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.