Adobe InDesign CS4 – Review


Adobe InDesign CS4
Adobe Systems Inc.

InDesign Price: Buy $699, Upgrade $199

Usually I feel very strongly one way or the other before I start the actual physical writing part of writing a product review. Not that InDesign CS4 isn’t a great upgrade; it is. I’m just not all that excited about an application for print publishing when we all know where that industry is headed.

That said, let me tell about the new features that I find myself using on a daily basis. One common element to all of the Adobe Creative Suite CS4 applications is the new tabbed interface. At first it took some getting used to before I realized how much easier it was to toggle through my open documents. Yes I do still on occasion find myself fishing with my mouse to the lower right side of my InDesign window searching for the other document I have open. However, that occasion is becoming more rare and I prefer the cleaner look of my desktop. There is another element of the new user interface I like as well. It’s called the “Arrange Documents”. This new feature allows you to quickly compare multiple open documents side by side. I found this to be a huge time saver when shifting page elements from one document to another.

By far my favorite new features in InDesign CS4 are the Smart Guides and Smart Align features. These features alone are worth the price of the upgrade. How many times have you set guides to align, space, or rotate items on a page? I could easily say that I have about a billion times over the last 25 years. Well those days are long gone now. The new Smart Guides/Align option(s) automatically display as you move, shift, or rotate items on a page. As you move an item the smart guides let you know when the items alignment matches other elements on the page. This not only saves you time from having to place guides on your page but also keeps your work space clear of guide build-up.

The new Links panel has been greatly improved as well. Now you can update all instances of an image appearing multiple times in a layout with one click. Moreover, the Links panel display much more detailed information then it did in the past. Now with scale and resolution displayed all in one place I can quickly see if I need to resize any of my images before I go to press. If needed you can even view the metadata of a placed item. Although I didn’t have any practical use for seeing the metadata, I did think it was cool.

If you do layout for print publications such as books or magazines you may like the new Cross-Reference text function. Although I did little more then play with this feature I can see where it could be extremely useful. Cross-Referenced text is text linked to other text that appears in other places in your layout. Imagine a story headline, this headline appears on the title page of an article, than it’s also repeated in the header and/footer of any subsequent article pages, as well as the table of contents. Well if the article title changes how many times do you need to edit that text in your layout? If you use Cross-Referenced text you only need to change it once. Once the text is linked when ever you make a change to any instance of linked text all of the other text can be instantly updated on the fly.

Over all I like the new InDesign CS4 but I have run into a speed bump or two at times. The only complaint I have with the new InDesign is backward compatibility, since I am the only CS4 user in my office environment and need to share my documents with other InDesign CS3 users. I have found in some instances, not all, where an InDesign CS3 user could not open a file saved backwards for them to use. This is more than a headache when it happens. As I write this review, Adobe released an update for InDesign CS4. I do not know nor have I tested the new patch to see if it resolves my issue. Rating: 4 out of 5

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