InEffects 1.0 for InDesign CS: An Electric Screwdriver

2004
May
20

If you already owned a complete set of manual screwdrivers, would you buy an electric with just the basic flat and Philips heads? InEffects 1.0 publisher: ALAP platform:   price: $99 usd rating: A Lowly Apprentice Productions (ALAP) just released the long-awaited InEffects 1.0 for InDesign 2 and CS. I first tinkered with InEffects last [...]

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If you already owned a complete set of manual screwdrivers, would you buy an electric with just the basic flat and Philips heads?

Box shot of InEffects 1.0
InEffects 1.0
publisher:
ALAP
platform:
Mac Win
price:
$99 usd
rating:
4.5

A Lowly Apprentice Productions (ALAP) just released the long-awaited InEffects 1.0 for InDesign 2 and CS.

I first tinkered with InEffects last summer and fall in early beta. I barely got a chance to glance at it, though, as I was far too occupied testing what would be called InDesign CS and InDesign PageMaker Edition. Now, I was very excited to open up the full shipping version in InDesign 3.01.

Since InEffects is essentially an assortment of individual effects, I’ll examine them individually before looking at them as a whole.

Drop Shadow

InDesign CS has a very nice drop shadow function out-of-the-box, so why do you need InEffects’ Drop Shadow?

The good:

InEffects’ version is easier to use and more familiar to designers than InDesign’s, and it gives you more control over the appearance of the shadow. In fact, the InEffects version of Drop Shadow is more Adobe-ized than InDesign’s own native Drop Shadow dialog.

InEffects Dialog Box Showing Drop Shadow
InEffects Dialog Box Showing Drop Shadow

Like all the InEffects effects, Drop Shadow enables live previewing of the changes to the effect(s). More like Photoshop’s Drop Shadow, InEffects includes interactive sliders for blend transparency, blur, intensity of shadow, noise, and distance of the shadow from the object casting it. Distance and angle are more natural ways of defining a drop shadow than InDesign’s native method of specifying X and Y offset in absolute measurement.

Unlike InDesign’s Drop Shadow, InEffects’ includes intensity and noise options. Both are definable via an interactive slider, a drop-down list of typical percentages (e.g. 0%, 10%, 20%, and so on), or by entry of an arbitrary percentage accurate to one hundredth of a percent (e.g. 5.25%).

InDesign's Drop Shadow Dialog Box
InDesign’s Drop Shadow Dialog Box

Sliders. Adobe knows very well that sliders in a live preview effect are essential UI features for visual experimentation. The sliders are there in Photoshop and Illustrator. So, why are they missing from InDesign’s Drop Shadow dialog? InDesign forces the user to type in new values or use the OPTION+Up Arrow/Down Arrow (ALT+Up Arrow/Down Arrow) shortcut to adjust offset coordinates and blur in whole pica units. InEffects has sliders, making it easy to adjust distance, blur, and all the other angles in small or large increments with the touch of a mouse.

InEffects’ Drop Shadow can be combined with InDesign’s Drop Shadow, thus creating two separate shadows (and light sources) for a single object.

The bad:

The one thing—and it’s a big thing—that InDesign’s native Drop Shadow has over InEffects’ is ease of use when specifying the color of the drop shadow. InEffects makes experimentation with blend transparency, blur, intensity, noise, color percentage, distance, and angle very easy, but ALAP dropped the ball on color choice.

The color of the drop shadow has to be predetermined before opening the InEffects dialog. On the Drop Shadow properties page the shadow color can be chosen, but only from colors already in the document’s Swatches palette. InDesign’s Drop Shadow dialog defaults to color choices from the Swatches palette, but a simply click on the Color drop-down box gives instant access to mixers for RGB, CMYK, and LAB.

To play around with the color of your drop shadow, you’d have to do it first in InDesign’s Drop Shadow dialog, cancel, recreate the color on the Color palette, add that to your Swatches palette, then go into InEffects to assign the color to an InEffects-generated drop shadow. In my book this is a big time waster in what would otherwise be a tremendous improvement over InDesign’s implementation of drop shadows.

