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InDesign CS 5.5 Announced: New Features, Subscription Pricing

Adobe today announced a significant release of InDesign and the Creative Suite, dubbed 5.5! While there is a little for everyone — there’s one or two features that will excite every CS5 user — how much you’ll want 5.5 directly correlates to how much work you do with interactive documents (EPUB, DPS, HTML, and accessible PDF files).

[Note that we'll be seeing more detailed information about InDesign CS5.5 in this week's InDesign Magazine, and in future blog posts on individual features. But we wanted to give you a quick overview now.]

Articles Panel

Until now, if you wanted to specify an order for your stories — that is, headline first, subhead next, then story, and so on — you had to either put everything in the same text thread or use the Structure Pane (which was designed for XML and is difficult to master). Order is particularly important when trying to export EPUB, XHTML, or accessible PDFs, but can be important at other times, too. Now, in CS5.5, you can set a story’s order in the new Articles panel. An article can combine multiple text and graphic frames, and then allows you to rearrange their order.

Linked Stories

Have some text that shows up looking the same in 15 different places in your document? You can now duplicate a story and link the duplicate to the original, like a clone. Change the “parent” text and the “child” text changes, too. Linked text is not technically new; you’ve been able to link to Word and Excel docs for many years (by turning on a checkbox in the Preferences dialog box). But the ability now to link from one story to another inside the same document is novel. Note that you cannot change the formatting or the text in the “child/clone.” Well, actually, you can, but if you later change the parent and then click Update in the Links panel, any changes you’ve made to the child are wiped out — again, just the same as it has always worked in linked Word docs.

There’s no doubt that linked stories could be very helpful for some people, but most people will likely end up ignoring this feature unless Adobe makes it more robust.

Style Mapping

Export Tagging is a new option at the bottom of both the Paragraph Style Options and Character Style Options dialog boxes. It lets you override how InDesign maps your InDesign-styled text to CSS styles and HTML or Tagged PDF markup. For paragraph styles, you can choose to map the style to a Header tag (h1-h6); for character styles, you can choose from span, em, and strong. In either case, you can click inside the Tag field and manually enter a completely different tag that you want InDesign to use for that style.

In the example above, we’re editing a paragraph style called “Pullquote.” InDesign’s default behavior (what you get if you leave the Tag field set to [Automatic]) is no different than before — the paragraph will be formatted as a regular paragraph with the style name as a class attribute: <p class=”Pullquote”> in the exported EPUB/HTML file. Now with CS5.5 we could change that. For example, we might want to manually enter the HTML element “blockquote” in the Tag field. Another nice feature is that the Class field is also editable. By default, it’s the same name as the character or paragraph style you’re editing, but you can always change the name to something shorter or more CSS-friendly, a lot easier than renaming the style sheets.

Object Export Options

Here’s an awesome improvement: You can select an object choose Object > Object Export Options to:

  • apply Alt text (for the visually impaired or for situations when graphics are turned off) or tag an object as an “Artifact” so that it won’t be read aloud by PDF screen readers.
  • control how an image will be converted to JPG/GIF/PNG (resolution, etc.)
  • tell a text frame or non-graphic object to rasterize (turn into a graphic upon export)

This is incredibly helpful when you need page objects to appear in HTML or EPUB just the way they appear on screen in InDesign.

EPUB Export Improvements

The best new features in CS5.5 are probably found in EPUB export. First of all, EPUB finally takes its rightful place among the formats in the Export dialog box! No longer do you need to go looking in some other place for it:

Once you’re in the the EPUB Export Options dialog box, you’ll see that the controls and options have been vastly improved. In General settings, you can now specify a cover image (that’s a huge help!), content ordering (hint: use the Articles panel!), and formatting options like margins.

In the Image options, you can now specify image size, resolution, alignment, and spacing. The ability to export images as PNGs has also been added.

