Adobe InDesign CS4 Review
Same House — New Furnishings!

January 11, 2009 10:36 pm

Tags: Adobe, book layout, CS4, editing, Flash CS4, InDesign CS4, preflight, XFL

file_421701.jpgSame House — New Furnishings!

Opening Adobe’s InDesign CS4 for the first time is like walking into an old friend’s house…a house that you have visited constantly over the years. Once inside, you begin to realize that your old friend has some new furnishings, along with exciting new accessories enhancing the surroundings. Welcome to Adobe InDesign CS4: surprises are around every corner!

Workspace Quick Overview

The first new feature that hits you upon opening InDesign CS4 is the upgrade to the Interface; specifically, the addition of a new Application Bar.



The new Application Bar contains “widgets,” with pull-down menus, that give quick access to often used applications. The new bar also has a Work Space Switcher with a dropdown menu of work fields, and an area to search for online assistance.

There are three widgets: View Options (which contains options for guides, rulers, and hidden characters), Screen Mode (providing easy access to a variety of viewing screens), and Arrange Documents (containing an array of document placements and viewings options).

Jump directly to the Bridge, now in the application bar; as well as a dropdown menu that allows the user to quickly change the percentage size of a document’s workspace with a single click.

file_421699.jpgThe Work Space Switcher menu is (like the default setting suggests) essential. The dropdown menu provides easy access to all the panels that pertain to a specific workspace. It also allows the user to customize a workspace specifically for a project or often used design layouts.

I especially liked this new function when working on my novel, as it immediately brought all panels and text functions necessary and pertinent to a book layout.

While on the subject of workspace…the default for all documents is now the docked mode. In other words, when opening a document, it automatically docks itself, with a little tab depicting the document's name. However, documents can also be easily floated. The docking and floating options make it easier to combine, view and change documents. In fact, “smart” and “easy” are Adobe’s newest keywords.

Getting Smart With Text & Images

Within the Application Bar Widgets are some of those “smart” new features. In Smart Cursors (in View Options), when dragging an object, a box pops up next to your cursor, displaying the X and Y position, width/height, or rotation information when transforming objects. Which differs greatly from the info panel; as the X and Y positions in the Smart Cursor, are based on the position of the Reference Point (the little box made up of 9 smaller squares on the far corner of the top panel).

Smart Guides work in a similar manner to the Smart Cursor. The Smart Guides align, space, rotate, and re-size numerous objects in one step. It proves to be an invaluable tool when aligning objects to the horizontal, vertical, or center of page edges. The Smart Guides make it easy to “snap” an object’s edge to other objects in the layout.


Two other “Smart” functions are: Smart Dimensions and Smart Spacing. With Smart Dimensions, you can match “like object's” height and size. Smart Spacing allows for precise spacing between items, even if the object is at an angle…simply by moving one object in relationship with the object that you wish to match [see above image].

file_421698.jpgYou can even align multiple items on your page by automatically snapping objects into position without having to use the Align Panel.

Another Adobe new “Smart” feature is Smart Text Reflow, which automatically adds pages at the end of a story, selection, or document when text is overset. The best part is that you do not even have to be in Master Text Frames to take advantage of the exciting new feature…just be sure to go into Preference/Type and uncheck the “Limit to Master Text Frames.”

Also, new to InDesign CS4, is Conditional Text…an exciting function that comes in handy if you are creating documents for different countries. Conditional Text allows for the designer to create the same layout, allowing for change to specific content…as dollars and pounds, or alternative text. The same text can also change to multiple conditions.

Conditional Text can also apply to Conditional Objects. Conditions can only be applied while using the Type Tool—anything that you can select with the type tool, you can make conditional. Within CS4, you can also create Conditional Sets (similar to layers in Photoshop).


The Links Panel sports exciting new panel features. By default, all the links within the Links Panel now include thumbnails, as well as a “column header.” Page numbers are also a default feature in the Links Panel.

