Things You Can’t Do in InDesign
Maybe it was that lunar eclipse we had a couple of days ago, but suddenly we’re getting bombarded with emails asking whether such-and-such is possible in InDesign, and the answer is usually “Sorry, no.” I mean, InDesign can do a lot of stuff — plenty of things that you might not expect it to do — but it can’t do everything. But I feel compelled to write a short list of features that InDesign does not have. This is not to embarass anyone or cause consternation about InDesign, but rather just so that people searching for this information on the Web will find it… even though the answer isn’t what they had hoped for.
Of course, with many of these, the more full answer is: “Well, it doesn’t right now, but it might in the next version, and there may be a way to do this with a script or plug-in.” Please note that if you want InDesign to do some of these, feel free to visit Adobe’s Contact Us page, click Feedback, and send an email to the InDesign team. They really do read those emails!
Given those caveats, here is the list of things we’ve been asked about within the last week that ID currently doesn’t do:
[Updated in 2009… added “cs4” for some features added in that version.]
- You can’t set the indent of text outside the left or right sides of a text frame. Tables can stretch outside the edge of a frame, but not regular indents, so you cannot have a negative First Line Indent that pulls the text past the edge of the box.
- You cannot snap one object to another obect, as you can in some other programs (e.g. Illustrator); objects only snap to guides. [CS4]
- InDesign can’t “see” the blending modes in a layered Photoshop document. That is, if you set a layer to Multiply or Screen in Photoshop and then import that PSD into InDesign, the blending mode will have no effect on objects on your InDesign page. The whole Photoshop file gets the same blending mode treatment.
- There’s no way to show the baseline grid of an individual frame but not the baseline grid for the rest of the document. Baseline grids are either all visible, or all off.
- No, you can’t keep the same data in InDesign and in Dreamweaver and keep them in synch automatically (so that when you make a change in one, the other changes, too). You could keep your data in XML and then import it into ID and DW, but that’s more trouble than it’s worth (in my opinion) unless you’re going to update it quite often.
- Vertical alignment (such as vertical centering or vertical justification) gets turned off when your frame is no longer rectangular or when text wrap forces the flow to be non-rectangular. There are some workarounds, but ultimately it’s still a pain.
- No, workspaces (Window > Workspace > Save Workspace) don’t remember the size of your document window or the application window. So you can’t select a workspace that stretches your application window across two monitors automatically, for example.
- You cannot apply an object style to all the objects in a thread of frames across multiple pages. You can only apply an object style to something you click on. This would be a great one for a script, though.
- No, Print Booklet (which replaced InBooklet SE) cannot create a new already-imposed InDesign document. It only imposes documents in the print stream. Here’s more on that subject.
Okay, since I have started down this road, I might as well add some more. Here’s a list of things that InDesign doesn’t do that QuarkXPress 7 does (this list is not comprehensive… just a few things that come to mind):
- Specify and separate to Hexachrome inks
- Let’s QX remember which folders you want to use for documents, images, etc.
- Split a window into more than one view [CS4]
- Compare two or more styles/colors/H&Js against each other to see how they’re different
- Use character styles in building a “list” (table of contents)
- Automatically add page while you’re editing or typing text
- Let an image break out of its frame (it splits clipping and cropping into two different things)
- Base paragraph styles on character styles
- Custom kerning & tracking
- Jabberwocky (more versatile than fill with placeholder text)
- Specify screen resolution so at 100% the screen rulers match the “real world”
- Can turn on/off XTensions/plug-ins upon launching
- Rotate text to arbitrary angle in table cells or text frames
- Auto Save/Auto Backup
- Objects can snap to guides when guides are hidden
- Rectangular and oval blends (gradients)
- Save H&Js in a style (creating named H&J settings)
- Rule Above/Below can be set using percentage (not just absolute value); a side effect of this is that paragraph rules can be made to disappear at the top or bottom of a column, which is often useful.
