Why are there so many differences between the UI’s for object alignment in Adobe’s products? It’s a simple enough microinteraction—one would think that they could settle on a unified approach.
Illustrator’s palette covers the basics, providing buttons aligning objects left, center, right, top, middle, and bottom, as well as distributing objects by each edge and their centers. There’s a little more to it, but let’s leave that detail to my previous post.
InDesign’s palette starts with the same options as Illustrator, but then adds on the ability to specify spacing when distributing objects. You can also select from a list of things you may want to align objects to, such as the page or margins. Below that are options that I find much more useful than the distribution options above. Making sure objects of different sizes have equal spacing between their edges is more often the way I want objects distributed.
Photoshop doesn’t even have an alignment palette. It will, however, display the same alignment controls as Illustrator in the toolbar when the move tool is selected. I rarely select the move tool, preferring instead to hold down the command key to temporarily switch to the move tool, so those buttons aren’t particularly convenient for me. Photoshop also adds an auto-alignment feature. I had to try it to figure out what it does. It’s used for stitching photos together, and this is not where I would expect to find that functionality.
Of the three, I prefer InDesign’s palette, as it is the only one that provides the Distribute Spacing commands. Honestly though, I still miss Freehand’s Align palette. It was really quick to use for simple alignment, but still provided more advanced options, like distributing spacing. I used the Align to page checkbox heavily.