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Live preflighting highlights potential problems as you work.
The decade-old InDesign, which is the de facto standard for print page design, has pushed the envelope of page-layout software by introducing many new features—transparency effects, hanging punctuation, parent/child master pages, and onscreen display of color separations, to mention only a few. Perhaps it’s the app’s track record as an innovator that makes InDesign CS4 something of a mixed bag. To its credit, the new version includes a healthy number of new features and some helpful improvements. Unfortunately, nothing falls into the “killer” category.
Users of previous versions will notice a few interface changes in InDesign CS4. There’s now an Application bar above the menus with a handful of icons (one links to Adobe Bridge; the others are related to the display of open documents) and a search field that’s linked to a new online Help system. We found the Application bar to be a waste of space. Fortunately, we have the option to hide it.
A close look at the bottom of a document window reveals an interesting and useful new feature: Live Preflight. As you work on a document, InDesign CS4 warns you if you introduce a potential printing problem, for example, importing an RGB image into a CMYK document. A red dot indicates a potential error; a green dot means the document doesn’t have any potential printing problems. The accompanying menu lets you open the Preflight panel, which allows you turn Live Preflight on or off and create custom preflight profiles.
While we’re on the topic of panels, the Links panel has been redesigned. You can show or hide thumbnails of imported graphics, choose what information is displayed in the panel, and arrange the order of the columns to your liking. Also new is the Link Info area, which displays information about the selected file, and the Edit With command in the panel menu, which lets you choose the application you want to use to modify an image.
Designers working with long documents will be happy to hear that InDesign CS4 lets you create cross-references in much the same way you create hyperlinks. Considering that a cross-reference plug-in can cost from $140 to $200, this feature alone can justify the cost of the upgrade for users who need it.
Many users will like the new Smart Guides—a collection of related features that lets you quickly align, space, rotate, and resize objects with the help of dynamically displayed guides. You can easily snap an object’s edge or midpoint to the edge or midpoint of other objects or the page. Although smart guides are interesting and potentially useful, we also found that the feature can become annoying and counterproductive when working on pages containing many elements. It’s helpful that InDesign CS4 also includes a new set of preference options for Smart Guides to control their behavior.
InDesign CS4 continues the trend of adding cross-media publishing features that have characterized the past few updates. In addition to the previously available options to export documents as PDFs and for use with Dreamweaver, you can now export documents as dynamic Flash (SWF) files that include hyperlinks, buttons, and page transitions. You can also export documents in the new XFL format and then open the XFL files in Flash CS4 Professional and add movies, sound, and more sophisticated interactivity.InDesign CS4 is a solid but not spectacular upgrade. If you own InDesign as part of one of the Adobe Create Suite collections, the overall strength of the suite may convince you to upgrade. If you own only InDesign, you’ll have to decide whether the new features and improvements are worth the price.