Getting Into InDesign

SAN FRANCISCO (01/25/2000) - What's shocking to me is how many people seem content never to learn another language, never to travel to foreign countries, never to explore new cultures. How else can we get perspective on our own lives? For similar reasons, I believe it's important for even die-hard QuarkXPress users to take a look at Adobe InDesign.

If you've read my earlier articles about InDesign, you know I'm not about to switch my production workflow to this 1.0 product. The program lacks features I need, such as tools for handling long documents, and many of the features it has need more time to mature. Nonetheless, some people -- service bureaus, printers, and freelance production artists -- would be wise to get up-to-speed with this new product, as their clients will soon be using it or asking for features only InDesign currently offers.

Adobe Systems Inc. may insist that starting to use InDesign is painless, but there's always a learning curve, and longtime XPress users like me may find some of InDesign's features downright baffling. In this article I'll discuss several gotchas that tripped me up, along with some easy workarounds. Bear in mind that Adobe will undoubtedly update InDesign 1.0 before too long to fix some of these less-than-stellar features. Check the Read Me file that comes with your version to see what may already have changed.

InDesign's Interface

Anyone who's used Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop will be able to navigate through InDesign's palettes and menus without too much trouble. However, a few details of the interface can easily trip up those who are accustomed to QuarkXPress conventions. For instance, in XPress you activate the Grabber Hand tool with the option key. In InDesign, you use the spacebar . . . unless you've selected the text tool and your cursor is in a text block. In that case, you use the option key. If you use the option key at the wrong time, you'll end up duplicating any object you click on-pretty confusing.

Keep several other tricks in mind. Remember that while the Move and Direct Select tools roughly correspond to XPress's Item and Content tools, InDesign requires that you use a third tool-the text tool-to edit or type text. And if you have text selected with the text tool and you need to switch tools, don't forget that pressing command-tab turns off the text-editing feature and lets you press keyboard shortcuts to select another tool (such as V for Move or A for Direct Select). XPress users will find it odd that when you select text in a text frame and then move the frame with the Move tool, InDesign deselects the text. Lesson: First move the box where you want it, and then edit the text.

Character Styles and Master Pages

InDesign handles character style sheets and master pages slightly differently than QuarkXPress. The differences aren't bad-actually, in some ways InDesign's methods are more powerful. But again, unless you understand the differences, you'll run into problems.

When you apply a QuarkXPress style sheet to a block of text, the style overrides every element of character formatting (font, style, color, tracking, and so on). InDesign's character styles, however, let you apply formatting selectively-for instance, you can create an InDesign character style that changes the font and color but leaves the size, horizontal scaling, and leading intact (yes, leading is a character-level attribute in InDesign-also confusing for XPress users). You may spend more time defining style sheets in InDesign, but you have more control over the results.

The differences in InDesign's master pages may also frustrate XPress veterans.

If you put a text box on a master page in XPress, you can select it, fill it with text, and even move it while it's on a document page. Making a local change to a master- page item affects only the object on that one page. In InDesign, master-page items are locked, so you cannot make local changes unless you command-shift-click on an object first to unlock it. Fortunately, you need not actually unlock and select the text frame in order to place a text file there: just click on the text frame with the Place cursor. (Tip: If you want InDesign to add pages and flow the incoming text onto them, then shift-click with the Place cursor.)Color InterfaceInDesign has very powerful color tools, but you have to know where to look. For example, if you want a Pantone or Trumatch color, you won't find it in the New Color Swatch dialog box. Rather, you need to select these colors from the Swatch Libraries submenu (under the Window menu). Once you find the color you want, double-click on it to add it to your Swatches palette.

Another possible source of confusion: while you can easily apply colors to an object by dialing in RGB or CMYK values in the Colors palette, these are "unnamed" colors and don't appear in your Swatches palette. If you later need to change the color or check its specified format (RGB or CMYK), you have to click manually on each object in your document. This is a service bureau's worst nightmare. Do everyone a favor-add the colors to your Swatches palette before applying them to objects. Finally, if you're searching for a single location (like QuarkXPress's Modify dialog box) where you can add a border to a box or change the size and color of lines, you can stop looking. InDesign requires that you visit three different palettes just to apply a colored border to a box: the Swatches palette, the Stroke palette, and the Tool palette.

