Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sort Comments by Color, in Acrobat DC! FINALLY!

My workflow is heavily dependent upon color-coded comments in PDFs. For seven years now, I have used Acrobat 9 on a daily basis, because none of the newer versions of Acrobat offered any kind of way to sort comments by color.  In fact, neither Acrobat X, XI, or DC supported sorting comments by color, and I complained about it for years. I even made a YouTube video bemoaning this fact.

A few months ago, I wrote an article explaining a workaround that I had come up with to deal with the fact that Acrobat DC didn't support sorting comments by color. Basically, involved sacrificing your author name for the name of the color, and then sorting comments by author name.

I complained about this to everyone who would listen: I've blogged about it, mentioned it at conference and user group meetings (with a microphone); I've talked on the phone and emailed anyone at Adobe who would listen to me. For years!  Apparently, it finally sunk in. I don't know how many other voices in the Acrobat community were complaining about this feature that has been missing for the last seven years, but regardless, the feature has finally made it's way back into the toolset of the latest release of Acrobat. Hopefully now when Adobe decides (again) to completely redesign Acrobat, they won't fail to leave out this feature.

So let's see see how to works!

For reference: here is a color-coded document viewed in Acrobat 9, with its comments sorted by color.
Sort Comments by Color: Acrobat 9

Now here is the newly added Sort Comments by Color in Acrobat DC 2016 May and January release.
Sort Comments By Color: Collapsed
You can also expand each individual color to interact with just those comments, while still keeping the rest collapsed.

Sort Comments By Color: Expanded

Besides the ability to Sort Comments by Color, they also added a handy twirl-down to collapse the main colors. But this twirl-down doesn't just exist for colors, it works for all the sorting methods.  To Expand or Collapse all the comments, click on the Options button (little series of dots). Then choose Collapse All.

This is HUGE for me! There are still a few features I wish they would improve, or add, such as :
Comments Options: Acrobat XI
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Narrow
Acrobat 9: Commenting Toolbar: Wide
Comments Selected in Various Versions of Acrobat
But finally, I can actually use Acrobat DC or my color-coded commenting needs.

Additional Thoughts

After some experimentation, I also found that Adobe added something new: called the "Color Picker." Its's very easy to use, and offers 18 different colors, which is plenty! Honestly, most people only have a few colors of highlighters on the cup in their desk, so I applaud the simplification of color choices.

But interestingly, they also still have the Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E). The Properties Toolbar has 40 different colors, which in my opinion, was too many. The icons were too small, and it was easy to choose the wrong color. But if you like the old Properties Toolbar, it is still there.

Old Properties Toolbar (Cmd/Ctrl + E)

But the Properties Toolbar is getting buggy, and I suspect that Adobe will eventually phase it out, as it now longer works with text comments. Now, you need to use the Text Formatting Tools (which are available as an option to customize your commenting tools so you don't have to visually sort through 20 different tools to find the one or two that you use regularly). To view the entire list of new features added, visit the Adobe website to see what's new in Acrobat DC.

For months now, I've been feeling frustrated with Adobe, and that the decision-makers aren't concerned with the needs of their users (unless of course, those users needed mobile link or the ability to sign contracts on a tablet or other fancy-new-whiz-bang features).

It sure is nice to know that there are actually people at Adobe who are listening, and are willing (and allowed) to design and implement features that only a small percentage of users need. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the Acrobat team for finally implementing these much-needed features.

Edit 5-16-16: After working with the improved commenting in Acrobat DC, I still have a few things on my wish-list, listed in order of importance:

Friday, February 12, 2016

How to Make Tie-Dye Patterns in InDesign

I recently stumbled across RagingHull, which is a very cool script from Indiscripts. Indiscripts's tagline is "InDesign Scripting Playground."

According to the Indiscripts website:
"While studying bounding boxes and transformations I realized we could get nice patterns based on successive rotations applied to a given shape. As InDesign instantly determines the coordinates of the enclosing rectangle whatever the page item transform state, I had fun in drawing those boxes while varying strokes and angles. Jongware made similar experiments with its famous Spirographs script. RagingHull is just another free toy that reveals the bounds of a spinning object…"
The samples in the original article all used solid colors and "Exclude Overlap" in the Pathfinder. It creates amazing patterns! But I wanted to see what would happen if I used gradients instead of solid colors.

