Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MS Word vs Adobe InDesign

Happy Wednesday, good people of the blogosphere! Wednesday is called "hump day"... no, get your mind out of the gutter...! because it's the middle of the week and, if you make it through today, there are only two days until the weekend. Here's wishing you well on your Wednesday! I've heard a ton of talk lately about how MS Word is comparable to InDesign for laying out print books. Well, it's not. While it's great for laying out and formatting digital books, nothing compares to the power of Adobe InDesign for laying out a print book.

Grab your pencils and notebooks because you're gonna want to take notes today!

MS Word is a powerful machine for writing. It's great for term papers or formatting a book for upload to the various digital sellers on the web. It spell checks, indents according to your settings, and is easy to place images in. It also converts to html or rtf rather easily by simply choosing save as and making your selection. But there's one thing MS Word doesn't have that leaves it the squalling, hungry infant when compared to Adobe InDesign: Master Pages.

Master Pages are the end-all be-all of the print world. With a master page, you can tell InDesign what every page of your book should look like and where those individual pages should appear. You can pop in a page number and it will appear in the same place on every single page of your book. Adding artwork is easy; you simply place it on the master page and, voila!, it's on every page you have that master on.

I'm going to use The Bird as an example here because I used two sets of master pages to design it: A and B. Master page A was the common page where text, running headers, and page numbers would appear. B was the opening chapter pages. Time for some screen shots!
This is Adobe InDesign CS5. If you click on the image, you'll see I've identified the marks around the page. This is the opening of chapter two in The Bird.

This is Master Page A. It's the common page and you can see it has running headers, a text box, some nice flourishes at the bottom, and page numbers. It will automatically number each page according to where it falls in the book.
This is Master Page B. It's the chapter openings page. There's a left-hand and a right-hand, just like Master Page A. When I have a place where a chapter starts, I click the corresponding page, drag it, and drop it on the page it should appear on. Like magic, it's all there.

This tells me I'm looking at Master Page A. It's the tiny box in the top right-hand corner of the screen shots above.

When I'm done, I export it to a PDF and upload it to CreateSpace. Master Pages are the bomb. Period. MS Word can't touch this feature. Even with predefined formatting specs.

All the elements of a master page are locked so you don't accidentally move them around. But there's even a way around this! You ctrl+shift+click on any element and it will become editable. How damned cool is that?

In addition, if I wanted to use this exact layout on every book I produce, I can save it as a template that will re-load with all master pages intact. Comes in handy when formatting a series and you want each book to be identical on the inside!

I hope you learned a little bit today and, if you layout your own print books, are now considering an investment. No, I get no kickbacks from Adobe. I don't do that on this blog. I recommend tools I know you'll love if you give them half a chance.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!



  1. Those do seem like some great features, I'll have to see if there's a free trial available so that I can test it out.

    1. I don't know if they do a free trial. Good question! ID has the most wonderful features around for laying out printed material! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I am considering learning InDesign for book layout. I have published several decent looking books with Word 2013 making heavy use of styles. Isn't that about the same as Master Pages? One reason I may start with InDesign is that I think I would get a higher quality PDF since I suspect Word is compressing my photos to an unacceptable 220 ppi even when I tell it not to compress. But perhaps just a better pfd writer would take care of that problem. And also, isn't there a steep learning curve with InDesign?

    1. InDesign is worth every penny, second, and clump of lost hair you give learning it. Once it clicks, you'll be like: "Ohhhhhh! Yes, yes, yes!!" Word has its limitations. You can make some beautiful books with ID. No, styles aren't the same thing as master pages. Two totally different worlds. :) Welcome to the blog, Linda! Thanks for the comment :)


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