Monday, December 15, 2008

Grid resource for designers

The Grid System, "the ultimate resource in grid systems" is the place for anyone who likes to design with grid systems, or anyone who wants to learn more about grid systems.

The site is a treasure trove of articles, tools, templates and examples of how to effectively use grid systems in both print and other media. See the templates section for free InDesign and Photoshop templates of grid systems based on the Golden Mean.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Export InDesign and Illustrator swatches to Flash

I'm currently writing an article for InDesign Magazine about how to export content from InDesign CS4 to Flash Professional CS4. During the process of researching and writing, I realized that there is no easy way to export color swatches from InDesign or Flash, or for Flash to read the Adobe Swatch Exchange (ASE) files produced by InDesign.

So I sent a note to Justin Putney at Ajar Productions, since he is the "go-to" guy for scripting InDesign to Flash processes. I asked if he'd ever thought about writing a script to automate the process of moving color swatches from InDesign to Flash.

Justin responded by creating a clever script called Send Swatches to Flash, that does just that. Assuming that you have Flash CS4 installed on your computer, the script will export all the colors from your open InDesign or Illustrator file to the Swatches panel of the currently open Flash file, or if a Flash document isn't open, it creates a new Flash file and adds the swatches to it.

If you find Justin's script useful, consider sending him some financial encouragement using the "Donate" button on his site!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Convert QuarkXPress 8 files to InDesign CS3 or CS4

The excellent Q2ID plug-in has been updated to support QuarkXPress version 8 files and InDesign CS4. The Macintosh version is available now, and Markzware says that the Windows version will be available soon. I'm happy to see an upgrade available so soon after CS4 began shipping.

This excellent plug-in for InDesign will convert QuarkXPress version 5, 6, 7 or 8 files to InDesign CS3 or CS4 files. Q2ID costs $199 USD. Upgrades from version 2 or 3 are $99 USD according to the Markzware Web site.

Once installed, this plug-in is invisible. To use it, you just choose File > Open from within InDesign, select a QuarkXPress file, and it's converted on the fly and opens as an untitled document in InDesign. More information about this plug-in is available in these previous blog posts.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Editing rounded corner rectangles

With InDesign you can easily create rounded-corner rectangles by drawing a rectangular frame, and then choosing Object > Corner Options. But if you later attempt to edit the roundness of a single corner with the Pen tool, you'll encounter some strange behavior. Specifically, if you edit one corner, the other three corners will also change to match the appearance of the edited corner. To avoid this, simply choose Object > Paths > Close Path before you edit the rectangle.

Combine multiple text frames in InDesign

A week ago I wrote about a script for Flash and a script for Illustrator for combining multiple text blocks in those applications into single text blocks. Apparently the clever folks at Ajar Productions didn't spend the entire Thanksgiving holiday (U.S.) stuffing themselves with turkey, because on Friday they released a similar script for Adobe InDesign.

The free Merge Textframes extension for Adobe InDesign will combine separate, unlinked InDesign text frames into a single text frame, with much of the formatting of the orginal bits of text remaining intact. Way useful!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Merge text blocks in Flash and Illustrator

InDesign CS4 can export pages to XFL format. These XFL files can be opened in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional for further editing and animation before being published as Flash (SWF) files for use on the Web. When the XFL file is opened in Flash, the text is editable, but InDesign paragraphs are broken into individual one-line blocks of text. A really handy tool for recombining multiple text blocks into one is the Combine Textfields extension for Flash from Ajar Productions.

Yesterday Ajar Productions released a similar tool for Adobe Illustrator, called the Merge Text Extension. This script works with Illustrator CS-CS4. It could be particularly handy when you need to edit a PDF that has been opened in Illustrator.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Typography humor

I laughed when I read this cartoon that ran in the papers this weekend:

The reaction from many people was probably "Huh?" but us typography freaks love it! See more of Scott's humor at

Friday, November 14, 2008

InDesign Keyboard Shortcut Reference

I've just finished updating my Keyboard Shortcut Reference sheets for Adobe InDesign CS4. I've managed to fit all 375 or so shortcuts on two U.S. letter-sized pages. I like to have a printed copy of this handy by my computers at all times. I've given a lot of thought to how the shortcuts should be organized and grouped in this latest version of the Shortcut Reference. You may download a Macintosh version here, or a Windows version here, as a free PDF. You can also find versions for CS2 and CS3 here.

BONUS TIP: while researching the keyboard shortcuts for this project, I stumbled across one undocumented shortcut: On the Macintosh, Option+Enter (on the numeric keypad) inserts an "End Nested Style Here" character in both CS3 and CS4. Pretty obscure, but this might be useful for someone.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A new fast way to update a modified link

There are so many great improvements to the Links panel in InDesign CS4 that I missed one cool improvement until I stumbled across it today. You can update a modified link with a single click! Here's how:

When you have a link that has been modified in another program such as Illustrator, Photoshop after it was placed in InDesign, a small yellow triangular warning sign will display in the Links panel.

If you want to update a single modified link, you can now just click on the yellow warning sign, and the link will be updated immediately. You can do this in CS2 and CS3 also, but when you click on the warning sign, it leads you to a dialog box, and it takes at least 3 clicks and some brain cycles to complete the process. In CS4 it is one click and zero brainpower required. Nice.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The scope of InDesign Preferences

Bob Bringhurst, the lead writer for InDesign and Incopy at Adobe, has posted a comprehensive list of the "scope" of all of the Preference settings in InDesign. This is great! I've been meaning to research and put such a list together for I don't have to (procrastination pays off)!

The problem is that the various Preference settings in InDesign behave differently. Some affect just the currently open document, and are saved with the document, while others "stick" and remain in effect for all documents. I've filed a feature request with Adobe to add some sort of visual indicator in future versions of InDesign to designate which Preference settings are document-specific, and which are application-specific.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The "evil eye" is missing in CS4!

One of the great improvements in InDesign CS4 is the completely re-engineered Links panel. This new panel shows you a lot more information about each linked graphic than in previous versions. But one important item is missing!

In InDesign CS2-CS4, if you select a PSD, AI or PDF file that contains layers or layer comps, and choose Object > Object Layer Options, you can show or hide any layers that are in the graphic file. This is called a "Layer Visibility Override."

In CS3, a Layer Visibility Override is clearly indicated in the Links panel by an evil-looking yellow eye with a red eyeball that displays next to the over-ridden link in the links panel.

In CS4, this evil eye is gone. In fact, with the default preferences, you will see no indication in the upper portion of the Links panel that the graphic has a Layer Visibility Override at all. To configure InDesign CS4 so that you don't accidentally miss a Layer Visibility Override, choose Panel Options from the Links panel menu. Click next to Layer Overrides under "Show Column". Then click the OK button.

Now, if there is a Layer Visibility Override applied to a graphic, you will see a "Yes" displayed to the right of the file name in the Links panel.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quick label dimensions

Last week, my wife asked me to layout some return address labels for the non-profit she works for. My first thought was to use the "labels" feature of Microsoft Word, which works pretty slick. But she wanted a logo on the label and I dreaded making Word stand on its ear to size the logo accurately within the tight constraints of a tiny label. This sort of thing is a piece of cake for InDesign. But I didn't have a template for the address labels handy, nor did I even have a sheet of the labels in my possession to measure. All I knew was that I was to layout a sheet of Avery 5160 labels, and email her a PDF to print in quantity on her office printer.

