In Comparison: Duplicate vs. Step and Repeat

I hope I’m never one of the proverbial old dogs. I like new things, and I don’t tend to be overly averse to change. But there are so many things about the Adobe software I’m using now that just aren’t as good as the way Freehand worked a decade ago.

In Freehand, I could use the Duplicate command (command+d or option+drag) to make a copy of one or more selected objects. After dragging the new object to where I wanted it, if I left it selected, subsequent duplicates would automatically move exactly the same distance in the same direction. This was extremely useful, and I used it a lot.

InDesign also has a Duplicate command (command+option+shift+d), but it doesn’t automatically follow the behavior described above. Instead, it has a feature called Step and Repeat (command+option+u), which opens a dialog box.

As you can see, it allows you to specify horizontal and vertical offsets and the number of times you want the object repeated. The preview is very helpful, as I’m typically eyeing the distance, rather than knowing a specific measurement. The additional UI, while useful for fine tuning, makes it take significantly longer to accomplish the same effect. Furthermore, Freehand was able to duplicate any transformation I put on an object, such as rotation. Step and Repeat only seems to handle the offset.

Freehand had a more robust capability, yet handled it in a much simpler way.

Note: I have CS 4. CS 5 may differ. Also of interest, I can’t find a Duplicate command, let alone Step and Repeat, in Illustrator.

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