Our guide to InDesign
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to InDesign

First published date November 14 2013 Amended date November 14 2013

In essence, Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing package. It allows users to create and design all forms of written media, from brochures and mailshots through to books and magazines. Since its launch in 1999, as a replacement for Adobe’s ground-breaking PageMaker package, InDesign has allowed millions of people around the world to produce documents and templates with relative ease.

Starting from a blank canvas, it is surprisingly straightforward to create a basic document design by inserting text and images, before tweaking and refining its appearance with a spectrum of overt and subtle modifications. InDesign allows users to personalise documents using a huge variety of fonts and in-built adjustments, and the latest versions can be accessed through the Cloud for instant updates and the latest plug-ins.


Why is it so popular?

InDesign has become one of the most successful DTP (desktop publishing) packages in the world, alongside other industry leaders like Serif PagePlus, Quark XPress and Microsoft Publisher. There are many reasons underpinning its popularity, foremost among which is the simple fact that InDesign does everything graphic designers and publishers need. It is relatively easy to work with, even for a complete amateur, and InDesign courses will guide people through the process of creating ever-more complex and intricate documents, commencing with the basics of creating and saving a simple file. From here, students can progress onto advanced features like QR code creation and automatic text-frame resizing.


Who uses InDesign?

InDesign is used by designers and creatives all around the world. You can expect to find it in advertising agencies, publishing houses, graphic design studios and printing firms – basically, any companies where people are responsible for designing or printing documents.

There has always been a divide in the workplace between companies who use PCs for their design work, and firms who prefer Macs. The good news for anyone considering an InDesign course is that the software is practically identical on both systems, so once its various skills have been learned, using the package on a different operating system to the one you learned with is simplicity itself.


When might an InDesign course help me?

If you have any ambitions to work in graphic design, or even advertising, an InDesign course will be a real feather in your cap, and it’s bound to impress potential employers. Having learned about the package and its huge spread of abilities, impressive portfolios can be created, and part/time voluntary work can be undertaken to augment existing knowledge and further develop the abilities learned.

Even if you don’t end up in a design or advertising role, an InDesign course is still a valuable addition to any CV. Firstly, it will be easier for an InDesign user to learn and operate any of Adobe’s other software packages, of which there are many. Secondly, some of the skills gained will be transferable to third-party graphic design and desktop publishing packages like Quark XPress or Publisher. Furthermore, any proprietary software course should impart skills that will provide benefits when using other programs in future – potentially even giving students the confidence to learn about more challenging packages, such as starting a course in 3ds Max.

Where have I heard the name Adobe before?

Adobe is responsible for a comprehensive portfolio of related (and compatible) software packages. Today, the company markets 45 different products, including some fairly famous programs:


1.      Acrobat. This program enables people to create and view files on almost any modern computer system. Acrobat exports documents in PDF format for rapid downloading, while simple fonts and clean backgrounds allow files to display on almost all devices.

2.      Dreamweaver. One of the most popular website design packages available today is Adobe Dreamweaver. Like Flash (below), this was first launched by Macromedia prior to Adobe’s takeover, allowing detailed websites to be designed from scratch.

3.      Flash. Formerly an industry trailblazer, Flash is still widely used on websites for animations, transitions and moving content. Although it is being usurped by the flexibility of HTML5 on mobile devices, it remains a staple of non-mobile websites.

4.      Illustrator. A companion to Photoshop (below), Illustrator is widely used for creating and editing non-photographic works, such as logos or typesetting. Having been around since 1986, Illustrator is currently in its 17th generation.

5.      Photoshop. As the name implies, this is a one-stop shop for all photographic work, from image manipulation and layering through to editing and trimming digital pictures. Photoshop and InDesign are often used side-by-side in the workplace.


InDesign is the desktop publishing element of Adobe’s extended family, and it is very common for any job or career involving one of these packages to also demand familiarity with a couple of others. It might therefore be worth considering a follow-up in one of the above when you’ve finished learning about InDesign.


By Neil Cumins

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