “likes” and “wants” and getting down to their “needs”. A bummer to hear that you think that goal is a bunch of crap.

    As others have suggested here already, use the 30-day trial version. If after trying it you think the end result is crap, then don’t give Adobe your money.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Yeh but footnotes are like spinach. If you ask someone if they want spinach or steak they’re going to say steak. But spinach is much better for you.

  • zero says:

    Thank you to Michael for talking about the process of developing CS5. I for one would probably not upgrade based on what I’ve seen so far. Some of the new features sound impressive, but I couldn’t care less about interactive PDFs and have never used InDesign to make a PowerPoint presentation. Give me better footnotes, endnotes, and a Word import that is actually usable and I’ll be happy. Unfortunately it seems as if none of those things made it in to the release.

    Actually, I wasn’t really sure what “interactive PDF” meant, either, so I checked out the link Michael suggested earlier: : I have to admit, I think I laughed out loud at some of those. The ones I opened made me feel like I had slipped back into the late 90s. This is what Adobe spent their time working on?! I guess it’s a moot point anyway since Flash seems to be slowly dying, but it’s still annoying to be told that this sort of design work is more important than, say, printed books.

    Nonetheless, thanks for the insight into the development of CS5!

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Well I am sick of taking my InDesign designs and repurposing them in Flash. Now I don’t have to. I can make an interactive PDF or I can export to flash and do more complex things there.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    Peter Kahrel posted this for me on the adobe forums for Indesign.

    Quite cool

  • Nina Storm says:

    I have downloaded the trial and I think it is so nice.
    I love the new masking features in PhotoShop and the interactive features in InDesign, no matter how the Flash struggle ends up.
    Zero, do you really think that e-bookreaders will take no advantage of rich pdf publications? I think that it will be an obvious advantage to create directly using InDesign and launch for e-bookreaders.
    If it is old-fashioned or not depends on the design/content.
    I really hope that rich or enchanced pdfs will be a success for tablet reading. I would like reading this way myself.
    If footnotes were the greatest news in CS5 I could live without it.

    :-) Nina Storm

  • Leslie says:

    The video for “A Day in the Life” seems like a Dilbert spoof.

  • Eugene Tyson says:

    I have to say – I uninstalled the trial of CS5 because the full version is arriving soon (don’t ask why it’s a long and boring story). Anyway, back in CS3 now and I already miss the content grabber. And I only used CS5 for less than a week. I’m also missing on or two other things and really can’t wait for the full version to arrive and start using it.

  • Edin says:

    Ventura, Ventura, and VENTURA! All others are several steps bellow.

    Multi column, balanced columns, page/column/line breaking, horizontal/vertical justification, rules, text flow, TOTAL CONTROL of everything (except some bugs, lol) ah, yes – Corel SCRIPT, amazing!!!!

    I can’t understand what are Corel teams waiting???

  • I think I find ID CS 5 and the other CS 5 Master Collection to be more responsive and am very pleased with it even though I found a couple of things did not work the way I thought they should, but once corrected i am extremely pleased.

    But, I want to comment on the focus groups.

    Many of the users who participate in the focus groups are not certain what is expected of them and the group supervisors do not want to influence them that way.

    The dynamics of these groups easygoing but the tension is very hidden but it is definitely there and it might make some of the consensus that they make seem odd.

    Very good things come out of the meetings.

    Especially how features might work in the work space in the world we live. Because you see how the people who direct people work with people who might be in the position to follow direction.

    So though the person doing most of the work might know things say the art director does not know it still has to work so that the art director can tell the user what to do.

    So what might not seemingly make sense actually can make sense.

    So what you see in the new version is often a response to very real conditions.

    I agree that some features need to be updated, I also know from experience that rushing to do this might not be the best way of going about it.

    You users may not even tell you all that they need with this upgrade as they might not know themselves as would be evident to you in a focus group.

  • Excellent and insightful commentary, Michael. Thank you for taking the time to explain the process so carefully. I can see where things came from much more clearly, and the market-driven decision making makes sense.