In the Contents options, you can now specify a paragraph style to indicate chapter breaks. You can also control footnote placement, and automatically clean up those line breaks you added to your InDesign but later wished you hadn’t:

Although there’s no editable field for it, InDesign CS5.5 now includes the required metadata for publication date in the exported EPUB. (That was the most common reason that InDesign-generated EPUBs used to fail EPUB validation tests.) Yay! However, the date it includes is the date of the export; so if you want a different date, you’ll still need to get in there and edit the component EPUB file.

DPS Tablet Features

You have probably heard about the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite over the past year, but details were sparse since it was in beta. With the release of InDesign CS5.5, the beta is finally over and now anyone can get started creating interactive magazines for the iPad and Android Tablets. Interactive content is added to your InDesign document via the Overlay Creator panel and everything is put together with the Folio Builder panel.

We have to admit that it’s kind of weird that DPS doesn’t take advantage of most of InDesign’s own built-in interactivity features (audio, video, animation, etc.). It can work with multi-state objects to make slideshows, but that’s about it. Everything else you have to do using its own tools. Maybe they’ll merge these two worlds in future versions.

Hunspell Dictionaries

What’s there to say about a new dictionary? Adobe added the Hunspell dictionaries into CS5.5. Should we rejoice? Should we ignore them? You can tell us in the comments below. (To activate these dictionaries, choose a language in the Dictionary pane of the Preferences dialog box, then choose Hunspell instead of Proximity in the Hyphenation or Spelling pop-up menus.)

Easier Anchored Objects

Lets face it; anchored objects have always been a bit of a pain to create. Now, instead of copy and pasting, you can just drag a tiny blue square on the upper right corner of each frame into text to create an anchored object. As you drag the blue square, your cursor will turn into an I-beam as you release it into text. When you release the square your object will anchored to the text, but it will remain in its current location as a custom position anchored object. To place the object inline, just hold the Shift key as you drag the square. If you want to place it in a different spot, just drag and drop the square again, putting it in a new position.

By the way, after your object is anchored, you can Option/Alt+click on the anchor icon to open the Anchored Object Options dialog box.

Interface Improvements

Finally, we couldn’t fail to mention one key addition to the Interface preferences: the ability to (finally!) turn off frame edge highlighting:

It’s still enabled by default, but given the amount of angst this little feature has created in some folks (okay, it’s the Number One complaint we’ve heard about CS5), the ability to turn it off is most welcome. It also shows that Adobe listens to their customers. Let that be a lesson to you: the squeaky wheel gets the grease (and the checkbox).

Subscription Pricing

One of the most interesting revelations about 5.5 is Adobe’s new subscription policy, which will be available through the adobe.com store. First: You do not need to use it. It’s optional!

But for some folks, it could be the cat’s meow. For example, let’s say you hire a freelancer and need them to use InDesign and Illustrator for two months. You don’t want to buy a copy of the Suite just for that! No problem: you can buy a monthly subscription to one product for $49, or to the Design Standard Suite for $99 per month… $200 for two months of work! Pause the subscription for a couple of months and the software stops working, then start it up later. Easy!

Note that these are US prices. For example, in Europe the CS5.5 Design Standard subscription is ?119/month, and in Australia it’s AUD$149/month. At least that’s what’s Adobe told us. Prices may vary, of course, so check with Adobe.

Also, note that it’s a bit cheaper if you subscribe a year at a time. For example, the CS5.5DS we just mentioned would be $780/?948/AUD$1,188 (you can work out the monthly bill yourself). Why subscribe for a year instead of purchase? Um… it may be cheaper than owning and then paying upgrade fees every so often (you get the upgrades “free” if you’re a subscriber). We don’t know. Seems a little weird to us. Let us know below if you can think of a compelling reason to purchase yearly subscriptions.

Upgrade Pricing

If you simply want to upgrade the product you have, without worrying about subscriptions, you’ll still be paying out quite a bit. To upgrade InDesign alone (as a “point product”) from CS5 to 5.5 costs US$119/?149 or AUD$175. If you have CS4, it’ll cost US$199, ?249, or AUD$299.

