InDesign CS5 and InCopy CS5 Review

This review supplements “InDesign CS5 First Impressions,” which I wrote just after CS5 was announced. That article explains most of the new features in InDesign CS5 like other reviews, but the goal of this article is to share my experience in the field with InDesign CS5 and to tell what works and what doesn’t work for me.

Things have changed

Creative Suite 5 encompasses many industries, but probably none has changed more in the last few months than publishing. Apple released the iPad and then banned Flash from its walled garden, leaving publishers scrambling for technology that would put its content on Apple’s products. It also left Adobe unsure how to proceed, and puts InDesign CS5 in an odd position. InDesign has embraced Flash for years and InDesign CS5 has major improvements in digital publishing and multimedia—all powered by Flash.

For now, I am using InDesign CS5 to produce multimedia and exporting it to PDF to be deployed online. This doesn’t solve the Apple problem but my clients seem to appreciate PDF better than Flash—even though Acrobat and Reader handle both technologies—and PDF is a format I can publish online, on other devices, and even print on a press. InDesign CS5 is the best PDF content producer on the market right now and I prefer it to Flash when producing presentations and multimedia that don’t require scripting. Flash is more of an application development tool nowadays, at least in my studio.

Greater control over layout and columns

InDesign CS5′s new additions seem very smart, on the same level as Dreamweaver CS5′s advancements in CSS and HTML5. The column spanning/splitting feature, which allows headlines to occupy multiple columns and lists to be segmented into sub-columns, adds elegance to my layouts. I had been achieving spanned headlines before with a separate text box above the body text box, but now I can spare myself the extra work.

I actually haven’t had a project recently requiring multiple page sizes, but the ability to create multiple sizes in InDesign CS5 is an important addition. I’m actually surprised the InDesign team hadn’t implemented it earlier: the need has always been there, and third-party plug-ins have been available to fulfill it.

I am less thrilled about the object grids and Gap tool, but that’s just because I very rarely design grid systems into my layouts. I prefer a more organic approach to layouts. But there are some instances where I want to produce a large array of images in a grid, in which case object grids save a lot of time and effort. If you’re a designer who often uses grids, InDesign CS5 will make production much easier.

InCopy CS5: Not promoted enough

I’ve always liked InCopy, the writing and editing application that complements InDesign, and I’ve set up InDesign-InCopy workflows for companies before. I like the fact that they’re designed to work together, unlike Word which is what most editorial departments still like to use.

I’ve wondered why InCopy hasn’t gained much market share—at least in my area—and I think it’s because Adobe just hasn’t really promoted the product enough. It’s not available as part of any Creative Suite, even though it is upgraded with the rest of the applications and carries the CS5 name. Even a lot of InDesign users know very little about it and therefore can’t recommend it to their editorial partners. Until Adobe bundles it with the Creative Suite—or, better yet, integrates it more fully with InDesign—I don’t expect it will ever take command of its niche like InDesign has.

InCopy CS5 is a relatively modest update, with several new features that will be familiar to InDesign CS5 users. The Eyedropper tool, which has been in InDesign and Word for years, is new to InCopy CS5 for copy-and-paste formatting. Several features new to InDesign CS5, such as the redesigned Layers panel, multithreaded performance, splitting and spanning text across columns, document-installed fonts and Mini Bridge are all included too. However, a lot of these new features make more sense in InDesign because it’s a page layout application—InCopy is designed to handle editorial only, and visual improvements like document-installed fonts and spanning/splitting text isn’t as vital in InCopy CS5.

The best improvement is in tracking changes, which InCopy has had for at least a couple versions now. InDesign CS5 has a Track Changes panel now and so change tracking has better integration, with the same controls and highlighting on either end. This is one example where an editorial feature from InCopy has migrated to InDesign, and it’s interesting because it seems many new features in these two applications are actually blurring the line between editorial and design functions. Adobe must have learned from their research that sometimes designers need to revise writing and writers need some layout tools on their end.

Conclusion

InDesign CS5 is hard to evaluate: its features make a lot of sense and are executed very well, but the publishing market is volatile now and it makes it tough to judge how much of an impact it will have. I know many designers and publishers, still not used to the digital age, won’t care at all about new multimedia tools. Most editorial departments will still stick with Word for writing their articles. In my studio, InDesign CS5 has proven to be a solid workhorse with no major drawbacks and several benefits. It’s already become a tool for building multimedia I would normally do in Flash. But its success will ultimately depend on how quickly its publishing customers stop looking backward and start looking forward.


InDesign CS5
Adobe Systems
US$699/$199 upgrade
Rating: 9/10

InCopy CS5
Adobe Systems
US$249/$89 upgrade
Rating: 7/10

2 thoughts on “InDesign CS5 and InCopy CS5 Review”

  1. Jeremy — In the context of fairly straightforward book publishing, to what extent would would use of InCopy, as opposed to MS Word, on the editorial side make layout in InDesign faster and simpler? Thanks.

  2. Kevin, seems like that would depend on how much “designing” is going on in your pages. The InCopy/InDesign workflow works best when you have heavily-designed pages like newspapers or coffee table books and a writer has only so much space to write or multiple pieces on a page. If you’re writing a conventional book with just words on the page, there won’t be much advantage in this workflow. The main advantage would be the designer can see your text in their layout, and vice versa (you can see the InDesign layout in InCopy).

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