Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Have you tried Publish Online?

If you’re a Creative Cloud member, and use Adobe InDesign, you need to try the Publish Online feature. It's super easy to use, and can be a great alternative to posting a PDF to a Web site. Adobe is pulling out all the stops this week and declaring this “Publish Online Week”. See this InDesignSecrets blog post that contains lots of free content for learning Publish Online, as well as how to add sophisticated animation and interactivity to Publish Online documents.

Brian Donahue, a talented local designer, has used Publish Online for a number of projects. Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Center for Irish Music Annual Report

The Minneapolis Parks Foundation Annual Report

Also, check out the Publish Online gallery by my friend Diane Burns. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Compatibility of InDesign scripts with future updates

One of the things that occupies a great deal of my time is writing custom scripts to automate Adobe InDesign. Most of these scripts are custom solutions to solve specific client workflows, but I have a handful of free public scripts available here.

The question I’m asked most frequently is this: “Will a script written for today’s version of InDesign continue to work in future versions of InDesign?" The short answer is “usually."

Scripts automate InDesign by accessing commands built into InDesign’s “document object model” or DOM. This DOM is an exhaustive, invisible-to-the-user list of commands available “under the hood” in InDesign that programmers can access to automate InDesign features and functions. 

There are no guarantees about what Adobe might do in the future—but this DOM has not undergone any type of wholesale change in many, many years. As Adobe adds and changes features in InDesign, typically only the commands in the DOM related to those features change.

So, for example, if you have a script that automates some sort of find/change function, you could reasonably expect this script to continue to function in future versions of InDesign until Adobe decides to change something with the way InDesign performs Edit > Find/Change. Many scripts originally written for InDesign CS3 10 years and 7 major versions ago still run perfectly today.

If Adobe does change something in the DOM that causes a script to cease working properly, typically the charge to update the script is a small fraction of the original development cost of the script.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Handy sources for sample data

There are a number of reasons why you might need sample database or spreadsheet data to use for a project, and you want “real” sounding records with names, addresses, credit card numbers, company names, etc. Sure, you could mock up some fictitious data yourself, but that’s time consuming and tedious. Instead, turn to the Fake Name Generator™,, or FreeDataGenerator

Perhaps you’re using Adobe XD to prototype an app, and quickly want to auto-populate a screen with random records using the Repeat Grid feature. Or you’re setting up a document using InDesign’s Data Merge feature and you don’t have the real data yet. Or you’re working on an XML or JSON project and need some sample data to work with. Or you’re teaching a Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets class and want to populate a spreadsheet with sample data.

Each of these Web sites makes it easy to generate dozens or hundreds of records of sample data. Each site offers something slightly different regarding the types of data generated and the formats that it will export the data to. Here are a couple of example data sets quickly generated with these resources:


XML data generated by FreeDataGenerator


Spreadsheet data generated by

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to create a device mockup with Adobe Comp CC

Adobe Comp is one easy way to create quick mockups of your web site or app on a mobile device. Just follow these steps:

1. Download and install Adobe Comp CC on your device. The app is free, and available for iOS (iPad and iPhone) and Android tablets and phones. You will need a Creative Cloud plan to sign into the app.

2. On your tablet or phone, take a screenshot of what you want to “pose” on the device. To take a screenshot on an iOS device, press the home button and the power button simultaneously. One most Android devices, you press the volume down and power buttons simultaneously. Instead of a screenshot, you can assemble artwork in Photoshop or any other program that you wish. Just be sure to create it at the size of your device screen. Here, I just took a screen shot of my Web site on my iPad in landscape orientation.

IMG 1153

3. Run Adobe comp on your device


4. Tap the plus icon in the lower right corner to create a new composition

Plus sign

5. Choose the proper size project for your device

Page size

6. Tap the place image button and locate the image from step 2. In my case, the image is a screen shot, so it is “On my device"

On my device

7. Drag your image to the upper-left corner, and then grab the lower-right selection handle and drag it to fill the canvas

Left corner


8. Tap the share button and choose Auto Mockups

Auto mockps

9. Your artwork will appear “posed” on a device. Depending on what device you are targeting, you may have multiple mockups available, Swipe to the left to see additional mockups.


10. Tap the share button to save the image the finished mockup to local storage, Dropbox, etc.


The finished project:


Friday, June 09, 2017

Using gradients on strokes in Illustrator

Gradients aren’t just for fills in Illustrator. Did you know that you can use them on strokes also? Here’s how:

1. Draw a path with the Pen tool, Curvature tool, Line Segment tool, Spiral tool, Pencil tool, or any other tool that creates a path

2. With the path selected, give the path a stroke weight (the Appearance panel is the best place to do this)

Screenshot 2017 06 09 11 34 40

3. Choose a gradient for the stroke

Screenshot 2017 06 09 12 48 57

4. In the Gradient panel, there are 3 “Stroke” buttons: the left-most button creates a gradient that just goes across the object from left to right by default.

Screenshot 2017 06 09 12 49 16

5. The middle button creates a gradient that follows the curve of the stroke.

Screenshot 2017 06 09 12 49 25

6. The right-most button creates a gradient that goes across the width of the stroke.

Screenshot 2017 06 09 12 49 35

7. The Reverse Gradient button will change the direction of the gradient. This is particularly useful for gradients that follow the curve of the path.

Screenshot 2017 06 09 12 51 11

Keep in mind that the Object > Path > Reverse Path Direction command will also change the direction of the gradient if the gradient is set to follow the curve of the path or go across the width of the stroke.