To upgrade the Creative Suite Design Standard package, it’s $299/?349/AUD$449 if you have CS5 now; or $499/?599/AUD$763 if you have CS4 (or more if you still have CS3). Of course, you’re also getting Acrobat X for that, plus the upgrades of some other apps. (Not all programs were upgraded in 5.5. For example, Photoshop has no new features.)

Should You Upgrade?

Ultimately, while 5.5 looks to be awesome for anyone doing EPUB and accessible PDF docs, we’re not convinced that all CS5 users will want to upgrade right away. However, if you’re still using CS2, CS3, or CS4, this is definitely a good time to make the jump to Five.

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120 Comments on “InDesign CS 5.5 Announced: New Features, Subscription Pricing

  1. This should have been a free upgrade for CS5 users. I DO NOT see these tablet/epub features as essential to design itself.

    Lastly, I’m an ACE and with faster upgrades it’s making my certification less and less meaningful. Hack, I’m re-certificated for CS5 but my company is stuck in CS4 and likely won’t upgrade for another year or two. Adobe wants to make money but they are pushing end users the wrong direction. They are fast on following Quark’s footstep on delivering questionable products.

    Compatibility will become a big problem soon. We are starting to see text re-flow with older files open up in newer version. Also saving down from latest version can create a problem as “some” newer features are used but gets lost during the save down process.

  2. Am I right in thinking that Photoshop and Illustrator are not being upgraded to an enhanced 5.5 level?

    I wonder if the enhancements to Flash, Dreamweaver, etc. in addition to InDesign are enough to justify an upgrade of the entire suite?

    Will it be cheaper to upgrade from 5.5 to 6 than from 5 to 6?

  3. Price Comparison US/Europe

    Upgrade Price
    It’s $119 US, and in todays conversion rate that’s only ?81.14 – yet the sale price for Europe is ?143.99 (56% more expensive in Europe than in the US)

    Subscription Price
    It’s $49 US for the 1 Month Subscription (which at todays conversion rate is ?33)

    Yet somehow in Europe it’s priced at ?71 a month? (46% more expensive in Europe than the US)

  4. I upgraded to CS5.5, but I don’t see the “highlight object under selection tool” check box under preferences>interface. Am I missing something? I would really like to turn this off.

  5. Nevermind, I figured it out. I had both CS5 and CS5.5 installed and I kept opening the older version. I was finally able to turn off the frame edge highlighting. Yay!

  6. Apparently if you purchased within the last 2-3 months Adobe is going to provide you and update to CS5.5, so yeah for that as far as new users go, they won’t be cheated in anyway. Anyone else unfortunately is out of luck.

    Next I agree that updates to Photoshop and Illustrator would have been a better way to add value to this.

    Price point by the way may be irrelevant to Adobe but not to the end users, and last I check what we want should be what drives the actions of product development and marketing.

  7. I’m interested in improved tagged PDF exporting. We have started turning quote requests down that involve tagged PDFs because they money just isn’t in the work.

    How much of an improvement will there be? Supposedly the changes mentioned above would be great, but are we at the stage yet where we can just simply export the PDF and not spend hours in Adobe Acrobat Pro tweaking? I’ve had so many problems with the beta-style tagging feature in acrobat that it makes me wonder why I’m a graphic designer.

    How well do the tags export? Do only some of the tags export (like in CS5)?

    So basically, my questions is, how much of a difference will it make work when I have to create a tagged pdf full of tables and graphs?

  8. @ Simone

    Tagged PDF support is a HUGE improvement with CS5.5. This is one area that Adobe spent a lot of time working to get right. The reader order of a PDF is now based on the article panel, footnotes, hyperlinks, lists and tables are now tagged correctly.

    Here is a blog post with more information about tags
    http://blogs.adobe.com/vikrant/2011/04/pdf-accessibility-and-indesign-cs5-5/

    If you have a lynda.com subscription, I also have a video on InDesign CS5.5 new features that talks about the tagged PDF improvements.

