InDesign 1.5 garners some converts

Professional users hailed enhancements to Adobe’s upstart page-layout program, although some took issue with the company’s upgrade pricing.

This week's release of Adobe InDesign 1.5 has refocused the attention of publishing professionals on Adobe Systems Inc.'s upstart page-layout application.

The results of that scrutiny have been mixed: Some users contacted by ZDNet News said the upgrade's refinements are enough to sway them from traditional DTP powerhouse QuarkXPress. Meanwhile, however, the initial decision by San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe (adbe) to charge $99 for the upgrade -- barely six months after the initial release of the software -- elicited complaints that echoed comments on developer message boards and mailing lists.

"InDesign 1.5 addresses 90 percent of the problems I have with the program," said Sandee Cohen, an InDesign trainer and author of the "InDesign 1.0/1.5 Visual QuickStart Guide" from Peachpit Press. "However, historically, software companies have an obligation to make sure there is one stable version of the product before asking for more money. In this case, Adobe is not doing that."

An Adobe spokesman told ZDNet News the company is aware of the criticisms of its upgrade strategy. "I think that people are pleased with the features we are offering in InDesign 1.5 but disappointed that a free bug fix didn't come first," said David Evans, Adobe senior evangelist for professional publishing.

Still, the long list of new features Adobe has packed into the upgrade has convinced several leading advertising agencies to adopt InDesign 1.5. Young & Rubicam, DDB Needham Chicago and McCann-Erickson all said they have made the switch from XPress 4.0, the market-leading page-layout application from Quark Inc. of Denver.

Evans predicted that Version 1.5 will tip the balance for many professional sites. "I would expect the people using InDesign to increase significantly with this release," he said. "We will see a much more broad-scale adoption."

New features in Version 1.5 include the capability to place text on a path, the addition of eyedropper and pencil tools that resemble those in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, a plug-in manager, built-in trapping capabilities, clipping paths and alpha channels, enhanced color controls, and vertical-justification capabilities.

"The vertical alignment in InDesign is now better than it is in QuarkXPress," Cohen said. "When Adobe gives InDesign a feature, nine times out of 10, it beats Quark."

Still, Cohen lamented the lack of book-publishing features in the new release, such as automatic generation of tables of contents and indexes, and the capability to bind multiple documents together into a book. "The problem InDesign doesn't solve that QuarkXPress 4.0 does, is giving users these book features," she said.

Evans responded that although "the book publishing market is very important to Adobe, those features are a little bit more complicated to engineer than some of the features we brought to market" in InDesign 1.5.

Both Evans and Cohen agreed that customers may have been expecting a less substantial -- and free -- bug-fix update, while Adobe instead chose to deliver a feature-rich upgrade. The new features should go a long way toward appeasing potential InDesign customers, Cohen said. "This is the version that would allow everyone to really be working with the product."

Even so, Adobe should watch its step, according to Cohen. "InDesign has already lost some enthusiasm of the early adopters. If they don't get it together by Version 2.0, they will have severe problems with their customer base," she said. "I am of the opinion that many people are not going to upgrade because of the screaming you are seeing on the newsgroups."

As for future versions of InDesign, Evans wouldn't say whether Adobe plans to keep to the same quick turnaround schedule. "Certainly we're already working on the next several versions, but we don't yet know how and when we will release them."

This week's release of Adobe InDesign 1.5 has refocused the attention of publishing professionals on Adobe Systems Inc.'s upstart page-layout application.

The results of that scrutiny have been mixed: Some users contacted by ZDNet News said the upgrade's refinements are enough to sway them from traditional DTP powerhouse QuarkXPress. Meanwhile, however, the initial decision by San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe (adbe) to charge $99 for the upgrade -- barely six months after the initial release of the software -- elicited complaints that echoed comments on developer message boards and mailing lists.

"InDesign 1.5 addresses 90 percent of the problems I have with the program," said Sandee Cohen, an InDesign trainer and author of the "InDesign 1.0/1.5 Visual QuickStart Guide" from Peachpit Press. "However, historically, software companies have an obligation to make sure there is one stable version of the product before asking for more money. In this case, Adobe is not doing that."

An Adobe spokesman told ZDNet News the company is aware of the criticisms of its upgrade strategy. "I think that people are pleased with the features we are offering in InDesign 1.5 but disappointed that a free bug fix didn't come first," said David Evans, Adobe senior evangelist for professional publishing.

Still, the long list of new features Adobe has packed into the upgrade has convinced several leading advertising agencies to adopt InDesign 1.5. Young & Rubicam, DDB Needham Chicago and McCann-Erickson all said they have made the switch from XPress 4.0, the market-leading page-layout application from Quark Inc. of Denver.

Evans predicted that Version 1.5 will tip the balance for many professional sites. "I would expect the people using InDesign to increase significantly with this release," he said. "We will see a much more broad-scale adoption."

New features in Version 1.5 include the capability to place text on a path, the addition of eyedropper and pencil tools that resemble those in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, a plug-in manager, built-in trapping capabilities, clipping paths and alpha channels, enhanced color controls, and vertical-justification capabilities.

"The vertical alignment in InDesign is now better than it is in QuarkXPress," Cohen said. "When Adobe gives InDesign a feature, nine times out of 10, it beats Quark."

Still, Cohen lamented the lack of book-publishing features in the new release, such as automatic generation of tables of contents and indexes, and the capability to bind multiple documents together into a book. "The problem InDesign doesn't solve that QuarkXPress 4.0 does, is giving users these book features," she said.

Evans responded that although "the book publishing market is very important to Adobe, those features are a little bit more complicated to engineer than some of the features we brought to market" in InDesign 1.5.

Both Evans and Cohen agreed that customers may have been expecting a less substantial -- and free -- bug-fix update, while Adobe instead chose to deliver a feature-rich upgrade. The new features should go a long way toward appeasing potential InDesign customers, Cohen said. "This is the version that would allow everyone to really be working with the product."

Even so, Adobe should watch its step, according to Cohen. "InDesign has already lost some enthusiasm of the early adopters. If they don't get it together by Version 2.0, they will have severe problems with their customer base," she said. "I am of the opinion that many people are not going to upgrade because of the screaming you are seeing on the newsgroups."

As for future versions of InDesign, Evans wouldn't say whether Adobe plans to keep to the same quick turnaround schedule. "Certainly we're already working on the next several versions, but we don't yet know how and when we will release them."