    My experience suggests that the focus group/sync dev process has serious flaws, but I can see why it would be used. If it’s a consolation, Microsoft’s approach (telemeter everything, then design to the lowest common denominator) is far worse, and Apple listens only to consumers, apparently.

    Henry Ford once remarked, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have asked for a better horse.” It’s a tricky situation nobody’s really solved yet, and you can’t possibly please everyone.

    On the interactive front, ironically, about 3 years ago I took on a project (a kiosk-type touch-screen interactive display, with slide shows and videos) that looked tailor-made for InDesign-to-PDF.

    A few days into it I realized that a) the PDF would be enormous and would introduce delays that would not be acceptable, b) the time involved creating it in ID would make the project seriously overdue, and c) CS3’s interactive PDF production was broken (i.e., the program crashed frequently when it tried to export the PDF) and tech support could offer little more than sympathy.

    So (having accepted the contract I was now obligated) I learned Flash, which up to that point I’d never used, and ActionScript and wrote the entire thing in Flash. I hit a gnarly bug in Flash Player 9 along the way that forced a last-minute rewrite of some of the code, but the project came in on deadline, roughly one tenth the size of an equivalent PDF, and — even taking the 5 days of intensive study into account — faster to produce. It was 10 times the speed at runtime that a PDF would have been. Even in CS5 this project would not be possible for InDesign alone, although export-to-Flash (CS4) would have allowed some of the layout work to be done in ID.

    The point? Not all interactive/multimedia documents are for the web. If I make a presentation to a client, it’s full screen and high res. Yes, I’d love to do them in ID, but so far the production time has been excessive for anything smarter than a slide show, and there’s not much need for more than that in most cases. SWF export looks promising for quick production web banners, though — a nice addition to the arsenal.

    In CS4, I tried creating multimedia PDFs: massive files that, even in a 64-bit environment with lots of RAM, ran too slowly to be usable. The last such, a 3-screen 1080p multimedia thing, started out in ID CS4 because I keep hoping. I ended up using Photoshop, Audacity, (yecch) iMovie and (double-yecch) PowerPoint, because Flash would have been too tedious, a 350MB PDF (that couldn’t trim audio to a slide duration) was ridiculous, and PowerPoint 2010 has built-in transitions that were perfect for what I needed. Now I have the CS5 Master Collection I’ve real video tools to play with, so that would be a very different animal today.

    So I’d possibly have been in that vocal group pushing for better interactive/multimedia output (and faster interactive creation) from InDesign. That said, experience so far is that the added functionality is just good enough to be tempting, just not-good-enough to be frustrating — what you might call “the Swiss Army knife effect.”

    In my not particularly humble opinion, PDF is not the future of e-publishing. It suffices for simple projects like InDesign Mag (I use PDFs that way myself. Like ID Mag the files are enormous.), but the PDF format is becoming dated. It’s too darned big. My jury is still out on the swf animation thing (and very much out on the iPad, the “why bother” device of the decade imo, although I’ll design for it if a client asks).

    Unintended consequences of the new content selector include: with a background object selected, it’s impossible to select an object that overlays it even when said object is on a higher layer; dragging an image from Bridge (or MB) into an existing frame fails if the object is dropped in the middle of the existing frame; and with small objects one has to now be very careful NOT to grab the content if one wants to move the frame — all quite annoying misfeatures that vitiate the usefulness of the new functionality. Great idea, though, at base.

    Meanwhile, I love the sticky preview checkboxes, the transform improvements, the layers panel, cross-column headlines and the gap tool.

    Perhaps we’ll get a “Close All” command on the File menu and “Open All Book Documents” in the book panel (as opposed to a clumsy double-click) next time around. With luck, the ID team will nag the Bridge team to add a “Place” command to the Bridge context menu. And it would be nice to have footnotes/endnotes, TOC and Indexing (Word integration!) really fixed once and for all.

    From prerelease website conversations and what made it into the various point products, I feel the weakest link in the development cycle is still suite integration. (There is no feature request category for “Suite Integration.” That omission tells its own tale.)