InEffects also doesn’t support gradient swatches, even if they are on the Swatches palette.

Inner Shadow

The good:

Again closely mimicking Photoshop’s functionality, InEffects’ inner shadow has options for blend space, transparency, blur, intensity, noise, color, color tint percentage, distance, and angle. The controls and effect exactly the same as Drop Shadow; Inner Shadow simply places the shadow inside the object or text rather than outside it.

The bad:

It suffers from the same lack of custom color definition as Drop Shadow. The color of the inner shadow must chosen from the Swatches palette or defined prior to using InEffects.

Outer Glow

The good:

The glow is nice and smooth, even when the InEffects affected object lays atop multiple objects.

The bad:

The color limitation again.

Inner Glow

The good:

Like Outer Glow, Inner Glow has typical Adobe UI elements to adjust blend space and transparency, blur, intensity, noise, color, and color tint percentage. As you would expect of an inner glow, InEffects’ also includes options to switch the glow source between center and edge.

The bad:

Color choice. Again, only solid colors may be chosen; no gradients.

Bevel and Emboss

The good:

The excellent selection of Bevel and Emboss options begin with choices taken straight from Photoshop: Outer Bevel, Inner Bevel, Emboss, and Pillow Emboss. From there everything you’d expect to see options is available: Highlight blend space, blend space transparency, color, and color tint percentage; shadow blend space and transparency, color and transparency; overall effect blur, depth percentage, choice of up or down bevels, and bevel/emboss angle.

The bad:

Color choices are limited to existing Swatches palette (I should have created a text macro to enter that for me each time).

No gradient support (for this one too).

Depth and Blur work in a funky way. The InEffects manual defines the controls thusly: Blur: “To create softer, fuzzier edges for the bevel/emboss effect, enter a pixel value in the field, choose from the available options in the menu, or drag the slider. Higher values increase the blur.” Depth: “To specify the depth of the pattern as a ratio of the size of the page object(s), enter a percent value in the field or drag the slider.”

In practical application, these are confusing. Blur defines the visual depth of the bevel while depth controls how sharp or soft the edges and transitions between light and dark become.

With an outer bevel, the bevel is semi-transparent. Where there would normally be the native object color is transparency. This is actually the correct way to implement it, but it could be a gotcha when frantically working at 3AM on an 8AM deadline.

Certain effects don’t hold water with InDesign’s Corner Effects

InEffects’ Inner Bevel doesn’t handle corner effects well—neither do the rest of the bevel and emboss styles. As you can see in this image, I created a six-sided polygon and used InDesign’s Corner Effects to create a stylized inset. While InEffects’ Drop Shadow recognized the Corner Effects setting and created a matching shadow, Inner Bevel colored outside the lines. The same thing happens with any object to which Corner Effects have been applied.

On text and on objects without Corner Effects applied, Bevel and Emboss can create clean, usable embossing and beveling.

The Overall Package

Effects can be combined—beveled, glowed, drop shadowed.

Effects don’t scale with objects; they have to be redefined. This is a significant draw back to the package, though it can be (mostly) worked around with a little pre-planning of object size and placement.

InEffects Styles Palette

As you would expect, the InEffects Styles palette allows InEffects effects to be reused. It works just like the Paragraph Styles palette with a list of styles and New Style and Delete Style buttons. After applying InEffects effects you might like to keep, simply click on the affected object and click the New Style button on the InEffects Styles palette. Styles can be applied, edited, redefined, and shared through the Load InEffects Styles option on the flyout menu.

InEffects Styles Palette

I was able to place the palette among my other (million and a half) InDesign palettes and even docked and stacked with native InDesign palettes.

On my Windows computer I use a cursor styling app, CursorXP, with which InDesign itself has minor issues. When I tried to dock the InEffects Styles palette it failed, but it was because of the conflict between CursorXP and InDesign. Turning off CursorXP instantly allowed me to combine the InEffects Styles palette with InDesign’s Swatches palette, and even to dock it (alone or combined) to InDesign CS’s palette sidedock.

