InDesign Creative Suite 5.5 is all about digital publishing - if you're focused on print, you'll be disappointed.

QuarkXPress' desktop-publishing software reigned supreme in the magazine and newspaper industries through the 80s and 90s. Adobe eventually stole its crown, with its cheaper and better-integrated InDesign software. Now the battle is in digital publishing, creating output for tablets, e-books and the web.

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Unlike QuarkXPress 9.0, InDesign Creative Suite (CS) 5.5 is all about digital publishing - if you're focused on print, you'll be disappointed. There isn't even a stability fix for Live Preflight, for example.

Adobe InDesign Creative Suite 5.5: Pricey publications

As with its age-old rival, Adobe InDesign's digital-publishing tools break down into two key categories: e-books and digital magazines. The latter's creative opportunities are likely to be of most interest to designers, but Adobe's pricing structure will be unhelpful to those not charging for their publications.

To turn your layouts into tablet applications, you must subscribe to the Professional Edition of Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite programme. This involves a £300 monthly subscription and a per-issue fee that works out around £3,000 for 25,000 downloads, and rises to more than £36,000 for 500,000. This is paid per studio, not publication.

Careful management is needed if your free publication becomes wildly popular and your costs begin to spiral. This subscription model isn't unique to Adobe, however, and is also used by most other systems on the market. Some, however, such as Woodwing's Digital Magazine Tools, don't charge a per-issue fee and may better suit free productions.

The pricing won't hit you as hard if you're producing a paid-for magazine or other publication, of course, but it could make working out how to charge clients for their interactive brochures, catalogues and other materials more difficult.

InDesign CS5.5

Adobe InDesign Creative Suite 5.5: What's new

If you can get past the pricing issues, InDesign's creative tools are innovative. Digital Publishing Suite offers many interactive elements, including hyperlinks, slideshows, 360 viewers, audio, panoramas, video, pan-and-zoom of images and a Web View for placing live content such as Twitter and RSS feeds.

The Overlay Creator is now an Extension panel rather than a separate application. This is a great timesaver. The toolset isn't going to make you a rival of professional app developers, but it does most of what's needed on a regular basis.

The Folio Producer panel replaces the Content Bundler, allowing you to flatplan articles to create a publication. We're not enrolled in Adobe's Digital Publishing Suite programme, so were unable to test how smoothly this works.

InDesign CS5.5's ePub creation toolset simplifies turning a layout into an e-book. The new Articles panel allows you to stack a list of text boxes and images to create the simple chain-format of ePub. An option in the Paragraph Styles dialog box then lets you map different styles on to paragraph and header styles, so your titles remain clear and bold. You can also embed video for use on tablets that support it.

Setting up Paragraph Styles is initially the most time-consuming task, but you're then ready to start creating publications. The grind comes if your text is largely in one series of connected text boxes, as to break these up with images you need to use InDesign's fiddly Anchors system. A simple way to connect existing images with parts of the text without affecting the print layout would be most welcome.

Adobe InDesign Creative Suite 5.5: Specs

  • Intel Pentium 4/AMD Athlon 64 processor
  • Windows XP/Vista/7/Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
  • 1GB RAM
  • 1.6GB hard-disk space
  • 1024x768-pixel screen resolution with 16bit video card
  • DVD drive
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.0
  • internet connection
  • Intel Pentium 4/AMD Athlon 64 processor
  • Windows XP/Vista/7/Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
  • 1GB RAM
  • 1.6GB hard-disk space
  • 1024x768-pixel screen resolution with 16bit video card
  • DVD drive
  • Adobe Flash Player 10.0
  • internet connection

OUR VERDICT

InDesign CS5.5 will be warmly welcomed by digital edition designers who’ve slogged through the beta versions of the Digital Publishing Suite. It’s a useful upgrade if you’re interested in creating ePub-format e-books, but it offers nothing new for print-focused designers.

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