Monday, August 21, 2017

Using Paper Color to Help Distinguish Various Files

I’m currently working on a complex manual regarding a marine electrical system. This particular manual has many similarities to three other manuals I have done in the past, but it’s not exactly like any one of them. When I’m working on a project like this, I find it helpful to keep several of the previous documents open for reference. But since all the documents look so much alike, there have been times when I’ve lost track of which one was my “working” document, and I ended up editing the wrong one. But today I came up with a way to distinguish between the working document and the reference documents.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My First Course!

For years, I have been watching Lynda courses to further my knowledge about Adobe software. They have helped me to pass numerous ACE exams, and have been a core part of my design and technology education.

After years of watching my friends and colleagues produce Lynda courses, I am finally able to join their ranks! Lynda has recently been producing more courses in the area of AEC (Architecture, Engineering, and Construction), and my course is aimed at those folks.

My career is rather unique in that I sit squarely at the intersection of two industries: publishing and boatbuilding. I am just as comfortable discussing the intricacies of InDesign conditional text as I am with discussing air conditioning and plumbing on boats. This unusual crossover puts in in a great position to understand the unique needs of boat builders and boat owners, with regard to documentation.

The drafts of my manuals are always sent to my clients as PDFs, and I do my best to encourage my clients to adopt PDF commenting when they review the manuals that I send them. My goal is to help more people in the AEC filed to adopt PDF commenting. This course is my way of offering a vast number of people 1:1 training on how they can use PDF commenting in their engineering and construction workflows.

Even if you're not in the AEC industries, this course will still be great for you. The documents I show in the course are all technical manuals and engineering drawings, but the commenting methods will work on any type of PDF.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Show the InDesign Notes Tool Some Love

In my workflow, I use notes every day, at least a few dozen times per day. I fill my InDesign documents with notes for my clients, asking questions, for more information, photos, or to clarify things. I use Notes so frequently that I even created a custom keyboard shortcut for "Convert to Note."

My notes are my primary way of communicating with my clients, in context in the PDF drafts that I send them. But you may be wondering how InDesign Notes translate into PDF notes. There are two ways this can be accomplished:

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Easy Drag and Drop PDF Pages Extraction

Do you ever need to extract a single page from a PDF? If you're using Acrobat, it's a fairly quick process.

1. First open the pages panel. If your pages panel is not already open (in Acrobat DC), click on the little arrow on the left of your window.

Click on the arrow to open the Navigation Pane buttons in Acrobat DC

2. Then select the pages you'd like to extract. 

3. Then click the Options button (to the left of the trash can icon). Then choose "Extract Pages..." You can also access this same menu by right-clicking on any of the pages.

4. Verify which pages you want to extract. Then you'll be presented with this dialog box. The page range here will automatically be populated based on the pages that you have selected. But if your page range is too large to easily select them all, you can manually type in whatever page numbers you want to extract. You also have the option of deleting pages after extraction, as well as extracting them as separate files.

5. The extracted pages will open up in a new window, as a new PDF. 

But there is an easier way!

What if you don't need to delete the pages after extracting, and you want to extract them all as a single file? I discovered today that you can drag and drop PDF page thumbnails onto the desktop for 1-step page extraction! This work in Acrobat 9, X, and DC on a mac. (Sadly, this does not work in Acrobat XI.)

But wait! There's More!

Edit 3-27-17: I recently discovered that this also works with non-sequential pages! Have you ever had to extract a complete page range, only to then reopen it and delete the pages you don't need? Well, no more! You can simply Cmd/ Ctrl + click on any page thumbnail and then drag and drop them on to the desktop.

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in some more drag and drop functionality of the Acrobat pages panel: How to Replace Pages in a PDF using Acrobat's Pages Panel.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How Remove Date and Time From PDF Comments

This was a forum post on the Acrobat forums. I think it's worthwhile to have this here on my blog as well.

I don't want others to see date or time for my comments in Acrobat. So, how do I (preferably permanently) remove those data?
Cheers from Stockholm

You can't do it inside Acrobat, but there is a way to do it outside of Acrobat. Export the comments as a data file. I wrote about there here.

Change the extension from FDF to XML and open it up in your text editor of choice. Then delete two bits of code. Look for the two sections that have the dates in them. If your have a bunch of comments, it might be easer to do a Search for the year in order to make sure you find them all.

Save the XML file. Change the extension back to FDF. Delete all your old comments (save a backup copy first!) Then reimport it back into your PDF. The dates should be gone. Here is the original comment with the date at the bottom.

And here is the comment after the code was edited in Text Wrangler. No date! 

Edit: 3-10-17: I recently found a related free script that anonymizes comments

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Fix for the Dreaded Quick Apply Crash

In my long document production workflow, I use Quick Apply throughout the day. I use it for paragraph styles, character styles, object styles, and inserting variables, among other things. It saves me hours of time from through style panels with hierarchical style groups. If you're not familiar with Quick Apply, I suggest you take a few moments and learn about how it can speed up your workflow.

But seven years after this bug was first being reported, Adobe finally released a fix! Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.


