In the wake of QuarkXPress 8's glowing reception earlier this year, InDesign CS4 needs to impress. And while the new feature set and workflow enhancements make it eminently more usable, it lacks the wow-factor of previous releases.
That's not to say InDesign CS4 is a bland release - far from it - but the new features are solidly productivity-based.
The most immediate refinement is in InDesign's interface enhancements. Like Photoshop and Illustrator CS4, InDesign CS4's palettes are docked and the panels shuffled into a leaner, more accessible shape. But the major changes aren't aesthetic.
In fact, most of InDesign's staple tools have had a shake up. Visual feedback is the key here, with drawn objects and page elements presenting detailed feedback on width and height measurement, as well as X and Y co-ordinates.
Smart Guides are a further workflow enhancement. Using these new structures, you can quickly move and align page elements in relation to other, fixed objects without having to delve into panel or menu commands, or even expose the ruler guides. Smart Guides pop up when you grab an object, and vanish once you've finished editing, making them far more practical - and less cumbersome - than dragging ruler guides to the page.
Smart Align and Smart Dimensions work in a similar fashion. The former extends the Smart Guide to fixed objects, clearly showing frame edges, while Smart Dimensions means that as you resize an image, guides appear mapping the dimensions of other elements within the viewable window pane.
There's also a new Smart Rotation feature which, as you'd expect, mimics Smart Dimensions, but this time across rotated co-ordinates. And while none of these new features are headline-grabbing, they are all significant workflow and productivity enhancements.
Adobe's unparalleled understanding of the digital design market is affirmed with this release of InDesign. CS3 took InDesign from a print production environment to a multi-output layout and design application, and here in CS4 Adobe compounds these features.
Utilising the new XFLformat, InDesign can now author SWFs and export digital magazines and books as Flash documents. Users can now add interactive buttons, video and navigation directly to an InDesign document and it even comes complete with stock page transitions.
New text and mark-up tools borrow from Acrobat's collaborative design approach, while the Live Preflighting feature enables you to check document specifications, fonts and colour profiles for print in real-time.
The bottom line
InDesign CS4 is light on killer new features - there's little doubt about that. But the improvements made to this revision are firmly entrenched in enhancing the application's workflow; all of which go further and deeper than a simple page layout environment, turning InDesign CS4 into a multi-output design application.