Open Menu

soul of fine art


The Art of Page Layout: Form Still Follows Function

indesign cs3 boxshot

by Eden Maxwell


Note: With the content of the print project handled, it then becomes a matter of style and presentation. This article describes a few of InDesign CS3’s new, exciting, and productive tools for creating great design. In a follow-up piece, I will be writing about my real world experience with this page layout app, including Acrobat 8 Professional. Since I worked solo on a nearly 500-page manuscript, I made good use of InDesign’s many new features for designing, editing, and publishing my latest book—An Artist Empowered.


As anticipated, InDesign CS 3 (sold separately or part of Adobe’s Creative Suite bundle) offers an impressive array of improvements that will please both the lone designer and those involved in group production work; the streamlined interface remains sufficiently familiar and intuitive for veteran CS2 users to get up to speed quickly; this release is also a Universal Binary application that runs natively (and well) on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs. Adobe’s marketing and attractive pricing strategy for a suite of apps that includes Photoshop Illustrator, Dreamweaver, InDesign, and Acrobat has worked; since it’s an integrated part of the suite configuration, many have adopted InDesign as their page layout de facto app.


The most visually apparent new change is the interface, which replaces palettes with more versatile collapsible panels that provide more available screen space. You can arrange, stack, or expand panels as you can in other Adobe Creative Suite software. You can combine panels into vertical stacks and dock them on either side of the screen. InDesign CS3 panel labels are easier to read because they now display the label text horizontally. You can also streamline your workspace with the versatile Edit Menu option—you decide which items appear in the menus, including applying color-coding of individual menu options. The InDesign interface, including access to more customizable function buttons on the revamped control panel, had ample space on a 1,280-by-960-monitor.


Find/Change is one of my favorite and indispensable tools, especially when working on long documents; and now, with InDesign’s enhanced Find/Change feature, I love it even more. You can apply changes quickly to text and object attributes across one or more documents. More control over the scope of a search now includes master pages, footnotes, and locked or hidden layers, and you can then save your search settings for reuse—another time saver. You can search and replace object attributes (such as strokes, fills, drop shadow, and text wrap). InDesign will search through all open documents; however, a search capability through documents directly from the book panel is a feature I’d like to see in the next release.


In addition to finding and changing text, text formatting, and objects, you can use the new Find/Change dialog box to run a search based on grep—a method of searching with regular expressions, also known as pattern-based searching. If you’ve ever used wildcard characters in a search, you have some idea of how grep works; however, grep is much more powerful, as you can build complex search expressions capable of handling variations in the search term you’re looking for. In addition, you can use grep to assemble multiple searches into a single search query, and then make more than one change to data that matches the query—further streamlining the editorial process.


Glyphs are those special characters, such as symbols, joined letters (ligatures), and small caps used for enhanced typography. A glyph set is a named collection of glyphs from one or more fonts. Saving commonly used glyphs in a glyph set prevents you from having to look for them each time you need them. Glyph sets are not attached to any particular document; they are stored with other InDesign preferences in a separate file that can be shared.

The new glyphs panel simplifies working with glyphs, especially in Asian languages. You can access frequently used special characters in the handy recently used area of the panel; more filters provide improved sorting of certain symbol group like math or numbers.


With InDesign CS3, you can import and place several files—and file types—at the same time with the new Multi-file Place feature. You can place files in any order, anywhere in a document, in a single operation—without the tedium of having to place each item individually from the Place dialog box. Select the files that you want to import in the Place dialog box, or drag multiple files to InDesign from the desktop or Adobe Bridge CS3, which features a refined Lightroom-based interface. When the place cursor is loaded, you will see thumbnail previews (not generic icons) and be able to cycle through the files loaded in the cursor.


The enhanced Quick Apply feature is one of the most powerful and significant productivity features in this release. You no longer have to hunt and sift through menus and panels to locate and apply styles and features. By typing a few letters into the Quick Apply panel, any available command, text variable, script, or style appears in a list that you can navigate. You can also customize Quick Apply by deselecting categories in the list that you don’t want to appear in the search. The Quick Apply feature was designed to keep your productive fingers on the keyboard instead of searching through endless panels, menus and commands. Open the Quick Apply panel by pressing Command+Return (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Enter (Windows).


InDesign CS2 offered improvements for importing text—most specifically on how MS Word documents could seamlessly conform to the desired styles within your InDesign layout. Although importing graphics is more direct that text, images almost always require some form of adjustment. To ease the importing process for images, InDesign CS3 lets you set the defaults for how graphics are fit to frames, a welcome productivity feature that eliminates this time consuming and repetitive design task. Double-click a frame handle to fit the frame to its content.