Monday, January 9, 2017

How to Add Rotated Text to a PDF using Acrobat DC

In a previous article, I explained various methods of adding add rotated text to a PDF using Acrobat XI. This short video demonstrates how to add rotated text in Acrobat DC using the Add Text Tool (not to be confused with the Add Text Comment Tool).

Monday, December 19, 2016

PDFStickies: Why Wasn't This Built into InDesign in the First Place?

As a graphic designer and technical communicator, I  have the unique job of not only designing and layout out technical documents, but also the responsibility of creating nearly all the content. I work with mechanical engineers and master builders, taking their photos, emails, conversations, and drawings, and turning them into beautiful technical manuals. But along the way, I have a lot of questions for my clients. I have found that the best way to keep track of all my questions is to use PDF sticky notes, so that my clients can see my questions, in context, and answer them, in context.

But how do you make a PDF sticky note if while working in InDesign? The answer is in one of my favorite plugins: PDFStickies. Watch this video and take a peek into my workflow, and see how my InDesign notes magically become PDF sticky notes, all in the export process.

Interestingly, while InCopy has the native capability to export PDFs with sticky notes, InDesign sadly does not. Fortunately, a great developer has created a tool that gives this capability to InDesign.

You can purchase PDF Stickies here:

Friday, December 16, 2016

How to Add a Special Character in Front of a Numbered List

Recently, an excellent question came up on the InDesignSecrets forum.

I have a numbered list (1-72) that needs to have a checkbox in front of each number. I have a paragraph style already set up to handle the checkbox lists found in other parts of the doc, but this one list needs to have numbers after each checkbox. I see where you can add a bullet character to a numbered list in the paragraph styles, but it doesn’t really give me access to change that bullet character to the checkbox character I have set up.
I came up with a quick process to create a numbered list with a checkbox preceding each number.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets: How to Add a Special Character in Front of a Numbered List

Friday, December 9, 2016

Number Knitting #4: Virtual Coloring in Acrobat DC Using the Drawing Tools

I am currently working to republish "Number Knitting," an out-of-print knitting book from the 1950s. Last year, I scanned in the entire 275 page book, and have spent this year adding the patterns to the Ravelry database.

One of the reasons this book is so interesting to me is because it is unlike most other knitting books. The knitting is based on seven shapes. The author, Virginia Woods Bellamy, is considered by many to be the inventor of modular knitting. By combining these shoes in a variety of ways, you can make anything from blankets and placements to baby's clothes and evening wear. Like most women of her era, she obviously had a background in sewing, and so her garment patterns are constructed very differently than most modern-day knitting patterns. She constructed the shapes much like a seamstress would cut out shapes of fabric.

Number Knitting Shapes

Mrs. Bellamy also created a new form of charting, which greatly simplifies the instructions. The charts in the book were all hand-drawn; the darkness of the gridlines is equal to that of the main shapes. Because of this, it's easy to get lost in the chart. To complicate matters, additional lines within each shape also serve to denote color. The more lines each shape has, the darker the color. This chart represents a scarf to be knit in dark blue and light sand colored yarn. extra vertical lines (between the gridlines) in shapes and 3 indicate to use a darker yarn.

Golf Scarf
The chart for the Golf Scarf project is fairly easy to understand. But as the book progresses, the charts get decidedly more complex. Take the chart for the Winged Blouse for example. What in the world?! This could definitely use some design improvements to make it easier to see what's going on.

Winged Blouse
And how about this one? This is a blanket to be knit in four different colors. But it's tough to envision what it should look like.

Abstract Rose Chart
I decided to come up with a way to color-code the charts so I could, visually, keep better track of the pattern. Since I have the entire book as a PDF, I want decided to do the color coding right within Acrobat, so I could keep the book as a single file. I've explored various ways to use PDF commenting in other knitting patterns, such as this example where I demonstrated how to make virtual sticky notes for keeping track of your place in a PDF pattern.

I'll be using the same technique here, only instead of using plain rectangles, I'll be using the polygon tool to outline the different shapes. The first four units are all supposed to be knitted in the same pink color, so I used the polygon tool to outline those four as a single unit. I decreased the opacity to 37%, so I can see the chart through the pink shape.

Units 5-12 are all dove blue rectangles, so I used the rectangle tool to make those. Something I've noticed is that whenever I have a comment selected, it always turns darker... until I click away. Strange!

For the next four units, the pattern calls for a blue green, which isn't available through Acrobats DC's new color picker (it only has 18 color choices). So I opened up the Properties dialog box (available through a right-click contextual menu), and I chose a custom color that looked nice.

Finally, the remaining border units are to be a rose color. I needed to break this into two sections so that I could effectively knock out the center portion of the chart.

So there you have it! Using Acrobat's drawing tools are a great way to do virtual coloring on a PDF. While I am using Acrobat for this tutorial, these tools and capabilities are exactly the same in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

In addition to coloring the charts in Acrobat, I have also been going through the book and recoloring all the black and white photos. Slowly but surely, I am bringing this book back to life!
Abstract Rose Coverlet with Bias Edges
Would you like to help me reknit the patterns from the book? If so, check out the Number Knitting patterns in the Ravelry database, and let me know which ones you'd like to knit. I'll get you the pattern straight away!

Edit 8-4-17: If you would like this feature in Acrobat, please vote for it here on the new Adobe User Voice site.