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CS6 is the Tenth Release of InDesign.
What's New? Here's My Top Ten.

InDesign CS6 program iconIt's that time again. Adobe has moved the upgrade cycle to 12 months for new releases and CS6 is here.

So, what's new? Well, quite a bit, actually, and a good deal of it is going to take some getting use to. From the content collector tools to the new alternate layout features there's quite a bit to like especially if you create electronic content for multiple devices.

But there's features here for the traditional designer as well, including one the longest running feature requests I can think of (it's first on the list below). Read on by clicking the topics below.

Forms Designers Rejoice. Your Pleas Have Been Heard.

Until now, InDesign could only be used to design a PDF form. That is, you could layout out all the static content and indicate where you wanted a form field but there was no way to add the actual form fields to the PDF without exporting the layout from InDesign to PDF and then using Acrobat to finish up.

Granted, the Acrobat engineers have done a great job with form field recognition tools but there's always quite a bit of clean up to do.

With CS6, most of that work can be done right within InDesign. The Buttons panel has been renamed as the Buttons and Forms Panel. Additionally, Adobe has included some sample form fields for you to experiment with.

The button and forms tools

While this won't replace LiveCycle, it should more than suffice for the majority of users but Acrobat Pro will still be required to enable Adobe Reader rights.

Big Time Saver for Digital Publishing

In CS5 and CS5.5 InDesign users that wanted to include interactive features such as Twitter feeds or Google Maps in their iPad apps needed to create a new HTML page, copy and paste any code from the desired site and then save it, along with any needed CSS or Javascript in it's own folder.

Once that was done, the Web Content Overlay was used to link to an empty frame which had to be manually sized to the proper pixel dimension.

In CS6 most of that is not necessary. While the start is the same, visit the site (in this example, Twitter) and copy the code snippet, the next step is to simply paste it into InDesign.

Grab the code

It will automatically be seen as HTML and InDesign will create the proper size frame and create a poster image. You can even edit the snippet in InDesign by right clicking the frame and choosing Edit HTML.

And paste



Multiple Layouts in One Document.

The iPad has spawned a host of competing tablets such as the Nook Color and Kindle Fire as well as numerous Android models. Those tablets all have varying sizes and resolutions. Prior to CS6 every layout, horizontal and vertical for every tablet had to be created as a separate InDesign file.

While it may be functional, it creates a lot of extra work trying to keep track of each layout. With CS6, a pair of new features makes this process a lot easier. The first is alternate layouts.

As the name implies, you can now create new layouts based on an existing one all within one file. This is done from the Pages panel as shown below.

create an alternate layout

A dialog will display asking you for the specifics of the new layout:

Create alternate layout dialog box

We'll talk about Liquid Page Rules in a bit, but Link Stories allows you to keep the content synchronized between layouts. Copy Text Styles to New Style Group creates a new style group with the same names allowing for simple redefinition of styles on a layout basis. Finally Smart Text Reflow allows new pages to be created if text is overset.

Once you're done, you can easily rearrange the layouts in the pages panel by dragging them into place.

Rearrange alt layouts in pages panel

Liquid layouts were first demonstrated at Adobe MAX in October 2011 as "future technology." I like to refer to liquid layouts as layout adjustment on steroids. With proper planning (and I can't possibly stress that enough) liquid layout allow you to change the layout of a page and have any of the following occur:

  • Graphics resize or recrop, move or stay pinned to any portion of a page
  • Text frames resize and / or columns added or deleted.

These are powerful features but as mentioned they require planning to make them work properly.


Take Advantage of Advanced EPUB Features

Like the web, EPUB is constantly evolving and Adobe is moving InDesign forward as quickly as it can. CS6 introduces EPUB3 capability, including support for video and audio tags, but with the caveat that not all devices are ready for that format.

EPUB export

A little advice is in order here. If you plan on getting involved in EPUB, do yourself a favor and learn as much about HTML and CSS as you can.

Change Column Widths on the Fly

Even though InDesign text frames have allowed for multiple columns, for many users, multiple column layouts has meant using multiple text frames. This was done to allow flexibility in the layout.

Adobe has been improving the text frame with each release of InDesign. With the last few releases they've added split/span column features and now new to CS6 is flexible column widths. This will come in particularly handy with the use of liquid layout rules in alternate layouts.

