Sneak Peek: InDesign CS3

Sneak Peek: InDesign CS3


Adobe uncharacteristically takes the wraps off new features of InDesign CS3–a year early.

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Adobe uncharacteristically takes the wraps off new features of InDesign CS3–a year early.

This week, Adobe presented selected members of the press with sneak peeks at upcoming products–and permission to publish that information. Still nearly a year until the release of Creative Suite 3, permission to publish about features such as those you’ll read below is unprecedented from the company nearly as famous for it’s strictly enforced “no comment about unannounced software” policy as for the software itself.

My esteemed colleague, David Blatner, beat me to press with an overview of the InDesign CS3 features we were both shown. Read David’s post on the new InDesignSecrets blog, but return here to fill in the details of InDesign CS3’s Object Effects, attribute-level transparency, and vastly improved content placement features.

In my briefing with Adobe’s Chad Siegel, senior product manager InDesign and InCopy, I learned about the new features (including things I can’t yet tell you), and, more importantly, actually saw them in use. Unfortunately, because the user interface of InDesign is still very much open to change, screenshots are not allowed. You’ll have to take my word that these features work.

Multi-Asset Place

Among the most tedious and time-consuming tasks in page layout is placing assets–external images and text. In prior versions, InDesign eased the process by allowing drag-and-drop of images and textual files from the desktop, Mac Finder, Windows Explorer, Bridge, and other file- or asset-managing systems. Images, for example, could be dropped into InDesign en masse by dragging from Bridge; those images would all drop into the same location in the document, to be positioned later. It saved some time, but not as much as the new multi-asset place.

Instead of choosing a single external file via File > Place, in CS3 you’ll be able to select an entire folder full all at once. Doing that, loads the place cursor with all of those files, ready to be placed sequentially. The cursor will show a count of the lined up assets, and a live preview of the next one on deck. Previews show thumbnails for to-be-placed images and the first few words of textual assets like Word documents. Clicking in a pre-existing frame or drawing a new one places the first asset and loads the next into the batter’s box. It’s really something to see, and makes filling a layout with assets fast and smooth.

Frame Fitting Options

Working alongside the multi-asset place is another forehead smacker: Frame Fitting Options. Instead of one at a time setting the cropping amount or fitting style of images placed in InDesign CS3, you’ll be able to define a default fitting style–none, Fit Content to Frame, Fit Content Proportionally, or Fit Frame Proportionally. After setting the option, every subsequently placed image (or frame) will automatically fit its frame (or content) to match your setting. When placing a selection of images that require cropping, four-way crop measurement boxes also allow you to preset how much to chop off the top, bottom, left, or right, and from which reference point the cropping should occur.

Attribute-Level Transparency

Although we won’t see Illustrator’s Appearance palette in InDesign CS3, we will see the foundation for it in separate transparency and blending mode control for a frame’s fill, stroke, and content. In the revamped Transparency palette, each frame or object now has selectable entries for all three, which can be individually targeted and adjusted with the opacity slider. The background color of a text frame, for instance, can be set to 50% transparent while the text itself remains completely opaque. Even better, each attribute can have its own blending mode independent of, or in conjunction with, an overall object blending mode that effects the fill, stroke, and content simultaneously. For example, consider a placing an image inside a colored frame, and setting the image blend mode to Screen such that it blends with its own container, and then, in a compounded effect, the container and its content is blended into other page objects with an Overlay mode.

Each attribute entry in the Transparency palette lists its blend mode and opacity percentage, so you’ll never be left wondering what you or your predecessor did to achieve that marvelous (or hideous) effect.

Photoshop Effects

In addition to independent transparency and blending mode control, object fills, strokes, and content will each have access to Photoshop effects.

In a dialog virtually identical to Photoshop’s Layer Styles, InDesign CS3’s Transparency Effects dialog enables Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, Outer Glow, Inner Glow, Bevel and Emboss, Satin, Basic Feather, Gradient Feather, and an all new Directional Feather for objects. Like Photoshop’s Layer Styles, Transparency Effects lists the compoundable effects in separate panes with all the options one might expect–including Photoshop’s intuitive angle dial, an altitude measurement box, and a global light option. Each object attribute has an independent list of effects. There are identical effects available for the entire object and individually its stroke, fill, and content.

During the demonstration, Transparency Effects were used to bevel and emboss just the stroke of a text frame, leaving the fill and text flat. Then, the frame was resized to show a smooth and instantaneous redraw of the object and its effects. Once applied, Transparency Effects do not hinder modification of the object. In fact, the effects may be removed or themselves modified, and they can even be instantly copied to other objects.