I discovered that Word 2007 (Windows) and Word 2008 (Macintosh) has a nice feature where it will tell you the exact dimensions, margins, gutter, etc. for almost any type of label from about a dozen label manufacturers. Armed with this information, its easy to use InDesign's Edit > Step and Repeat command to create the label layout.

In Word 2008 for the Mac, choose Tools > Labels, click on the Options button, choose a vendor in the drop down list next to Label products as well as a Product number, and then click the Details button. In Word 2007 for Windows, choose Mailings > Labels, click on the Options button, choose a Label vendor and a Product number from the drop down list, and then click the Details button. See the screen shot below for an example of the information that is displayed in Word.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Free vector artwork

Today, for your perusal and enjoyment, I give you three very different sources for free vector artwork:

First up, via Mordy Golding's excellent blog, is Go Media's Arsenal. Arsenal is heavy on skulls, zombies, horror, techno, etc. If that isn't your thing, scroll down further through their "vector packs", and you will see city skylines (including Minneapolis!), birds, lightning, amazing trees and more, all at very low cost. Visit their freebies page for a free sample pack of 42 pieces of art. Mordy has arranged a deal with Go Media for additional free art here. Go Media's blog is interesting reading as well.

Briar Press is on the total opposite end of the design spectrum. This is a community of printers and artists who are passionate about letterpress printing. The Cuts & Caps section of the Briar Press web site contains over 500 beautiful ornaments, initials, dingbats, and other artwork scanned from old specimen books and converted into vector line art. Note that these are free for non-commercial use governed by a Creative Commons license.

And finally, if you just need a "clip art" image of some random object, try the Open Clip Art Library. This is an "archive of user contributed clip art that can be freely used." Note that you can download a single package containing over 6000 pieces of art in the downloads section, or browse and keyword search thousands of newer images here. The quality of the artwork varies. Some is really nice, and some..., well, not so much. All the artwork is in SVG format. SVG files can be previewed and browsed in Bridge, and opened and edited in Illustrator, but will need to be re-saved as an .AI or .EPS file before placing in InDesign or other software for print use.

Monday, October 20, 2008

InDesign and InCopy 5.0.4 updater

Adobe has released two new updates to the CS3 versions of InDesign and InCopy. The updates bring CS3 up to version 5.0.4. The updaters are available on the downloads section of Adobe's Web site.

InDesign CS3 5.0.4 updater (Macintosh)

InDesign CS3 5.0.4 updater (Windows)

InCopy CS3 5.0.4 updater (Macintosh)

InCopy CS3 5.0.4 updater (Windows)

According to Adobe,

"The 5.0.5 update is a CS4 compatibility update, containing fixes that address known issues with CS4 to CS3 Export to INX (Save Back) workflows. This update also provides key fixes in the areas of File Size, Hyphenation, Performance, Anchored Objects, Character Alignment, Step and Repeat, Indexing and Table of Contents, Text and Fonts, Dictionaries, Color, Scripting, Import/Export Graphics, InDesign Interchange files (INX), XML, Library files, Printing, and others."

Keep in mind that this is a "cumulative" update, which contains all the previous 5.0.x updates. So the release notes for the updater details all the items fixed not only by this updater, but all the previous updaters. Nevertheless, there are a number of bug fixes detailed in the 5.0.4 release notes that are not listed in the notes for the previous updates. So this is probably an update worth downloading and installing, even if you've previously installed the 5.0.3 update.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adobe Creative Suite 4 now shipping

According to Adobe, Adobe Creative Suite 4 began shipping yesterday (October 15). You can read the official press release here. I expect that its the US English version that is shipping now. Often, versions localized to non-English languages ship later than the English version. But I don't see any information in the press release about this.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Three great typography videos

There are hundreds of typography-related videos on YouTube and elsewhere. Here are three that I really like:

This video about Typography from the Vancouver Film School is a nice explanation of the mechanics of typography in a brief under-two-minute format.

The Typolution video features an amazing use of typefaces as graphics.

ABC is in Spanish, but its still largely understandable for English speakers, and very clever. It animates the Bauer Bodoni typeface to make the alphabet memorable.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shopping for a new computer?

If you use Adobe Creative Suite and are contemplating the purchase of a new computer, here's something you need to be aware of:

Today, even "low end" computers often have sufficient horsepower to adequately run Creative Suite programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. But before purchasing a new computer, be sure to read the system requirements for Photoshop CS4 closely. Among the various requirements listed, you will see the following language for both Mac and Windows computers:

Some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0 and OpenGL 2.0.

These "GPU-accelerated features" in Photoshop CS4 are really cool, such as extremely fast and smooth zooming in and out, "toss physics" (a neat way to quickly pan across a large image), arbitrary view rotation, high quality pixel rendering at odd zoom percentages, and, in Photoshop CS4 Extended: fast, accurate rendering and display of 3D images.

As far as I know, Photoshop CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended, After Effects CS4 and Premier Pro CS4 are the only programs in the Creative Suite that take advantage of OpenGL 2.0. But its possible that in the future other components of the Creative Suite may take advantage of this capability. So even if you don't use Photoshop, After Effects or Premier Pro, it would be best to have a video circuitry that supports OpenGL 2.0 and Shader Model 3.0. To determine if the video card in your computer supports this technology, you may need to visit your video card manufacturer's Web site and read the fine print.

Keep this in mind as you evaluate new hardware.

(You can learn more about OpenGL here and here. A table showing support for OpenGL on various Macintosh video cards is here.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Snap guides to objects in InDesign

Everyone knows that you can snap InDesign frames to guides, by simply dragging an object close to a guide. (Of course, View > Grids & Guides > Snap to Guides must be selected for this to work). But did you know that you can also snap guides to frames? You can, and this is really handy sometimes. Here's the trick:

First, select the frame you want to snap a guide to. Next, drag a guide near the selected frame edge, but then make sure that your cursor actually touches one of the selection handles on the frame. When you do this, you will feel the guide "snap" to the edge of the frame. If the "snap" is too subtle for you to feel, choose Preferences > Guides & Pasteboard and change the Snap to Zone to a larger value. This will increase the "power" of the magnetic attraction between guides and objects.

New in CS4: The new "Smart Guides" in InDesign CS4 (improved in Illustrator CS4) will make many guide-based tasks obsolete. The more I work with Smart Guides, the more amazed I am by how well they work. This is a feature that you'll need to see to appreciate, but it allows you to almost effortlessly align the edges of frames without using Guides or the Align panel.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What? CS4 already?!!!

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've no doubt seen the announcements about Adobe Creative Suite 4. Hopefully this didn't catch you unawares. Adobe has repeatedly shared their plan to upgrade the Creative Suite every 18-24 months. CS3 was announced at the end of March 2007, so Adobe is right on schedule with CS4.

As I've recently talked with many clients and colleagues, I've seen three different responses to this news:

1. EXCITEMENT: This reaction typically comes from geeks like me, early adopters who are always trying to squeeze a little more efficiency out of the tools we use.

2. PANIC: "Oh no! Not already! We just bought CS3 and haven't finished learning it. Why doesn't Adobe stop this madness!" is a typical reaction.