Now, if you've ever tried to make a complex gradient in InDesign, you're probably familiar with how difficult it is. In one of my other articles, I outlined a case for creating your gradients in illustrator, rather than InDesign. Illustrator has an expandable gradient panel so it's easier to work with. Plus, you can copy and paste objects from Illustrator right into InDesign, and they will bring the gradient swatches with them.

But did you know that Illustrator already has a large selection of pre-built gradients? Go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Gradients.

Choose one of the gradient libraries, and it will open up in a new panel.

I wanted all these gradients, so I made a bunch of rectangles, and applied the gradients swatches to them.

Then I copied and pasted them into InDesign, where they show up in the Swatches panel. Now you can delete that mess of rectangles.

Now, run the script according to the instructions on the RagingHull page.

Now you can start experimenting with all the gradients you copied over from Illustrator. I also added played with the blending modes. Note that you will get very different results, depending upon which Transparency Blend Mode you use (RGB or CMYK).

CYMK Transparency Blending Mode

RGB Transparency Blending Mode

Here are some of my other experimentation results.

You can different results just by changing the gradient type from Linear to Radial.

Linear Gradient, Red, White, and Blue,  Lighten

Radial Gradient, Red White and Blue, Lighten

Linear Gradient, Soft Light

Linear Gradient, Hard Light

Linear gradient, Color Burn

Luminosity, Hue

By adding a shape with a different color on top, you can create even more interesting effects.
Mixed gradient swatches and blending modes
For this one, I scooted the objects a bit and it gave me what resembles a zygote.
Radial Gradient, Lighten, With objects scooted a bit

Sometimes the results look like a dance party.

Sometimes, you can even turn it into a globe-like effect.

Which, for some reason, when I grouped and pasted it into a tan colored circle, became green.

The original Raging Hull article discussed using the Exclude Overlap button in the Pathfinder. So I did that, then I went to  Object > Paths > Release Compound Path, and ran the script again. Add some corner effects, a stroke style, and voila! Fancy!

Fancy! (Note that this will last one will take a large amount of processing power).

Now, for me, if I ever used any of these objects, I would probably just take a screen shot of the part I wanted, and use  it as a design element. But however you choose to use your Indesign tie-dye  designs, have fun!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Easier Way to Apply Gradients to Table Cells

For years now, it has been extremely difficult to apply gradients to individual table cells. David Blatner wrote an article nearly seven years ago dealing with the subject, and since then it has never gotten any easier to apply gradients to table cells... until recently.

Previously, gradients would by default stretch across the entire width of the table, by my new technique uses Paragraph Shading and Paragraph Styles to easily contain the gradients to a single cell. Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Create a Valentine's Day Pattern Using Conditional Text

Valentine's Day is coming up, and so for me it's time to take a break from the serious work in order to make a design full of fun and whimsy. Learn how to make this design using Conditional Text and a quirky little Rorohiko script.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Friday, December 18, 2015

How to Print a PDF with Comments

In my technical publishing workflow, I have done my very best to convince my clients of the beauty and efficiency of PDF commenting. And for those people who are my direct contacts, it works! They read my instructions, perhaps watch a quick tutorial video, and they are faithfully using the commenting tools to mark up the documents I send them. But then comes the inevitable question: "How do I print out the document along with the comments?" While my client and I can see the comments just fine right within Acrobat, the backstory is that someone at his or her office (the boss) wants the hard copy of the document, complete with comments. Sigh...

This article details two different ways to print a document with comments (what's in the pop-up notes) and why one of those ways is so far superior to the other.

Read the entire article at Adobe's Acrobat User blog.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Ins and Outs of Summarizing Comments

In my technical publishing workflow, I have done my very best to convince my clients of the beauty and efficiency of PDF commenting. And for those people who are my direct contacts, it works! They read my instructions, perhaps watch a quick tutorial video, and they are faithfully using the commenting tools to mark up the documents I send them. But then, comes the inevitable question: “How do I print out the document along with the comments?” While my client and I can see the comments just fine right within Acrobat, the backstory is that someone at his office (the boss) wants the hardcopy of the document, complete with comments.

Read the entire article at the Adobe Document Cloud Blog.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How to Create a Checkerboard Paragraph Rule

In a recent InDesign Secrets article, Keith Gilbert explored How to Add a Rule Around a Paragraph. It is a very cool trick that overlaps gradients stop to create gradients that aren't really gradients at all, but rather, bands of colors that transition sharply from one color to the next. One of our readers then commented  "I wonder if anyone has worked out a way to combine this with underline to create a hacked shaded box." And today I will explain how to do just that. This technique uses both InDesign and Illustrator.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sort Comments by Color... In Acrobat DC! (Sort of...)

