Thursday, January 29, 2009

Batch output InDesign files to XFL

Because I'm really jazzed about InDesign CS4's ability to export to XFL, an intermediate file format that can be opened and edited by Adobe Flash Professional, I'm happy to see that Zevrix Solutions has updated BatchOutput to support the XFL format, in addition to SWF, PDF, PS, EPS, JPEG and SWF formats. From the press release:

BatchOutput saves valuable production time and simplifies workflows of service providers, printers, ad agencies and publishing houses by automating the output from InDesign. With BatchOutput, users only need to select the files to output and adjust the settings, instead of opening and printing each document manually. For example, BatchOutput can be left printing or exporting hundreds of InDesign files overnight, and the completed job can be picked up next morning. BatchOutput also allows users to output InDesign documents as single pages, update links automatically, and output files invisibly for the user. BatchOutput automatically composes complex variable file names, which makes it equally indispensable for export of single documents.

The new version adds the ability to export to the Adobe Flash CS4 Pro file format (XFL), dramatically simplifying repurposing of InDesign CS4 documents for interactive media.

Pricing and Availability:
BatchOutput 3.4 can be purchased from the Zevrix Solutions web site,, for US$119.95, as well as from authorized resellers. Demo is also available for download. Upgrade to BatchOutput 3.4 is free for licensed users of version 3.x, and US$40 for the users of earlier versions.

BatchOutput 3.4 is available for Mac OS X 10.4.2 and higher, a Universal Binary, and works with Adobe InDesign CS-CS4.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sharing an InDesign library with multiple users

According to InDesign Help, "libraries can be shared across servers, and across platforms, but only one person can have the library open at a time." This is true: InDesign won't normally let more than one person at a time open a library stored on a file server. But there's a workaround: just lock the library file.

On the Mac, select the library file in the Finder, choose File > Get Info, and click the Locked option. On Windows, right-click on the library file, choose Properties from the pop-up menu, and click the Read-only option.

Once you've done this, multiple users, even a mix of Windows and Macintosh users, can open the Library file simultaneously. Unfortunately, to make a change to the library you need to make sure no one else has it open, unlock it, open it in InDesign, make the desired change, and then lock the library once again.

(This multi-user limitation of Libraries is why I prefer to use Snippets instead of libraries in most situations. But that's topic for a future blog post.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Adobe announces new Suites

Adobe has announced a new version of the Technical Communications Suite. This suite includes brand-new versions of: FrameMaker 9, RoboHelp 8, Captivate 4, as well as Photoshop CS4, Acrobat 9 Pro Extended, Presenter 7, Bridge CS4, Device Central CS4 and Adobe 3D Reviewer. The suite is only available for the Windows platform.

Concurrently, Adobe announced a new eLearning Suite, which is a bundle of Captivate 4, Flash CS4 Professional, Dreamweaver CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended, Acrobat 9 Pro, Presenter 7, Soundbooth CS4, Bridge CS4, Device Central CS4, eLearning extensions for Flash and Dreamweaver and a SCORM Packager for creating LMS-compliant content from Flash Professional. The eLearning Suite is also Windows-only.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dual monitors increase productivity

My friend Dirk sent me this link to a New York Times article about the efficiency benefits of having two monitors attached to your computer. If you're looking for data to justify the expense of a two monitor configuration, read this article.

I've been touting the benefits of using two monitors for a long time. I use a dual-monitor setup in my office, and believe that once you've tried it, there's no going back to a single monitor.

20-24 inch wide screen flat panel displays from vendors such as Dell have fallen in price to the point that for many people it's no longer the display expense that is the issue. It's more an issue of clearing up desk space and making sure that the monitors match up with the output capabilities of the computer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

InData updated for InDesign CS4

I noticed today that Em Software has updated their InData plug-in to work with InDesign CS4. I've used this plug-in for several projects in the past, and can vouch for its usefulness. It's best described as "mail merge on steroids". If you've tried the Data Merge feature of InDesign, but been hampered by its limitations, you'll love InData. It's particularly useful for publishing directories from database information, without having to learn how to use InDesign's XML features.

