Monday, May 11, 2015

Best Practices for using PDF Commenting Tools in Acrobat XI

Do you ever receive PDFs from clients and coworkers that are filled only with Sticky Notes and highlights? Perhaps they only have Adobe Reader and those are the only tools they have available. (Here's how to fix that: Saving PDFs for Reader Users: the How and Why).

But perhaps they people commenting on your PDFs simply don't know how to use the commenting tools, and so they use them incorrectly and not to their full potential. Save yourselves some frustration, time, and money by learning how to use PDF commenting tools to more clearly communicate your thoughts and reduce redundancy in your commenting.

This video demonstrates best practices for using PDF commenting tools. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

How to Check Tint Shades the Using Separations Preview Panel

I recently designed a large table (900+ cells) for a client. I used cell styles, paragraph styles, and character styles. We went through several iterations as the client decided how she wanted various tints to appear in the design. At the very end of the project, the client asked me to double check the tint shade of the gray cells.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why I Run Four Different Versions of Acrobat

Lately, there's been quite  a stir with the introduction of Acrobat DC (Document Cloud). It joins the rest of Adobe's Cloud family: Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud.

But as much as I love getting new features from the continuous update cycle with Adobe's cloud services, I still keep all my old versions of Acrobat installed. The reason is because each new version of Acrobat, while it has new and exciting features, I have built a workflow around the many of the old features that have been dropped in the newer versions of Acrobat. I want to share with you some of the features that I use every day that have been dropped as Acrobat has grown older.

Acrobat 9

Sort Comments by Color

Sort Comments by Color

This is one of the core features of my workflow. I use about 15 different colors and I need to be able to sort them. I have written several articles about this feature:

I have also done a video: Sort Comments by Color in Acrobat 9

Because Adobe has abandoned this feature in Acrobat, I have been on the hunt to find an alternative software that will sort comments by color. The only one I can find is Nitro Pro, but their software is windows-only (and I am on a mac).

Handy Commenting Toolbar

In Acrobat 9, there was an amazing little handy toolbar at the bottom of the Comments tab. It had all kinds of buttons for marking comments with checkmark, trashing comments, sorting and filter comments, and navigating through comments. Sadly, this handy toolbar no longer exists in recent versions of Acrobat.

One of my favorite buttons on that toolbar is "Collapse All." Which brings me to my next item...
Sort by Checkmark Status: Acrobat 9


Collapsable Sorting

In a typical PDF document, I'll have anywhere from 50-100 highlights. I like to sort them by type, by color, and by checkmark status. In Acrobat 9, I was able to collapse all these down into sub groups. This allows me to easily see if any of the comments are still unchecked. That feature doesn't exist in Acrobat X, XI, or DC. So now if I want to see whether I have unchecked comments, I have to scroll all the way down to the bottom. And often, the scroll wheel is not functional when I hover over the comments list. So I have to click and drag. What a pain. Plus, the checkmarks are difficult to see in Acrobat X and XI.

Sort by Checkmark Status: Acrobat X
They did make much-needed improvement in Acrobat DC: they made the checkmarks much easier to see.
Sort By Checkmark Status: Acrobat DC

Right Click > Mark with Checkmark

Acrobat 9 was better with commenting in SO many ways (I daresay in every way). One of them was the ability to easily mark comments as checked. Now, I suspect that Adobe would prefer people to use the set Status capability, but as a workflow of One, I find that checkmarks are easier for me to work with. I have two statuses: "Done" or "Not Done." So the simple checkmark works just fine for me. I really have no use for 6 different statuses. Perhaps I would find Statuses useful if I was part of a large workgroup and worked with a team of editors, but I don't. It's just me.

Set Status: Review

Set Status: Migration
In Acrobat 9, it was very easy to mark a comment as checked. You simply right-clicked on it and chose "Mark with Checkmark." Alternatively, there were also two different places in the Handy Commenting Toolbar to mark the comment as checked.

Right-Click: Acrobat 9

It's easy to mark a comment as checked in the Commenting Toolbar!
Sadly, in Acrobat X and going forward, the right-click > Mark as Checked feature was removed, as was the handy Commenting toolbar. So now the only way to mark something as checked is in the giant comment list (which is now by default vertical, as opposed to horizontal.