For instance, a layout could change dramatically between a portrait and landscape page. The portrait page may only need a single column but when stretched to fit a landscape page the need for multiple columns may arise.

With flexible column widths, the number, and width of the columns is determined by the size of the frame.

Flexible text frame options

Adding to the new and improved Text Frame Options is Auto-Size. This new feature allows text frames to expand or contract based on the amount of text contained in the frame. Like anything else that does things automatically, be careful.

If your layout calls for text in a fixed area, you won't want to use this but if the project calls for something more flexible this is time saver. As you can see from the screenshot below, you can choose what directions the frame will will expand by.

This feature is off by default.

Auto size text frames


A Clipboard on Steroids

Imagine being able to copy a bunch of items to the clipboard and then selectively paste them in the current document as well as any other document. Now, add to that the ability to link the pasted objects to the original so that any change to the original will cause an out of date ornament on the frame of the pasted object. That in itself would be really cool but now lets add the ability to map any text styles involved. So you could map any style to the style of the document it's being placed into.

Sound good? That's what the new Content Collector and Content Placer Tools do.

The tools, like all others are found in the tool box

Content Collector tools

When you select the tool a new feature called the conveyor will appear on the bottom of your screen. Here you'll see any content that you've collected. Switch to the Content Placer and you'll be able to choose whether to link or map styles.


This sounds a lot more convoluted than it is. Once you've used it a few times it's fairly straightforward.

With CS5 and CS5.5, packaging an InDesign file used with Digital Publishing Suite did not include any assets specific to overlays such as panoramas or audio controller images.. With CS6 the File > Package command will create a folder for those assets called Overlay Assets.

Overlay Assets folder

In Illustrator you can choose a key object to align to. That is, an object which won't move and will be the basis for aligning other selected objects. This is now possible in InDesign.

From the dropdown in the Align Panel or the Control Panel choose Align to Key Object and select the object to use. That object will be highlighted and will be remain locked for the alignment.

Align to Key Object

"Backsave" to CS4 and later

One the big complaints I hear about InDesign is its inability to save back to earlier versions. In truth, this is an issue for all page layout applications.

From CS2 through CS4 you could save back one version by exporting to INX. Beginning with CS5 that was done by exporting to IDML. The beauty of IDML became more apparent with the release of CS5.5 which is able to save back not only to CS5 but to CS4 as well.

With CS6 InDesign users can still save all the way back to CS4 but the procedure is different. Instead of using the file > export menu, there is now an InDesign CS4 or later (IDML) choice in the Save As dialog.

Save as IDML

Caution must be used. The problems with saving back—loss of new features, text reflow, mangled features—have not changed and in fact, this is still very much a file export, not a file save, as pointed out by the information in the bottom of the dialog. That highlighting is mine and I suspect some users will miss it.

The above are some of my favorite new features but what about those little things and nagging issues AKA bugs? Here's a quick look:

Named Ranges in XLSX Files

InDesign CS6 recognizes named ranges in Excel files when placing tables. This hasn't worked for the last few versions.

Keeps with Span/Split Columns

They just didn't work in CS5/CS5.5. In CS6 they do.

Export Interactive PDF as Pages

This oversight in CS5/CS5.5 which forced interactive PDFs to be exported as spreads has been fixed. You can now choose pages or spreads.

Split Layout

With on click you can split the view on your screen. Nice for comparing two alternate layouts.

Recent Font List

It's been a part of many other applications for many years. Finally, in CS6 you can see recently used fonts at the top of the list in the character and control panels.

Grayscale Export

Export PDFs to grayscale. No need to convert in Acrobat.

Hunspell Dictionaries are Default

Support was added in CS5.5 and now this open source dictionary is the default format.

Placeholder Text Choices

When inserting placeholder text, hold down the ctrl or cmd key and you'll bee given a choice of languages including several right to left languages.

Title Case Labels

Those horrible all caps panel labels are gone.

Calculations in Fields

In the past if you wanted to do a calculation in say, the width field you were limited to one simple calculation such as 1.2 mm + 1.7 mm. You can now perform more complex calculations.

Export to PNG

Choose from document, selection or page range and maintain transparency.

Actual Size is Actual Size

Until now actual size was meaningless on screen. CS6 does a much better job of sensing screen resolution.

Convinced? You can order from the widgets to the left or click the following links to visit Amazon.com or Adobe.com.