5 Things I Would Magically Change About Adobe Indesign

December 19, 2018 - 12:00pm
Michael Streubert

I want to get this out of the way— Adobe Indesign is a great program which I depend on daily. It’s the industry standard for page design, and for good reason: it’s reliable, easy to use, and incredibly robust in the features department.

But I’m a world class complainer who can find fault in anything, so I thought I’d make this my new blog series: Michael Complains about (Design Program). All of the following items are minor issues I would love to see “fixed.”

1. Controlling Columns Inside a Text Box

Over time I’ve made a habit of creating paragraph styles for anything text heavy and forcing myself to use fewer text boxes to make global adjustments less problematic. While I’ve learned to pull-off some complex styles, I’ve always felt let down by having columns controlled by Text Box options and not paragraph styles, forcing me to make extra text boxes just to control columns.

The fine-tuning of column spacing is lacking, and I’m unable to have a single text box with multiple column values (1 column for a header, 2 columns for copy, 3+ columns for bullet points). Overall columns inside text boxes feel clunky.

2. Allow Document Pages to Shuffle

This is an issue I have with the program’s “Pages” palette—specifically, the setting used to move pages around when you’re building a document with multiple pages on a single sheet. By default, the program will not let you build more than 2 pages on a single sheet (commonly called a “spread”).

But what if I wanted to create a 3 or 4 panel brochure? In the past, Designers would have to create one large document page and generate their own ruler guides to divide up their pages. Why can’t I just move all those pages together? Surely there must be a setting for that? Let’s check the options:

Well, that’s what I want to do, shuffle pages right…. Why won’t it let me drag them together? Oh, you have to turn “Allow Document Pages to Shuffle” off? That makes sense.

It’s cool that this feature exists, but it seems confusing the way it’s labeled, and why have it turn on or off anyway? The interface already lets you decide to connect them or not once you uncheck the option—just leave it always unchecked, Adobe.

3. Anchor Images and Text Wrap

This one is pretty simple and just might be a bug, but it annoys me semi-regularly. Imagine a series of paragraphs with an image forcing a text wrap. Maybe a CEO’s bio (envision a titan of industry) whose headshot introduces the text.

Fairly standard. But we want this photo to stick to this section of copy in case things get moved around. The obvious answer would be to anchor the photo to the text:

Alas, as soon as you anchor the photo, the first line of text ignores the text wrap and some of the characters go under the photo. The workaround is to paste the image into the text box, but then you lose quite a bit of the styling control.

4. Selecting/Pasting Paragraphs removes hard-returns, and thereby paragraph styles.

Okay, that title is really confusing so best to show you in 3 images.

Here we have a standard header style and a body copy style. I’ve toggled hidden characters so you can see the hard return at the end of the header.

We’ve been conditioned that putting our cursor over text and clicking on our mouse twice will select a word, 3 times will select the line, and 4 times will select the entire paragraph.

The problem arises that the 4th click also selects the hard return. If I’m quickly replacing this copy from a text document/email/PDF, the header style is removed and replaced with the style below it.

This is annoying—even though it only wastes a few seconds every time I want to paste. Muscle memory has taught me to click 4-times and paste, but instead I must carefully highlight only the words in my header, not the line break. Not cool, Adobe.


5. Steal “Symbols” from Sketch, Please!

Okay, this isn’t a broken feature, just a huge missed opportunity. If you’ve never used the software Sketch, you’re missing out on the biggest innovations in design software since linking source files. Symbols are basically the concept of master pages scaled down to the individual element level.

Here’s a very basic symbol from a sketch, a learn more button.

Pretend I’ve used a similar asset throughout a long report. Someone comes along and decides they want that asset to be red instead of blue. That would require me to go through every page and manually change each instance of that asset. If it was a symbol, I would make the change once and it would be updated globally. That’s a basic example, but as a frequent user of Sketch, it’s almost daily where I look at my Indesign workflow and think “man, what am I doing with my life?” Then I think “I wish that asset could have been a symbol.”

In conclusion, yes, I’m being nitpicky. Adobe makes a great product, and I’d probably cry if I had to use any other software for page layout. I’d cry myself to sleep (even more often than I already do). I had to dig pretty deep to find something that bothers me about InDesign, but as John Milton used to say, “Write what you know.”

Do you have any strong grievances toward InDesign you’d like to get off your chest? Some small quirk that crushes your soul just a little bit every time you encounter it? Catharsis all around!

If nothing comes to mind, but you’d like to read more insights on software from our other designers, here are some quick links:

InDesign’s “Paste Into”: 5 Uses for an Often Overlooked Feature

For the Design of Type

Kick some .ASEs: Delivering Thorough Assets to Build a Better Brand

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