Again taking a cue from Photoshop, when Transparency Effects are applied to objects or attributes in InDesign CS3, their entries on the Transparency palette display a stylized f icon. That icon can be dragged from one attribute to another–say, from the fill to the stroke–to move or copy the effects from one to another. In a stroke of productivity genius, the f icon can also be dragged to other objects on the page, instantly applying effects to those. Styling an entire spread of objects will take seconds!

Object Styles, of course, now track the new features, but the drag-and-drop method is even faster when working with just a few objects on the same spread.

These effects–and many more to come–are enabled by the inclusion of what Adobe called a “headless version of Photoshop” in the InDesign code. In terms closer to layman’s, large sections of Photoshop CS3 functionality are being pulled into InDesign CS3 by including the actual code written by the Photoshop team rather than via the hit-or-miss emulation we’ve often seen used in the past to bring features of point product into another.


Of course, InDesign CS3 and all of the Creative Suite 3 will be Universal Binaries for Intel-based Macs, and will be Vista-optimized for Windows. In fact, the current builds of the applications are already running on these platforms!

At the same time Adobe showed us InDesign CS3, they previewed a new technology, code-named “Apollo” to You can read about that here.

Renewed Commitment

The point of attribute-level transparency and effects is, of course, doing more with live, editable objects in InDesign without the need to import Illustrator or Photoshop artwork. Although Adobe promises a much tighter integration between the Creative Suite point products–including those brought into the fold by the Macromedia acquisition–there is an equal focus on refining the line between applications. Each iteration of the major applications have brought closer relations and content sharing between them, but Adobe is also trying to find the right mix of what each application should do natively. How much should InDesign do internally before requiring the assistance of Illustrator or Photoshop, is a key question asked throughout the ongoing development of InDesign CS3. From what I’ve seen so far, Adobe is coming up with some excellent answers to that question.

In addition to showing off some cool features we’ll definitely see when InDesign CS3 ships in the 2nd quarter of 2007, Adobe made it clear that they have big plans for the future of publishing–in all media. Although the details are still hush hush, look for some truly amazing ideas to arise from the combination of Macromedia technology and Adobe ingenuity. Although Macromedia walked away from print publishing workflows, Adobe has found new ways to use their technology to the benefit of print publishing, as well as, of course, to Web, motion, and mobile publishing.

Although all my questions couldn’t be answered at this early date (it’s still Adobe, after all), I’m excited about what I’ve seen so far. And, cool as they are, the InDesign CS3 features aren’t half as enticing as what Adobe won’t let me say… Yet.

Note: The “InDesign CS3″ logo at the top of this article is an artist’s rendition, and is not related to Adobe’s planned InDesign CS3 branding in any way. Illustration by Vadim Litvak

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20 Responses Discussing “Sneak Peek: InDesign CS3”
  1. Early press on CS3 = excellent marketing. Effectively downgrades the release of Quark 7.

    19 May 2006
    12:26 PT
  2. quark is a very interesting site about the article i’m always searching information about adobe’s new features.
    Do you have any gmail invitations left??????I really could use a gmail account. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    19 May 2006
    15:25 PT
  3. Oh…My…God…!
    And these are features Adobe DID NOT mind coming out in the press? I can’t wait see what features are still secret!
    Somebody send some asprin to the boys from Quark…

    PS: 2 screenshots from transaprancy here at:

    20 May 2006
    09:11 PT
  4. @hunter:
    I agree, the disclosure date of the CS3 features, especially the Quark 7-like transparency settings, could not have been a coincidence.

    That’s clever marketing:
    Put some salt into the drinks of the Quark guys celebrating the release of Quark 7 next week in New York.


    20 May 2006
    10:13 PT
  5. Very-very need „Opacity Mask” in InDesign CS3 v5.0, like Illustrator CS2 v12.0. QuarkXPress 7.0 too, as mint alpha (channel) transparency.

    Please Adobe coders, please!!!

    22 May 2006
    06:08 PT
  6. Running headers and footers, spreading heads like in framemaker needed. How long must we wait for that features? Why don’t they take best features from Framemaker to InDesign?

    23 May 2006
    00:07 PT
  7. How very Microsoft-like of them.

    Can’t people just compete on features in shipping products? We don’t need this “yes, but” our product that’s going to ship in a year will be even better than the one available now.

    25 May 2006
    10:38 PT
  8. Bringing more Photoshop features into InDesign is great. I’ve shifted to doing book covers in InDesign but I’ve been frustrated by what it can’t do that Photoshop can. But as a book publisher, I keep wondering when Adobe is going to bring the marvelous features of FrameMaker into InDesign. As others have pointed out, we need headings that span columns, running heads, and FM-like sidebars. All are features FrameMaker had over a decade ago. Endnotes would be great too. Publishing abandoned footnotes in the 1960s.

