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What is InDesign

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› What is InDesign
  • Published on August 10, 2018

InDesign is a desktop publishing software application for creating flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, and books. Projects created using InDesign can be shared in both digital and print formats. InDesign is used by graphic designers, artists, publishers, and marketing professionals. It is developed and produced by Adobe Systems and is available individually, or as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. InDesign was previously available as part of the Creative Suite.

What is InDesign CC

Adobe InDesign CC is part of the Creative Cloud, a collection of applications used for design, marketing, and communications in print, video, and online. Adobe InDesign CC is available for use on either Mac OS or Windows computers. The CC designates that the application is part of the Creative Cloud.

InDesign CC provides access to other Adobe resources. Many of these services within InDesign CC involve additional paid services, in which Adobe collects additional fees beyond the monthly license for the CC apps. These include Adobe Stock which, for additional fees, provides access to images. Similarly, fonts from Typekit are available for additional fees beyond the cost of InDesign.

What is the difference between InDesign CC and CS

Earlier versions of the app used the CS designation, which represented Creative Suite. InDesign CC is subscription-based, requiring a monthly or annual fee, while InDesign CS was available as a perpetual license which could be purchased and used forever with a one-time fee. Many of the same features necessary for working on projects are present in both the CC and CS versions of InDesign. While InDesign CS is no longer supported by Adobe Systems, it can still be used for many projects on Mac OS and Windows computers. While InDesign CC may not have received significant updates since the creative suite versions, related Adobe apps have been updated considerably. Users subscribing to the entire Creative Cloud for other applications can access InDesign CC as it is included. InDesign CC is useful if using the most current Windows operating systems.

InDesign History

The first version of InDesign was released on August 31, 1999. The program began development long before this, with a different company known as Aldus that was based in Seattle and created desktop publishing software. Aldus developed some of the first graphics and desktop publishing programs available for personal computers that were running early versions of the Windows and Mac operating systems. These included applications such as Superpaint and PageMaker. The first version of PageMaker was released by Aldus July 1985 and it provided a simplified graphical user interface that fit the Macintosh point-and-click user experience. PageMaker became popular for early desktop publishing use as a result. At the company's height in 1990, PageMaker 4.0 hit the market and was considered advanced for its time, although it was starting to see competition from Quark, Inc., a smaller startup based in Denver who produced the electronic publishing software application QuarkXPress.

In 1994, Adobe purchased Aldus and acquired most of their software apps, with the most notable being PageMaker. In the years prior to the Adobe–Aldus acquisition, PageMaker had been losing significant market share to QuarkXPress. Quark had many more features and eventually pushed PageMaker out of the professional desktop publishing market.

In 2000, Adobe released the first version of InDesign with the intent to replace PageMaker and offer an application that was more competitive with QuarkXPress. With the dawn of Mac OS X, Adobe also had the first-mover advantage by offering InDesign as the first desktop publishing program native for OS X, as QuarkXPress was only available on earlier versions of the Mac OS at that time.

Adobe eventually bundled InDesign with Photoshop and Illustrator, and then added additional tools to deliver the Creative Suite. As many designers already used Photoshop and Illustrator, offering InDesign as part of these other applications caused it to be adopted more quickly. Within 10 years of its launch Adobe InDesign had displaced QuarkXPress as the preeminent desktop publishing tool.

How is InDesign Used

InDesign is used to create flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, posters, business cards, postcards, stickers, comics, and many other types of documents or visual communication.

InDesign is an industry-standard for publishing design and is used by graphics and marketing professionals. It may be used in conjunction with other applications that are part of the Adobe Creative Cloud including Illustrator and Photoshop, or it can be used on its own. Images and illustrations are usually not created within InDesign, rather layouts using text, images, and drawings that often are built in other programs are assembled into a layout using InDesign.

What Does Adobe InDesign Do

InDesign provides the tools necessary to design pages and create visual layouts that can be used for both print and digital media. InDesign provides users a simplified way to create professional pages which can be published and distributed in print or online.

InDesign is especially useful for documents containing multiple pages, layouts that combine text and images, and those containing significant amounts of text.

How Much Does InDesign Cost

Adobe InDesign CC is available as a subscription, and the cost for InDesign CC varies based upon the subscription plan selected. An individual subscription for only InDesign is $19.99 per month when subscribed for a full year, and $29.99 per month if subscribed only for a single month. Adobe also offers a Creative Cloud plan that includes InDesign along with more than 20 other Adobe apps which costs $49.99 per month or $74.99 per month if only subscribed for a single month.

Academic discounts are available for Creative Cloud, including InDesign. Students and teachers can subscribe to all the Creative Cloud apps for $19.99 per month for an annual plan with proof they work at or attend an eligible educational institution. There is no month-to-month option for the discounted fees.

