Typesetting

Why I Hate Adobe InDesign

There is a lot to like about InDesign. In my opinion it is the best DTP program on the market, but that isn’t saying much when the only real competition is Quark XPress. The trouble with both these programs is that, despite many changes of version numbers, they have evolved very, very slowly.

What few improvements have been made are mostly aimed at the more gimmicky end of multimedia and epublishing. Not that I don’t want to generate ebooks, but I want to produce them properly and InDesign makes that very hard to do. One of my long-standing complaints about InDesign is that it doesn’t support endnotes – there is a ludicrous work-around using hyperlinks which I won’t bother to discuss. As a result, one has to use InFnote, a third-party plug-in from Virginia Systems. If one exports to PDF or ePub, the links to endnotes don’t function. At least the Index links work, but index links aren’t particularly important in fully-searchable ebooks. Compare this with LaTeX (which is free) which supports footnotes, endnotes and wingnotes (and, as you reflow the text, the wingnotes will move with it). Using the Hyperref package for LaTeX, endnote hyperlinks can be generated automatically in PDFs. Even better, the links are bidirectional: click on a link in the text and it will take you to the note; click on the note number and it will take you back to the relevant piece of text. Similar functionality can be created in ePub files.

TeX and LaTeX are very old programs. When they were created, PostScript had not been invented. Over the years, various packages have been added to LaTeX to allow it to cope with the modern world – creating PDFs, using OpenType fonts, etc. It is crazy that after all these years LaTeX is still superior to InDesign and Quark in so many ways. Admittedly, it is rather harder to use, but the pay-off is that it does things the right way. In LaTeX, text is tagged according to function rather than form, as it is in XML and XHTML. This makes it incredibly flexible. Imagine a 400-page book with wingnotes (OK, perhaps you don’t like them but I do and, in any case, the same would apply for illustrations) and you’ve laid it out laboriously in InDesign for a royal 8vo page. That was for the hardback. Then you decide to produce a B format paperback. The margins need altering, the text area needs altering and, worst of all, every wingnote and illustrations needs repositioning. How long do you think it would take you to rework the book? It could take weeks and you’d have to check it all very carefully when you’d finished. In LaTeX it might take five minutes.
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