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InDesign CC 2015, First Take: Cloud enhancements plus beta Publish Online feature

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Some of the major new features in InDesign CC 2015 are the same cloud enhancements as in the 2015 versions of Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC, including fast access to the Adobe Stock service and cloud-synced shared libraries. These sync across Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, meaning that the assets designers select and enhance when they're creating illustrations are easily to hand when it comes to using those graphics in a publication. If you can get the colour swatch and font used in a graphic from a shared library, it's far faster to match those elements in the page design, and vector graphics and images are right there, ready to place.

Like Illustrator, InDesign can also open layouts from the iOS Comp CC app, which lets you draw out a page design with your fingers on an iPad and add text and images. Save the layout to Creative Cloud (which annoyingly doesn't happen automatically) and InDesign opens it with live text and graphics in a layout that creates text boxes and other placeholders automatically. That's a great time-saver over laying the page out with mouse and keyboard.

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A new PDF publishing option lets you choose the default view on opening.

Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

As with Illustrator, the performance improvements are most noticeable when you're working with large documents: paging through a 200-page brochure is definitely faster, for example, while zooming in or panning around a detailed page is close to instantaneous.

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Convert table cells to hold graphics and you don't have to fiddle around fitting and resizing images in InDesign tables.

Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

But one of the biggest time-savers is that you can finally mark cells in tables -- which are still a common way to lay out page designs -- as containing graphics rather than text. Inside of placing images into cells as inline graphics and having to tweak the size by hand (and do it all over again if you move things around on the page and have to resize the table), you can convert a table cell to a graphics cell and drag an image into it from the Finder or Explorer, or use the Place Gun. That automatically aligns and sizes the image to fit the table cell. You can also apply effects like drop shadows and image insets to the cell.

Oddly though, you can't drag an image into a table cell from a Creative Cloud library. When you resize a cell, the image isn't automatically resized (doing that could cause problems for lower-resolution images), but you can use the standard fitting options to snap the image to the cell size or vice versa.

Another handy time-saver is the ability to add shading to a paragraph as a text effect, so it applies to the whole paragraph even if you edit it or it flows into a new column.

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Publish Online is a quick way of checking and sharing your publication in HTML.

Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

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InDesign began life as a pure desktop publishing (DTP) package, competing with QuarkXpress, but with the rise of the web and tablet magazines, it's added more tools for online publishing, from EPUB support to hyperlink management to HTML animations rather than Flash. So as well as some tweaks to the PDF publishing options in this version (letting you choose the default view settings when the PDF is opened), there's a new Publish Online button in the interface -- sitting right in the title bar where it's easy to find.

This is a preview feature that Adobe specifically marks as 'not yet production ready', and we expect it to evolve over the next few months. The idea is to let you publish to a range of platforms: it creates an online HTML copy of your publication -- complete with text, hyperlinks, images, video, audio and animation and simple viewing controls -- on Creative Cloud.

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You can close the Publish Online dialog and the file will continue uploading.

Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

The settings in the Publish Online dialog are fairly minimal: the most useful ones let you choose which pages to publish and whether they should appear as single pages or multi-page spreads; you can also pick a cover image and change the image quality level. Once the upload is done, the dialog has buttons for sharing the link on Facebook and Twitter, emailing or copying the URL and opening the page to check it. You'll have to do that if you want the HTML to embed the publication in a blog or website, because oddly you can't get it alongside the sharing link.

What you get looks like a very simple digital magazine, with a page picker (on a phone or small tablet you see a thumbnail page as well), zoom and mute controls, plus buttons for sharing, embedding or reporting the page.

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Files published from InDesign have a simple page viewer control that lets you zoom, scroll and share.

Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

If you use Publish Online frequently, the fact that the Recently Published list on the File menu only shows the last five documents could get annoying. However, Web Dashboard lets you see all your publications on Creative Cloud in your browser -- this is also the only way to delete them. You can open publications from here but, oddly, you can't get the embed code or URL to share them. We'd like to see a lot more management options if this is going to be a useful way to test and share publications with colleagues compared to sharing on Adobe's Behance network (it's obviously not intended as a site for commercial publication). As the preview tag suggests, this is clearly a work in progress, but it's good for quickly checking how a digital publication will work on-screen.

Conclusion

InDesign CC 2015 doesn't get nearly as many major new features as the other Creative Cloud apps this time around, but the support for linked and synced Creative Cloud libraries means designers can work and collaborate across Photoshop, Illustrator and inDesign. That's enough to make up for what are otherwise relatively minor improvements.