The design courses blog for BA (Hons)
and HND Vis Comm at Edinburgh College

Hello InDesign CS6

11 July 2012

With the CS6 Suite being installed in the labs and studio at Edinburgh's Telford over the summer, we thought it might be useful to take a look at some of the cool new features of InDesign.

Our curriculum is really pushing the convergence of print and digital, with more of the projects we set requiring integrated solutions. This means a variety of print and digital deliverables, and can result in a lot of files and a lot of formats to produce for. Solving some aspects of this workload issue is the main area of improvement you'll see in InDesign CS6 - firstly with layout, and secondly with setup and export options to digital formats.

InDesign has some awesome new controls for page layout. The new features allow designers to produce content for a range of page sizes, and to output for responsive design - different devices, screen sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios - all in one file. There are five key tools, which if used together greatly improve workflow and make production much faster.

1. Alternate Layout
This is a great feature which makes it possible to create multiple page layouts in a single InDesign file. For example, you could have a facing pages layout for a 5×5 inch book, a 6×9 inch book, and a 7×8 inch book, all set up in a single InDesign file. You can then easily pre-flight and publish these multiple formats in one pdf. For lovers of Illustrator, this is probably as close to multiple artboards as ID will ever get. For lovers of Quark, this is old hat.

The real breakthrough when you set the intent option to digital publishing, and then InDesign allows you to choose tablet and desktop sizings and orientations to include alongside print sizes.

Three page sizes in one document.

2.Liquid Layout
Liquid Layout is a term more commonly used in web design, and allows you to adapt a single layout for various screens e.g. mobile, iPad and web.

To use liquid layout, you apply, test and then set one of five page rules that specify how page objects should respond. You can grab the handles on a layout and re-size it on the fly to get a feel for how is should appear at different screen sizes. You can then combine with Alternate Layout by applying your liquid layout rules. If you are familiar with CSS media queries, the paradigm is exactly the same. If you aren't, don't worry, its pretty straightforward once you know what sizes you need to design for.

3. Linked Content
This feature was introduced in CS5.5, and has been refined. It allows you to spread content across several documents and books. When the parent content is edited, you are given the option to update the content in all the other locations. This idea has an equivalent in CSS, the inheritance principal, but think 'symbols' in Illustrator and you get the idea.

4.Content Collector/Content Placer
The new Content Collector and Content Placer tools aim to make it easier to quickly copy content between page, alternate layouts, or documents. Again, it feels somewhat related to symbols in Illustrator, and helps you get organised with your content.

5.Flexible Columns
At last, text frames that re-size on the fly as you adjust column widths. Hard to believe its taken this long to include it. It works beautifully with the alternate and liquid layout tools, for example when portrait and landscape orientation needs to be accommodated in a single design.

What else?

How about interactive pdf form fields, importing HTML, simplified backward saving, and improved setup and export to EPUB digital formats.

Setting up for iPad.

You can also now preview and print a pdf in grayscale format, which is very handy and seems really obvious but has never been in previous versions. Finally, Adobe assure us that CS6 is faster, which helps if you are using multiple formats in a document and will be producing especially large files. Roll on the start of the new term.