  9. It seems to me that the new “Break Document at Chapter Style” in the ePub export is actually a BACKWARD step. In CS5 you can break up the ePub into chapters on ANY paragraph style. So, I could use different styles on the title page, introductory chapters, and main chapters, and use these to break the ePub. This DOES NOT work in CS5.5 unless I’m missing something. You get one style to break the document and that’s it. This will force me to use CS5 for ePubs.

  10. hi Edward,

    You’re right, I think it’s a step backward. I don’t think the engineers thoroughly understood how useful it was to leverage the TOC style to chunk up the document.

    No need to go back to CS5 though. There’s a workaround I need to write up asap: Make a small (like 1/2 inch by 1 inch) no-stroke/no-fill frame, and anchor it after the paragraph preceding the new chapter start. Select the frame with the Selection tool and go to Object > Object Export options, turn on Rasterization, and turn on Page Break After Image. Do that before each paragraph you want to break at.

  11. Hi Anne-Marie,

    That sounds like a neat workaround, but I also came up with one of my own about an hour after posting the above. What I am doing is using a “chapter-title” paragraph style to chunk up the chapters; then when I break apart the resulting ePub, I create any extra styles I need and apply them in Dreamweaver. Mostly I only need to do this on the title page of the book. I like to have an inline table of contents as the first page of the eBook, followed by the title page, then all the publisher info I place on it’s own page (chapter) at the back of the book and link to it from the TOC. So, I style the title of the book on the title page with “chapter-title” so it gets chunked. Then later in Dreamweaver I create a new CSS style called “book-title”, apply it to the book’s title, and style it how I want. This approach is working very well for me. I just got finished with four eBooks this weekend using this method and they look great. Thanks again for your Lynda.com videos on using InDesign to create ePubs.

  12. I spent quit much time with locating, documenting and communicating a bug with tables in cs5 which is vital for my work. I was told it has been fixed – thank you mate. However, no patch or whatever has arrived for cs5. Guess i have to buy an upgrade to CS 5.5 to get my fix.

    To me it seems, Adobe becomes the same ignorant behemoth we ditched before – Quark. But technology breaks will come, rendering patent fortifications useless. But please, don’t expect loyality from us.

    Adobe will have to adopt to the market reality. Ad agencies are charging the bare minimum, draining the life from their employees. No more glamour. Freelancers and Photographers can hardly meet their running costs. Just keep thumbs pressed no customer fails to pay.

    Subscription may be a good way but to my impression, it’s way to high for a product that multiplies so easily and most support and workaround for silly bugs are done by the customers base (you guys & girls) itself – for a shiny tag in the forums.

    The Adobe suite is just one of the many licenses one has to hold to keep competitive. Adobe should consider this. Otherwise they may erode their own paying userbase. I wouldnt want to guess how high the license revenues with mostly amateur stock suppliers and asian clipping path squads are.

    cheers
    Since most of the west!european agencies can’t afford to upgrade atm, compatibility not that much of an issue here.

  13. can anyone tell me if there is any way of getting the reader to read “asterisks”, registration marks (®), bullets? or really any other pi symbols. the bullets i refer to we use “n” and use universal pi font.

    thanks.

  14. I’m a self-taught InDesigner, and often get bogged down when new features are added to InDesign. Upgraded to 5.5 a bit ago and don’t have time to sit and play with it to find things. It sounds like y’all are thrilled with this new anchor object thingy; it drives me out of my mind.

    How can I turn it OFF? Every time I type a block of text that stupid blue dot is in the upper-right corner of the text block and inhibits free movement/placement of the text block. I’m sure I’m not using InDesign to its fullest capacity, but I have something due tomorrow and just want to make it stop.

    Thanks!
    Colleen

  15. @Colleen: Wow, you really don’t like it! I’m not sure how it could get in the way, as it’s pretty small. But if you don’t want it there, you can choose View > Extras > Hide Anchored Object Control.

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