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Once upon a time, reading a book meant exactly what the words imply: get a book (as in a printed book) and read it. The last few years have seen a major change in the publishing industry. Nowadays if a publisher wants to reach a wide audience, he has to take into consideration that people read on computer screens, Kindles, e-readers, tablets and i-pads. InDesign remains the leading publishing software, because it has managed to keep up with the changes in the field.
This 5.5 release of InDesign is the first “point” upgrade in the last 10 years. It comes only after a year of the release of InDesign CS5, in order to provide the necessary tools for electronic publications. Most of the new features of InDesign CS5.5 have to do with electronic publishing, but there are some features that could appeal to those who design for print.
Let’s start by examining the main features that have to do with electronic publishing.
E-readers require content to be placed in a chain-like format with the elements of the publication placed in order, one after the other (headline, text, image, caption, more text, etc.) The Articles Panel makes it easy to complete this task by dragging and dropping your elements into the desired reading order. The problem is that if you have a long line of connected text boxes and you need to break up the text with images there is no easy way to do it. The best way around this problem is to use InDesign’s Anchors system which is not really designed to solve this problem but it kind of provides a solution for now.
Map Styles to tags
In InDesign CS5.5, you can map paragraph and character styles directly to EPUB, HTML and PDF tags to ensure that styles you define are exported appropriately.
Open the character or paragraph Styles Options dialogue box. From the Export tagging option, choose a tag to map for Epub, html or pdf output. (The pdf option is available only for paragraph styles). You can also specify a class to map for output to Epub and html format.
Exporting to Epub options
When exporting your document to Epub you get to choose whether the program will take the order of the document’s elements from the page layout, the XML structure or the Articles Panel.
There is also more control over the quality of the images (InDesign 5 supported only 72ppi resolution, while 5.5 goes up to 300ppi), the amount of white space around the image, as well as alignment of images. PNG, GIF and JPEG formats are now supported. You can also choose to set the size of images to “relative to page width” which means that images scale with the Epub.
You get to choose whether footnotes will be converted to endnotes and appear at the end, or if footnotes will appear at the end of the paragraph where they are mentioned.
You can choose a file to set as the cover image or else InDesign creates a front cover based on the first page of your document.
The exported epub files now pass through certain validation programs such as EPUB Checker, which means that there have been improvements to the code created.
If your document has footnotes or tables, these export without problems to HTML or Epub. The same is true for lists with bullets even on more than one level and auto-numbered lists. All these had to be coded by hand in the previous version, so these are real time-savers!
Overlay creator & Folio Builder
A set of tools that is called “Folio Production Tools” is now available inside the program (as opposed to version 5 when they were separate plug-ins). These are tools that add interactivity to a publication and create folio files. The Overlay creator and the Folio Builder have been integrated in the application. The Overlay creator is used in order to create interactive content and the Folio Builder assembles all content into a format that can be read by tablets.
After clicking on a frame in your document from the Overlay Creator you get to choose what kind of overlay you want to apply and you set the options. For example you can allow the user to pan and zoom on an image, you can add audio and video files, create image slideshows, create a panorama, add web content or create a hyperlink that takes you to another part of the publication.
PDF accessibility enhancements
According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, all images must have alt text and paragraphs must have tags. The Object Export Options offers you help with this task. If you have added alt text to the metadata of an image in a program that supports XML data (such as Adobe Bride, Microsoft Word, etc.), this will be available in the panel.
Features for Print: Auto column balancing
If you use InDesign to work with lots of text that is laid out using columns then you certainly spend a lot of time balancing the text at the bottoms of the columns to match. This new feature of the program forces the text of your columns to auto align at the bottom. The last column of text will still be a line sort if there isn’t enough text and you would have to manually tweak the kerning of a few lines to make everything perfect.
Mathematical equations and other symbols, when used in the text of the document are often treated as anchored objects. This means that they are separate objects that move with the flow of the text. Until the previous version you had to create the object, cut it, and then paste it in line. From this version on all objects have a small blue square (in the upper right side). With this new feature you drag and drop objects into place from this little blue square; it’s so easy and it makes perfect sense!
Multiple page sizes
When you think about the pages of a book it is normal to expect that all pages will have the same size. So up until now when you created a file in InDesign all the pages had the same size. But what about a dust jacket, or a spine of a book, or a cover that is slightly larger than the book? Now we can have these included in the same file with the rest of the publication as InDesign allows for multiple page sizes.
Color coded layers
With the release of version 5 of InDesign we were finally able to use layers in the same way that they are used in other Adobe applications! Now layers can be color coded. For example you can make all text layers blue, layers that contain ads red, image layers green and so on.
The HTML and EPUB improvements are certainly significant for anyone who uses InDesign to produce digital publications. Together with the improvements that were part of CS5 release, InDesign is now on equal level with the rest of the programs of the Adobe Creative Suite. It is no longer a program you just had to use, it’s an application that is a joy to work with.