Right Click: Acrobat X
Right Click: Acrobat DC

Comment Pane Orientation

I really prefer my comments displayed horizontally, as it was in Acrobat 9. In Acrobat X, they made the comment pane display vertically, and I think there was such outrage over it that Adobe conceded in Acrobat XI and added a new item to the Options in the Comments Pane: Undock Comments. It allows you to have a floating comments pane and move it down to the bottom (of wherever else you liked).

Comments Options: Acrobat XI
But for me, one of the main reasons I like my comments displayed horizontally is because that gave me access to all those handy tools, located conveniently right above the comments they were used on. One of the things that was so great about that toolbar is that is expandable. It always expands to fit the width of your document. So it your document window is narrow, the commenting toolbar adjusts and just displays the icons.

Commenting Toolbar: Narrow
But if your document window is wide, the commenting toolbar expands to display not just the icons, but the tool names as well.

Commenting Toolbar: Wide
So while we are able to undock the comments pane in Acrobat XI, it really did us no good, because that handy tool bar was replaced with an infinitely scalable Find field. Really?
Undocked Comments Pane: Acrobat XI

Acrobat X


To Me, Acrobat X and Acrobat XI are very similar. The only major difference that I can think of (keep in mind that this is just in my workflow) is that Acrobat X actions could be run in one click instead of three. Here's an article I wrote about that: How to Run Acrobat XI Actions in 1-click Instead of 3

Sticky Note Font Choice

As far back as I can remember, we've had basic text formatting controls within our sticky notes. Here's an article about that: How to Edit Font Properties Within a PDF Sticky Note

But starting inAcrobat X, we could also change the font used in the sticky notes. In Acrobat DC, the default font changed from Lucinda Grande to Helvetica.
Commenting Preferences: Acrobat 9 
Commenting Preferences: Acrobat X
Commenting Preferences: Acrobat DC


I do all my printing from Acrobat X. I have a large printer that duplexes both letter and tabloid paper. I use a special, slightly thick, three-hole drilled paper with a reinforcement strip along the drilled edge. This paper is not cheap; I have to special order it. A couple of times I accidentally started printing a large document from Acrobat XI, and all the sheets came out backwards and upside down. For some reason, the page orientation settings are different in Acrobat X and XI. Rather then print using XI (which offers no additional printing capabilities), it's easier for me to just print from Acrobat X, so I don't have to figure out a new way to set my print presets and load my paper.

Acrobat XI

I did notice that Actions run much faster in Acrobat XI than they did in Acrobat X. So I'll often use XI to run my actions. I like to create my actions in Acrobat X (for the 1-click capability) and then run them in Acrobat XI (for the speed). How to Run Acrobat XI Actions in 1-click Instead of 3

Acrobat DC

I wish I could be excited about Acrobat DC, I really do. But for my workflow, I have absolutely no use for storing my documents on the cloud for mobile access, or send and track, or send for signature, or any of the other new features that are so touted with Acrobat DC. I really wish Adobe would just restore the functionality they had before, or at least open up the back end of the software somehow so that independent developers could develop plugins to restore the functionality.

I occasionally use Acrobat DC, but it's always on accident, such as when I open a PDF from Safari and it automatically opens Acrobat DC.

Acrobat DC is the default PDF viewer for Safari now
So there you have it: this is why I use four three different versions of Acrobat.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Creating Patterns With InDesign Concentric Circles, Stroke Styles and Blending Modes

Lately I've been exploring blending modes to make patterns. Learn how to create patterns in InDesign with Concentric objects stroke styles and blending modes. I discuss how and why to use Adjust Stroke Weight when scaling, as well as targeting stacked objects using the Layers panel. I talk about Hover Scrolling, and how (sometimes) it can be a very useful feature.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Supercharge Your Graphics with Cell Styles

I am in the process of building raised garden beds and I needed a way to plan the beds and easily edit what is planted in each square. Learn how I used InDesign Cell Styles to aid me in planning my new raised garden beds. Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.
Square Foot Garden Bed Plan using InDesign Cell Styles

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Workaround When Acrobat says a PDF is an "Unsupported File Type"

Today I needed to download a PDF from a website. I use Safari, and usually I can just save the file as a PDF using File > Save As.

