REVIEW: InDesign CS4 and InCopy CS4

Moving to multimedia

Adobe’s research suggests more and more InDesign users are being asked to create content for a variety of media in addition to print, including interactive Flash content. Hence there’s a couple new features in InDesign CS4 designed to bring this to fruition:

  • InDesign CS4 files can be exported as SWF or XFL files. XFL is a new interchange file format for Flash CS4 Professional, and works in that application the same way a FLA file would.
  • Page transitions have been available to PDFs, but now they can also be output to SWF files. One new transition, Page Turn, is exclusive to SWF Export and recreates the motion of turning pages.

InDesign CS4 page transitions

The Page Transitions dialog box now offers page turning—see the bottom right.

The idea is that InDesign is no longer a print layout application but a layout application for print, PDF, Flash and other forms of multimedia. Some “digital magazines” out there are laid out with InDesign but actually published online in various forms. I think eventually this will be the norm, but the industry is in the midst of great change and right now I see a lot of publishers still holding on to their printed products (and a Web site, of course). For those who have diversified their publications into various media and multimedia, InDesign CS4’s new Flash capabilities will be reason to cheer; for others, it’s unclear how valuable these capabilities will be.

Both these features work well, but designers who use InDesign for print will have to ask themselves if multimedia is important to their work. I have never had a client hire me for a print job and then ask for the product to be published as multimedia suitable for Flash (several of my clients do post publications online, but only as PDF). When I first saw InDesign CS4’s move to multimedia publishing, I doubted this would be valuable to my business but I also realized that cross-publishing is a business opportunity I should make my clients aware of. If it doesn’t take off, the blame is mine as much as theirs.

InDesign CS4 to Flash

InDesign CS4 materials can be exported as XFL and brought into Flash CS4 Professional for further work and eventual publication.

InCopy CS4: Piggybacking off InDesign CS4

InCopy CS4 box

Most people seem to forget about InCopy, the application that’s designed to allow editors to write for layouts designed with InDesign. I am a fan of InCopy and recommend it to my clients who use InDesign, and InCopy CS4 has several new features—though few that aren’t driven by the changes in InDesign CS4:

  • The standard interface introduced in CS4 is also in InCopy CS4.
  • Cross-references, conditional text and hyperlinks can be created in InCopy CS4. Cross-references are new to InDesign CS4 and the hyperlink capabilities are a response to InDesign CS4’s new cross-publishing features.
  • This is technically an InDesign CS4 feature, but that application’s Links panel can keep track of InCopy CS4 article status and editability. The Link Info section of that panel also retains notes for InCopy editors.
  • Tables are now expanded in Galley and Story view. In previous versions of InCopy, tables were depicted as a simple icon in these view modes and table content was off-limits. This is a good improvement because, as Michael Ninness (InDesign and InCopy senior product manager) tells me, most InCopy users prefer to write in Galley or Story mode.
  • InCopy CS4 can display spreads rotated in InDesign CS4.

InCopy CS4 icon

I also asked about InCopy’s relationship with Microsoft Word, because most of my clients who I recommend InCopy for inevitably return to Word because their superiors use it and they’re familiar with it. As with InCopy CS3 before it, it’s fairly easy to import Word files into InCopy (and InDesign) and remap the character and paragraph styles. InCopy CS4 has the same capabilities. Moreover, InCopy CS4 is a lot leaner than Word and editors and writers should enjoy the snappiness of working with that application.


There are very few things that InDesign CS4 and InCopy CS4 get wrong, and a lot that they get right. Is it worth upgrading from InDesign CS3? For most users I would say yes, and for some who need things like conditional text and cross-references I would say definitely yes! And Live Preflight alone is a wonderful thing to experience, as is Smart Guides and some of the other features. InDesign CS4 is a definite improvement over its previous iteration.

InDesign CS4 and InCopy CS4
Adobe Systems
Rating: 9/10
US$699/$199 upgrade (InDesign CS4)
US$249/$89 upgrade (InCopy CS4)

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: InDesign CS4 and InCopy CS4”

  1. I was searching for info with regard to InDesign CS4 and Word. I am new to InDesign and trying to import a Word document, but it says I need a plug-in. When I look for a plug-in, I can’t find what I need. Can you help?

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