There's Good Stuff, Too

Don't get the wrong idea-there's plenty that I actually do like about InDesign.

Unlimited undos, excellent typography, and the ability to create gradient and tint swatches go a long way toward making up for the program's oddities. No matter your bias, whether you're a QuarkXPress user who fears change, or you're expecting InDesign to be the answer to every dream-the more you know about the program's weaknesses (or areas you need to work around), the more powerful you'll be in the long run.

David Blatner ( is the author of The QuarkXPress 4 Book (Peachpit Press, 1998), Real World Photoshop 5 (Peachpit Press, 1999), and other books.

Sidebar: Opening QuarkXPress Documents in InDesignJust because Adobe says you can open a QuarkXPress document in InDesign doesn't mean the process will go perfectly and it frequently doesn't. It's not Adobe's fault: Quark holds its file format as a closely guarded secret, and Adobe has done an admirable job of breaking Denver's codes. But before you start converting documents, here are a few things you should remember.

Opening Files

Templates, which usually contain only basic text and picture frames, typically open without too much trouble. However, whether you open a template or a more complex document, you will always need to proofread and massage it in InDesign.

It's rare that a document opens unscathed. For instance, guides can shift slightly, objects on master pages may end up duplicated, and pictures often get scaled incorrectly (sometimes by just half a percent), so you should probably check every item in your document individually.

Text Reflow

InDesign uses different hyphenation and justification than XPress, so text almost always reflows slightly. InDesign also tends to ignore XPress's New Column character, which causes a number of problems. Hanging bullets often break because InDesign requires a tab stop where QuarkXPress doesn't.

Clipping Paths

InDesign doesn't understand clipping paths very well (see "Clipping Paths and Text Wrap in InDesign"). When you import QuarkXPress 4 documents that contain them, the clipping paths often end up dramatically wrong, and they sometimes disappear altogether.

Compound Objects

Text converted to paths and objects connected using XPress's Merge feature rarely import correctly (and often, not at all).

Text on a Path

InDesign 1.0 doesn't support text on a path, so it places all text inside rectangular text frames.

Stripes and Dashes InDesign can't deal with custom dashes or stripes; they appear as solid lines. In some cases, you can re-create the dash patterns manually in the Stroke palette.

Swatchbook Colors

Even though InDesign has Pantone and Trumatch swatches, if you use these types of colors in an XPress document, they appear as RGB colors in InDesign.

Suppress Printout

InDesign does a clever trick with items set to Suppress Printout: it places them on a separate, nonprinting layer. But if you want to see the objects, you have to turn on this layer's visibility.

Other XPress 4 Features

InDesign lacks certain QuarkXPress features altogether-indexing and table of contents tools, among others. It simply ignores these features when it encounters them in an XPress document.

Sidebar: Clipping Paths and Text Wrap in InDesignAnyone accustomed to QuarkXPress 4 will find InDesign's Text Wrap and Clipping Path features woefully inadequate. First, InDesign can't wrap text around the shape of a graphic. Rather, it wraps text only around InDesign objects (such as picture frames). If you want to flow text around a nonrectangular object, you can use InDesign's Clipping Path feature to build a frame that's more or less the same shape as the image. Be prepared for hassles if you're importing clipping paths from other programs. Not only do clipping paths in QuarkXPress documents usually translate very poorly-InDesign can't even deal with Photoshop TIFF images that contain embedded clipping paths. Instead, it allows you to convert the embedded paths to InDesign frames upon import (but only if you've specifically set them as clipping paths in Photoshop first). Don't click on a picture inside a clipping-path frame with the Direct Select tool, or you're liable to move it. Rather, always use the Move tool or hold down the command key while clicking on the frame itself (not the picture) with the Direct Select tool.

Text Wrap Blues

InDesign 1.0 cannot wrap text around graphics, only around picture frames. One solution is to use the built-in Clipping Path feature to create an outset clipping path around the image (type a negative number in the Inset Frame field). This "clipping path" is really just a picture frame in the approximate shape of the graphic.

Clumsy Clipping

In order for InDesign to recognize a TIFF image's embedded clipping path, you must turn on Show Import Options or shift-click on the Open button. Then select Create Frame From Clipping Path to convert the embedded path into a frame. Be careful that you don't click and drag the picture with the Direct Select tool, as this can move the picture apart from its frame, effectively ruining the clipping path.

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