3. DENIAL: A small percentage of users, when they see that the upgrade doesn't have the particular features they want, write off the entire suite as "useless" and "just Adobe trying to get my hard-earned money".

I've been using prerelease versions of many of the programs in CS4 for awhile now. I like this upgrade and am excited to begin helping people learn how to integrate the new features with their daily work. There are enough new features and improvements to existing features, big and small, that many people will benefit. But here's the thing: there's no need to panic or get defensive. No one is going to make you upgrade. Sure, some of us will upgrade immediately, as we believe that the efficiencies in the new version outweigh the risk of being on the "bleeding edge". But for many folks, it will take 12-18 months before they move to CS4, and some people may skip the upgrade altogether. That's OK.

Note: In the past, Adobe has had a liberal upgrade policy. The upgrade cost was the same no matter what crusty old version you might be upgrading from. Now its more complicated. The upgrade price is very similar to what it was for CS3, but if you skipped the CS3 upgrade, and want to upgrade from CS1 or CS2 to CS4 there's a catch. You can upgrade for the same price as those upgrading from CS3 to CS4, but only until February 28, 2009. After that, the price increases by $200 (for Design Premium).

Even if you decide not to upgrade, you should familiarize yourself with the new features of CS4. Many people believe that Adobe just cranks out upgrade after upgrade, piling on whatever new features of the day that they think will sell more upgrades. I don't believe this to be the case. By and large, Adobe does an excellent job of casting a long-range vision for their products, and adding and refining features that fulfill that vision.

So I'd encourage you to look at the "feature list" for Photoshop, InDesign, Flash and other products, and ponder what the new features might tell you about where Adobe think's the design, media and publishing industry is headed? For example:

  • Why did Adobe add so much 3D functionality to Photoshop CS4? What does this mean for the future of digital photography and editing?
  • Why did Adobe add the ability to export InDesign content to editable Flash pages? How might they leverage this further in the future? How can this help you if you are primarily a print designer?
  • What might you want to export InDesign pages to the XML-based IDML format? What could this mean for automated page production?
  • Why is Adobe pushing Fireworks so heavily as a member of the Suite? What can Fireworks do for you?
  • Why is Adobe investing so heavily in "hosted services" such as Kuler, InContext Editing, and
  • What is Adobe AIR, and why would you want to export your project to this format?

I'll be addressing some of these questions here over the next weeks and months. I'd also love to hear your feedback and reactions to CS4.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adobe Workshop at Design Camp

If you're going to Design Camp, October 3-5, consider coming early enough to catch the Adobe Workshop scheduled for 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. on Friday, October 3. I'll be presenting this workshop on behalf of Adobe. Believe me, you won't want to miss this one! Note that this workshop will be after Adobe's "pre-announced announcement" of Creative Suite 4 taking place on 9/23/08. So I'll be able to show some fantastic new stuff for designers at the workshop!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Packaging multiple files at once

Tom wrote and asked:

"You know how when packaging in InDesign, each package comes in its own folder? What if I have 25 versions of a project, all using same elements. Is there a way to package them into one folder, so that the links end up all in one folder for all documents? Or do I have to just merge the Links folders?"

InDesign's Package feature (File > Package) is invaluable for moving a copy of an InDesign file and all of its placed and linked graphics into a single folder. But when you find yourself in the situation that Tom describes, you'll want to take advantage of this little trick:

1. Choose File > New > Book, and give the new temporary Book file you've created a name and location.

2. An empty Book panel will appear on your screen. Drag each of the InDesign files that you want to package into the book panel to add them to the Book file list.

3. Make sure that none of the InDesign files in the Book list are selected, and then choose Package Book for Print from the Book panel menu. InDesign will create a new folder, create a copy of each of the InDesign files in this folder, and then create one Links folder. All the graphics from all the InDesign files will go in this common Links folder.

NOTE: If two of the InDesign files use a graphic with the same name but from different original folders, the graphics will be dynamically renamed and relinked by having a numeral appended to the end of the filename. If two InDesign files use the same graphic from the same original location, the graphic will only be copied to the new Links folder once. This is exactly the behavior that I'd expect.

Friday, September 05, 2008

InDesign CS4 preview

If you will be in the Minneapolis, MN area on October 28, 2008, mark this date on your calendar. The next meeting of the Twin Cities InDesign User Group will be at 7:00 p.m. that evening. Noha Edell, a Business Development Manager at Adobe Systems, will demonstrate the new features of InDesign CS4. Don't miss this opportunity to evaluate this upgrade in-depth. InDesign User Group meetings are free and open to all, but registration is required.

How to apply a text wrap

When you apply a text wrap in InDesign (using the Text Wrap panel), you should normally apply the text wrap to the frame containing the graphic, not the graphic itself.

In other words, be sure to select the frame with the selection (black arrow) tool before you click on the buttons in the Text Wrap panel to apply the wrap. This will ensure that you can later delete the contents of the frame if necessary, leaving the frame (and the wrap) behind. This may decide to replace the graphic with a different graphic later on, or swap a low-res image for a high-res image.

If you do this incorrectly, and select the contents of the frame with the direct selection (white arrow) tool before you click on the buttons in the Text Wrap panel, the wrap is applied to the graphic itself. This means that if you delete or replace the graphic later on, the wrap will be removed.

For more text wrap help, see this post.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Adobe Creative Suite 4 "preannounced"

Adobe has taken the unusual (for them) step of "preannouncing" the announcement of CS4. In other words, they're telling the public that they will announce (not ship) CS4 on September 23. You can sign up to view a Web broadcast of the announcement here.

While this may seem awfully soon on the heels of CS3, its right on schedule with the timeline that Adobe has discussed publicly of releasing a new Suite every 18-24 months. CS3 was released in March of 2007.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How to select overset text in table cells

When table text  in InDesign (and InCopy)  is too large or too long to fit in a table cell, InDesign displays a red oval to indicate the text is overset. But what if you want to select this text? Here's how:

1. With the Type tool, click inside the cell that has the overset text. You won't see the flashing text cursor to indicate that you've successfully clicked inside the cell, but that's OK. Trust me.


2. Press the esc key to select the entire table cell. The cell should become highlighted.

3. Press the esc key again to toggle the selection to select all the text in the cell. You will not see this selection, because the text is overset. But again, trust me. All the text in the cell is now selected. So you can delete, cut or copy the text, or make it smaller, or do anything you want to it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Paste Without Formatting

InDesign and InCopy's Paste Without Formatting command (located in the Edit menu) is often overlooked. This command is really useful in at least two situations.

1. Imagine you have a 60 pt Bodoni headline and some 12 point Myriad body text. If you select a couple of words of body text, and try to paste it in the middle of the headline, the pasted text will appear with the 12 point Myriad formatting, when the desired result is probably to adopt the formatting of the headline. This where Paste Without Formatting comes in. All you have to do is copy the body text normally, then use Edit > Paste Without Formatting to paste the text into the headline. The formatting of the body text will be left behind, and the text will adopt the formatting of the new cursor location.

2. This command is also useful when pasting from other programs like Word, Excel, or email into InDesign. If you choose Preferences > Clipboard Handling, and choose "When Pasting Text and Tables from Other Applications, Paste: All Information" when you copy text from Word and paste it into InDesign, it will bring the formatting from Word. But if you choose Edit > Paste Without Formatting, it will leave the Word formatting behind and adopt the formatting of the text cursor location.

