Despite Adobe’s best efforts to turn the software into an interactive Flash design tool, InDesign remains most popular with print design pros – and the CS4 release includes many improvements that will appeal to its traditional user base. A great many improvements in fact, as InDesign seems to have been given the broadest set of new features of any of the CS4 applications.

Even though designers generally have multiple documents open in InDesign less often than in Illustrator or Photoshop, the CS4 interface overhaul is just as welcome in Adobe’s page layout tool. Instead of messy overlapping windows, different documents sit in tabs, so changing between them is easy. If you want to see more than one of them at once, you can tile them using standard arrangements such as two-up or four-up.

The biggest new interface elements is the introduction of Smart Guides, as introduced in Illustrator CS3 – annoying designers who wanted to see them in InDesign CS3. They’re here now, shooting green lines across your screen to show when the sides of image or text boxes line-up with the sides of others, or when their centres are aligned with other centres or page elements such as horizontal or vertical middles. This makes positioning page elements faster than creating guides manually, and is even quicker (and more accurate) than working by eye – if you find them getting in the way you can just turn them.

You will also be told when a box’s width, depth or rotation matches another, and when spacing between objects is the same. These are trickier to get to grips with, as you initially often find yourself looking around to see what your object has lined up to, but it’s a very useful new feature.

Another tool that’s designed to make your life easier is Live Preflight. This keeps an eye on your document and lets you know if it detects anything outside your preflight parameters, which would conventionally include low-res or RGB images, overset text or missing fonts. It’s most useful for letting you know that the image you’ve just placed isn’t right, or that you’ve still got overflowing text, rather than only finding out when you package a document or run a preflight when you’re ready to PDF. Each error has a hyperlinked page number to take you to the page in question.

The only downside is that InDesign still doesn’t have a quick way to deal with the most common production issue, RGB images. A built-in batch ‘convert to CMYK’ command would be a good timesaver over using the Edit Original command on each image, converting them in Photoshop and then saving.