On both OS X and Windows XP the palette docks and acts just like any native InDesign palette.

Thus, my only technical implementation issue with InEffects has been resolved.]

User Interface

The interface will instantly be familiar to any user of InDesign—or Photoshop or Illustrator, for that matter. All five effects tools are brought together in a single InEffects dialog, just like Photoshop’s Layers Effects dialog. Each of the effects can be turned on or off with a simple checkbox, and each has its own properties page. Familiar Adobe UI elements are faithfully recreated in InEffects: Drop-down boxes for selecting style options and presets like transparency blend space; combination drop-down lists and entry boxes for percentage and size options, with sliders backing them up, giving the user three ways to changing the minutia of effects, and; dials for adjusting angles such as the degree of Drop Shadow’s cast. The InEffects Styles palette mirrors any other InDesign palette in appearance and functionality. If you didn’t know InEffects was an add-on, you’d never know it wasn’t put in there by Adobe.

If you’re familiar with Photoshop’s Layer Effects, you’ll have at most a two point five minute learning curve to become productive in InEffects. Of course, if you know ALAP, seamless integration and facile learning of its products is no surprise.

Again, like Photoshop, multiple effects can be applied simultaneously. In one dialog flat text can be embossed, made to look almost tubular with an inner glow, and cast a drop shadow. And effects can easily be turned on or off and experimented with live without affecting the other effects.

Compatibility

I tested InEffects 1.0 in InDesign CS 3.01 on Windows XP SP1 without a single technical issue. It automatically installed itself in my InDesign plugins folder, and, when I launched InDesign, InEffects was integrated into the Object and context-sensitive menus. The InEffects Styles palette appeared instantly.

If you’ve used Quark or InDesign for any length of time in a workflow intended for press, you’ve at least heard of errors caused by missing plugins. Prepress shops in particular are intimately familiar with this issue. It occurs in layout applications, usually Quark or InDesign, when the designer has made use of a document-critical plugin to provide additional functionality (for example, to increase the size of the pasteboard beyond Quark’s normal limits), then sent the document for editing/printing to someone who doesn’t have the plugin. The typical result is that the recipient receives the error and his copy of the layout application is unable to open the document. It’s then up to the recipient to buy a copy of the plugin just to work with the one document. This is pretty common, and it wastes a lot of time and money.

Screenshot courtesy of ALAP
Screenshot courtesy of ALAP

In a stroke of genius ALAP has eliminated the need for everyone in a production workflow to have InEffects installed. Prepressmen rejoice! You needn’t buy InEffects just to send an InDesign document to RIP. All you must have installed is the free InEffects Viewer plugin. InEffects Viewer, a friendly ALAP tech support rep named Mike eagerly informed me, allows anyone with InDesign (2, CS, or PE) to open an INDD document that makes use of InEffects effects.

The InEffects Viewer plugin for Windows or Mac is available for download free of charge from ALAP’s site.

Utility

In a production workflow, even if the InDesign layout artist is also the one who creates stylized headlines in Illustrator or embossed shapes in Photoshop, round-tripping from InDesign can represent a significant amount of time cumulatively.

Here’s one common scenario: Working on an ad in InDesign, a Scott decides to bevel a headline. He jots down the specifics: Font, style, size, kerning value, horizontal width, vertical height, color, and OpenType options used. Scott fires up Illustrator, recreates the headline with the specs from InDesign. Then he uses Illustrator CS’s new 3D effects to apply and tweak a simple bevel. he saves the AI file. Switching back to InDesign, Scott places the AI file and tests it out in context on his design. The lighting angle conflicts with the angle in the background image. This won’t do. So, Scott gauges the approximate angle and intensity of the lighting in the image, goes back to Illustrator, and reopens the AI. He brings up Illustrator’s Bevel & Extrude dialog again and tweaks the lighting to match his InDesign background image. Saving the file, he returns to InDesign, whose Links palette informs him that the AI has been updated. Scott clicks on the item in the Links palette and hits the Update Link button. Now he can see that the beveled text has a light source matching the background image, but in context he realizes the black on the shadow bevels is a little too cool to fit with the dark areas in the background image. Scott will need to warm it up with another roundtrip to Illustrator. He repeats this process several times, to tweak various elements of the headline, before finally getting it right.