You probably already know the keyboard shortcut for Paste (Mac: command-v, Windows: ctrl-v). The shortcut for Paste Without Formatting is easy to remember. Just add the Shift key. (Mac: command-shift-v, Windows: ctrl-shift-v).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

InDesign's "Component Information" dialog: useful but perhaps misleading

If you want to know more about the history of a "flaky" InDesign file, here's something to try. Hold down command (Mac) or ctrl (Windows) as you select About InDesign from the InDesign menu (Mac) or the Help menu (Windows). This will display the "Component Information" dialog box. Among other things, this will show you the complete history of every "Save As" in the life of the document, whether it has ever crossed platform from Windows to Mac or vice versa, and if the document was ever converted from QuarkXPress or PageMaker.

InDesign can convert Quark 4 files to InDesign format, and newer Quark files can be converted with the Q2ID plug-in. Here's the problem: the Component Information dialog box will only state that a file was converted from Quark if it was converted using InDesign's native Quark 4 conversion. If the file was converted to Quark using the Q2ID plug-in, the dialog box will display "Converted from QuarkXPress - no". So beware of this. I don't know of any way to tell after the fact whether a file has been converted to InDesign format using the Q2ID plug-in.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A less-expensive Bridge

If you're reading this, you no doubt have a copy of Adobe Bridge, since it is included with every copy of Creative Suite 2 and 3, as well as many of the "point products" in the suite when they are purchased alone, such as InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.

But what if you have a colleague that would like to use Bridge, but they don't want to spend the money to purchase a point product, much less the entire Creative Suite? Perhaps a co-worker wants to add XMP metadata to images, or to visually search for graphics files, and Bridge would be the perfect tool for their needs. Unfortunately, Bridge is not available for purchase as a standalone product.

But, if you purchase a copy of Contribute CS3, which sells for $169 US single copy price in the Adobe Store, Adobe Bridge is included. So this is a less-expensive way to obtain a legal copy of Bridge, without shelling out $600 or more for a copy of Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Modifying styles

One of the best features of InDesign and InCopy is the Redefine Style command found in the Paragraph Styles, Character Styles, Object Styles, Table Styles and Cell Styles panel menus. This often-overlooked command makes updating styles quick and painless by using a "Style by example" approach. Here's how:

1. Select a paragraph to which you've assigned a Paragraph style. Looking at your Paragraph Styles panel, the Paragraph style you've assigned should be highlighted, and there shouldn't be a plus sign next to the name of the Paragraph style.

2. Make some formatting changes to the text. Make these changes using the Control panel or Paragraph and Character panels. When you are finished, a plus sign should appear to the right of the name of your Paragraph style. This plus indicates that you've made some changes to the selected text, and the text formatting no longer matches the Paragraph style. (These changes are called overrides in InDesign-speak.)

3. Choose Redefine Style from the Paragraph Styles panel menu (or press command-option-shift-r (Mac) or ctrl-alt-shift-r (Windows). This will update (redefine) the Paragraph style to match the formatting of the selected text. Of course, all the text throughout the document that is assigned this Paragraph style will be reformatted automatically.

This is a much easier, more direct way to update a Paragraph style than wading through the Style Options dialog box. Keep in mind that this same basic idea also works for Character, Object, Table and Cell styles (but with different keyboard shortcuts).

As you get in the habit of updating styles this way, you may find that sometimes the Redefine Style command is grayed out when you go to select it. This happens if you have a mixture of different formatting options in the same selection. To resolve this, just put your text cursor in between two characters that have the formatting you want to match in your redefined style, and then choose Redefine Style.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

PDF Conference coming to Minneapolis

The Adobe Acrobat & PDF Central Conference will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center on September 23-25, 2008. I'll be presenting a couple of sessions at the conference: Creating Print-Ready PDFs from InDesign and Commenting and Reviewing Best Practices on September 24. This looks like it will be an excellent conference, with three tracks and more than 24 seminars covering all things Acrobat. If you are in the Twin Cities area, don't miss this rare opportunity to attend a conference without travelling to the coasts. If you are outside the Twin Cities area, I expect it will be worth the trip!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Prevent hyphenation between columns

When hyphenation is turned on, InDesign typically allows a word to hyphenate between the bottom of one column and the top of the next column, or between the bottom of one page and the top of another. You should try to avoid this "ugly" hyphenation whenever possible. Thankfully InDesign CS3 makes it easy to avoid this. In the Hyphenation Settings dialog box (Control Panel menu > Hyphenation), just deselect the Hyphenate Across Column option. While you are at it, you might want to deselect the Hyphenate Last Word option (introduced in CS2) also. This will prevent hyphenation of the last word of a paragraph, which is also undesirable.

Both of these options are selected by default, so that documents created in previous versions of InDesign don't reflow when opened in CS3. But of course, you can make these settings part of your paragraph styles (you are using paragraph styles, aren't you?) and then you can forget about them.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Let Photoshop take notes!

Have you ever finished a complex sequence of steps in Photoshop, and later wished you could remember what those steps were? Photoshop offers an alternative to jotting all this down on a sticky note, legal pad or napkin. Photoshop can actually record these notes for you, keeping a detailed account (called a History Log) of each and every command that you perform. Here's how to set it up:

In Photoshop CS or later, choose Preferences > General. Select the History Log option. Then, you can save the Log Items either to Metadata or a Text File. If you choose Metadata, the log becomes part of the file you are editing, and can be viewed at any time by choosing File > File Info in Photoshop and choosing the History category on the left. If you choose Text File, you will be asked for a name and a location in which Photoshop will save a text file containing the log. You also can choose the level of detail you want Photoshop to record, from Sessions Only (the most basic) to Detailed.

Once selected, the preference setting will remain on and in effect, logging every change you make to every file you open, until you return to Preferences and turn it off. You may want to set up an Action to make it easy to turn the History Log preference on and off with a single click.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Use that scroll wheel!

Anyone using creative applications on either a Macintosh or Windows computer should be using a two button mouse with a scroll wheel. The scroll wheel allows you to scroll horizontally and vertically as well as zoom in and out in most applications. Modifier keys for the scroll wheel were inconsistent in CS2 applications, and made more consistent in CS3. See the tables below for a summary of modifier keys for Macintosh and Windows.

