Learning something new is always a good thing to do. Upskilling takes time and focus. Let’s see is it worth the effort to learn InDesign.
Learning InDesign requires time and focus. InDesign is a Desktop Publishing app and should be learned if you are a graphic designer or in the creative sector.
I’ve been a graphic designer for 25+ years and I started using Adobe products way back then, but only migrated to InDesign about 8 years ago. Let’s look at why I did and is it worthwhile.
What is InDesign?
InDesign is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. It is a Desktop Publishing (DTP) app that is used to create flyers, magazines, brochures books, etc. It is a fabulous app that works as a standalone or in conjunction with Photoshop images and any vector art generated in Illustrator.
Because the user experience and interface are so versatile it means that you can easily teach yourself InDesign. The app comes with a range of tutorials and templates that you can have a play with to help you get a feel for the app.
There are plenty of options of how to learn, from blogs to online tutorials, both free and paid. I always find the best way to learn any new app is to jump in and start exploring.
Why Do I Use InDesign?
There are a few DTP apps on the market and to be honest I was a die-hard QuarkXpress user up until about 8 years ago. For no other reason than what it’s what I learned to use in college. I was using other Adobe products at the time, Photoshop and Illustrator.
And then I got a large new contract. The new client had lots of files and projects already completed but they had been created in InDesign.
And so if I wanted the contract I had better learn InDesign (and fast!)
I found the changeover pretty smooth as I had already been using Adobe products, as I said, and there is a large similarity between the window panels and toolbox options throughout the suite.
That paired with my knowledge of QuarkXpress and how to use DTP eased the transition. Over time I migrated all my other clients to InDesign. (Even though there was a stage I was using both apps – QuarkXpress and InDesign – so it was a little confusing!)
But I never looked back and often wonder why it took me so long to make the switch.
What Are You Working On?
This is probably the main question you should ask yourself when questioning ‘Is it worth learning InDesign?’ If your projects going forward are going to consist of multi-page (or even single page) documents, then InDesign is the app for you.
Single page docs can be created in other apps, Illustrator, or even Pages or MS Word but InDesign is ‘designed’ for graphic designers.
The whole workspace makes it easier to create professional-looking layouts in a short space of time, especially if you avail of a large number of templates on offer.
If however, your projects are more Image-based then I suggest InDesign may not be worth learning and you should concentrate more on Photoshop. As is the case with logo design and vectors, Illustrator would be the choice of app for these jobs.
There are a few basics you need to master to get a professional look. Page sizes and output formats need to be correct, especially if it’s a project to be printed. Learning how to create styles is part of the app that will save you eons of time if formatting large chunks of text.
Master pages are also a huge time saver and worth learning how to do. It allows the ability to have Headers and Footers, but only on the pages that you require, and can introduce left and right pages.
The ability to interact with other Adobe products is also amazing. Images and vectors, can be placed, resized, effects added and filtered.
Along with its ability to run text around any shape you wish. It is without question the best DTP app in my opinion but are there alternatives?
What else is on offer?
There are alternatives to InDesign. In my opinion, nothing can beat it but it certainly isn’t the only player in the game.
The top contenders are QuarkXPress, Scribus, VivaDesigner, and Affinity Publisher. Let’s take a look at each.
QuarkXpress was for me, for many years, the ultimate DTP app. You couldn’t call yourself a graphic designer back in the day if you weren’t using QuarkXpress. However, when online app subscriptions became a thing Quark kind of dropped the ball. Although they do now offer a yearly subscription, they were late to the table and InDesign took over. So how much will Quark set you back?
To buy Quark outright is approximately $850, but to buy a license and a yearly subscription is between $470 – $950 depending on whether you are a new user and the type of maintenance/support you choose.
I find the Quark site a little confusing, to be honest, it’s not overly clear what you are getting for your dollars.
In terms of an app, yes it does everything you need in a DTP, however, if you need to manipulate images or vectors you’re more than likely going to need an Adobe product to complete the job.
Scribus is a fantastic alternative to InDesign because it’s an Open Source Free app. Who doesn’t love free, right? It behaves similar to InDesign, has a lot of brush options and templates available. It is available for all platforms but you can’t import or manipulate InDesign files within it.
If you are just experimenting with DTP and are not fully committed to spending money on a subscription then Scribus is probably a good choice to learn.
Another alternative is VivaDesigner. This app is aimed at professional graphic designers. It costs between $130 – $399 depending on the license you choose.
It is interactive with Adobe InDesign and MS Word.
Affinity Publisher is comparable to InDesign. The price is a one-off payment of $55 with free updates until the next release. It does a lot of the same tasks as InDesign: Master Pages, framed images, wrapped text, and many other features.
Although all the above are comparable to InDesign, they simply are not InDesign. I feel if you are prepared to learn a DTP package you should choose InDesign. Of course, InDesign comes at a cost but that cost includes all updates and if you choose the subscription for the complete suite you also have access to the online font app and also some stock photos.
It depends on what exactly your motivation is to learn InDesign. Is it to further your career? Is it to improve your freelance portfolio or is it to complete a particular project? ie Wedding Invites, the school magazine.
These are all things to consider before taking the plunge with InDesign.
My advice is that InDesign is definitely worth learning. It is a powerful and user-friendly app that when paired with other Adobe products will make you into a professional graphic designer in no time.
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