Once upon a time, in the land of Adobe, there lived the king of desktop publishing: PageMaker.

He had no peer, defeating the lords of Ventura and other rival kingdoms as they tried to conquer the villages of IBM and Macintosh.But soon, out of the West, came the Lords of Quark. Using QuarkXpress, they slowly ate away at IBM and Macintosh, gaining a solid foothold in the foothills of the kingdom.

Unknown to Quark, however, PageMaker had a son he called InDesign who inherited all of the qualities of his father and picked up a few tricks from his uncle, Photoshop.

And the battle for your desktop continues into the 21st Century as both Quark and InDesign garner allies in the Macintosh and IBM camps.

I've been playing with InDesign ($699) for the past few weeks. And I've discovered that, although it says Adobe Software on the box, it ain't your father's PageMaker.

The concept behind InDesign was simple - develop a desktop-publishing program that can handle page layout, graphics and text without having to integrate other programs.

To that end, the developers were somewhat successful, although you shouldn't expect all of the features of Photoshop or a high-end text editor. But the basics are there, which is good enough for most people.

The layout program - and that's basically what it is - can work seamlessly with any of Adobe's other products and can read PageMaker and QuarkXpress files. Moreover, the look and feel of InDesign is similar to Photoshop, PageMaker and Illustrator.

Other key features include:

* Extensive support for PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files.

* Nested text and graphics frames.

* Scaling and shearing of text and graphics.

* Multiple views of a publication.

* Unlimited undo and redo.

* Default, or master, pages.

* The ability to create and modify page templates.

* The ability to kern type (tighten spacing between letters).

* The ability to design pages for print or the Web.

* Being able to create page sizes of up to 18 feet by 18 feet.

* The potential to prepare documents in multiple languages using 21 dictionaries.

* Identical functioning on any operating system, which means you can easily move from a Mac to a PC.

* Pages that are created on a Mac can also be read on a PC.

* Keyboard shortcuts that match those of Illustrator and Photoshop, and in addition you can create your own.

* You can open multiple views of the same page.

* Designs that can be quickly reformatted to fit a variety of layouts ranging in size from a sixth of an inch to 18 feet.

* A ''preflight utility'' that analyzes every document for missing attributes - fonts, graphics, rules, and so on - before it's handed off to a printer.

It would be impossible for me to list everything this program can do - the features list goes on for 12 pages. But suffice it to say that Pagemaker isn't the only desktop publisher on its block any more; it's sharing the turf with a new kid.