publish online vs alternative in5

in5 is the main alternative to using InDesign’s Publish Online. There are many ways that the two solutions are similar, but they are different in some very important ways.

Unlike Publish Online, which comes installed with Adobe InDesign; in5 is a 3rd-party add-on (made by Ajar Productions).

Once in5 is installed, it lives directly in your installation of InDesign and uses nearly all the same interactive features as Publish Online. However, in5 adds several other interactive features not found in Publish Online (PO), and it allows for much greater flexibility in publishing.

At a Glance Comparison between Publish Online & in5

The video and table below provide you with some quick distinctions between the two formats.

Feature Comparison

FeaturePublish Onlinein5
InDesign Animation
Animated GIFs
Audio & VideoEmbedded only - remote URLs do not work
Object States
Interactive Table of Contents
Liquid Layout
Responsive Layouts
Flipbook effect
3D Flipcards
Page thumbnails✓ (non-optional)✓ (optional)
PDF download✓ (non-customizable)✓ (customizable)
Zoom controls✓ (non-optional)✓ (optional)
Fullscreen✓ (non-optional)✓ (optional)
Host anywhere
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Detailed analytics
Custom page transitions
Presentation mode
Password protection✓ (optional)
Live, selectable text✓ (optional)
Free with Creative Cloud
Scrolling Frames✓ (with plugin from Ajar)
Pan and Zoom
Image Sequences
Embed remote HTML
Embed local HTML
Parallax Scrolling
Fixed position elements
Mobile text viewing
Repurpose-able output (for mobile apps, kiosks, sales enablement, etc)

As you can see from the table above, in5 lets you do so much more than PO.

What to learn these interactive InDesign features?

Check out this free digital publishing course

Details on the differences are described below, along with Pros and Cons for each format.

Publish Online Pros

Since PO comes with your installation of Adobe InDesign, there’s no additional cost beyond your Creative Cloud subscription.

InDesign Animation Panel with Motion Presets

Publishing is very straight-forward, and you don’t have to think about hosting. A URL is generated for you.

Interactivity from InDesign Animation, Object States, Buttons, Audio, Video, and Hyperlinks (as long as they’re not inside of text) are all largely supported by PO (unlike interactive PDF, which cannot support most of these features).

Publish Online Cons

Publish Online creates a single version of your document and it can only look that way. You cannot brand the navigation elements, remove UI elements, prevent page-to-page navigation, or create different page transitions like a flipbook.

publish online user interface cannot be removed or customized

These elements cannot be removed or customized.

The output scales proportionally, but doesn’t offer any real responsiveness for various devices.

You can’t host the files on your own server, and Adobe can remove them at any time.

publish online url is not customizable

Because the files are locked on Adobe’s servers, your publication is not exposed to search engines, nor can it be password protected. So it’s neither discoverable nor fully secure.

The text hyperlinks within a Table of Contents are not clickable in PO for some reason.

PO has largely remained unchanged since its introduction in 2014 when it was considered a “technology preview.”

There is no support team dedicated to PO queries.

in5 Pros

easily add Google Analytics without coding

in5 exports your InDesign layout and interactivity directly to files on your hard drive.

You own the files and you control them. You can put them on your own server.

You can optimize your digital publications for SEO, add analytics, and/or password protect them.

SEO options for in5

in5 lets you create responsive layouts, use InDesign’s Liquid Layout feature, and can proportionally scale your document automatically to a browser window (or remain a fixed size, if you prefer).

With in5, you can export your InDesign text as live text, SVG images, or PNG images. This lets you optimize your document to either retain full-text edibility or replicate the InDesign text layout precisely.

No matter which text rendering option you select, in5 output supports hyperlinks in text.

in5 lets you brand your output and customize the UI and page transitions.

in5 lets you brand the UI elements

You can create output that looks like everything from scrolling websites to flipbooks with page peel animation.

in5 also supports many different types of interactivity not available in PO, e.g., 3D Flip cards, Image Sequences, Slideshows, etc. See the table above for a more comprehensive list.

You can get a sense of the endless possibilities by looking through the in5 customer showcase videos.

in5 also has a dedicated support team of experts.

in5 Cons

Because in5 is a 3rd-party add-on, and it’s not made by Adobe, there’s an additional cost.

Depending on the plan that you choose, in5 can cost more than InDesign. It might seem strange that a plug-in might cost more than the host software.

While InDesign is a broad, mass-market product, in5 is very specialized. The flexibility of in5 lets you, as a graphic designer, create projects that would normally require a developer. Compared to the cost of a developer, in5 is significantly less expensive.

For hobbyists, the cost may put in5 out of reach.

The extensive flexibility of in5 means it can take more time to learn exactly what you want to do (whereas PO is more or less push button).

Want to see what you can make with InDesign & in5?

Check out this free digital publishing course

The in5 Easy Export Wizard gives you some idea of how many different types of digital publications you can create.

easy export wizard

When to use Publish Online vs. in5

There’s no denying the attractive cost and speed of PO. These two attributes make PO great option for quick reviews where you don’t want to think about hosting and your don’t care that the files are on an Adobe server (and you don’t care whether or not they’re still there in a year).

If you’re a professional designer and you want to create fully interactive, responsive digital publications with a great deal of flexibility (possibly on your own web server), then in5 is unmatched.

You can get started right now with in5

Download a free demo version

How about a free course on digital publishing?

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You'll start with basics of installing and progress up to creating interactivity and publishing apps.

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