Of course, if you need training on how to use InData, or consulting help with an InData project, I can do that too! Contact me if you'd like to talk about this.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Batch output InDesign files to Flash

I've been working quite a bit with InDesign CS4's ability to export to Flash format. CS4 can export page to SWF files (completed, "compiled" Flash files ready to put on a Web site), and XFL files. XFL files can be opened in Adobe Flash CS4 Professional for further editing and animation before being published as SWF files.

I was pleased to see that the latest version of BatchOutput now supports SWF output. BatchOutput is a slick utility (Macintosh only) that automates printing and exporting multiple InDesign files to PDF, PS, EPS, JPEG and SWF formats.

Zevrix Solutions plans to add support for the XFL format to BatchOutput "really soon" in a future release.

InDesign User Group meeting

If you will be in, or close to, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area this Tuesday, 1/20/09, join us at the Minneapolis InDesign User Group meeting. These meetings are always informative and a lot of fun. The best part is they're free, thanks to our sponsors, MCAD and Central Coast Solutions.

Although the meetings are free, registration is required. At the time of this writing (Friday a.m.) there are 162 people registered. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

InDesign table bug

A consulting client of mine ran across a nasty repeatable InDesign bug today. I did some further testing and refined the bug down to the following essentials:

1. Create a new document in InDesign CS3 5.0.4 Mac or Windows.

2. Create a new text frame, and choose Table > Insert Table.

3. Create a table with 3 body rows and 2 columns.

4. Horizontally merge the two cells of the first row of the table.

5. Vertically merge the two cells in the bottom-left corner of the table.

6. Now, here's where it gets interesting: click inside the vertically merged cell in the bottom-left corner of the table, and drag straight up, as if you were trying to select the cells above the merged cell also. InDesign CS3 will immediately crash.

This DOESN'T cause a crash in CS4 (or CS2 for that matter). So I assume it's a known bug that was squashed in CS4.

So, avoid dragging from the bottom up in tables, and you won't encounter this bug. Top-down dragging doesn't cause a problem.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Ads for Adobe PDF gets the ax

Due to a "reassessment of priorities in the current economic environment" Adobe is discontinuing their experimental Ads for Adobe PDF program, which had been in beta testing for about 13 months.

I previously wrote about Ads for Adobe PDF on December 3, 2007 and April 22, 2008.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Linotype FontExplorer updated

Linotype FontExplorer X for the Macintosh has been a free download for a long while. Like many other users, I switched to it awhile back and have been pleased with it, especially considering the price. LinoType has now revised FontExplorer X, giving it a new name (FontExplorer X Pro), adding a server version, offering support and documentation...and deciding to charge for the product. I can't blame them for charging. It's awfully hard to make money on a free product! Linotype is selling the "Pro" version for an introductory price of $39 through 2/28/2009.

You can still download the free version, but it will not be developed further, and at some point I assume an OS X system update will come along that will make this version no longer function properly.

Font management for the Macintosh has come a long way in the last couple of years, with capable font managers available from Linotype, Insider Software (FontAgent Pro 4) and Extensis (Suitcase Fusion 2). You really can't go wrong using the latest versions of any of these products. Each one has a slightly different focus and strengths and weaknesses. All three companies offer a server version to help manage fonts in workgroup settings also.

InDesign Special Character Guide

Over at the incredibly-useful InDesignSecrets Blog, my friend Anne-Marie has posted a concise visual reference to all of InDesign's on-screen hidden characters and markers. These are InDesign's visual clues that indicate that you've entered a space, non-breaking space, line break, tab, or other difficult-to-recognize character. In order to see these characters on the screen, Type > Show Hidden Characters must be chosen.

In this well-organized, downloadable PDF reference, Anne-Marie shows 43 different doo-dads that may leave you scratching your head when you see them on the screen. Now you can just look them up in this handy reference. Thanks Anne-Marie!