Why I wrote the “new features” piece

My last post on Colecandoo was in a style that I’d not used since the site’s inception – a parody piece. If you’ve not read the post, I’d encourage you to read it now and then come back to this article. In short, the article featured new InDesign features that simply weren’t in the 2024 release, but were realistic features that hopefully one day will be implemented.

So why depart from the usual article format for what some might see as an April Fool’s day prank? Well, my original plan was to write a complaint piece about InDesign’s lack of new features, but that piece has been written on this blog before… many times. Regular readers of Colecandoo would see the article’s headline and then think “Colin’s complaining that his latte doesn’t have chocolate on top again”, stop reading at that point and give the issue no further thought.

Instead, I decided to turn my frown upside-down and write a satirical piece containing features that InDesign could have reasonably had added to it, and these came to me during a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Context behind the article

October 2023 saw me fly to the City of Angels to attend the Adobe MAX conference, where the key takeaways were “Firefly” (Adobe’s artificial intelligence (AI) software) and “Express” ( Adobe’s online portal for basic level design, similar to Canva).

From the keynote presentation, the applications that would most benefit from Firefly were Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere. However, instead of announcing any Firefly features for InDesign, there was a noticeable pivot during the keynote from print media to screen media, as the speaker turned the conversation to Premiere.

Fast forward to the start of the last day to the session “What’s New in InDesign”, obviously something that I felt was worthwhile attending.

Now, keep in mind the title of this session: “What’s New in InDesign” – not “what’s great in InDesign” or “things you may have missed in InDesign” – it’s “What’s New in InDesign”. That said, the session began – as expected – with the biggest takeaway first – the auto style pack updates, and to their credit this will be a great feature going forward.

However, not long after this point in the demonstration, the audience was then shown several older techniques which – to me – felt like they were being “dressed up as new tips”. Some of these techniques were:

  • GREP search (introduced 2007)
  • Gridify (introduced 2010)
  • Object States (introduced 2010)
  • Publish Online (introduced 2016)
  • Content Aware Fit (introduced 2018)
  • Text Wrap Select Subject (introduced 2020)
  • Share for Review (introduced 2020, though an earlier iteration known as CS Review was introduced in 2010 and then discontinued 2012)

Out of the two speakers, only one revealed much later in the piece that some of the items they showed in the session had been there in previous versions… but some features such as GREP have been there since 2007. If I tried to buy a new car but only to find out it was nearly fifteen years old, I’d be rightfully annoyed and deceived.

At the end of the session when it was time for audience questions, everyone was thanked for their attendance and the session ended without any wider audience participation or questions from the audience – which at the start of the session the speakers had announced they would take.

For the record, here are the 2024 features as listed by Adobe’s own website and forum page:

  • Auto Style multiple text frames, create and manage Style Packs
  • Search text and customize analytics in published documents
  • File name suffix in JPEG and PNG exports
  • Hide spreads in the pages palette
  • Harfbuzz as the default shaping engine under World Ready Composer

While Auto style was introduced in 2023, this release increased the amount of pre-baked style packs available; ability to style multiple text frames at once; and the ability to make style packs from scratch.

With this context now provided, let me further elaborate:

Please treat the audience with the respect they deserve

By showing older techniques and technology as part of a session to show new features of InDesign, it misleads the audience to think that these features are part of the new roll-out of features when they weren’t; and insults the intelligence of users familiar with the product. There were other sessions during the conference aimed at beginner users of InDesign by great trainers (and full disclosure Creative Pro collaborators and friends of mine) that provided these existing tips (and many others) as part of their sessions.

In my opinion, this wasn’t the InDesign Team’s best it could do

MAX is the time for the Adobe software teams to showcase their latest developments. Think of it as if MAX was the science fair in high school: Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere would be the ones putting on the thought out, well presented demonstrations and getting A grades, while InDesign would have a black and white print out of several Wikipedia pages and receiving a C- with comments from the teacher such as “don’t just repeat what you handed up in class”, “I’ve seen Youtube Reaction channels like xQc or Asmongold put in more effort” or “is this really the best you’ve got?”

The 2024 release of InDesign lacked imagination

The parody article was not only my way of venting my frustration about the Adobe InDesign team’s lack of new features or innovation, but a way of highlighting that there is still plenty of room for improvement in InDesign, if only a like-minded team of motivated individuals who also used the software as their “daily driver” had control.

Could the team borrow incentives from other large companies?

One motivation seen in operational security is that of bug bounties – rewards or incentives to squashing bugs, exploits, vulnerabilities and issues whether known or unknown. Apple are known for their bug bounty program and I wonder whether if the development team had similar bounties to be the first to fix known errors in the software.

