Save pennies from the swear jar

Why use Indesign when there's Word? It's something I'm asked about a lot. It came up this week in a discussion about book design and print in a social media group. Here are my reasons why Indesign works better than Word.

  1. Word isn’t a page layout program. It wasn't designed to be used like this. It's time consuming to get graphics to “stay put” on a page, wrap text around them, and control them. Graphics “fly off” to other pages, even when you take pains to anchor graphics correctly, you get drastic reflow of graphics. Different operating systems and Word versions can adjust the placement of the linked image too.
  2. Graphics, especially TIF file and bitmapped formats, automatically convert to RGB when imported, and then converted back out to CMYK for a “Press-Quality PDF.”  We print in CMYK so that should be okay? Hmmmm, no not really, if you look at preflight reports for the PDF (essential reading for any printer and good designers too) and check the file carefully you'll see built blacks for any text that was part of the image like 9 pt labels on pie charts. Text in a built black is too small for offset presses to print: you’ll end up with yellow or magenta or cyan halos around the text and it will print as if it’s out of register.
  3. Word doesn't care about CMYK or PANTONE spot, only RGB. So you’ll pay a fortune at the pre press stage to get your file to print in the right colours.
  4. Your printer may refuse your files. Many still won't touch a Word PDF file unless you've signed your life away in blood because of reason 1 above. Essentially, you’ll spend a lot of money to get a very inferior print run.
  5. Multi-column layouts are a nightmare. It’s sometimes soooo difficult to get the text to flow where you want it to go.
  6. Word means more time spent in layout/production.

If you have to use Word but want to consider Indesign then here are some options:

  1. Editors can learn the basics of InDesign so that they can get into the file, make their edits, and get out without any major damage. It's something I have taught many times.
  2. Consider using InCopy, which would give editors access to the text when they need it.
  3. And rather than embedding text files into InDesign layouts, how about linking them instead? Or using XML?

If quick, cheap, results are necessary then I guess Word has it's place but if an author has spent months or years on their book then in my mind, they deserve a great inside page design too!