But today, that didn't work. I got the following message when I tried to open the file in Acrobat:
"Acrobat could not open 'Ecomar-e.pdf' because it is either not a supported file type of because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an attachment and wasn't correctly decoded). To create an Adobe PDF document, go to the source application. Then choose Save as Adobe PDF from the PDF drop down in the Print dialog.
So next I tried File > Export as PDF. But I got the same result.

In the past, I've used Preview when Acrobat can't open PDF files. But when I tried that today, I got the following message:

So I took a look at the file properties in Finder. For whatever reason, the file is 0KB.

So I decided to try using Acrobat to open the PDF. It's not well known, but there is a way to open a PDF directly from Acrobat. But you won't find it under File > Open. You'll find it under File > Create > PDF from Web Page...

If I recall correctly, years ago this feature may have been in the File > Open section of Acrobat, because notice the keyboard shortcut for this command: Shift + Cmd + O (which is just one key different than the Shift + O of File > Open). That brings up the following dialog box. 

I just pasted in the URL of the PDF I was trying top open and clicked "Create." And Voila! The PDF opened perfectly!

But there is much more to this tool than first meets the eye. Create ODF from Web Page does just when the name says: it creates PDFs from HTML files. If you click on the "Settings" button, you are presented with a few options.

Web Page Conversion Settings: General Tab
Web Page Conversion Settings: Page Layout
In the General Tab, there is a "Settings" button near the top of the dialog box. That gives additional settings for how the HTML will be displayed visually when the file is converted to PDF.
Web Page Conversion Settings > General > HTML Conversion Settings
Since my document was already a PDF, I didn't need to adjust any of the HTML conversion settings. Bu it is nice to know that they are there.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Overcoming Limitations with Find/Change and Conditional Text

InDesign has a serious limitation with regard to Find/Change and Conditional text. Learn what the limitation is, and how to (sort of) work around it. Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Does InDesign Think There are 69 days in the Month?

This is a continuation of a post I wrote a couple of years ago: What To Do When InDesign Text Variables Don't Display Correctly

Text Variable Error Type 3: Incorrect Date Format

A client recently wanted to modify the date format used in the footers of her document. So she sent me this to use for the new format: YYYYMMDD.

I pasted this text into the text variable date modification field and resumed editing the document. While I was working, I noticed that the date format ended not in today's date, but in 69. Wait a minute! There  are never 69 days in a month! 

DD looks wrong! There are not 69 days in the month

I thought perhaps this 69 represented some other type of modification data, so I checked the InDesign Help file for what could be represented by DD (as opposed to dd). There was nothing! Out of curiosity, I changed the DD to dd and the date was now correct.

Correct! This file was modified on the 10th of the month

The first time this happened was on March 10. The DD format gave me the number 69. Today (March 11) I opened the file and the DD format gave me 70.

After a little thinking, I looked at my calendar and discovered that today is the 70th day in the calendar year. So I opened up a file that had a different modification date and experimented with the DD variable to see what it gave me.

DD will output the day of the year!

It turns out the DD is actually a variable not documented in the InDesign help file.

Unlike other variables, which can be typed as either uppercase or lowercase, the date format is case sensitive.
  • dd will give you the day of the month.
  • DD will give you the day of the year.

If your text variables are giving you trouble, please also check out this post on InDesign Secrets: What to Know Before Using Live Captions and Text Variables.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Making Patterns with Conditional Text

Besides being an full-time InDesign user, I'm also avid knitter. While many people doodle cartoon characters during meetings, I tend to doodle knitting pattern ideas. Quite often in my life, my love for InDesign and pattern-making collide and the result is a blog post.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Using PatternMaker Lines to Recreate Striped Knitted Fabric

I have a beautiful striped blue dress that I love to wear in the spring and summer. It's knitted fabric, which makes it stretchy and comfortable. But it's also a rather thick fabric (due to the knitting technique used). It doesn't wrinkle and it's very flattering. I recently took a closer look at the fabric to see if I could determine how it was made and if I could recreate the look of the fabric in InDesign using Teacup PatternMaker.
Blue Dress Fabric
Blue Dress Fabric: Close Up
The first thing I noticed about the fabric was that was knitted in stripes:
1. White
2. Black
3. Two-tone: Black and White
4. Blue