Using a wheel mouse in Macintosh design applications

Scroll vertically Scroll horizontally Zoom
InDesign CS2 wheel only shift or option command
Illustrator CS2 wheel only command not available
Photoshop CS2 wheel only command option
Bridge CS2 wheel only not applicable control (resizes thumbnails)*
InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop CS3 wheel only command option
Bridge CS3 wheel only not applicable control (resizes thumbnails), or wheel only (when viewing a preview with the loupe)*
Acrobat 7-9 wheel only not available option
* in order to use the control key plus the mouse wheel, the Mac "Keyboard & Mouse" System Preference for "Zoom using Scroll Wheel..." must be turned off


Using a wheel mouse in Windows design applications

Scroll vertically Scroll horizontally Zoom
InDesign CS2 wheel only alt ctrl
Illustrator CS2 wheel only ctrl alt
Photoshop CS2 wheel only ctrl alt
Bridge CS2 wheel only not applicable ctrl (resizes thumbnails)
InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop CS3 wheel only ctrl alt
Bridge CS3 wheel only not applicable ctrl (resizes thumbnails), or wheel only (when viewing a preview with the loupe)
Acrobat 7-9 wheel only not available ctrl

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Amazing Census Atlas

The U.S. Census Bureau has published 19 PDF files which together comprise the Census Atlas of the United States. Take a look at this atlas for a great example of well-designed presentation of complex information. The atlas is also a treasure-trove of information for anyone wanting to target their marketing efforts to specific geographic, economic, ethnic or professional niches. Thanks to Chuck Green's PagePlane Blog and the always-useful Design Tools Monthly for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Vertical rules with paragraph styles

Adriano wrote and asked if there was any way to reproduce this:

without drawing lines by hand, so that the frame would be quickly resizeable to different column widths as needed. Yes, this can be done, but you have to be sneaky! Here's how:

1. Create a single text frame, and put all the text for the header and the body in this text frame.

2. Assign three paragraph styles to the text: one for the header, one for the first paragraph, and one for the last paragraph. If you are going to have more than two paragraphs, you will need a fourth style for all the middle paragraphs.

3. The horizontal rules are easy. They are just applied with a Paragraph Rule Below setting applied to the Sidebar, header and Sidebar, last paragraph styles.

4. The vertical rules are where we have to get sneaky. First, create a custom stroke style as shown below. (Choose Stroke Styles from the Stroke panel menu.) Note that we are defining an 11 inch dashed line pattern, with a .0278 inch black dash and the rest of the stroke white.

5. Now, for the Sidebar, header paragraph style, define a Paragraph Rule Above setting similar to the screen shot below. Note that for the Type, I've selected the custom stroke style created in step 4. In this example, I've also applied a 20% black "Gap Tint" to make "white" part of the stroke gray, as shown in the header. The 28 point Weight of the rule makes the black line appear vertical.

6. Last, for the Sidebar, first paragraph paragraph style, define a Paragraph Rule Above setting similar to the screen shot below. Note that for the Type, I've again selected the custom stroke style created in step 4.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Deleting files in Bridge

Amy wrote:

I'm working in Bridge and a couple of things perplex me. When you hit delete, where does the deleted file go? I don't find it in the trash. Is it completely deleted as soon as you hit the button? And, I'm now using Bridge instead of iPhoto. And I'm importing my images from my Canon camera directly into Bridge. Unlike iPhoto, I don't see a "delete images from camera" option. Does Bridge let you do that?

Bridge follows the same rules for deleting files as the Macintosh and Windows operating systems: files on your local hard drive are moved to the trash, files that reside on a server are deleted immediately. The one exception is Bridge CS3's "reject" label feature. If you choose InDesign > Preferences, choose General, and then click on the Reset all warning dialogs button, you will get receive additional dialog-box-based feedback and options the next time you press the delete key.

As Amy mentions, Bridge CS3 has a new feature (File > Get Photos from Camera) for transferring images from a digital camera or card reader, much like iPhoto. Unfortunately, Bridge cannot delete the images from the camera after they are transferred, so the images will have to be deleted manually using the controls on the camera.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Zip files inside PDFs

Adobe Acrobat allows you to attach other files to specific locations inside a PDF. In Acrobat 8, this is done via Comments > Comment & Markup Tools > Attach a File as a Comment. This embeds the file within the PDF, so that a recipient of the PDF can save the attachment to their drive. This is really handy for attaching other PDFs, Word, Excel or other file types to a specific location within a PDF.

However, if someone attaches a .zip file to a PDF, and you try to save or open the attachment, you will get the puzzling message "Acrobat cannot save the file attachment "" because your PDF file attachment settings do not allow this file type to be saved." For security reasons, Adobe doesn't allow embedded .exe, .zip or .js file types to be saved out of a PDF, since these file types could conceivably harbor a virus. If you receive a file with this kind of attachment, even from a trusted source, there is no way, short of hacking around the Windows registry, to make Acrobat allow you to save or open the embedded file.

When someone tries to attach an .exe, .zip or .js to a PDF, they will receive the warning "The file type you are attaching cannot be opened or saved from Acrobat because of your PDF file attachment settings. If you trust the source of this file, click OK to attach it." So, curiously enough, they are warned, but allowed to continue. Which is odd, since no one downstream receiving the PDF can do anything with the attached files!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Look up words from within InDesign

Did you know that you can quickly look up words in the New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus, Wikipedia, or Google right from within InDesign? If you use a Mac running OS X 10.5, you can!

Just select any word in your InDesign layout, and choose InDesign > Services > Look Up in Dictionary. The Apple Dictionary application will be launched, and the selected word will be looked up in the dictionary automatically. If you select a phrase instead of a word, it will be looked up in Wikipedia through the Dictionary application.

To search for a selected word or phrase in Google, choose InDesign > Services > Search With Google.

This isn't really an InDesign feature at all. The options in the Services section of the InDesign menu (aka the Application menu) are provided by OS X, and work in many Macintosh applications (but not Illustrator or Photoshop, unfortunately). So this is a Macintosh-only feature. I don't know of an equivalent cross-application technology available on Windows.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Free user interface stencils

If you ever need to mock up Web pages, applications, forms or other user interfaces in Illustrator or Photoshop, check this out: The Yahoo Developer Network features a set of free "Design Stencils." This collection of Web user interface widgets and doodads includes calendars, charts, tables, switches, knobs, sliders, form fields, check boxes, radio buttons, menus, navigation items, etc. downloadable as PDF (for Illustrator) or PNG (for Photoshop) files. The PDF files can be easily edited in Illustrator to include your desired text or colors. A great time saver for designers who create user interface mockups for specifications or user feedback.

(Thanks to the creativebits blog for this find!)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Acrobat 9 announced

Adobe has just announced Adobe Acrobat 9. It new comes in three versions, Acrobat 9 Standard (Windows only), Acrobat 9 Pro (Mac and Windows), and Acrobat 9 Pro Extended (Windows only). From what I've seen, this appears to be a feature-rich, important update. Among other features, this version of Acrobat includes built-in support for Adobe Flash files within a PDF. I'll blog further about the new capabilities of Acrobat 9 in the near future.

If you own Creative Suite 3, and you want to upgrade to Acrobat 9 now instead of waiting for the next major release of the Creative Suite, you can upgrade to Creative Suite 3.3, which includes Acrobat 9.

According to Adobe, Acrobat 9 will ship in July.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Don't overlook InDesign's Story Editor

One of the most overlooked features of InDesign is the Story Editor. The Story Editor provides a word processor-style view of an InDesign "story" (any individual text frame or set of threaded text frames). Any changes that you make to your text in the Story Editor are immediately made to the layout.

To quickly display the Story Editor, select some text with the Type tool or select a text frame with the Selection tool, and press command-y (Mac) or ctrl-y (Windows). (Think "y" because the word "story" ends with "y"). When you are finished in Story Editor, to return to the layout view, press command-w (Mac) or ctrl-w (Windows).