Learning InDesign

There are many options to learn InDesign. These include hands-on classes, private training, books, and online tutorials. Live InDesign classes are a good way to learn with other professionals and be able to ask a professional instructor questions in-person during lessons, and after class about projects. Live InDesign classes also make it easier to ask questions about aspects of InDesign that may be specific to an individual’s type of work. Live instruction can also help you decide whether you'd like to go with a single-app subscription or the full Creative Cloud. InDesign training can help streamline a project workflow, improve efficiency, and work on new types of projects that require additional skills. Live Online classes are an option for those unable to travel to a classroom location.

Online tutorials are another valuable resource for learning how to use InDesign. These can be used by themselves and in conjunction with live or online InDesign classes. American Graphics Institute offers free online tutorials by professional InDesign instructors which show how to solve common problems and create layouts using InDesign.

Books are another option to learn InDesign. Books such as the InDesign Digital Classroom make it possible for individuals to learn InDesign at their own pace, and don't require an internet connection.

No matter how you initially get started with your InDesign learning experience, practice is often the best way to learn a new program. Experimenting with different features and functionalities on a practice document that isn't contingent on a deadline and quality standards for a client or employer can prepare you for when it's time to use InDesign professionally.

InDesign Mac vs. Windows Differences

InDesign works equally well on Mac and Windows computers. There are no significant differences between the Mac and Windows versions of InDesign. On similarly equipped Mac and Windows computers, InDesign performs equally well on both platforms.

Advanced users may find differences in the scripting languages. Mac users will use AppleScript to automate repetitive tasks, while windows users utilize Visual Basic Scripting, also known as VBScript.

Slight differences in the key commands exist between Windows and Mac systems, but the general functionality is identical. For example, users who prefer to work from their keyboard may press the Ctrl key along with the P key to print if operating on a Windows computer, while a Mac user would press the Command key along with the P key to perform the same task.

Ultimately though, the best computer to use for Creative Cloud, including InDesign depends on the processor speed and size of the monitor rather than the operating system.

Independent InDesign Certification

If you require independent validation of your Adobe InDesign expertise and capabilities for a job or project, American Graphics Institute offers an independent InDesign certification exam. Because American Graphics Institute is widely-recognized as an authority in the field of digital design, an InDesign Certification provides a credential that shows a mastery of InDesign skills. This exam is a multiple-choice test which is completed online. The exam generally takes 45 minutes to one hour to complete. The InDesign certification exam tests familiarity with InDesign's user interface, basic document creation, core capabilities and functionalities, saving and exporting InDesign projects, and an understanding of workflow issues. There is no requirement to take a course prior to taking an InDesign certification exam.

InDesign File Formats

InDesign supports a variety of file formats which can either be opened in or saved by InDesign. Most versions of InDesign will support the following file types:

File Types That Can Be Opened by InDesign

indd InDesign document
indl InDesign Library 
indt InDesign Template
pmd Adobe PageMaker File
qxp QuarkXPress File

InDesign File Types that can be Saved by InDesign

indd InDesign document
indl InDesign Library 
indt InDesign Template

File Types that InDesign Exports

xlf Adobe Flash CS4 Pro (only for Flash CS4 Pro) 
txt Text
indt Adobe InDesign Tagged Text 
pdf Portable Document Format 
eps Encapsulated PostScript 
incx InCopy CS3 Interchange
icml InCopy document CS4 only 
inx InDesign CS3 Interchange
idml InDesign Markup Language 
jpg JPEG
rtf Rich Text Format 
swf Flash (all versions)
txt Text-only 
xml XML

Graphics and Text Files That Can Be Imported into InDesign

tiff Tagged Image File Format 
gif Graphic Interchange Format 
jpg, jpeg Joint Photographic Experts Group 
bmp Bitmap 
eps Encapsulated PostScript 
dcs Desktop Color Separation 
pict Picture file format (Mac) 
wmf MS Windows Metafile 
emf MS Windows Enhanced Metafile 
pcx PC Paintbrush File format 
png Portable Network Graphic 
sct Scitec CT 
swf Flash 
ai Adobe Illustrator 
psd Adobe Photoshop 
pdf Portable Document Format (CS3 and later versions also support multipage PDFs)
indd InDesign document 
txt Text documents 
doc, docx Microsoft Word document 
xls, xlsx Microsoft Excel documents 
rtf Rich Text Format

Other Files That Can Be Imported or Exported by InDesign

xml Extensible Markup Language can be imported or exported
epub Open Publication Structure eBook (Export)
html Hypertext Markup Language (Export for Dreamweaver)

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.