Hands on with Adobe InDesign Creative Cloud

Adobe InDesign

While my days of working in the design field are long over, a few projects I’m working on this year might get me back into using Adobe Creative Cloud. While there are some tools (Pages $20) that will meet most users’ needs for page layout, I think InDesign is still the gold standard for this task. With a few of these projects in mind, I started looking at Creative Cloud a little closer.

The Creative Cloud is not an inexpensive proposition. While the pricing plans are full of options, it’s fair to say a membership will run you between $50-75 a month, with the $75 price requiring no annual commitment. There is also an individual app price available. That said, these are pro-level tools and are priced accordingly. What is nice, though, is now that Adobe has moved the suite to the cloud, they are rolling out updates much faster than they have been.

Here’s a look at some of the new features.

Typekit fonts

One of the biggest challenges I have when doing design work is trying to find fonts. Back in the day, I had SyQuest discs full of fonts (and I do not miss juggling font conflicts at all), but these days, I just don’t have the means to accumulate a large font library. So I’m either stuck with the fonts that came with applications or hope there is a free font close enough to what I need.

Typekit contains about 700 typefaces from a  wide variety of foundries. Access to the library is included in the Creative Cloud membership. It’s easy to get to: just go to the Type menu in an Adobe app and choose Add Fonts from Typekit. That will bring you to a web page where you can chose the font you want. Once you’ve chosen a font it will appear in the Type menu with the rest of the fonts. If you send the document to someone else, they will need either a copy of the font, or a Typekit subscription to access the font.

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Improved footnotes in epubs

The focus of my creative efforts is still ebooks — I wrote about using InDesign to create ebooks in 2012. (You can probably guess how much I’ve done with that project.) With the latest release, Adobe has included the ability to create pop-up footnotes within ebooks. This is kind of a big deal for me, since in my writing I tend to use the footnote as an editorial aside. I’ve never been particularly happy with how footnotes are handled in ebooks. With InDesign, now you can create footnotes that will pop-up on the screen when you select them.

While this is an exciting concept, the concern I have is while it will work well with ePubs, the Amazon Kindle format will not take advantage of these features. That’s one of the sad parts of ebook creation: two companies that use different standards. I generally prefer ePub, and find the typography in iBooks to be far superior to the Kindle app, but as a potential publisher I’m going to go where the sales are.

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Final thoughts

As I wrote a few years ago, InDesign is a powerful tool that a lot of people are probably not going to need. For ebook creation, while you can use cheaper tools like Pages for ebook creation and basic page layout (Scrivener is also a writing and ebook creation tool I love), I feel InDesign can help your documents achieve a more professional look.

I ran a pre-press shop a long time ago, and we would occasionally get people sending in MS Publisher files to be offset press. The technology back then didn’t handle these types of files very well, unless you just wanted a one-color print job. If it involved two or more colors, we would usually end up having to relayout the page in Pagemaker or Quark. These days, I consider Pages to be the MS Publisher of this generation. While digital presses have gotten better at handling these sort of files, I think if you are sending a job to a press, you should have it created in InDesign, for the superior type tools alone. As a counter-argument, this website does a good job at explaining how to use Pages for professional offset work.

The usual question I ask myself during these articles is: how will I use this tool? While not all my design projects will need InDesign, I tend to get in the weeds with design work enough of the time that I appreciate the tools InDesign provides. When I start creating ebooks later this year, while I will do the actual writing in other programs, the final layout and design will be done in InDesign. What’s nice is now, I can just rent the app for a month at the end of the process if I need it.

The headline and text of this post were updated at 5:00pm PT to note the correct name for the product, Adobe InDesign Creative Cloud.

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