The story editor is useful for the following situations:

1. To help you concentrate on content, not formatting. Most formatting does not display in the Story Editor view.

2. When you need an easier-to-read view of your text. If your formatted page has text flowing through multiple columns, or text that is small and hard to read, the Story Editor makes the text easier to read and edit. By choosing Preferences > Story Editor Display, you can choose a large, easy to read font for the Story Editor display, different from the font used to format the text in the layout.

3. When you need to see invisible items more clearly. Items such as XML tags, notes, variables, hyperlinks, footnotes and index markers show up much more clearly in Story Editor than they do in the layout view, making them much easier to work with.

4. When you want to edit overset text, or write copy to fit. The Overset Text Indicator in the Story Editor show you where text is flowing out of the last box in the text thread, but unlike in layout view, you can still see and edit the text that is overset. This makes editing copy to fit much easier than in layout view.

One minor gripe: you can't edit text in table cells in the Story Editor.

So give the Story Editor a whirl. I think you'll like it!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why does Illustrator artwork have a white box around it in InDesign?

One of the most frequent questions I receive is "Why does my placed Illustrator .AI or .EPS file have an opaque white box behind or around it in InDesign?" In the picture below, the left-most cartoon exhibits this behavior.

A quick workaround that will solve this problem in most cases is to choose View > Display Performance > High Quality Display. This will usually make the box disappear on the screen. If this doesn't work, or if you want to make the box disappear without having to enter High Quality Display mode, follow these instructions.

There are three possible explanations for a white box behind an AI or EPS graphic, and each has a simple solution:

1. The placed graphic is an EPS file. Solution: When you place the graphic, be sure to select the Show Import Options checkbox in the bottom left corner of the "Place" dialog box. When this is selected, you will see the dialog box below after you choose the graphic you are placing. Select the Rasterize the PostScript option, and the white box will not appear in the placed graphic.

2. The placed graphic is an AI file. Solution: When you place the graphic, be sure to select the Show Import Options checkbox in the bottom left corner of the "Place" dialog box. When this is selected, you will see the dialog box below after you choose the graphic you are placing. Select the Transparent Background option, and the white box will not appear in the placed graphic.

3. The placed graphic AI or EPS file really has a white box behind it in Illustrator. Solution: Open the graphic in Illustrator and remove the white box.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Totally off-topic: Twins blog

If you're a Minnesota Twins fan, check out my friend Frank Genalo's blog: Bert's Buddy. He has teamed up with Bert Blyleven to write a weekly blog commentary on all things Twins. Insightful, well written, and highly recommended!

Tweaking the Selection tool shortcut in InDesign

When you're editing text in InDesign CS3, and you want to switch to the Selection (black arrow) tool, just hit the Esc key, and the Selection tool will be chosen. After using this for awhile, I became frustrated that the shortcut only works when you have the Type tool selected and have an insertion point in some text. This shortcut is so handy, I want it to work everywhere, no matter which tool I've selected and regardless of whether I have text selected or not. Here is an easy fix so that the Esc key will always switch to the Selection tool:

1. Choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

2. Choose Tools for the "Product Area"

3. Choose Selection Tool in the list of commands

4. Click in the "New Shortcut" field, and press the Esc key.

5. Click the Assign button. You may be asked if you want to create a new set. If so, answer Yes.

6. Click the OK button.

If you've done this correctly, the Esc key should now always switch to the Selection tool, except when you have text selected in a table cell. In this case, the Esc key will switch between selecting the table cell and selecting the text in the cell.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Modifying InDesign's Preview Mode shortcut

Preview Mode is one of the best interface features of InDesign. Preview Mode hides all non-printing items such as ruler guides, hidden characters, frame edges and text threads. I love being able to layout pages with all of this helpful non-printing stuff displayed, but when it gets in the way of being able to visualize my design, I can hide it all with a single keystroke. Unfortunately, the default keyboard shortcut to switch into and out of Preview Mode is "w". Since this is a single-letter keyboard shortcut, it doesn't work if you are editing or typing text with the Type tool.

InDesign CS3 provides an entry point so that you can change this keyboard shortcut to something that will work all the time, even when you are editing text. Here's how:

1. Choose Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

2. Choose Tools for the "Product Area"

3. Choose Toggle view setting between default and preview in the list of commands

4. Click in the "New Shortcut" field, and press the keyboard shortcut you want to use (I use option-shift-w on my Mac and alt-shift-w on my Windows computer).

5. Click the Assign button. You may be asked if you want to create a new set. If so, answer Yes.

6. Click the OK button.

Now, if your new keyboard shortcut includes modifier keys such as option, alt, command or ctrl, you will be able to use the keyboard shortcut even when you are editing text. Once you get used to this, you will find yourself switching between Preview Mode and Normal Mode quickly and easily whenever you feel the need.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Adobe's "Open Screen" project

Today Adobe announced the Open Screen project. I won't rehash the entire announcement here, but two key takeaways are:

1. Adobe is removing licensing restrictions from and opening up the Flash SWF and Flash Video FLV/FW4 specifications.

2. Adobe will provide the Flash Player and Adobe AIR free for makers of consumer electronic devices such as cell phones.

What does this mean to you, if you are designer who is (today) working mostly in print? As I've been telling participants in my training seminars recently, don't think of yourself as a "print designer" anymore. Yes, the bulk of your work this week may be printed on dead trees, but it is clear that more and more content is moving to other media. What that media will be 1,3, 5 or 10 years down the road no one knows for sure. But today's announcement by Adobe indicates that they want Flash and AIR to be a part of this future. I've also been preaching to whoever will listen that print designers should try to learn as much as they can about Acrobat, Flash and eBooks in the upcoming months, as these tools provide the foundation for the natural progression of print "pages" to other media.

I think we're in for a wild ride for the next few years!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Aligning columns of numbers

A reader wrote to me last week with the following question:

"I am working on a financial report. The client has requested to have all commas line up as well as $ signs and keeping numbers right justified. I can't seem to do all three. I can get the number data right justified, and the dollar signs to match on a column but not the commas. Any suggestions?"

Upon further investigation, what she was encountering was this:

The commas don't line up because the typeface (Cambria Regular) is an OpenType typeface that supports proportional numerals. In other words, each numeral is a different width (the numeral one is narrower than the numeral eight for example). Most typefaces contain only tabular (equal width) numerals, so this isn't usually a problem.

Luckily, some OpenType fonts contain both proportional and tabular numerals, and InDesign and Illustrator allow you to choose which numeral style you want. Use the proportional numeral style to improve the spacing of numbers wherever possible, and switch to tabular numeral style to make columns of numbers align, as shown below.

To switch between tabular and proportional figures in InDesign, select the text with the Type tool, and choose OpenType > Tabular Lining/Proportional Lining from the Control panel menu. In Illustrator, display the OpenType panel (Window > Type > OpenType), and choose either Tabular Lining or Proportional Lining for the "Position".

To align the dollar signs in the example above, I inserted a "Figure Space" (Type > Insert White Space > Figure Space) in InDesign after the dollar sign on the last line. A figure space is the same width as a numeral when you are using Tabular figure alignment.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ads for Adobe PDF, part II

In a previous post I alerted you to Adobe's experimental Ads for Adobe PDF technology, currently previewed on Adobe Labs.