Here’s the same scenario with InEffects: Working on a similar layout, Chloe also decides to bevel her headline. She sets her type and, with the Object Select tool, right-clicks on the headline’s text frame. From the context menu she chooses InEffects. On the Bevel and Emboss property page she sets her bevel options and turns on the Preview checkbox. She sees that her lighting source doesn’t match the background image, so she adjusts it live until it matches perfectly. Like Scott, Chloe notices that her bevel’s shadow color is too cool a black for the layout. She applies effect, closing out of InEffects. Selecting the eyedropper tool, she OPTION+Clicks (ALT+Clicks) in a black area of the background image, loading the color into InDesign’s Color palette. On the Swatches palette she clicks the New Swatch button. With the headline still selected, she chooses InEffects from the Object menu and goes to the Bevel and Emboss properties page. There Chloe selects her new warm black swatch from the shadow color drop-down. Instantly her beveled headline matches the background image. Like Scott, Chloe has to perform a few more tweaks to get the headline just right, but it takes her much less time because she can see her changes live, from within InDesign, and without save, switch, and update link steps.

If the copywriter changes the headline, who will be able to do it faster, Scott or Chloe?

All of these effects can be applied in Photoshop and Illustrator to objects that are then placed in InDesign. Within Photoshop and Illustrator there is more control and a greater number of effects, but you don’t always need more control and more effects. If you need gradient overlays and textured bevels, do the work in Photoshop. If you need to rotate a beveled object in three-dimensional space or apply decals to various faces of a beveled object, then you’ll need to do it in Illustrator CS. But, if you only need a good quality drop shadow, a glow, or simple beveling, then why deal with yet one more placed object and a trip out to Photoshop? Do it inside InDesign, with native, fully editable objects and text, with InEffects.

Value

Contrary to its name, InEffects’ value isn’t in its effects. Most creatives already have all the InEffects effects (and more) tucked into Photoshop and Illustrator. The real value in InEffects is in reducing the reliance on Photoshop and Illustrator for a layout artist’s simple and common creative tasks. InEffects is a time-saver, a production tool. If Adobe hadn’t already used the name InProduction, I think ALAP would have considered it for this time-saving suite of common effects.

If you already owned a complete set of manual screwdrivers, would you buy an electric with just the basic flat and Philips heads? You would if you wanted to spend less time driving the screws you most often use.

Speaking of screwing… InEffects 1.0 for InDesign 2, CS, and CS PE, is $99 USD. Despite the flaws and minor inconveniences of this highly convenient plugin, InEffects is well worth the pocket change. I’ll certainly be adding it to my tool belt.

Wish List for InEffects 2.0

  • Add a scale shadow feature to Drop Shadow so that shadows at a greater distance could be reduced in size, as if cast on surfaces not directly behind the text/object shadowed
  • Perspective shadowing
  • Support gradient swatches
  • Allow mixing of colors within InEffects
  • Option to apply effect to strokes and fills separately
  • Separate spread and size sliders for glows, ala Photoshop
  • Make it clear in the InEffects Styles palette UI how a user can save InEffects Styles
  • Never get rid of InEffects Viewer
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Discussing “InEffects 1.0 for InDesign CS: An Electric Screwdriver”
  1. [...] ALAP produced good software. Adobe fans were particularly fond of InBooklet, an plug-in that brought imposition, or the process of arranging pages in printer’s spreads, into InDesign. Adobe liked InBooklet enough that it included a feature-limited, but still highly useful, version, InBooklet SE, with InDesign CS2 and the PageMaker Plug-In Pack for InDesign CS before it. ALAPs InEffects was another popular plug-in among users of both InDesign CS and CS2. [...]

    07 Mar 2006
    14:36 PT
    #1

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