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Adobe created InDesign to woo you away from QuarkXPress, which currently dominates the high-end desktop publishing (DTP) niche. The first InDesign releases had a lukewarm reception; the program was underpowered and not worth the trouble of converting files from QuarkXPress. InDesign 2.0 is a different story, however. Adobe has supercharged this program with tables, transparency controls, long document features and output in both HTML and XML (a coding language for documents similar to HTML but far more flexible). We think that the new features make InDesign 2.0 the top choice for producing four-colour magazines, books and corporate identity material, as well as on-screen documents such as PDF files, e-books and Web pages. In fact, InDesign's multi-purpose output and fabulous typography tools finally push it through Quark's glass ceiling. Move over, QuarkXPress -- InDesign has finally beaten you.
If you're looking for a friendly DTP program with wizards, templates and context-sensitive help, this is not the product for you. For starters, its largely uncustomisable, Adobe-standard interface sports a small toolbar and a mishmash of tabbed palettes in small type that only a user with excellent eyesight could love. You can nest palettes together, dock them on the side of the display and add keyboard shortcuts for some functions, but that's about it. Of course, if you're familiar with other Adobe products, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, you'll find the interface comfortable and familiar.
To set up a document, you define the desired page size, margins and columns, and then place text and graphics on the page. You can either import whole files or type text and create drawings with InDesign's flexible illustration tools. Unlike Quark, with a rigid Place command that makes you select a specific cursor and have a text or graphic box ready to receive the file, InDesign's easy File > Place command lets you import any type of file, regardless of the currently selected tool, and drops the imported material wherever you designate. This convenience saves extra steps and a lot of time if you are importing many files. InDesign 2.0 also imports QuarkXPress files flawlessly -- a nice touch that makes the migration process relatively painless.
As you might expect from Adobe, InDesign's typography tools are superb. The program uses a special algorithm to ensure the most visually pleasing type we've ever seen, and InDesign lets you adjust and tweak the font, colour and special effects of both character and paragraph styles. We were quite impressed with InDesign's Unicode support, too; we added Japanese kana and a good selection of Kanji characters without having to install special software.
Layout designers will adore InDesign's new Table and Book features. The Table feature lets you create and format tables, as well as convert tab-delimited text from word processing, database and spreadsheet programs. In addition to presenting tabular material in an organised manner, these tables are handy for creating structured Web pages. However, since InDesign's Web tools are basic (you can't create rollovers or other neat Web elements), we recommend using InDesign primarily for paper documents that you'd also like to publish on the Web.
The handy Book palette groups multiple documents into a list and numbers pages sequentially for you. From this palette, you can print selected files, package them for the typesetter and synchronise colours and paragraph and character styles across the book for consistency. Adobe has added the ability to generate indexes and tables of contents, letting you save a group of Table Of Contents (TOC) settings as a style. This is quite useful if you need several types of lists in a book -- for example, lists of figures and tables in addition to the main TOC. QuarkXPress boasts a similar and just as useful long document feature. However, neither InDesign's nor QuarkXPress's book tools are as powerful as FrameMaker's, which can assemble lists of imported files, fonts, markers and cross-references.
Although InDesign is no substitute for a full-blown illustration program such as Illustrator or CorelDRAW, its subset of drawing tools (which includes a Bezier pen, pencil, eraser, smoother and scissors) is quite convenient for simple graphics. New in version 2.0 are nifty transparency controls that let you apply drop shadows, feathering and other editable transparency settings to text, graphics and images. The program also maintains transparency in native Illustrator and Photoshop files and imports and exports transparent Acrobat 5.0 (PDF 1.4) files.
For a while now, Adobe has thumped the multi-purposing drum, claiming that InDesign's advantage is its ability to create one document and use it for print, Web and e-book readers. So far, Adobe seems to be following through on its promise. InDesign lets you save a single file in many different formats -- PostScript, PDF, HTML, XML and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, which lets you view an image on a screen of any size and resolution).
InDesign's one major deficiency? Its Search And Replace feature lets you search only for text and special characters. There's no way to search for a style and replace it with a different one, something that FrameMaker allows. Nor can you search for figures, tables or special formatting breaks. We also miss automatic numbering, bulleted lists and footnotes -- items often found in long documents that are tedious to typeset by hand. But QuarkXPress also lacks these features.
On the whole, however, InDesign 2.0 is polished, elegant and multifaceted, and we think it offers more than QuarkXPress. If you're looking for the top of the line in desktop publishing, this is it.