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June 2007 e-Gram

What's New in InDesign CS3

The new InDesign CS3 is the fifth major release of Adobe’s layout program. Although hardly long in the tooth, InDesign has matured enough to have to face conundrums like those of old timers like Quark. First, how can Adobe add new features to InDesign without making it too hard to use? Second, how can Adobe keep their current customers while adding new ones? Adobe answered those questions well with CS3.

Adobe took an interesting tack when they upgraded InDesign to CS3: They listened to their customers. This shocking display of business savvy means that CS3 now includes Table and Cell styles in addition to the existing Paragraph, Character and Object styles.

Adobe also seems to be working on making InDesign a strong long-document (books, catalogs and so on) layout tool by adding text variables (customizable placeholders for various text attributes), list controls that can span regions and reset based on rules and powerful search-and-replace tools, including GREP for text and glyph for type.

Adobe did not forget about graphic designers during their quest to bring in more customers. The flagship design features are the Type Effects from Photoshop, including Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Outer and Inner Glow, Bevel and Emboss, Satin and three kinds of feathering. Although very powerful, they can only be applied to a whole text box, not to a highlighted selection of text.

Of course, this would not be an Adobe upgrade if it did not include user interface improvements. In this case, Adobe changed all its existing palettes to what it calls panels, which can be expanded fully or shrunk to show either text and an icon or just an icon. They also added new features to the Control Panel, which changes depending on whether you are editing text or objects (as it did in previous versions). Adobe has done a lot of work to make the user interface customizable. New customizing options include showing different features on the Control Panel, and colorizing and hiding features in every menu.

This upgrade must be judged by the sum of its parts, not by any particular feature. By keeping what was good and improving on that, Adobe showed admirable restraint with CS3. Because you need to use it in order to judge it, InDesign’s best feature might be its “use it free for 30 days” download policy.