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Creative license

Aug 1, 2010 12:00 AM


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Adobe's release of Creative Suite 5 (CS5) largely targets cross-media designers and publishers. Print, while recognized as the primary medium for products like InDesign, is only one of a gallery of media channels that Adobe hopes to dominate. The predominantly cross-media emphasis in CS5's new features should remind printers that there are many business service opportunities besides ink (or toner) on paper.

In addition to Live Preflight (introduced in InDesign CS4), the new version has added some features that will make prepress professionals' lives a bit easier. For example, InDesign CS5 can now automatically install fonts used in a document, when the prepress operator received the native files in a “Package” from the designer.

Many of the new features simplify formerly tedious tasks. For example, unwanted subjects can be removed easily in the new Photoshop, which replaces them with convincing, context-aware background pixels. Illustrator CS5 has added designer-oriented features in the area of painting-like effects and easier perspective drawing, as well as auto-rotation of artboards during printing. There are improvements in the non-print media capabilities of InDesign, including interactive design tools and multiple export options like ePub, XML, Flash Professional and even Dreamweaver.

In the new InDesign, there are a few unmet feature requests from the print community, but these are mainly annoyances, not serious defects. Exporting to print-ready PDF is still not an obvious menu choice (compared with, say, exporting for ePub or Dreamweaver). However, all flavors of PDF/X are supported, and once a desired output is saved as a preset, the inconvenience is minor. Color management is arguably too simplistic, based on generic profiles, with no easy way to insert press- and paper-specific profiles created by printers. Adobe has come a long way in this area, but we'd like to see the same attention paid to streamlining color management as was paid to the excellent Live Preflight feature introduced in CS4.

New: multiple page sizes

There is one new InDesign CS5 feature that will appeal to designers, but potentially give printers heartburn. Designers can now insert different-sized pages in the same layout. For multi-document projects (e.g., flyers, posters and mailers for a single campaign), the inconvenience is minor. However, when the feature is used to create exceptions to a typical page, such as gatefolds, there will be more hurdles on the prepress side.

Designers are sure to experiment with odd-sized pages, but it's almost certain this will create some prepress chaos in the short term. Users are not forced to create such pages in ways that conform to imposition realities. It is possible, for example, to create an oversize foldout page that is backed up by an ordinary page. There are also at least two ways to create gatefolds, one of which — adding panels rather than enlarging the page — was described by one imposition vendor as “a nightmare for printers.”

Adobe maintains that if printers create (and designers use) a preflight profile flagging documents with different page sizes, then potential prepress issues can be avoided. This assumes that both designers and printers are being proactive on workflow issues, which is not reliably the case. The print dialog also has some safeguards, since it allows the designer to preview how different sized pages will appear on a chosen output page size. However, this assumes that the designer will pay attention to the thumbnail preview. Also, the feature does not exist in the Export PDF process.

We did reach out to the major imposition system vendors, who were all confident their products could handle this new paradigm. However, given the freedom InDesign CS5 gives to designers — who may lack the understanding of prepress complexities — it is likely that we'll be sorting through a series of potentially costly workarounds in the short term.

Beyond print

Despite these caveats, the CS5 incarnations of InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop will work well for print service providers. Most of the major prepress/premedia issues were resolved in CS3 or CS4, and able partners like Enfocus, Markzware, et al., will continue to fill in the print workflow gaps. The real question is whether printers will use Adobe's evolving tool set as an indicator of future business opportunities outside print.

This is not to say that printers should consider offering video effects or Flash animation services — at least, not right away. But the enhanced interoperability of Adobe applications points to an approach that printers should include in their long-term plans. One easy first step can be found in the new “CS Review” online service. Although it is designed to facilitate creative review, there is no reason why proactive service providers should not be included. For example, a printer could use CS Review to facilitate the process of making last-minute changes.

Other service opportunities include CS5's increasing connectivity with open standards, including JDF and ePub, and open-source content management systems like Drupal and Joomla. This ultimately means that service offerings will expand into digital editions, Web development and e-mail marketing in addition to a lean digital print workflow. In the pursuit of sustainable business — or just plain survival — there may not be a choice for many companies to remain print-only service providers.


John Parsons is an independent consultant and the principal of Byte Media Strategies LLC. Contact him at john@bytemedianews.com.

Seeing is believing

Adobe's “Johnny L.” is your host for this entertaining online presentation of CS5 web, video and interactive highlights. Terry White provides the inside scoop for graphic designers.

See http://cs5launch.adobe.com.

Multiple sizes with mixed potential

InDesign CS5 now supports multiple page sizes within the same document. Gatefolds, for example, can be created by adding a slightly narrower page, or by making the gatefold page wider. Ensuring that such pages are correctly backed up is a manual process, however, and the response from imposition software vendors is mixed. See www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/design.

Flash points in 140 characters or less

Apple's lack of Flash support has been a trending Twitter topic:

  • RT @PCWorld Apple's iPad and the Flash clash
  • RT @PCMag Adobe defends Flash, calls Apple uncooperative
  • RT @cnet Adobe Flash evangelist: “Go screw yourself Apple”