I spent a lot of time yesterday swtiching between InDesign and Illustrator. I was creating a page in InDesign that had multiple .ai files placed in InDesign Frames, and also multiple objects in InDesign such as figure numbers with an underlying text frame with a feathered fill:
My daughter, who just graduated from college with a graphic design major, helped me with these diagrams. But the .ai files she gave me were a mess, she'd done it sloppily on her iPad. For one of those diagrams of the green tarp, which just needed to be a rectangle with a stroke and fill and a modified rectangle with a stroke and fill, there were 19 (nineteen) objects. And not organized in Illustrator sublayers or object groups. So after making fun of her sloppiness, I showed how to organize and streamline things in Illustrator, using Sublayers and grouped objects. Which spoiled me. Because when I put these .ai graphics into InDesign, I kept trying to organize in Sublayers like in Illustrator, but InDesign doesn't DO sublayers. So I had to group objects.
Here is what I ended up with:
(Because InDesign's Layers Panel works by spread, not by page, it has stuff from the next page on it, too.)
But in InDesign's Layer Panel, if I had a group of objects, and wanted to create a sub-group by selecting a couple of objects, I couldn't. InDesign wouldn't let me do it. I had to drag the objects to the root at the top of the Layers Panel, re-order them, group them, and then drag them back to where they belonged. What a pain. It really made me appreciate Illustrator's Sublayers. Not sure what the best way to support neatly organizing InDesign objects might be, but the current system is very awkward.
Also: when trying to rename a group, I would double-click. And double-click. And double-click. And double-click. This is on a really high-performance workstation. I finally realized that somehow my double-clicking only worked when I did it fast enough it was a quadruple or pentuple click. So then I switched to just clicking over and over on the name of the group until it would let me change the name. This is not a feature request, as I don't know the best way to fix it (even though I'm a UX dweeb and have lectured internationally on UX). It's just a complaint. So I'm posting it here rather than as a feature request. I would like to see some changes to InDesign such that it is easy and fun to organize the objects on our pages easily. If you're a coder, the current InDesign UX encourages you to organize your objects like in the language APL, which is basically a write-only language. We need something more like Modula-2 or some other language that makes commenting and organizing things easy.
I understand the reasons for your frustration with that, but there really isn't a problem to solve. The document-wide layers of InDesign just work differently than the object-layer model built into Illustrator. Likewise, there are differing objectives in using layers for drawing and selecting than the intent layers as a document organization tool, as in InDesign. Personally, my view is opposed to yours, and I would rather Illustrtator's layers and sublayers were simply open layers, rather than representations of objects themselves. That said, I'd sure have use for sublayers and layer grouping in InDesign.
Anyway, this comes up a lot; the fact that the applications in Adobe's "suite" have disparate conventions that often make them feel less cohesive than if they were all coded together from the ground up by a unified team. The fact is, they just weren't. Each app has an individual development history, in some cases decades removed from the others, complete with discrete Engineering teams, unrelated business objectives, and varied target markets.
I agree with @John Mensinger : The features were developed at different times in the different apps by different teams. But also the needs of a page layout program (in InDesign) which is a collector of input from other applications (placed Illustrator and Photoshop files), imported text and spreadsheet files, etc. is different from an application aimed at creating vector art (Illustrator), and also from one which is an creator and editor of raster art (Photoshop). The programs just have different purposes.
I would just like to echo what John and Steve have said. Creative Suite and later Creative Cloud was developed with the intent that each program would have its own special function but would be able to integrate their features in an endpoint program. Photoshop was developed for image handling of raster objects. Illustrator was created as a drawing program. Acrobat was made to mostly house the PDF format which was being used in many other applications and the worldwide web. Gradually, however, two things lead to programs taking on unintended functions. The first thing was that in the early days of the internet there was a demand for a program that could create layouts in pixels and RGB. Originally, only Photoshop could do that and as a result people began using Photoshop to do layouts for the web. By the time that InDesign was equipped with web capability the genie was out of the bottle which lead to the second reason for the use of programs in unintended ways. Web designers were only learning Photoshop and were mostly so resistant to learning other programs—even those with better features for layout (InDesign)—that the situation has never gone back to what had been originally intended. As a smart business decision Adobe started including page layout features like character and paragraph styles in Photoshop and Illustrator and the mishmash of program functions has continued. In regard to Illustrator the same reticence to learn more than the program they are most comfortable with—that contains some layout features—drives many Illustrator devotees to also not learn or use InDesign. So at this point we have the three major programs with so many crossover features which have varying efficiency depending on which program you're using for what function. People are certainly free to use whatever computer program they want to achieve their needs. It is just not realistic to expect that all will be the same in the way that the programs operate.
Yes, but a simple change to InDesign, allowing you to select two objects out of those in a larger group and then grouping them into a subgroup, would (a) require minimal coding, (b) to some degree mimic the functionality of Illustrator, and (c) cut down by a large amount the time needed to organize a flat group of objects into something similar to the picture I posted at the beginning of this thread.