DTP revisited: learning InDesign


Desktop publishing was why I got into macs so much earlier than the rest of the world. I did a sort-of monthly newsletter for our student group for a couple of years when I was in college. Back then, we used Pagemaker and the then industry standard, QuarkXPress. (I personally was better at Pagemaker, that’s just me.) The software came from, ahem, dubious sources, those were the days.

I hadn’t used DTP since then, and my skills are sadly long forgotten. I idly noted Adobe bought Pagemaker and brought out InDesign. I read articles about the demise of QuarkXPress. When CS2 became free, I grabbed Photoshop straightaway. As an afterthought, I got Illustrator and InDesign too.

I still don’t know how to use Illustrator very well and until this week InDesign was a bit of a black hole too. What prompted me to sit down and focus on getting basic proficiency: a) I need to design and prepare a large number of graphical…stuff that are text- and layout-heavy; b) the professional designer who helps us with our graphics uses InDesign and c) I thought it’d be a good skill to re-learn. I was asked to help design a few small pamphlets a year or so ago. I used Photoshop because I was most comfortable with it, but it would have been more appropriate to use a DTP software.

My first reaction in opening InDesign was, ooops, how to I start. I figured out how to create a new document and set parameters such as margins and number of columns. I clicked on the text tool and tried to type, but I wasn’t seeing anything on screen and the cursor kept jumping to other selections on the menu. Something was wrong. Luckily there are plenty of guides and videos online. I realised that I had skipped the step of defining the text box before I started typing. Schoolboy error.


Took me the better part of 2 days to do this very simple layout. There are around 20 to do. I’m a bit petrified, but I think it will get easier once I get familiar with the controls: I know what I want to do, I just need to know the workflow and learn some tricks. The first page took the longest, getting the shaded highlights took a while and then the second page was simply copy and paste. It’s nice to get back into this, I look at the sample files that came with the software and I think to myself, something that looks similar is within my ability.