If you’re new to using Adobe InDesign you may wonder ‘Why should I use InDesign?’ or ‘When should choose InDesign over a different application such as Photoshop or Illustrator?’

In this article we’re going to analyse what Adobe applications have to offer in simple terms, and look at:

  • When to use InDesign for a design project

  • The benefits of combining multiple Adobe applications to achieve your end result

  • Why we think InDesign is the most versatile and creative Adobe design application available


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You may be new to using InDesign and still not feel completely confident that you know when to use InDesign.

Sure, you may have heard that InDesign is the industry-standard software for publishing design – but what does that mean? And what does that blanket term encompass? Let’s break it down into simple, straightforward terms…


When should I use other Adobe applications?


So, say your boss gives you a project that requires some design input. How do you know if you should be firing up InDesign, or looking for a different application to tackle the task? This is a really commonly asked question, because quite simply there are tons of different software options out there for performing design tasks. The range of choices can be overwhelming!

It has to be said that Adobe is king of all that is desktop design. Adobe offers a huge range of applications, which are designed to work together in harmony to produce super professional results.

when should I use InDesign or photoshop or Illustrator adobe

It’s important to know that there are other Adobe applications out there that can support your InDesign workflow. If you have access to Creative Cloud (CC) you will have access to a suite of applications, all of which are fine-tuned to work in-sync with each other.

First up, quite possibly the most used tool by designers is Photoshop. Photoshop is great for editing images. You can play around with filters and masks to dramatically transform and combine raster pictures (image files made up of pixels); it’s also a great tool for playing around with colour.

when should I use InDesign or photoshop or Illustrator adobe

Second up, Illustrator. Illustrator is a fantastic image-editing programme designed to work with vector images, not raster. Vector images are scalable and are made up of lines and anchor points. 

when should I use InDesign or photoshop or Illustrator adobe

Photoshop and Illustrator, together with InDesign, make up the trinity of Adobe design applications. If you want to create anything for print, you can get by very well indeed with just these three guys.

Then there’s also Bridge, which, as its name implies, is a bridging tool for use between applications. Bridge helps you preview, filter and organise the contents of your computer, allowing you to easily drop in images into applications while you work.

when should I use InDesign or photoshop or Illustrator adobe bridge

And then on top of these core Creative Suite programmes, there are all these other extra applications which will make your brain spin! Web design applications are being created and enhanced all the time – Dreamweaver is a code-based web-design programme, then there’s Flash for creating flash video files, Fireworks for image editing for web, and Muse, which is Adobe’s newer web-design offering. Adobe have also released applications specifically designed to engage with responsive and mobile web design – Edge Reflow, Edge Animate, Edge Code and Edge Inspect.

adobe dreamweaver flash muse

Then you’ve also got applications that delve into photo management (Lightroom), copywriting and editing (InCopy) and video production and editing (Premiere Pro and After Effects).

Phew! That’s a lot to take in! But all you need to be aware of, for any layout* project you’re tackling, is these four programmes – InDesignPhotoshop, Illustrator and Bridge. Plus of course Adobe Acrobat is essential if you’re producing documents that are going to be print-ready.

*a 2D design intended for print, digital or online, comprising of one or all of the following: text, images and shapes.

adobe photoshop illustrator bridge

Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge all work intuitively with InDesign. You can use Photoshop to edit images before you place them into your InDesign documents. You can create vectors in Illustrator for adding illustrated content to your InDesign layouts. And you can make use of Bridge as a useful go-between for managing your images.

adobe indesign logo when to use adobe applications


OK…but when should I use InDesign specifically?


It’s great to know you have the option to access all these different applications when you’re working on a design project – it’s like you have a little support network, and with the new release of Creative Cloud 2015 that support base is only going to grow and evolve further. But here’s the big secret that few designers will tell you but many designers know…

…all you need to use is InDesign.

adobe indesign computer mac

You can apply basic editing and effects to images in InDesign. You can also create simple vector illustrations using the Tools available in InDesign.

If you need to create a layout with a combination of text, images and colour, or with either text or images alone, you can cope without a problem by simply using InDesign alone. 

So long as you’re not creating images from scratch, 9 times out of 10 you can just use InDesign and not need to use any other programme.

If you want to focus on the quality of your text and typography, and have maximum control over design and content, InDesign is your new best friend. The formatting options are endless, and you can also exercise control over content with things like the Spell Check and Footnotes functions.

Ultimately, if you want to be creative in your designs and not be limited by performing tasks on a computer, InDesign is superb for enabling your creativity.

It’s just like having a pen or pencil in your hand, and a designer’s worktop in front of you – the flexible workplace means you can play around with different looks and layouts really easily.

adobe indesign

And that’s why InDesign is awesome – you can use it in conjunction with other Adobe software, or on its own – either way you’re going to be able to create something both fantastically creative and professionally polished.


So you’re saying I only ever need to use InDesign?


Erm, nope, that’s not exactly what we’re saying…

…This is certainly not a call for you to instantly delete your other Creative Suite applications – just know that InDesign is the most versatile application of the bunch, and as a result can help you tackle a huge range of tasks. If you’re producing layouts for print, digital and even online, Adobe InDesign is your guy.

You should treat other Adobe applications, Illustrator, Photoshop and Bridge, as a support network. Dip in and out of them; using them to edit, create or organise more complex images to incorporate into your InDesign layouts.

adobe creative applications indesign

Develop a broader and more flexible work pattern, using InDesign predominantly for creating, drafting and finalising layouts, and you’ll quickly see your workflow speed improve and your creative potential expand.

Ready to learn more about using InDesign? To find more useful InDesign tips and tricks head over to our beginner InDesign tutorials page.


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