When highlighting a link within the Links Panel, the information pertaining to that link appears below in the Links Info Panel. A step that is very helpful, especially if you need to know specific information (like size, or dimensions of an image), you can customize “information” from the Panel Options box, and place that information into the Links Panel.


To customize the Links Panel Options…go into the Links Panel Menu, and choose, “Panel Options.” You can include information in the Links Info Panel or the Main Links Panel. The most important data for a designer would be scale and resolution, which can be easily added to the Links Panel Column, as this information lets the designer know at a glance if an image should be reformatted due to the wrong resolution for printing. This new feature is an invaluable function when designing layouts.

Also (yes there is more), the command in the Links Panel makes auto re-linking a breeze. With just a click, InDesign will correct your broken links for you…which in turn saves hours of production delays. With the Auto Re-linking feature, it is easy to replace a low resolution image with a high resolution image. As long as the images are named the same with a different suffix (as in bird.jpg and bird.tiff), auto re-linking can even change a group of images at one time.


Working with images has never been easier, especially with Auto Fit. When you create an image frame, and insert an object…right click on your image and Auto Fit will automatically create the perfect fit. Auto fit will not allow for a wrong percent of fit for your image. Once your image is in place, holding down the shift key will override the auto fit function, allowing you to move, and/or resize the image within the image frame.

Another of my favorite new features in InDesign CS4 is the Contact Sheet Cascade. The Contact Sheet Cascade does just like the name implies…it creates a contact sheet from a multitude of images.


Go to File/Place and select as many images as you are going to use within a page layout. They will appear in your document in a “card stack.” Before placing them into your spread, hold down the Control/Shift keys. This will turn your “card deck” of images into an empty grid. Drag the grid over and down. Like magic, when you release your cursor, all of the images are placed perfectly centered within a Contact Sheet (the arrow keys can also be used to increase or decrease the number of rows and columns within your contact sheet).

Image Scaling is a snap in InDesign CS4…Place the cursor on the image you want to scale. Then, press the Control/Alt keys and either the < or the > key to increase or decrease both the image and the image frame. It is a fun, down and dirty way to resize graphics.


It’s always a nightmare when creating a magazine layout with an article that begins at the middle of a multi paged spread, and continues near the end of the publication. Before InDesign CS4, it was a pain to continually manually update the “continued on” and “continued from” page numbers. Especially when a document is constantly shifting pages: adding to or deleting from…changing the page numbering.

With InDesign CS4, and the Cross Reference feature (the Cross Reference Panel is combined with the Hyperlinks Panel), you will never have to shout in frustration, “What page was that on?”

A word of caution: although cross referencing has never been easier in InDesign, there are still “rules to know and follow,” before getting started. First, find the Paragraph Style of the text reference points (highlight a text area reference point and open the Paragraph Style Panel). Next, open the Cross Reference Panel and click on the Create New Cross Reference icon…which opens the New Cross Reference box.


Link to Paragraph (or Anchor Text), scroll through and highlight the Paragraph Style. Next, select the Paragraph (or sentence) that you want to reference your text too, and click OK. Reverse the procedure to “cross reference,” and the page numbering updates automatically on both the “continued to” and the “continued from” pages.

Cross Referencing also allows you to cross reference in different documents. This can come in handy if you have “a supplemental document” that supports your main document. You can also utilize the cross reference feature directly within the Books Panel.


Editing, although necessary, is also time-consuming. Adobe has alleviated some of the editing drudgery. InDesign CS4 now allows for editing text within Tables. If the layout designer states an exact length for a table (and the editor inserts an abundance of text into the table), it will cause a text overset. The latest and greatest version of InDesign now allows for text within a table to be edited within the Story Editor. Also new, is the ability to add Notes into a table…just another way to help editors, designer, and clients to better communicate.

