I'm not new to this kind of software. I go back to PageMaker 1.0, QuarkXPress 3.2, Ventura Publisher 1.0, and InDesign (ID) before 1.0 shipped. Back then they were referred to as "page layout" apps. Today, InDesign is a launching pad for all sorts of projects which we can place under the umbrella of "publishing." ID is the best of them all and the most powerful.
It will soon be eleven years since InDesign 1.0 shipped. Publishing is a very different environment, today, and Adobe has responded with ID CS5 able to serve not just print but PDFs, Flash projects, and the ability to export to Dreamweaver. It's one very powerful app and even with as much background as I have, if I'm going to master ID, I need some touching up. I've been to Adobe TV and lynda.com to update my InDesign skills. For me, the learning experience which the Classroom in a Book (CIB) series offers is a way to not only learn, but to retain.
If you are a Photoshop (Ps) or Illustrator (Ai) CS5 user, it's easy to dive into InDesign and feel right at home. The interface and functionality is quite similar on both the Mac and Windows platforms. Chapters 1 and 2 of ID CS5 CIB brings you up to speed on the nuances of the ID elements which are unique compared to Ps and Ai. It should be easy for anyone to pickup on. if you are completely new to Creative Suite apps, don't speed through it. Take slow, let it all sink in; take breaks. By the time you have finished chapter 3, you should have an excellent understanding of pages and type. If you're coming from the world of Word or Pages, you'll find ID simple but with a very different set of methodologies. It's not different for the sake of difference. ID is not a word processor, it's the premier toolbox of typographic professionals. CIB guides you through it, carefully, and with creative working samples, to inspire and motivate you.
InDesign CS4 and CS5 brought plenty of new functionality to placing, controlling, and managing objects plus the introduction of a new "gridify" and captioning feature. They're fabulously useful and innovative but I didn't feel I was mastering them to the level I preferred. Chapter 4 of CIB grew my proficiency and introduced me to a clever text frame reshaping technique that I cannot believe I did not know about. This is a well placed chapter which provides a breather before chapters 5, 6, and 7 gets back to the intricacies of type. As with chapter 5, the sixth chapter takes you into some of CS5's new story editing features. These three chapters should make you feel that ID has the tools for design professionals.
If you are not an experienced design professional, the eighth chapter on color is not only a how-to for ID's features, but a glimpse into the technical proficiencies needed for a preparing a document for offset or web presses. Some highly experienced Dreamweaver professionals have told me that they are so used to how that app handles cascading style sheets (CSS) that they could not easily jump into styles in ID chapter 9 should resolve that.
Unless you study lesson 10 you may be missing out on some of the power of bringing in and managing Photoshop and Illustrator graphics. There's a valuable section on libraries, snippets, and Bridge. In a resent discussion with some of the most seasoned InDesign users on the planet I fully understand that they needed more knowledge of libraries and snippets. They've been in ID for a while but appear to have escaped some people, over time.
Chapter 11 on tables is another one which Dreamweaver (Dw) users will find extremely important. Dw and ID have some similarities between them, but for a web designer who needs to offer PDFs, mastering ID's tables is essential if you are to perfect them, especially since ID fulfills needs which are not applicable to web designed tables.
Transparency is another power tool for designers. Chapter 12 is another one with a nice set of working samples which should inspire you and make you feel empowered. I was pleased to see the inclusion of the Effects panel. That's a feature set which is also often overlooked.
Lesson 13 does an impressive job of exploring the output and exporting options in InDesign. This too is key to professionally managing these assets Understanding ink management, ID layers in PDFs for Acrobat, and proofing is not simple to grasp unless you have expertise in these areas.
I know of no more easy way to create Flash files but in InDesign this is a new and powerful feature set for ID CS5. There's a whole new set of panels for this. Lesson 14 shows designers how to create interactive Flash projects for the web, presentations, PDFs and other SWF needs. It's worth the price of the book, alone. The closing appendix includes on-screen proofing, display calibration, and color synchronization is applaudable.
If you carefully follow every page of this book and do all of the lessons, you should be able to say you are an InDesign master. It's more than a how-to; it's a desk reference.