Just kidding!

My most beloved feature in Acrobat is Sort Comments by Color. Sadly, Adobe did not include this feature beyond Acrobat 9. So to this day, I still use Acrobat 9, every single day. This is the primary reason Why I Run Four Different Versions of Acrobat.

Though Adobe official stopped supporting Acrobat 9 a couple of years ago, and eventually I'll no longer be able to install it on my computers, I am perpetually on the hunt for a way to sort comments by color in Acrobat X and beyond. I think I may have found a way. It's not nearly as good as the original, built-in, thoughtfully designed way of sorting comments by color, but for those Acrobat users who no longer have Acrobat 9, yet still need to sort comments by color, this may well work for them.

To use this trick, you need to be willing to sacrifice your name as the default Author name in your comments. So let's see how it works!

Step 1: Highlight some text. Right click on it and choose "Properties." Then click on the General tab. Notice the author name. Acrobat pre-populated that for me based a checkbox located in Preferences > Commenting.

Step 2: Go to Preferences > Commenting. In order to sort comments by color in Acrobat X and beyond, we're going to Uncheck the box: "Always Use Log-in Name for Author Name." Now click OK.

Step 3: Go back you your highlight and right click > Properties > General tab. Change the author name to Yellow (or whatever color you highlight happens to be). Also check the box, "Make Properties Default."

Step 4: Highlight some more text and notice the Author name. See how the second highlight has the exact same properties as the fist highlight?

Step 5: Highlight a third bit of text. Press Cmd/Ctrl+E to bring up the Properties Bar. (In case you're to familiar with the properties bar, you are in for a treat. It's a contextual bar that lets you change the color, icon, and opacity of comments. It also lets you change font of properties of pop-up notes. I wrote an entire article about the Properties Bar here.)

Using the Properties Bar, change the color of the highlight.

Color Swatch layout in the Properties Toolbar

While you can change the highlight color in the Properties dialog box, I really prefer the arrangement of the colors in the drop down on the properties bar. It's the same color swatch arrangement as it was in previous versions of Acrobat.

It used to be, that when you click on the colored box in the Appearance tab, the same color swatch layout (see above) was used in the the Properties Bar and the Comment Properties dialog box. But alas, no longer. Now here in the Appearance properties, when you click on the colored swatch, you have your choice of five additional dialog boxes, all with different ways of choosing a color. Seriously? I'm not designing a 4 color brochure, or trying to match a Pantone shade. I need a highlighter color.  That's it. The old way was better.

It seems that Adobe decided to forgo Acrobat's perfectly functional color swatch choices and instead use Apple's built-in color choices...which was the wrong move. For me, these additional five dialog boxes are more trouble than they're worth. The color swatch arrangement in the Properties Bar offers the perfect blend of color choices, with the minimum amount of effort required on my part. 

But I digress...

Step 6: Now that you've got your color chosen, change the author name from Yellow to Green. Then choose "Make Properties Default." Now add a few more green highlights.

Step 7: Repeat Step 6, but do it for Blue.

Step 8: Now go to the Comments pane and take a look.

The default sorting is by Page, but you can also sort by Author... which is why we renamed the Author name from login name to color. 
Sort Comments By... Acrobat DC

Now, note that in Acrobat 9, there was an additional sorting option: Sort Comments by Color. But that doesn't exist in Acrobat X, XI, DC... which is the entire purpose of this article. To offer a workaround to this missing feature.

Sort Comments By... Acrobat 9
But let's go back to Acrobat DC and choose Sort Comments by Author (which in this case is color). Now they are all grouped together by color!

Now something else that Acrobat 9 had that is completely missing inlayer versions is the collapsable twirldown. So if I have 100 comments in my document, I have to keep scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling... But not so in Acrobat 9.

Collapsable Comments in Acrobat 9
Okay, I digress again. Back to Acrobat DC! Let's say that you want to try and emulate the handy twirl downs of Acrobat 9, just so you don't have the scroll forever. You can choose to SHOW (filter) just the comments by a particular reviewer.

Filter Comments by Reviewer

Only the Yellow Comments Showing
Only the Green Comments Showing 
Only the Blue Comments Showing
So, while this isn't exactly the same as Acrobat 9 Sort Comments by Color, for those of you (like me) who rely upon that feature every day, not having it in the recent versions of Acrobat has proved very frustrating. And though you will have to cannibalize your author name in order to get this trick to work, I do hope that it will make some of your lives easier.