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.