Over the past several years, there has been a big divide between designers: those who work in print distribution and those in digital distribution. The irony is that, despite the disputes, name-calling and flat-out arguments between the two camps, their techniques and methods are far more common than many believe. Both sides of this communications field are heavily influenced by each other. Grid systems and typography now play a strong role in Web-based design, and usability and user experience play a big part in developing print material.
Adobe InDesign is the primary application of print designers for laying out multiple pages and assembling print documents. This article gives you, the Web-based developer, a look at some of the tools in InDesign that translate directly into what you currently use. We’ll look at how the terminology in the two fields compare and how to apply your expertise to this other industry.
Jumping Right In
As with any Web development project, organizing from the start ensures that you will have minimal problems with the files later on. Similar to many website root folders, InDesign gives you a main document folder and a resources folder:
Above on the left is my folder structure for InDesign, and on the right the folder structure for my website. They are so similar that, if not for the different file extensions (.indd and .html), they would be practically the same.
Setting Up the Document
Setting up an InDesign document is similar to setting up a mobile website. You specify the height, width and purpose of the document. For print-based items, set the "Intent” to "Print.” If you will be using the file for an eBook or digital publication, then specify "Web.” If you will be using the document for both, then specify "Print” to ensure that the colors are maintained properly.
The margins in InDesign are guidelines that are positioned on the page and are not like Web margins that affect objects on the page.
Your Main Tools
If you’re familiar with Photoshop and Illustrator, then you are used to finding the main group of tools on the left side of the workspace, at least by default. InDesign is the same. The way you interact with and build objects on the page, though, works slightly different than Adobe’s other design software. Containers are needed in order to place images, vector objects and textual content on the page.
You can import vector objects directly into the document, but you will usually be importing files into content boxes that you position in the layout. This should come easily to you because Web design operates on the same principle: creating DOMs that contain images or text, and then positioning them in the layout. The one major difference is that, while objects are positioned in a Web document relative to their structure (unless otherwise styled), objects on an InDesign layout are always given an x and y position based on the overall page (by default, the top-left corner, similar to absolute positioning).
Because we are working with a vector- and object-based layout, one of the main tools you will use for the majority of your editing is the Selection tool , which gives you control of position and size. It also is used to select an object in order to change its properties. This is quite different from Photoshop, in which you edit individual layers. To change the color of an object, you need to select it first using the Selection tool, and then adjust it using one of the various ways to change color.
These content boxes can be created with various tools. The Type tool enables you to create a box for text. The Rectangle Frame tool creates a box to add an image or linked resource. The Rectangle tool is not assigned to any particular kind of content. These three frame types allow you to build the layout any way you want.
In spite of both the Rectangle and Rectangle Frame tools, many designers who were trained on older software use only the Frame tool. The one difference between them is that the Frame tool shows a placeholder (an x). The Rectangle tool merely allows for a cleaner workspace but does not affect the final output.
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