You can now experiment and nuance your layout with Photoshop-based effects such as inner shadow, bevel and emboss, and transparency directly from within InDesign. Like the layer effects found in Photoshop, the creative effects in InDesign are stored separately from the object you apply them to; this gives you the option of returning to the Effects panel where you can edit the effects at any time.

You can also apply multiple transparency and blending settings to a single object. Transparency and blending modes can be independently applied to an object’s stroke, fill, and text in the frame. For example, you can blend a fill into the background by reducing the fill’s opacity while keeping the stroke and the text fully opaque. However, you can’t apply effects or a transparency to selected text.


Styles are collections of attributes that make short work of formatting continuity that can be applied to paragraphs, characters, objects, and now even tables and cells. Instead of styles listed in alphabetical order as with the previous release of InDesign, you can now drag and drop styles in any order you require.

While paragraph styles are a wonder, in longer documents the list of individual styles can quickly accumulate and bloat the Paragraph panel; this makes finding an individual style a chore. Fortunately, InDesign CS3 lets you group paragraph or character styles inside folders that you can expand and collapse as required—like Layer groups in Photoshop; this means less clutter and better organization—especially if you’re involved in production work where each department may work with only a particular set of styles, which can now be stored in logically named folders within the style panel.


In response to the top feature request from users, InDesign now lets you create styles and apply them to tables and cells. Table and cell styles make table formatting easier to apply and change—most notably from Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and tables from MS Word documents. In addition, an InDesign table style can apply different cell styles to different regions of a table, such as body, header, footer, first column, and last column.


You can specify character-level formatting for one or more ranges of text within a paragraph. You can also set up two or more nested styles to work together, one taking over where the previous one ends. For paragraphs with repetitive and predictable formatting, you can even loop back to the first style in the sequence.

Nested styles make applying multiple styles to complex paragraphs nearly effortless—once you get the hang of it. Nested styles are especially useful for run-in headings, or for any text that fall into a standardized pattern. For example, you can apply one character style to the first letter in a paragraph and another character style that takes effect through the first colon (:). For each nested style, you can define a character that ends the style, such as a tab character or the end of a word.


Editorial notes are brief comments or annotations for yourself or other contributors. While notes have been available with InCopy, Adobe’s editorial workflow software, they are now also part of InDesign CS3. The Notes and Track Changes features in InDesign use the workflow user names to identify the author of a note or a tracked change. Notes and tracked changes are color-coded for each user as defined in Notes preferences in InDesign or the User dialog box in InCopy (File > User).

When you add editorial notes to managed content in InDesign, these notes become available to others in the workflow. When tracked changes are turned on in InCopy CS3, and an InDesign user makes text or graphics changes in managed content, those changes are tracked and recorded in InDesign, but are visible only in InCopy.


InDesign CS3 enables true print-to-web workflows and multiformat publishing that includes the ability to reuse page layouts on the web. Now you can export InDesign content as XHTML and edit it with Adobe Dreamweaver CS3. When you export to XHTML, you can include InDesign style names. You can automatically format exported XHTML content by linking to existing cascading style sheets (CSS), or you can format the exported XHTML by creating CSS formatting in Dreamweaver or any other web content editor. Exporting XHTML from your own page layout designs is functional, but you might need to experiment to achieve the XHTML output you want.


Master pages from one InDesign layout (source) can be loaded into another document, allowing for consistency and coordination among publications without putting those documents into a book—InDesign’s feature for working with and coordinating sections or chapters in a catalog or book. Working with long documents has also been improved with more robust options for bulleted and numbered lists, and text variables simplifies and automates the use of repeating elements such as headers, footers, product names, and date stamps.

And we shouldn’t overlook Keyboard shortcuts for saving time and avoiding repetitive hand motion and potential strain. Keyboard shortcuts are widely available in InDesign, and are consistent with other Adobe Creative Suite software such as Photoshop. You can customize keyboard shortcuts to your needs by choosing Edit >Keyboard Shortcuts.


While InDesign CS3 hasn’t redesigned the basic stock model, this release sports many subtle tweaks, creative tools, and superb production refinements under the hood for an efficient and powerful ride. InDesign CS3 gets the checkered flag as leader of the page layout pack.»

InDesign CS3: US$699
Upgrade from: US$199
Or as part of one of Adobe Creative Suite 3 configurations




eden at work
Home Page
email me