Top 7 Favorite Minor New Features in InDesign CS4

When I have to go back and work in InDesign CS3 for testing purposes, I miss the big new CS4 features like cross-references, Flash export, and Live Preflight. But I may miss these little features even more.

1. Dragging to place an image

When I place a file, I no longer need to click and then rescale the large frame that often extends beyond the view. Instead, I can drag the place gun (ahem — loaded graphics cursor), and the frame and image are scaled automatically.

2. Smart guides

Perhaps this should be considered a major new feature. Regardless, I love the hints that appear when I’m creating, moving, and transforming objects. Why, yes, I would like the rectangle to the same size as that other rectangle — thank you for asking!


While I have never wanted to turn off smart guides, I realize that some people want to. You can turn off the Smart Guide options in the Guides & Pasteboard section of the Preferences dialog box. And if you don’t want tooltip-like feedback to appear when you’re scaling or resizing, turn off Show Transformation Values in the Interface section of Preferences. Help topic for smart guides is here.

3. Edit With

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people asking why Edit Original opens the image in the wrong application. Users place an image, choose Edit > Edit Original, and then wonder why a random photo viewer opened instead of Photoshop. InDesign relies on the operating system to control which application opens that particular file type. While Edit Original still defers to the OS settings, you can now choose Edit > Edit With to pick which application opens the file. Help topic for Edit With is here.

4. Style creation in context

When you’re creating variables, GREP styles, nested styles, or tables of contents, you may want to specify a character style, but the problem is that you haven’t created it yet. Instead of backing out of whichever dialog box you’re in and then creating the character style, you can simply choose New Character Style.


5. Dragging to create a contact sheet

You may already know that you can select multiple images and place them one by one. (By the way, you can press the left and right arrow keys to cycle through the loaded images.) But you may not know that in CS4, you can place all of the selected images at the same time into a grid.When placing multiple images, hold down Ctrl+Shift (Windows) or Command+Shift (Mac OS) to drag a grid of images. After you start dragging, use the Up and Down arrow keys to change the number of rows, use the Left and Right arrow keys to change the number of columns, and use Page Up/Page Down to change the spacing between images. (On a Mac laptop keyboard, press Fn+arrow for Page Up/Page Down.) Help topic for contact sheets is here.


6. Page curl

This is just one aspect of the ability to export InDesign documents to Flash. Still, I like the ability to drag an online page to give the impression that a page is being turned. It makes my 5-year-old boys think I’m magic.

Here are a few online magazines that use page curls:IKEA catalogPlay-LA.comLovely Magazine

7. Tabbed documents

When I have several documents open, I like being able to click the tabs to switch between them.

3 Responses to Top 7 Favorite Minor New Features in InDesign CS4

  1. Jim says:

    What InDesign needs with regard to #7 is the ability to hit Command + 1 (or 2, or 3) to select the tab I want.Firefox does this and it’s quite handy!I know I can hit Command + ~ (on a Mac) to switch between documents, but if I have several open, I’m forced to scroll through them until I reach the tab I want.

  2. yellowbeard says:

    Thanks, I didn’t know about #5. That is going to be EXTREMELY helpful for my work flow.

  3. jo says:

    When flipping images vertically or horizontally, or when making large resizing changes to the images, sometimes the image will jump out of the box. Can a fix be made to re-center the image as it it altered so that it always lands in the box?