A new article on highlights some publishers who are showcasing this service, and features links to dozens of example PDF files currently using this technology.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Page breaks in tables

There are three keyboard shortcuts in InDesign (and InCopy) that insert a "break" character in your text. This character forces all the text after the character to jump to the next column, frame or page. The shortcuts are:

  Macintosh Windows
Column break
Frame break
Page break

(Note that these shortcuts all use the enter key on the numeric keypad. You cannot substitute the return key. If you do not have a full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad, you can substitute fn + return on most keyboards for the enter key.)

This "break" character is displayed on the screen as an odd little upside-down carat character when Type > Show Hidden Characters is chosen. So, to remove the column, frame or page break, just delete the break character.

Contrary to Adobe's documentation, these shortcuts work with long, multi-page tables as well as text. Just click with the Type tool on the row that you want to move to the next page and press the shortcut for either Column break or Frame break. This will force this row of the table to jump to the next column or frame (or page, if that is where the next column or frame is located).

If you later wish to delete the break, you will find that there is no visible "break" character in the row where you entered the keyboard shortcut. When you use the keyboard shortcut for column break or frame break in a table row, InDesign actually changes the Table > Cell Options > Rows and Columns "Start Row" setting to In Next Text Column or In Next Frame. So, to remove a break that you've inserted in a table, put your text cursor in the first row after the break, choose Table > Cell Options > Rows and Columns and change the "Start Row" to Anywhere.

(Tested in both InDesign CS2 and CS3). See also this related blog entry.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The brilliance of Kuler

If you haven't visited Kuler lately, it's time for another look. Kuler is a Web site for exploring and creating color themes. Any of the 40,000+ color themes on Kuler can be downloaded as ASE files and used in InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop CS2 or CS3.

This is brilliant. Adobe could have hired a team of color experts and locked them in a room until they developed 40,000 color themes, and then included these themes with the Creative Suite installers. Aside from the considerable time and expense it would take to do this, the themes developed this way would not begin to match the incredible variety and creativity of color themes created by a diverse user community. This is a prime example of how Adobe is trying to figure out how to connect desktop applications to the riches of user-generated content.

Another great feature of Kuler: Upload an image to Kuler (Create > From an Image), and Kuler will extract a color theme from the dominant colors of the image, depending on your selection of Colorful, Bright, Muted, Deep, or Dark colors.

There are four ways to access Kuler color themes:

1. The Kuler Web site.

2. The Kuler desktop application, which, among other features, allows you to "tear off" selected themes and float them over your on-screen project, just as you might hold a printed swatch book up to a printed page to judge color relationships.

3. The Kuler panel in Illustrator CS3 (Window > Adobe Labs > Kuler).

4. The Kuler desktop widget for Mac.

See Adobe Labs for more information about Kuler, as well as links to download the Kuler desktop app and desktop widget. See also Kuler help, a tutorial, and a previous post about Kuler.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Custom keyboard shortcuts in Bridge

InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator all let you add custom keyboard shortcuts using the Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts command. Unfortunately, Bridge doesn't have such a command. If you use a Mac, there is a neat way to add keyboard shortcuts to Bridge menu items. As pointed out by a reader a few days ago, you can use an OS X Preference setting to do this. Here's how:

1. Launch an application that you want to add a keyboard shortcut to. Choose the menu command that you want to add a shortcut to, and write down the exact spelling of item the way it appears in the menu. If I wanted to add a shortcut to the File > Place > In Photoshop command in Bridge, I would write down In Photoshop.

2. Go to your Mac OS X System Preferences, and click on the Keyboard & Mouse preference.

3. Click on the Keyboard Shortcuts category at the top of the dialog box.

4. Click on the plus sign in the lower-left corner of the dialog box to add a keyboard shortcut.

5. For the "Application", choose your application if it is listed in the drop down menu, or choose Other at the bottom of the list and browse to find your application.

6. For the "Menu Title" type the exact name of the command you wrote down in step one.

7. Place your cursor in the "Keyboard Shortcut" field, and type the keyboard shortcut you want to assign. Be sure to choose a unique shortcut that is not already in use by the application or OS X.

8. Click the Add button, and you're finished!

This procedure will work with many OS X applications, but unfortunately does not work in Acrobat Professional 8.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saving filled in forms

Adobe Acrobat allows you to create fillable forms that can be filled in on-screen by anyone with the free Adobe Reader. However, Adobe Reader users cannot save a filled in form with the form data, even if the form is not password protected. If you need to save a filled in form with the form data, there are two well-known options, and one sneaky option:

1. Users of Adobe Acrobat Standard, Acrobat Professional, Acrobat Elements or the old Acrobat Business Tools (no longer available) can save filled-in forms with the form data.

2. Users of Adobe Reader 7.0.0 or later can save filled-in forms with the form data if the form has been “Reader-enabled” by someone with Adobe Acrobat Professional 8. This is a new feature of Acrobat Professional 8, and there are some Adobe license restrictions that prevent this from being used in high-volume applications.

3. You can “print”the filled-in PDF file to an image (TIFF) file with a print driver. One such driver that is already installed on many Windows systems is the "Microsoft Office Document Image Writer." When a user prints with this driver, they get to choose a name and location for the resulting TIFF file. The black and white TIFF that results can be 100, 200 or 300 dpi depending on the driver settings. This TIFF can then be saved for archival purposes or viewed with the Microsoft Office Document Imaging program or a similar program. There are other freeware and shareware "print to TIFF" drivers available for both Windows and Macintosh systems.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Adding files to a "book"

An InDesign Book is a collection of individual InDesign files. Creating a book makes it possible to break long documents into smaller chapters or sections, with each chapter or section an individual InDesign file. Creating a book allows you to do automatic page numbering across all the individual files, create a table of contents or index for the entire book, print or create a PDF of the entire book, and much more.

To create a book, just choose File > New > Book. This places an empty Book panel on your screen. You can add individual InDesign files to the book by choosing Add Document from the Book panel menu, or by clicking on the plus sign at the bottom of the Book panel. If you have a large number of files to add to a book, adding them this way is tedious. Here's a better way: just drag and drop InDesign files from the Macintosh Finder, Windows Explorer or Adobe Bridge right into the Book panel. You can drag and drop multiple files at a time. You can even drag and drop a top level folder, and all the InDesign files in that folder, as well as all the subfolders, will be added to the book!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Push and pull pages

InDesign CS3 offers a new way to move document pages or master pages from one file to another, the Move Pages command in the Pages panel menu. It works like this:

1. Open two documents.

2. Select one or more document pages in one of the files, and choose Move Pages from the Pages panel menu.

3. In the Move Pages dialog, you will see a drop down list next to "Move to:". Choose the second file that you have open from this list.

4. Choose where in that document you wish to move the pages to using the "Destination:" drop down list.

5. Click the OK button.

The procedure above lets you push pages from the active file to any other open file. If you select one or more Master Pages in step 2, the Move Pages option in the Pages panel menu changes to Move Masters, letting you push the selected masters to another open file.

You can also pull master pages from another InDesign file (it doesn't need to be open) into the file you have open. To do this, choose Load Masters Pages from the Pages panel menu.

Unfortunately, you cannot pull document pages from one file into another. Document pages can only be pushed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Placeholder (Lorem Ipsum) text

When you have a cursor in a text frame in InDesign, you can choose Type > Fill with Placeholder Text to fill the text frame with "lorem ipsum" nonsense text. This can be useful if you need to format some text before the actual text is available.

