Taking the Plunge With InDesign

I’ve been using Adobe PageMaker for creating documents since before the debut of ESC! Magazine in 1992. With this upcoming issue of ESC! Magazine, however, I will dive eyes closed and headfirst into the shallow end of the pool and produce the entire issue of ESC! in Adobe InDesign CS.

A Little History (whether you like it or not)

Hailed as the revolutionary product that brought pro-level publishing abilities to the masses when introduced as Aldus PageMaker in the mid-80’s on the Macintosh platform, PageMaker has endured as the “industry standard” application for professionals for two decades.

Unfortunately for Adobe (who purchased the Aldus line in the 90’s), a newcomer on the scene showed up in their rear view mirror in the guise of Quark desktop publisher. Without getting into Quark’s rapid ascension in the publishing industry due to its advanced typographical and layout features, suffice it to say that Adobe had its work cut out for it to convince its customers from jumping ship to this seemingly more capable and extensible layout application.

A funny thing happened to PageMaker on the way to the ball, however. Upon adding all the new features and capabilities that would make it the reigning champ once again, Adobe figured enough had been changed in the application to rename it and release it as the new “Quark killer.” So what was to become PageMaker version 8, became known as InDesign.

As a user of PageMaker I was quite upset at the notion of being being forced to “crossgrade” to a new product simply because Adobe’s marketing department felt that it would be easier to promote a “totally new” product in lieu of shoring up and promoting a well-known and loved application. To their credit, however, Adobe made it cost effective for its client base to accomplish this — the notion being, of course, that once you’ve tried it, you wouldn’t go back. And to drive the nail into the coffin, Adobe decided to take its former flagship layout proggie and christen it a “business application.” Ouch!

Unfortunately for Adobe and my wallet, I tried InDesign and … didn’t like it.

For one, InDesign insisted on using frames to hold the content I wanted to layout. This is a very Quark-like feature and a feature that caused me to abandon Ventura Publisher many years ago in deference to PageMaker.

Second, while I could see InDesign’s origins in PageMaker, things … just … worked … differently. I can’t explain it other than to say I found it difficult to pick up the program and continue where PageMaker left off. So more often than not my forays into InDesign ended more abruptly than intended with long gaps between my efforts.

This inconsistency to the way I wanted to work (as opposed to the way Adobe wanted me to work) remained … umm … consistent throughout the second revision of InDesign. And so while the software may have been installed, it remained unused in the bit bucket of my hard drive.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one having these difficulties because, no matter what they tried, Adobe was having a difficult time getting its user base to fall in line. I was relieved, then, to see Adobe create a series of plug-ins for its CS version of InDesign named, appropriately, the “PageMaker Plug-in Pack.”

With the release of the Plug-in Pack, Adobe made it easier for us loyal users to transition over to their new program while at the same time getting us introduced to all the “wow” features InDesign had to offer.

So how is it? Well, for the most part I like it quite a lot with these new extensions enabled. Some things I can do without — and those are the same things I could do without in PageMaker such as the Template Browser, but overall it’s a nice addition to InDesign.

What I’d really like to see in Adobe’s InDesign (and I’ve heard agreement from other users) is a PageMaker-like text layout functionality. Sure, frames have their purpose, but those of us raised on the PageMaker method of doing things find it extremely frustrating and time consuming to mess around with frames which fail to work according to our long ingrained ways of doing things.

With the option of using frames, laying text out on a path or using a PageMaker text layout tool, InDesign could truly become the Quark killer Adobe intended it to be from the start.

Here’s hoping for version 4!

Oh, and should my declared march to InDesigndom end in unmitigated disaster, I still have PageMaker to fall back on.

And so the cycle continues….

(Republished from ESC!Webs Blogitorials, February 2005)

Ordered the Mac mini!

My daughter’s computer is an old PowerMac 7600.

This was just fine for her basic educational software up until I finally drew a network cable to her room to get the computer on the Internet this last weekend. Not that her trusty old Mac doesn’t hook up to the Internet just fine … it does. Rather, once we got it online, I had the hardest time finding a modern web browser for OS 9! You know, something that could handle Flash and all of the new HTML standards being used on sites these days.

I was able to download Opera for it, but gosh darn if it wasn’t so slooooow on that old computer. Especially when a Flash site such as Barbie.com or Disney.com was up. Dang near dragged that computer to its knees! I can’t really blame Opera though. It’s a great browser and I’d recommend it to anyone — it’s just an old computer.

Unfortunately there’s no development of Mozilla or Firefox for OS 9 — only OS X. And Apple never developed Safari for OS 9 that I know of, so that left me with one other option:

I gritted my teeth and downloaded IE 5.1 for the Mac. Yes, I know, in light of my recent rant, perhaps I shouldn’t do that, but you should know that any product developed by Microsoft for the Mac is completely different than the similarly named product for the PC. It’s two different development teams! This means you’ll often find kick-ass features in the Mac versions you’d never find on Windows … but I digress.

Anyway, that was working okay … though still not overly fast.

In the mean time, Apple and Steve Jobs were getting ready to announce new products at MacWorld 2005 and it had been rumoured for a couple weeks that they were going to introduce a new, headless, Mac for $500. This was something that would be perfect for my daughter as the PowerMac is already headless (this means without a monitor, btw). So I could use the existing display and get her a new box for about $500! It’s hard to buy a good USED Mac for that money that wouldn’t be obsolete the day I get it, and a new one would be OS X capable as well. A new Mac would be powerful enough to last her a few years. As hard as it was to watch her slow screen, I had to wait and see what came out of Apple on Tuesday. (1/11)

All day at work I monitored the news sites to see what was being announced. iPod Shuffle? Great but not what I was after. OS X Tiger? Okay, knew about that already! This and that and the other thing until … MAC Mini! Cool.

I spent a lot of time looking over the specs and comparing them to the eMac (their next lowest priced computer) and realized that the Mac mini really couldn’t be beat! In my estimation what Apple did here was take the guts of the old “desk lamp” iMac of 2003 and slapped it in another box. But, still, what you end up with is a pretty powerful desktop computer that is 2″ high and only 6.5″ inches on a side. Pretty incredible.

After negotiating with my wife and checking to see if we really could budget it, I took the plunge and ordered one Tuesday night. Yes, we will need to save here and there to pay for it, but once our daughter has it, the benefits to her will pay for the machine with no problem. Being homeschooled, our daughter needs a good computer that won’t turn her off because it’s too slow. She needs a computer that will run the latest software. And having a computer that can occassionaly entertain her when the evening comes is a plus as well.

To tie in with my previous rant, my daughter needs a computer not prone to the latest viruses and worms plaguing the Windows world every day … My daughter needs a Mac.

(Republished from ESC!Webs Blogitorials, January 2005)