The second thing I noticed about the fabric was that it was jacquard knitting.  Jacquard knitting is a complex type of multi-color knitting whereby the floats created by the color switches will be confined to the inside of the finished project. What that means to the person wearing the fabric is that the interior of the fabric doesn't snag when you wear or wash it. You'll see this technique used in those fancy knitted ski sweaters that cost a couple hundred dollars each. The cheap sweaters don't employ this technique because it's more complicated to produce. That's not going to affect how I recreate the pattern using PatternMaker; I just thought it was something interesting to note.

The third thing I noticed about the fabric was that it was pin tucked, resting in subtle horizontal ridges along the width of the fabric. It makes each stripe puff up a little bit, so that even if the fabric was all in a single color, subtle horizontal ridges would still exist.

Believe it or not, we can create this pattern using only 5 objects! So let's recreate this pattern using PatternMaker!

1. Make a large rectangle and fill it with black lines using the following settings.
Black PatternMaker Lines
2. Set your ruler increments to Points. Now, keep in mind that the units used in PatternMaker are the same as whatever unit of measurement you have for the current document you're working in. I find PatternMaker much easier to use if I am working in points. To quickly change your unit of measurement, Ctrl+Click in the top left corner of you ruler guides. Then choose Points.

3. Change your Cursor Key preference to 1 pt. Since we'll be reusing (and nudging) the black lines for the rest of the design, it's important to set the cursor key preference so that when we nudge, we'll get the exact alignment of the lines.
Change Cursor Key Preference
4. Add the Blue Lines: Select the Black Lines, then copy and paste in place. In PatternMaker, change the Pattern Stroke color to blue and then Shift+Up Arrow once. This will move the blue lines up 10 points. Because the line distance is exactly 20 points, that will put the blue lines exactly halfway in between the black lines.
Black and Blue Lines
5. Add the White Line Placeholder: Since you already have the black lines pattern on your clipboard, simply Paste in Place again. Change the Pattern stroke color to magenta so you can see the pattern while you're aligning it. Press the up arrow five times.
Use Magenta to Align the Lines
6. Duplicate the Magenta lines. Copy the magenta lines and and Paste in Place. Then Shift + Up Arrow once. These lines will be the placeholder for the white background two-tone lines we'll be creating next.
Duplicate the Magenta Lines
7. Rename your layers. If you look in the Layers panel, you'll see something similar to this. Those names come from how PatternMaker works. For every pattern you make, PatternMaker creates and embeds an EPS file into your InDesign document. Those embedded EPS filenames are what then get displayed in the Layers panel. But when all your patterns are created using the same type of shape (Lines, Triangles, Crosses, Dots, Waves, etc.), the names in the Layers panel aren't very helpful.
Auto-Generated Confusing Layer Names
So to make it easier to use the Layers panel to select the different frames, change the names in the Layers panel according to your colors, like so:
Understandable Layer Names
To change the names of your layers, click on the layer name, pause, then click again (a slow double click). The name will then highlight in blue and become and editable text field.

8. Change the magenta to white: In the Layers panel, Shift + Click on the little squares next to the two White layers. Then change the pattern stroke color to white.
9. Make the dashed line for the two tone. Select the top white lines pattern, then copy and paste in place. Change the line color to black and choose Dashes, Random Dashes, 4 pt Dash length and 4 pt Gap Length. The Random Dash is important because without it, the pattern will look like it has vertical stripes in it. Be sure to change the name of the layer in the Layers panel.
Dashed Line for two-tone stripe
Be Sure to Change to Layer Name
10. Add bevel and emboss to simulate the pintuck. Use the the settings below.
Bevel and Emboss Settings for Pintuck
Completed Blue Dress Fabric Pattern

Blue Dress Fabric
While this recreation is not an exact replicate of the original blue dress fabric, it is an interesting study in what can be done with PatternMaker and just a few objects. PatternMaker is a free download and come with 3 free patterns: Crosses, Lines, and Scallops. An additional pattern pack can be purchased as a subscription for $49/year.