The most powerful new features of InDesign CS6 include liquid page rules, multiple layouts for one project, a tool to move content from one layout to another, and interactive PDF forms.
A couple of years ago I could write about InDesign that it was a bloated program. Today, I can’t do that any more. InDesign CS6 today is a complete publishing solution. The application integrates with Adobe DPS and allows you to make preparations for publishing folio files (the precursor of apps), while making sure you understand that prints layouts are just one of the layouts possible in our digital era.
One of the major new features in InDesign CS6 is the ability to apply liquid page rules. Liquid page rules determine how objects on a page are adapted when the size, orientation, or aspect ratio of the layout changes. I tested it with a very simple layout file — the complexity of the layout does not really affect a test — and found it to be extremely easy to apply. Basically, your layout should be liquid when your intent is digital publishing.
That intent is set in the document set up. InDesign will list page sizes for tablets and devices, and lets you set the units of measure to pixels, colours to RGB, and all other defaults for liquid layout. When you set the layout to liquid, dragging up a corner page handle to resize the page makes the content scale with it. It’s an essential tool to have when publishing to iPads, iPhones, and other mobile devices.
My personal favourite is creating an alternate layout. This too is a new feature. It sort of takes the concept of “project” to the core of InDesign. The alternate layout feature duplicates your existing content, placing it in new pages with the orientation and page size of your choice.
Again, you can select a preset of a specific tablet, or create a custom setting. In contrast to QuarkXPress, which has had the project concept at its core for a good number of years, InDesign’s practical implementation of the concept is a tad less user-friendly. For example, the different layouts inside a project are represented by icons that live in the Pages control panel. With QuarkXPress, layouts are tabs.
In InDesign, tabs are unavailable because they are already in use by different projects. Which means that QuarkXPress needs to have multiple windows open in order to access different projects, while in InDesign you can have one window open in order to access different projects and different layouts within those projects.
I therefore wouldn’t say that either workflow is superior. The InDesign approach though, is a bit less user-friendly because the icons that represent the different layouts are more difficult to manage than mere tabs. Having said that, the methods of setting up different layouts within the same project are just as user-friendly and simple to implement as what you are used to from InDesign in other areas.
In order to create an app, Adobe wants you to first create a folio file, which is in fact a publication. Folio file can only be read by a special reader and is little more than a ZIP file with a PDF and some XML files inside. InDesign allows you to prepare documents for publication through Adobe Digital Publishing Suite by building folio files with InDesign CS6. And you can preview folio files on the desktop or on a tablet with Adobe Content Viewer.
Creating these folio files is as easy as creating print layouts. It’s only when you start adding interactive elements that you will find yourself having difficulties if you are a traditional print designer with no experience or knowledge whatsoever of digital publishing and app interactivity. However, if you have ever created PDF interactivity, you won’t have any problems with creating folio interactivity either.
A lovely new tool is the Content Collector. It’s a combination of a multi-clipboard and sort of a conveyor belt for assets that you first copy with this tool. It is meant to copy/paste stuff from one layout to another and works great. It can even create links from one layout to another automatically.
Finally, I tried the PDF form fields tool. There isn’t much to say about it, except that you can now really design forms to look great.
InDesign CS6 is fully equipped for digital publishing without forgetting those designers who still mainly work with print layouts. It’s an upgrade that you simply must have if you are a designer of page layouts.