Hands-on review: Adobe InDesign CC 2013

Adobe has released the new InDesign CC. We've had a look at it – what's been updated, what's new and whether it's worth moving to the subscription-based Creative Cloud.

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Our Verdict

InDesign CC is a big step forward from InDesign CS6, with some fantastic new features, particularly surrounding fonts and typography, likely to improve your workflow and make you more productive. If the subscription model doesn't put you off, this is a must-have upgrade for all designers.


  • Improved UI
  • Support for Retina displays
  • New font search and filter option
  • New font favourites feature


  • Subscription model may not suit light users of InDesign who are happy with an older version.

The latest update to Adobe's DTP package, InDesign CC, is released today. Existing Creative Cloud subscribers will find the update available to install automatically as part of their subscription, alongside all-new versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Flash.

Previously available both as a boxed, stand-alone version, and as part of the Creative Suite, InDesign is now limited to subscription only. This allows Adobe to be more agile with their software development, bringing along all their users with each update, but is a significant change to the licensing model. In order to keep using the latest version of InDesign (and the rest of the CC tools) you’ll need to keep paying month after month.

What's new?

This version of InDesign features a couple of handy new features, alongside a variety of upgrades and improvements.

The most noticeable change, as soon as you fire up InDesign CC, is the new darker UI that's more consistent with Photoshop and Illustrator. As with the other tools in the set, you can control the brightness of the app frame, making it easier to customise the look to your taste.

The changes are limited to aesthetic tweaks however; new support for HiDPI displays allows owners of Retina MacBook Pros to get a clear and crisp preview of their work once more, and performance has been ramped up with support for multiple cores, which is particularly noticeable when generating PDF files.

There are a host of productivity improvements including a new font-search filter that allows you to create favourite-font sets and quickly locate the font you’re after, while live font preview shows you exactly how different fonts will look in your layout as you change the font selection using your arrow keys.

Best new features in InDesign CC

01. Font Search and Filter

Adobe InDesign CC: Font search

A new filter and search option at the top of the font panel allows you to quickly and easily locate the font you’re looking for. Typing the first few characters of a font’s name will immediately filter the list, or you can look for fonts with the word bold within the name. This is a major time-saver, and is typical of the workflow enhancements found across InDesign CC.

02. HiDPI Support

Adobe InDesign CC: HiDPI support

High-resolution displays are becoming increasingly common, with machines such as the Retina MacBook Pro spearheading the move to HiDPI. Some of Adobe's apps have already been updated to take advantage of the change, and InDesign now joins these with text no longer looking blurry. Improvements now allow text to look sharper and artwork to render with a smoother finish. There have also been changes made in the rendering engine overall, allowing multi-core machines to flex their processing power, improving rendering speed when zooming and panning documents, with the most noticeable performance improvement evident when exporting PDF files.

03. Font Favorites

Adobe InDesign CC: Font favourites

If you work in a corporate environment where you’re always using the same selection of fonts, you'll love the new Font Favorites feature. Put simply this allows you to group your favourites together so that rather than having to wade through your entire font collection, you can quickly access your common fonts. It's a simple addition but will make a meaningful difference to your workflow.

04. Instant Font Preview

Adobe InDesign CC: instant font preview

Now you can immediately see what a font will look like, even as you’re working your way through options. Select some text, use the cursor keys inside the font choice dropdown to page through the different font options, and InDesign will give you an immediate live view of the font choice in-situ allowing you to make better decisions over whether a particular font will work in the situation.

And one that's 'coming soon'... Typekit for Desktop

Adobe InDesign CC: Typekit

Adobe was hoping to see Typekit integration included in the release of the CC suite, but unfortunately it's suffered a delay. There's no date yet for when this feature will be introduced, but we hope it's soon because it's probably more relevant to InDesign than any other tool in the suite.

Is it worth the upgrade?

The upgrade to InDesign CC requires a change of payment type from buy-it-once, use-it-forever to pay monthly. This is quite a step change to adopt, but ultimately your decision over whether the upgrade is worthwhile will depend on how you use the tool.

If you’re a daily InDesign user, and you also make use of Photoshop and Illustrator on a regular basis, the upgrade is pretty compelling; you’ll get a lot for your money with a subscription to the complete Creative Cloud service, especially when you consider the value-added features such as Behance Pro Site.

If you’re only an occasional InDesign user the compulsion is significantly lower, especially if you’re still happily using CS3 or CS2. Ultimately, the cost of upgrading is lower than it’s ever been before, at least in the first year, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of moving to a monthly commitment you can still buy the boxed version of CS6, albeit with the limitation that your only future upgrade path will be to Creative Cloud, and updates will be limited to bug fixes.

How much does it cost?

Adobe say that by moving to a subscription-only service, they can roll out new features more often and rapidly than was possible with the boxed software model of the past. For many users this decision caused outrage, although the pricing over a typical product lifecycle of 18 months is broadly similar to the old upgrade cost between releases, and is substantially more cost effective if you use several of the tools and tended to upgrade with each release.

If you’re only interested in InDesign itself, you can buy a single license for a monthly fee of $19.99/£17.58. This is reduced to $9.99/£8.78 a month for the first year if you have a previous license for CS3 or later, although you have to commit to a minimum of 12 months if taking up the offer.

Pricing options

If you use InDesign with other tools in the suite, the complete package of every Creative Cloud app (including the likes of Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom and After Effects) costs $49.99/£46.88 per month with a minimum one-year contract (or a whopping $74.99/£70.32 per month without the contract), but again there's an offer available for the first year.

If you're upgrading to Creative Cloud from a previous boxed version of the Creative Suite CS3 or later, and make a 12-month commitment, you can get a discount of almost 40 per cent on your first year's subscription rates, bringing the cost down to $29.99/£27.34 per month.

Words: Sam Hampton-Smith

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This review was based on a pre-release of the Creative Cloud software for review purposes only. If there's any difference in the software you've installed, we'd love to hear about it!

The Verdict


out of 10

Adobe InDesign CC 2013

InDesign CC is a big step forward from InDesign CS6, with some fantastic new features, particularly surrounding fonts and typography, likely to improve your workflow and make you more productive. If the subscription model doesn't put you off, this is a must-have upgrade for all designers.