Editing vertical text can be aggravating. As an editor and designer, you will appreciate the new Spread Rotation function. Now, instead of contorting your neck in abnormal positions to work with vertical text, you can briefly turn a document on its side. Not an often used function, but one that comes in handy when you “do” need to use it.

Within InDesign CS4 are also new file formats replacing previous formats. Among the most common new files used are: .indd (InDesign Documents), .indb (Books Documents), and indl (Library Documents). You can bring the older version of these documents into InDesign CS4 and save to the new file format. However, you cannot open the new file formats in previous InDesign versions. There is also a SWF (Flash File) format…and XFL (Export to Flash) format, which can be opened in Adobe Flash CS4 Pro.


Adobe understands designers, editors, and, more importantly, the current trends in publication. InDesign CS4 reflects the changing attitudes toward interactive media with a Work Space dedicated to Interactivity.


The most often used of the Interactivity Work Space are the Hyperlinks Panel (which includes the Cross Reference Panel), the Page Transitions Panel, and the Buttons Panel. Each Panel is self-explaining, and has either enhanced or new features to make creating interactive publications even more dynamic. There is even a button library with over fifty predesigned navigation buttons.

Within Page Transitions, is the new “Page Turn” Transition; that gives online documents the look of a real page-turning publication. While all the other page transitions are available in PDF format, the Page Turn transition can only be applied to a SWF format.

InDesign file exported to SWF file format

file_421690.jpgAn InDesign expert no longer needs to be a Flash expert to create SWF files. Saving and working with SWF files is as easy as clicking “export” to “SWF.” From there, you only have a single information box to contend with. Check the appropriate boxes…making sure that all of the Interactivity boxes are checked. Then, click OK. Your files will be saved as both an .HTML file and a .SWF file. Be sure to upload “both files” to your service provider to view online.

InDesign CS4 also allows designers to export InDesign files as an XFL format, which can be both opened and edited inside Adobe Flash CS4 Professional. Within Flash CS4 Professional, any number of complex interactivity elements can be added to the document.

InDesign CS4 Takes Flight

I saved my favorite workhorse function for last…the new and improved Live Preflight. I love this feature. As you create your document, InDesign CS4 Live Preflight is always working in the background, and automatically checks for errors with your document.

When an error occurs, a little red warning light appears at the bottom of your work space, along with the number of errors within the document. Clicking on the red circle opens the Preflight box. The Preflight box lets you know what the error is, where the error is, and how to correct the error. When the document is error free, the red light turns green.


The Preflight Function is preset with specific errors to look for, however, Adobe lets you customize your Live Preflight profile within Preference. If this was the “only” new function for this version of InDesign, it would make the new version worth the purchase.

Worth the Upgrade

Although this review covers many of the new and enhanced features of Adobe InDesign CS4, there are many additional features and functions that were not covered. Upon loading this version of InDesign, I was dubious of the new features; as at first glance CS4 did not appear to be “that” different than CS3. However, after working with the program for two weeks, I am convinced that this version of Adobe InDesign is loaded with major upgrades that make designing and editing magazines, articles, and book documents an upgrade that I cannot live without!

We invite you to visit the Official Adobe InDesign CS4 Site, to view additional statistics or take it for a test drive and download a trial version.

Adobe InDesign CS4 is available as a standalone program or as a suite bundle.

  • Adobe InDesign CS4: $699 (full), $199 (upgrade)
  • Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Standard: $1,399 (full), $499 (upgrade)
  • Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium: $1,799 (full), $599 (upgrade)
  • Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection: $2,499 (full), $899 (upgrade)

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January 12, 2009

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Article Comments

Charberry ( posted at 1:26PM Thu, 15 January 2009

It looks good! Don't forget that for students the cost can be drastically reduced for all Adobe sofware at I just bought CS4 Web Premium, and relearning all of my favorite programs.

firefly1 ( posted at 6:10PM Sun, 18 January 2009

I bought my CS4 when I was in school and I absolutely love it!! There is so much more you can do as well as Adobe made things easier too. Well worth it!!