The InDesign Uservoice needs curation and consolidation

I’ve been told in person by the InDesign developers that the InDesign uservoice site not only notifies the team of bugs to squash, but is also a source of inspiration for new features. However, this site needs curation to make sure that the same amount of attention is given to both bugs and feature requests; and that “stray” or “branching” requests be curated or consolidated better.

To demonstrate this point, a long standing bug is that text variables/live captions can’t break over many lines like regular text, but instead squish up to fill the line they are on. While at  the Adobe InDesign booth in the sales hall, I was able to successfully replicate the fault in the 2024 release. To their credit, the staff member noticed this and said that he would take this up with the developers.

Now, this bug has persisted since the inception of any text variables, yet alone live captions. However, I did then point the staff member to the Indesign uservoice site but could not find the issue under “Live Caption”… however when I returned to my hotel room and did a more detailed search of the uservoice page, I found that the issue had indeed been documented AND (at the time of writing) had over 485 requests for this to be fixed.

Another known bug difficult to find in the uservoice concerns text wrap on an anchored object not wrapping on the line of the anchor or above – again this has been around for a while, but on the uservoice is in several spots; rather amalgamated into one issue, though this post had the most votes.

The InDesign Uservoice needs to reopen some “closed” items

There is also the issue of staff marking issues as closed when the reality is these issues persist. An example is the make more options when creating forms which has been closed. This is clearly not the case as there are DOZENS of improvements to get the buttons and forms panel to even come close to the Adobe Acrobat prepare form panel, yet alone the innovations from Adobe’s Bart van de Wiele’s article Elevate your forms to the next level with InDesign + Acrobat Sign.

Another issue which arose was the ability to name pages. Again, it has been closed without properly fulfilling the requests of posters. Similarly was the closed post that called for the addition for latest fogra profiles – this is a mere act of maintenance.

Are my requests a form of fan entitlement?

For me, InDesign is the tool that I use on a daily basis to create products that my clients request. Just like any other tools I’d use in other facets of my life, I make sure that I know how to use tools properly, make sure they’re honed and maintained to get the best out of them, and report faults or potential improvements back to the manufacturer. Without criticism or scrutiny, how will manufacturers know that their user-base wants them to improve?

Continual improvement is something that every manufacturer aims for so that people purchase enhanced or improved models. For example, Apple would never say “The iPhone 15 is the best its going to be and that’s all we’re going to make from now on” – no, they are always looking for innovations and new ideas to be ahead of their competitors.

I’m actually trying to change hearts and minds here

It has been at least 20 years since the printing industry pivoted from Quark Xpress to Adobe InDesign based on many of the innovations it had during the CS-CS4 days. It was these innovations and improvements over its competitor that saw the shift from one program to another. Lately though, InDesign’s innovation feels like it has slowed down, if not stopped.

Over my career, I’ve always made a point of trying to help other InDesign users, whether it be via this blog, CreativePro, the Adobe forums or via social media help groups. After a recent hiatus, I’ve once again begun posting answers onto these forums, and thanks to the Adobe MAX conference itself, have some new articles in the works.

However, my help can only go as far as the software will let me. Sure, we can work around bugs, but wouldn’t it be better if the bugs were fixed so that they weren’t there at all? Sure, I could write a script that does something InDesign currently doesn’t do, but then only myself and the readers of my posts will benefit without the wider community of InDesign users being able to experience the same benefit. But if the feature was there, then everybody wins.

Where to from here?

Let me use the following metaphor: a supporter of a sports team that never seems to win their peak achievement. It can be so frustrating – sometimes it looks like the team might make the finals, but then fails at the last moment. The usual knee-jerk reaction is to do “lots of soul searching”, dump a few players for the next season, trade a few players for the next season, or when the new season starts, show up as a supporter to either training or match day and yell support/encouragement/disappointment. If that fails, consider dumping some of the training team, and if that fails, maybe even dump the coach – possibly promote a promising player to coach, though if this has been tried and failed, perhaps get a more experienced coach with a history of wins for other teams. Worst case scenario could even be to relocate the team, much like what happened with the Las Vegas Raiders. Or bite the bullet and support a team that wins.

If InDesign was a football team, I could tell you that it hasn’t won a final in ages, nor has it come close. I’ve been a supporter who has attended conferences and given support/encouragement/disappointment, I’ve seen the staff swapped around within the InDesign team with its share of “head coaches” and we’re still not winning any finals. Leave it up to your own imagination if we “don’t make it to finals next season?


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