- Changing from one master page to another respects automatic text flow boxes (text box size updates automatically when new master is applied)
- It’s visually obvious when you’re viewing a master page
- Can make text box opaque when editing text
- Layout spaces (combining documents into single file)
- Synchronized text
- Undo popup menus (specify how far to undo/redo)
- Option to take drop shadow into account in text wrap
- Ability to change transparency/opacity everywhere you specify a color
- Picture Effects: Ability to apply global adjustments to pictures on the document page (such as Levels, Curves, Gaussian Blur, Hue/Saturation, etc.)
- Ability to apply those same picture effects to an image’s alpha channel (transparency mask) separately
- If an imported TIFF/PSD contains more than one alpha channel, you can choose which one you want to use as the transparency mask after you import the image. (You can only do this at import time in ID, as far as I know.)
- Append feature lets you move layouts from one document to another without opening the original file.
- Lock Content: QX can lock the content of a frame (or lock its position, or both)
Now, before you go ballistic on me and call me a traitor to InDesign or something, remember this: Just because QX has features that ID lacks doesn’t mean that I’m saying QX is a better product. Obviously (to anyone who really compares them carefully), ID is still the far better package. But I do want some of those features in InDesign, and Adobe can learn from Quark’s innovation (just as Quark has learned from Adobe over the years).
Of course, now I’m deep into writing this, and I’m suddenly taken with an urge to include even more features that InDesign doesn’t yet do, but which I’m hoping to see in CS4.
- Form fields (checkboxes, text entry fields, menus, and so on) for PDF forms
- Cross-references (“see page XX”). This is covered by plug-ins and scripts, but it’d be nice to see it in a future version. [CS4]
- I wish I could import annotations from PDF or FDF files so I could see them in InDesign! (Someone wrote a great little AppleScript a couple years ago at The InDesign Conference to do this, but it was necessarily clunky. Recosoft’s PDF2ID also lets you convert annotations from a PDF file into InDesign objects — very cool — but not yet bring them into the original document.)
- Tool Presets (as in Photoshop; e.g. set up different eyedropper presets, each of which pick up a different thing; or perhaps creating frame tools that automatically let you apply a predefined object style)
- Kuler color selections (as in Illustrator CS3) [CS4]
- a knowhow panel (as in Illustrator)
- Export AI/PSD files, with layers intact (or ensure that AI and Pshop CS4 opens PDF honoring layers)
- Outline mode in Story Editor and InCopy (similar to Word’s outline mode)
- “Span columns” attribute for text (so a heading can span across two or more columns in a frame)
- Make Control panel customizable (palette well, buttons, menu items, etc). That is, really let me put anything in the Control panel, move stuff around, and so on.
- Export PDF as grayscale (just add grayscale profile into destination profile list)
- The ability to map font styles to specific fonts. For example, what should happen when I apply “Bold” to Franklin Condensed? Should I get Medium or Demi? This also relates to the story editor: I want the semi-bold to show as bold in story editor.
- Import of JPEG2000 images. This is demonstrably a better file format that JPEG. Adobe should embrace it more fully by letting us import it into ID.
- A Loupe tool, just like the one in Acrobat
- Repeat last text formatting KBSC. (Apply last style, font, size, etc… apply last sequence of formatting…)
- I’d like the Book palette to display total number of pages in the book. (Intro chapters are in roman numerals, then chapter 1 starts on page 1, so trying to figure out the total number of pages requires keeping a calculator open.)
- Use em units for type settings (like indents)
Oh my… I just found an old document on my hard drive with about 65 other wish-list items for InDesign that still haven’t made their way into the product. I think I’d better just stop here…
Well, this post started as a “by the way, you can’t do these things,” and ended as a “I hope to see it in CS4.” But I hope someone searching the Web will find solace in an answer found here; even a “negativo, good buddy,” is better than the limbo of “I don’t know.”
Feel free to reply (below) with other features you wish ID had. Of course, as I said earlier, the best way to make sure Adobe sees your idea is to send them feedback directly. Happy InDesigning!