Adobe InDesign CS One-on-One by Deke McClelland ISBN: 0-596-00736-1

Reviewed by: Gretchen Wieshuber, February 2005
Published by: Deke Press/O’Reilly, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 98, 98SE, Me, 2000 Professional, XP Home and XP Pro; 200MB of available hard disk space, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or later, DVD or CD drive
MSRP: $44.95 US, $65.95 CA, £29.95 UK

Deke McClelland is back with another installment in the “One-on-One” series. His previous book helped to trained image warriors in the use of Photoshop CS. This time around, Deke will create an army of layout wizards and type nerds. After all, once you've learned the difference between a hyphen and an em dash, there is no going back.

This is a comprehensive and detailed tome that at first glance will be daunting to a casual user. Do not fear, because it is divided into clearly defined lessons, each containing several easily completed exercises. Despite the need for the occasional tedious explanation, Deke’s breezy, witty writing style makes it a pleasure to read. The text is interspersed with pearls of wisdom and lavish illustrations. More lengthy background material is handled in sidebars. Each lesson starts with an overview video on the accompanying CD. The book is aimed at three audiences: independent graphic designers, students, and instructors. Exercises are written clearly enough for beginners to follow, but trust me, even a pro will learn something new.

Lesson 1 is titled Starting a Document, and what better place to begin? Quark and PageMaker users and their documents will be gently converted to the “tool of the future.” Then you'll learn how to create a new document and modify it on the fly. Margins, columns, guides and basic designer jargon is covered. You'll be introduced to the InDesign workspace and palettes.

In Lesson 2, “Creating and Flowing Text,” you'll learn about the mechanics of InDesign’s basic building block, frames. Flow text into a frame, modify the frame, add threaded frames, try putting text into odd shapes and on paths. The story editor and spell checker are introduced.

“While a skilled writer can pack a string of words with nuance, emotion, and meaning,” writes Deke, “a skilled designer can take those words and amplify their effect through careful use of font, size, and color.” Lesson 3 is a brief, though sweeping, lesson in typography. InDesign advances beyond any of its predecessors in the amount of typographic control available. Coupled with OpenType fonts, InDesign allows the most pleasing and typographically correct text formatting ever. Topics covered are: fonts, size, color, leading, kerning, tracking, paragraph spacing and alignment, hyphenation and composition, glyphs and special characters.

For truly legible presentation of information, lists and tables are indispensable. Lesson 4 explains drop caps, hanging indents, and how to set tab stops. If that is not sufficient, InDesign can convert tabbed text to a full-fledged table. The cell options and previously mentioned typographic control make these tables a sight to behold, not like the clunky Excel tables you're used to.

For a designer, part of the real power of computer-based layout is the ability to use style sheets. We tackle those in Lesson 5. The first exercise is to create a new paragraph style. Deke explains all the options for each style, how to modify them, and how to make new styles based on existing styles. Next he explains the related tool and character styles. InDesign allows a cool combination of paragraph and character styles called “nested styles.”

“What knocks my socks off, tosses them in the oven, and bakes them at 450 degrees,” says Deke, "[are] the surprisingly capable drawing tools and attention to graphics within InDesign." The exercises in Lesson 6 start with drawing simple shapes and progress through fill, stroke, color, gradients, and alignment of objects. Illustrator users will be familiar with the compound path and pathfinder operations that are now part of InDesign. Are my socks done yet?

Nevertheless, you will still need to import graphics and any images that are bitmapped. Lesson 7 covers the formats supported and the anatomy of linking. Once your image is imported, you will learn to crop and scale it, then rotate, skew and flip it. Next comes an exercise in wrapping text around graphics. The chapter finishes with an exercise on inline graphics.

Another outrageously great feature of InDesign is the introduction of transparency. As always, Deke is no slouch when it comes to explaining the technical foundation of such wondrous effects. Having the geek perspective will help you execute the features without a lot of fuss. Personally, I have had some trouble with transparency printing correctly, so I need to reread this chapter. Drop shadows and feathers are part of transparency, and explained here in another comprehensive exercise.

Lesson 9 is all about XML. If you'd like to automate page layout even more, pay attention here. Lesson 10 explains how to assemble multiple documents into a book. Lesson 11 is for creators of PDF documents who can now add interactivity. Hyperlinks, buttons and even multimedia can be included in the PDF format. Printing is the subject of Lesson 12. A little background on process colors, dot screens, trapping and overprinting will help you get good results on press.

A few words on the companion CD. It includes training videos for each lesson, all the documents you need to complete the exercises, and a few extras such as Deke’s Keys custom keyboard shortcuts.

InDesign is poised to become the leading layout application in the design world. Though the straightforward and dry manual has its place, I much preferred the personal style of Deke McClelland for getting to know InDesign.

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