    25 May 2006
    13:23 PT
  9. Funny how Adobe has been rubbishing Quark Vista for ages, and is now planning to do exactly the same thing in InDesign CS3. Also intriguing is that Quark has a commercial interest in making it unnecessary for page layout artists to own Photoshop (it reduces the chances of them buying a low-cost Creative Suite upgrade and therefore a copy of InDesign by default), while I had imagined it would be against Adobe\’s commercial interests to be actively doing it as well.

    27 May 2006
    15:04 PT
  10. This is going to put the Quark boys to ultimate shame. Next week in New York they are going to need more than an asprin and salt in their drinks while they celebrate the release of Quark 7… they are going to need some major downtime.

    31 May 2006
    18:13 PT
  11. “Why don’t they take best features from Framemaker to InDesign?”

    While there are a lot of good features in FrameMaker that InDesign could benefit from, do remember they are for different things. FrameMaker is all about text authoring, while InDesign is about graphic design. They use very different philosophies in producting different styles of documents.

    06 Jun 2006
    14:47 PT
  12. Quark makes my neck hurt. But InDesign makes my other neck hurt. Many things make my neck hurt. I don’t like when my neck hurts. Please stop hurting my neck.

    12 Sep 2006
    02:53 PT
  13. Those are all great features. But in the end I tink that one of the tricks Adobe has up it’s sleeve it’s not really in Indesign but rather in PDF. Even hardcore Quark fanatics have to come across PDF. Everyone in the office is familiar with PDF, if not already in love with it. Same with the printers, Even those who are sticking with Quark are able to take PDF files. Even if Quark came up with it’s own photshop-like program and stoped it’s users from buying adobe programs. They still can’t fill the gap held by Acrobat Pro. that’s one thing Quark has no control over. Quark just plain out sucks when it comes to PDF and don’t even get me started with EPS. That’s my guess. And in case anyone hasn’t noticed, I just love this website. I’ll shut up now. What does everyone else think?

    19 Oct 2006
    13:17 PT
  14. Very astute, M Jenius. Quark has been trying to work with JAWS PDF for quite some time. Do you see JAWS as a means of enabling Quark to compete with Acrobat?

    19 Oct 2006
    15:49 PT
  15. We’ll have to see. I was surprised that Quark 7 is able to export (functional) PDF without having to use Distiller. I heard that there’s still a few printer issues, but Adobe had those initial issues too. Now that Acrobat and Acrobat Pro is so integrated in every business. I doubt that users will ditch Acrobat and jump to JAWS. I’m guessing that JAWS has the same features as Adobe’s (I’ve never used JAWS products). But as more Quark users use PDF files, they no an longer claim that you can’t get a decent print from PDF, and that only helps Adobe. If anything they’ll only soften the wall of the many Quark only printers. I’m sure that they have of known this, but I think that Quark is done playing “high and mighty”. It looks like they stoped resisting progress and is now wanting to compete. At the same time Adobe probably saw this coming (I seriously think that they employ a secret deparment of soothsayers). This is why I think that Adobe is going to up the ante with PDF.

    20 Oct 2006
    13:46 PT
  16. sorry for the typos. That’s why we have copywriters here… phew

    20 Oct 2006
    15:24 PT
  17. @Jenius:
    Strange thinking…
    Quark has been exporting PDF since version 4.x (ok, with many issues) and is finally doing a good PDF export job in version 6.5 and 7.
    Furthermore, Jaws is included free of charge, whereas for PDF creation on the client via Distiller you have to buy an Acrobat license.
    And then I think the war won’t be decided over the ability to output PDF, as PostScript is also an Adobe technology and both, Pagemaker and Quark do output PostScript.

    21 Oct 2006
    02:28 PT
  18. Yes, yes, and yes… but this is in comparison to Indesign. PDF export in 7 is great, I’m not sure about 6.5, we have to use Distiller with 6.5 to get a good PDF (and my god it takes so long). I agree, the war won’t be decided over PDF. All I’m saying is that Adobe will probably come out with something new in future PDF versions….. OK OK, i’m just crazy

    23 Oct 2006
    08:21 PT
  19. Aren’t you excited about Table styles? And the new features in Find/Replace?

    27 Dec 2006
    04:38 PT
  20. Gotta hand it to Quark… QX 7 is great!
    The Alpha Mask feature just makes my life so much easier, and the transparency features allow me to do my usual “you have 5 minutes to do this ad GO!” ads with new life.

    02 Feb 2007
    11:48 PT

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