Review: InDesign CC 2017

If you’re working on professional publications of any length or shape, InDesign remains the champion software – as this evolutionary update proves.

Our Verdict

With a feature set that's already incredible, InDesign CC 2017 is a case of evolution rather than revolution. However, there are useful new features to speed up your workflow, and it remains the best tool for multi-page, typographically complex documents. By a long way.

For

  • Incredible typographic tools
  • Tweaked UI feels sleeker
  • Integration with Adobe Stock

Against

  • Expensive as part of CC subscription
  • Not a huge update (but massive for users of CS6 and below)

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InDesign. The gold standard in professional publishing. Virtually every magazine uses it to create rich, complex layouts. Its integration with other Adobe tools is, of course, second to none, meaning you can flit between apps with ease to speed up your layout workflow. 

And of course it doesn’t stop at magazines and books; InDesign is the perfect tool for crafting posters, flyers, brochures – you name it – thanks to its incredible control over typography, and ability to handle multi-page documents with ease. Many smaller design studios previously used Illustrator for these kinds of smaller print projects, but now InDesign is included in the full Creative Cloud, you’d be mad not to make use of it when designing anything that requires reams of body copy or a project that spans over multiple pages.

It’s also got some excellent tools for creating digital magazines (although these are less common since the Apple Newsstand bubble deflated) and other interactive content, such as PDF portfolios including video and the like. 

We’ll tell you now, the CC 2017 release doesn’t add that much; but what it does add (in common with the rest of the 2017 releases) is a number of workflow enhancements that could make your life easier. So let’s take a look.

New templates

Like the rest of the Creative Cloud 2017 releases, InDesign will be a little unfamiliar when starting it up for the first time – especially if you’re coming from a non-subscription version of the tool. This is due to a new, common welcome screen, which guides you through starting a new document. 

For many it will be overkill, but if you want to quickly launch into a project where you’re not quite sure of the spec (a CD inlay for instance, or maybe a tabloid-sized design) the templates are there for you. Similarly, you have web and mobile templates to get you started.

There are lots of different templates you can use to start a new project

The other addition is the ability to start a document using Adobe Stock as a template. There are loads of different templates on offer – menus, business cards, even really specific things like ‘food magazines’. It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re short on time or need an idea to kickstart your concepting, it’s a good idea. (And it also helps beginners see how grids are constructed, which is no bad thing in our eyes.) 

You can save presets/templates and launch them from this screen, and your recent files appear as small previews, which is a nice touch. In a professional print environment – in a large publishing house, say – this might be redundant due to templates being pre-defined and stored on a server; but for freelancers or studios it’s useful.

Cleaner UI

When you’re past the new welcome screen, you’ll notice a change to InDesign’s UI. It’s undoubtedly cleaner and sleeker, with a flatter appearance and tweaked icons. Like other CC 2017 releases, you can change the interface brightness, which we’d say is particularly pertinent if you’re coming from an older version of InDesign, when the interface was light grey – it’s now dark grey by default. It’s all down to personal preference, but we like the darker interface (and that you can match the pasteboard brightness to the UI).

There are a few other UI improvements as well. Nothing that’s blown our mind, but savvy tweaks by Adobe nonetheless. One is the ability to customise what you can see in the Control Panel by using an icon on the Control Panel itself: just hit the small cog to the far-right of the Control Panel, and you’ll be able to use a check-box panel to turn icons and controls on and off.

Customise what you see in the Control Panel

There’s now also a preference to turn off the large tab height (as in the tabs that show you what document you’re working on). Oh, and you can search Adobe Stock from the same field as Help, too. In addition, the Hyperlinks panel has been optimised for those creating interactive documents – and in our tests it's faster when working with multiple hyperlinks in a single document.

Type tricks

With InDesign’s typographic prowess, you’d think that Adobe would be hard pushed to think up any new features to speed up your workflow when formatting either large panels of text, or headlines and captions. And you’d be kind of right – there’s not much that's new here.

Click an icon to reveal the OpenType features of your chosen font

What you do get is some neat OpenType improvements, enabling you to work a little faster when utilising specific OpenType features. The most interesting is a small ‘O’ that sits on the bottom of your text frame – or at the end of your selected text – which when clicked reveals OpenType properties for that particular font, so you can apply styles with ease (depending on the OpenType features of the particular font of course). 

So for instance, you could quickly change all text to Small Caps without going to the Control bar. Yes, we know you could use a keyboard shortcut or style sheet, but this brings other options as well.

InDesign will prompt you with options for ordinals and ligatures

There’s also support for in-context ordinals and ligatures, so if you want to write ‘3rd’ with the ‘rd’ as superscript, for instance, InDesign will prompt you. It isn't annoying like Word’s autocorrect because you have the options on screen, rather than having to set up a preference. 

It also works for ligatures. If you choose the first letters of a word that has a discretionary ligature, InDesign will give you a pop-up asking which you want to use. It saves you a trip to the Character or Control panel, we guess. 

The same goes for stylistic sets (many OpenType fonts have different sets that contain different ligatures). You can quickly choose a set using an in-context pop-up.

You can now scale start and end arrowheads independently

There’s a little more control over strokes and arrowheads in the 2017 release, giving you the ability to scale start and end arrowheads independently of the stroke weight – and indeed switch them with a click in the Stroke panel. Again, this may be overkill for some users, but it does show how Adobe is constantly striving to offer more control in everything you do in InDesign.

An evolution

InDesign CC 2017 is definitely a case of evolution over revolution. After all, its feature set was already incredible. It’s difficult to see what Adobe can add next to the application to make it even more precise and powerful. The features introduced in the 2017 release (from November last year to April this year) aren’t groundbreaking; they aren’t even that exciting. But they are useful – and can lessen the learning curve of InDesign for beginners, while speeding up the workflow of seasoned pros.

System requirements

Mac

  • Multicore Intel processor
  • macOS 10.10, 10.11, or 10.12
  • 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2.5 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (you can't install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended) with 32-bit video card; supports Retina display
  • Optional: to use GPU Performance, your Mac should have a minimum of 1024 MB of VRAM (2 GB recommended), and your computer must support OpenGL version 4.0 or greater

PC

  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 processor
  • Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10
  • 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2.6 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (you can't install on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280 x 800 recommended) with 32-bit video card; supports HiDPI display
  • To use the new InDesign Touch workspace, you must have a touchscreen-enabled tablet/monitor running Windows 8 or above (such as Microsoft Surface Pro 3) with the screen resolution set to 2160 x 1440 or more

Buy InDesign CC 2017 or sign up to Adobe Creative Cloud here

The Verdict

10

out of 10

Adobe InDesign CC

With a feature set that's already incredible, InDesign CC 2017 is a case of evolution rather than revolution. However, there are useful new features to speed up your workflow, and it remains the best tool for multi-page, typographically complex documents. By a long way.