Adobe InDesign CS5.5 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: £595 plus VAT . £188 plus VAT

  • Pros: Interactive publishing is a leap forward; excellent EPUB tools

  • Cons: Pricing for Digital Publishing Suite unhelpful; no new print tools

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Unlike QuarkXPress 9, InDesign CS5.5 is all about digital publishing. We guess this is why it’s a .5 upgrade, but if you’re all about print you will be disappointed -- there isn’t even a stability fix for Live Preflight.

As with its age-old rival, InDesign digital publishing tools break down into two key functions: eBooks and digital magazines. The latter is likely to be most of interest to designers as it offers the most creative opportunities -- but Adobe’s pricing will be unhelpful to those not charging for their publications. To join the Professional Edition of the Digital Publishing Suite programme, which you need to do to turn your layouts into tablet apps, you pay a monthly fee of around £300 -- then a per-issue fee that works out about £3,000 for 25,000 downloads -- rising to over £36,000 for 500,000.

The per-download cost works out to be very little if you’re producing a magazine or other publication you can charge for -- but if you’re looking at this as a way to create interactive brochures, catalogs and other such materials for your clients, then working out how to cost this up for them can be tricky.

You pay as a studio, rather than per-publication, which could help balance out the costs per project – but careful management is needed if your free publication becomes wildly popular and your costs start spiralling. To be fair, this is a model used by most of the other digital edition publishing systems on the market, though some -- such as Woodwing's Digital Magazine Tools -- don't charge a per-issue fee and may be better suited to interactive marketing and other freely available materials.

It’s a shame as the creative tools are all rather innovative. If you’ve played with the Digital Publishing Suite beta, all of the interactive elements are still here – hyperlinks, slideshows, 360 Viewers, audio, panoramas, video, pan and zoom of images and Web View for placing live content such as Twitter and RSS feeds -- but 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 app developers, but it does most of what you’ll need on a regular basis.

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

InDesign CS5.5’s EPUB creation toolset makes turning a layout into an eBook relatively simple. The new Articles panel allows you to stack a list of text boxes and images to create the simple chain-format of EPUB. A new option in the Paragraph Styles dialog box allows you to map different styles onto paragraph and a range of header styles – so your titles remain clear and bold. You can embed video for books destined to be read on devices that support such things, such as the iPad.

Setting up your Paragraph Styles is initially the most time-consuming thing here, but once they’re done you’re all set. The grind comes in 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, which isn’t designed for this. A simple way to connect existing images with parts of the text without affecting the print layout would be great.

InDesign CS5.5 will be warmly welcomed by digital edition designers who’ve slogged through the beta versions of the Digital Publishing Suite and is great for creating EPUBs, but most print-focussed designers just won’t feel the need to upgrade.

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