    Workflow speed rules. When I look closely, all the must-buy improvements for me in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver and After Effects are workflow speeder-uppers. All the rest are things I could happily live without, even though I might use them from time to time.

  • Jongware says:

    Alan: A really good post! Real world examples plus arguments for when to use and not to use ID.

    Perhaps we?ll get a ?Close All? command on the File menu …

    It has its own hotkey combo (just about all modifiers, plus the ‘W’ key) but there is no straightforward way to modify menus to simply add it …

  • Hey, thanks for that! I’d tried various combos (like the Photoshop shortcut, for instance! — suite integration again), but never found it and didn’t have the time to dig around. My several recent book design & typesetting projects (they seem to come in herds, like antelope) brought the omission to my attention.

  • Philip G says:

    And here we have exactly what is wrong with adobe as a development company. Absolutely no vision. Design by committee.. and worse… design by input from the masses.

    In design started as a great concept. I was there before it was even a product. Instead of creating a high-end publishing tool, we got a re-created page maker.

    Adobe then lets FrameMaker languish because nobody there has a clue what do to with. They drop support for the Mac platform (which was the most complete FrameMaker implementation) and then proceed to completely trash what was left of the program. FM 9 is and interface disaster.

    In the mean time, here we are 6, 7, 8, 9 years later and InDesign is still a marginal tool for anything other than poster layout.

    The book functionality is bolted on. The character level style sheets are broken, because there isn’t an AS IS setting for all parameters (ie color cannot be set to as is, it has to be a color).

    Index building on long documents is a joke. Something that should take seconds takes 10, 20, 30 minutes+

    FrameMaker can generate an index of hundreds or even thousands of pages in a few minutes. The code base for this was created 20 years ago. Are your current crop of programmers so inept that they can’t duplicate code that has been around for decades.

    And don’t even get me started on interactive documents. How about automatically creating hypertext links for generated lists (TOC, Indexes) (Take a clue from the other program you own FrameMaker).

    A swiss army knife sure sounds like a great idea. An all in one device that can do everything. Only its just not very good at any of them.

    Adobe, the new microsoft. Microsoft Word was a great word processing program, until somebody said.. hey we can do desktop publishing with it. lets add some features, and it has grown into one of the most hated POS products every created.

  • @Phliip: There are free indexing scripts (see if you want something quick and dirty. Not sure what you mean by “don’t even get me started,” because ID has created hyperlinked indexes and TOCs for many years.

  • Jongware says:

    Philip: I think I agree with the general gest, although every ID user will have his/her own list of personal gripes, could-be-done-betters and dont-really-cares. It goes to show people are using ID for lots of different things. “Anything other than a poster layout” :) — I’m well into a decade of typesetting high-quality scientific books ID …

    And on some points, you are plain wrong.

    [In character styles] color cannot be set to as is, it has to be a color …

    To reset a color to ‘do not change’, Ctrl+click the selected color. (Presmbl Cmd+click on a Mac.)

  • muhamed Bkelli says:

    je t’aimé que Michael Ninness pour bon professionel Photoshop CS5 Essenting training
    Merci Michael Ninness! Bye!

  • JWG says:

    “Now, the reason I brought this in as a logo from Illustrator for this training title here is I couldn’t guarantee that you had this font installed on your machine, so that’s why I brought it in as a piece of artwork. But that said, how do I change the color?..
    ..If you use the Color Overlay effect – it’s right here in the layer Style dialog box, I am going to go ahead and turn that on by clicking on the name Color Overlay, that switches you to the settings for that effect..
    ..So, I am going to go ahead and click on the Red Color Chip, and that pops open the Color Picker, and I am going to go ahead and make it white..

    In cs5, to change the logo color(get the color picker) i had to first check the color overlay effect and hit ok to create a color overlay layer. Then i had to double click that color overlay layer in the layer’s panel to get the color overlay dialogue box(get the color picker). Did i miss something? I open photoshop in Windows but i see the video is made on a Mac.

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