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Adobe InDesign 2.0

Professional-level page layout and design system By Dave Nagel
A little history. Way back in the days of covered wagons and dinosaurs, I went and applied for a job at my college newspaper. The newspaper had just switched from a typesetting system to this newfangled "Aldus PageMaker" system running on Macintosh Plus computers using an Apple Laserwriter for output. (As I recall, the whole system was powered by a Triceratops running on a treadmill.) We applied halftones manually to our photos with the big photostat camera, and, of course, we used a waxer and paste-up boards for the final layout. It got the job done.

Actually, it more than got the job done. We started off as a tabloid, but soon, with our advanced publishing system, we were able to go broadsheet, producing an issue in about eight hours, not counting the time it took to drive the boards to the printer. (Can you imagine producing a broadsheet on a 9-inch monitor? Eventually we had a few powerhouse Mac IIci machines with 21-inch monitors, but a portion of the work was still carried out on the Mac Plus and SE models.)

I bring all of this up because this period--the mid-'80s--was a crucial turning point for me and so many others in terms of "desktop publishing" and computers in general. It was a time when the technology for publishing was not only available to everyone, but also accessible and enjoyable. Everybody--even our entertainment writers--was involved in the production process and loving it. PageMaker was a crucial component in this mix.

Of course, we all know what happened next. I don't want to disparage anybody, but let's just say that a new competitor entered the market in desktop publishing, almost took over the whole market and sucked the life out of the whole production process. I worked professionally with this "other" DTP system for more than seven years before leaving print publishing and coming here to Digital Media Net. By this time, all publishing software had gone down the tubes, and I didn't miss it at all.

A short time into my stint here at DMN, Adobe released InDesign 1.0, and my whole perspective changed. InDesign brought back some of my fond memories of publishing software. It was streamlined, design-oriented and, frankly, enjoyable to use. While version 1.0 lacked some important features that would bring it into the world of professional magazine or newspaper production, it had enough tools to make it a favorite among ad agencies and other creative shops. With version 1.5, Adobe added more than 100 new features, bringing it squarely into the realm of true production tools. And now, with version 2.0, InDesign is finally at the top of the game in every conceivable respect. Creative tools, workflow, interface, stability, OS support (including Mac OS X): You name it, this thing does it better than the other tools on the market. Makes me wish I were back in print.

Transparency at long last
InDesign has had the best creative tools in page layout since its first release. But with version 2.0, there are several new features that make it even stronger, and one that just blows me away--transparency.

I'm sure a lot of you have read up on transparency in InDesign 2.0, but I haven't read anything yet that does it enough justice. Even Adobe's own promotional materials sort of gloss over this feature, as if it were just another minor enhancement. But it's not. I mean, just imagine: no more clipping paths. Sure, you can use clipping paths if you choose, but now you can import images with full alpha support.

This includes support for Photoshop and Illustrator files, with automatic recognition of alpha channels so that all you have to do is place the image, while InDesign takes care of the rest for you.

InDesign also provides a couple of effects that use transparency, including drop shadows and feathering. (With feathering, you can create vignette effects on imported images, regardless of whether the file has its own alpha channel or not.)

InDesign also adds new capabilities for creating, importing and formatting tables. This includes support for importing styled Microsoft Word and Excel tables, as well as the ability to create multi-cell tables from scratch directly within InDesign.

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  • Adobe InDesign 2.0 by DMN Editorial at Aug. 03, 2004 10:58 pm gmt

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