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Learning design for my new job and the company has a full Adobe suite, so I am using Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and everything else.

I would appear to me that InDesign and Illustrator are the same program. What's the difference? I look on Adobe's site and read the info there, and I still can't really see a reason for using InDesign, when I could do anything on Illustrator.

What's the point?

  • I did look for other questions on this topic, I just didn't find any. – Caleb Mar 6 '17 at 15:42
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The fact that you don't understand when to use InDesign suggests that your workflow probably doesn't include documents where you would need to use InDesign. InDesign is a program designed for creating documents that combine text and images, often over multiple pages, and usually with a significant amount of text. It provides many tools to ensure consistency over multiple pages, and some really sophisticated tools for manipulating large amounts of text.

Although Illustrator includes some of the same tools for controlling text layout, the level of control is much reduced.

As someone who is familiar with Illustrator, a good way to get the feel of how they are different is to open up InDesign, and use the drawing tools that are available in that program. Although there are overlapping tools that function in much the same way that they do in Illustrator, you will find that the more nuanced tweaks you can make in Illustrator are simply not available in InDesign. The text control and layout functionality available in Illustrator is similarly basic compared to what can be done in InDesign.

But the real key is to use whatever you are most comfortable with until you begin to get frustrated with the limitations of the program that you are using. If you are suddenly asked to create longer documents, with much more text than images, I am pretty sure you will become frustrated with trying to create them in Illustrator, and will begin to understand when it is time to switch over to InDesign.

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InDesign is best for layouts, especially in print work. Mostly for the exporting capabilities for production. It also provides tools such as master pages to better layout and quickly change elements without having to change the font of the page number on every single page. It works better with text boxes and gives you more options for them. You can also package Indesign files to ensure all fonts/images move with your design file to prevent broken links.

I switch between being using photoshop, illustrator, and indesign all the time. InDesign is where I design the layouts and photoshop and illustrator is where I design/edit my design elements.

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Basically InDesign is much better when it comes to editing text. Here are some more examples for why to use InDesign for page layout:

  • Text wrap is much easier to do

  • Faster to edit how an image displays in an image frame (Illustrator would need to use clipping masks)

  • Easier to create and edit custom bullet points

  • More robust options for creating tables

  • Easier to edit type with a lot more options for Character and Paragraph Styles

  • Create interactive PDF's

  • Variable text (I do not mean data merge)

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Adobe illustrator is used to produce web graphics, web designs, and even documents. Illustrator is different from Photoshop in that it is a vector based software, meaning instead of working on a pixel level, it works using lines. You can zoom in and out as much as you want from whatever you make in Illustrator, and it will never lose it’s detail. Now when you output that into a raster based image such as a jpg, you may end up with some pixelation, but when resizing within Illustrator, you’ll never lose that detail.

InDesign is a vector based program just like Illustrator, and has much of the same capabilities, but focuses it’s strengths on multiple pages and master pages. This allows you to make a master view for your presentation or book (i.e. logo in the bottom right corner, page numbers, etc) while also allowing you to customize each page. I wouldn’t advise InDesign over Illustrator for anything but books and presentations simply because you do lose some functionality from Illustrator.

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Illustrator for when you need to draw more.

InDesign for when you have a lot of text (like a magazine or booklet).

No hard and fast rules regarding this any more, however, I still feel more than 2 pages means InDesign, in almost every scenario. Sometimes even more than 1 page means InDesign.

  • This is a good summary. To be honest if there's more than 1 line of text i will immediately go with InDesign. Even for simple items like business cards. Illustrator has long been proven quite slow, so try to avoid it unless really needed for vector work (eg. logos, icons). – Lucian Mar 8 '17 at 6:56
  • Actually AI is fine for layout... depending upon your style. InDesign can be terribly frustrating for more illustrative-type layouts. But again, no hard and fast rules. – Scott Mar 8 '17 at 7:30
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Not the same. This takes a lot to explain, but to give you a few examples:

  • AI: for logos, icons, illustration
  • ID: for books, magazines, leaflets, reports, presentations
  • That's what the site said. but can one not do the ID things listed there on AI? – Caleb Mar 6 '17 at 15:48
  • Some things can be done in both. Understand how they work and you will NEVER use them for the same thing. A professional will definitely need both, although it can be confusing when you're just starting out. – Lucian Mar 6 '17 at 15:59
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Since nobody seemed to mention, I thought I will put that out here:

Illustrators performance will deteriorate quite a bit if you have multiple artboards. InDesign however is optimised to handle documents that span over hundreds of pages. While there sure is a performance impact with large documents, it should not be nearly as severe as with illustrator. Don't even get me started on Photoshop ... at least from my experience Photoshop already started to slow to a crawl with about 8 artboards.

So if you have a large document, use InDesign. Not only for consistency reasons but also for performance.

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