If you'd prefer text other than the standard "lorem ipsum", you have some options:

1. The Greek Machine lets you specify what sort of text you want (Latin, marketing speak, hillbilly, pseudo German, and more) and then it produces text you can copy and paste into InDesign or any other program. The Lorem Ipsum Generator offers Greek, Russian, Arabic, Esperanto and many other variations.

2. g-design has created a Lorem Ipsum Widget for the Macintosh.

3. Rorohiko has created a free InDesign plug-in called Lightning Brain ChatterGoofy, which creates several different types of nonsense text right in InDesign.

4. You can create a text file named "placeholder.txt" and put it in the top level of your InDesign CS2 or CS3 application folder. The next time that you choose Type > Fill with Placeholder Text, the text from your placeholder.txt file will be used.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Create stripes in InDesign

The Gradient Swatch Tool and the New Gradient Swatch command in the Swatches panel tool makes it easy to create and apply gradient blends in InDesign. In a gradient blend, one color normally "blends" gradually into the other. But you can also create Gradient Swatches that create stripes, like this:

You can do this in InDesign by dragging adjacent color stops in the New Gradient Swatch dialog box exactly on top of each other. In other words, working left to right on the gradient ramp, you would first create a white stop at 0%, then another white stop at 10%, with a black stop "on top" of the white stop at 10%, then another black stop at 20% followed by another white stop at 20%, and so on.

To make it easier, I've created a sample InDesign file that you can download that contains sample linear and radial "striped" swatches. Download the sample file, and choose Load Swatches from the Swatches panel menu to load these swatches into your InDesign file. To change the colors of the stripes, just change the colors of the "Color 1" and "Color 2" swatches. The file works with both CS2 and CS3.

This is pretty obscure, but maybe someone will find a use for it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Free InDesign keyboard shortcuts

One of the handouts that I give to participants in my InDesign on-site training seminars is a quick reference guide to all the keyboard shortcuts in InDesign. If you haven't had the good fortune to have me do InDesign training at your company, you can still get a copy of the keyboard shortcut guide copy of the keyboard shortcut guide here. I've worked hard to organize the shortcuts into recognizable language, and still have them all fit on two sides of a letter-size page. There are both CS2 and CS3 versions, for Macintosh and Windows platforms. I hope you find these useful!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Case sensitive searches in Bridge

One of the great features of Bridge is the ability to do a Find based on the metadata in your files. I generally try to add all keywords and other metadata all lowercase, except for proper names. But you may not know if the text you are searching for is upper or lowercase. Luckily, if you search for a word or phrase in any of the individual metadata fields in Bridge CS3, the search is not case-sensitive. However, if you select the "All Metadata" option, the search is case-sensitive.

For example, if you have some images with "Horse" with a capital "H" in the description field, if you search for "Description contains horse" (lowercase h) it will still find the image. However, if you search for "All Metadata contains horse" it will not find the image. You would need to choose "All Metadata contains Horse" (uppercase h) for the image to be found.

I can't think of any logical reason why Bridge would be intentionally designed this way, and have reported this as a bug to Adobe.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Twin Cities InDesign User Group meeting

If you are in the Twin Cities, MN area, please join us on Tuesday, February 26, 7:00 p.m. at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for the next meeting of the Twin Cities InDesign User Group. As of this writing, there are 118 people registered to attend, so I expect a crowd. These meetings are always fun, informative, and FREE! Registration is required. Click here for more information, or to register for the meeting.

Build PDF tooltips inside InDesign

A client recently asked if there was a way to add PDF "tooltips" to a page, so that when a reader hovers over an acronym, a tooltip appears that defines the acronym. I put my thinking cap on, and developed a technique for adding these tooltips right in InDesign. It seemed like a neat technique, so I wrote it up for InDesign Magazine. You can download a reprint of the article here: Build PDF Tooltips Inside InDesign (1.7mb PDF file). (InDesign Magazine is an excellent resource. If you don't already subscribe, you should! See the last page of the PDF for a special subscription rate.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Drag and drop tricks with Bridge

One of the most useful features of Adobe Bridge is the ability to drag and drop assets (images, artwork, logos, and even text files) from Bridge into other Creative Suite programs, including InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash and Fireworks, (as well as Word, Powerpoint and Publisher).

To make dragging and dropping easier, switch to “Compact Mode” in Bridge by clicking on the compact mode button in the upper-right corner of the window or hitting command-return (Mac) or ctrl-enter (Windows). This does three things:

1. It causes the Bridge window to stay on top of all other windows

2. It returns the Bridge window to the previous size and location from the last time you entered Compact Mode

3. It hides all other Bridge Panels except for the Content panel.

Here's another neat trick: Say you have a Photoshop file open, you're browsing through some images in Bridge, and you locate one that you want to add to your Photoshop file as a new layer. Unfortunately, you can't drag and drop from Bridge into Photoshop. But if you select an image in Bridge CS3 and choose File > Place > In Photoshop, the image will be added to your existing Photoshop file as a new Smart Object layer.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Adobe Stock Photos service to be discontinued

Adobe announced today that Adobe Stock Photos is being discontinued, effective April 1, 2008. I'm sorry to see this unique Web service go, as it integrated the Stock Photo search, comp, and purchasing experience seamlessly with Adobe Bridge, InDesign and Illustrator. More information and a utility for uninstalling the Adobe Stock Photos features from the Creative Suite can be found here.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Something that you can't do in InDesign

I've been asked twice this week if there is any way to select non-adjacent areas of text in InDesign. In other words, is there any way to select a section of text, skip over a couple of words, and then select another few words without deselecting the first selection? Microsoft Word (both Mac and Windows versions) can do this. And if I recall correctly, there is a QuarkXTension for doing this. But unfortunately, I know of no way to do this in InDesign. If you would find a feature like this to be useful, file an official Adobe feature request here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

En dashes and line breaks in InDesign

Whenever you have a range indicated in your text, such as "pages 130-176" or "Dec. 12-Jan 4", an en dash should be used instead of a hyphen. An en dash is a bit longer than a normal hyphen. En dashes are inserted in InDesign CS2 by choosing Type> Insert Special Character> En Dash, and in InDesign CS3 by choosing Type> Insert Special Character> Hyphens and Dashes> En Dash.

There is a difference between the way InDesign CS2 and CS3 break lines containing en dashes. In particular, if you have a range such as 130-176, CS2 will break the line after the en dash, if necessary, but CS3 will never break the line after the en dash. In other words, the "130-176" will always be kept together on the same line in CS3. For most usage, this is preferable behavior. But what if the project you are working on needs to allow line breaks after en dashes in InDesign CS3? Here is one workaround:

Insert a "discretionary line break" character after the En Dash by choosing Type> Insert Break Character> Discretionary Line Break. This will cause the line to break ONLY when it is necessary to do so, and will not cause any extra space to be added when the line doesn't break. The Discretionary Line Break appears as a vertical blue line when Type> Show Hidden Characters is selected.

To further automate this, you could assign a keyboard shortcut to the Discretionary Line Break to make it easy to enter, or use Edit > Find/Change to search for en dashes and replace them with en dashes followed by discretionary line breaks.