Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Wish List for Notes in Adobe InDesign

This is a post for the Adobe InDesign team, or for any InDesign developer who would like to tackle this project.

I would like to see Notes move seamlessly between Adobe products:
There are two  plugins that address the issue of Notes in InDesign.

The missing link is a solution that will let me export all sorts of annotations to Acrobat in one fell swoop. The reason is because I create technical documents and I often need to get clarification about certain bits of text in a long threaded text frame. I would like a way to tag that text right in InDesign and have that tag appear as a PDF annotation.

I’d like a way to repurpose the XML tagging capabilities of InDesign to allow me to create PDF annotations. Here is how I envision the annotated text to look in the Story Editor.

Story Editor display, with annotated text markup displayed

Here is what I envision the capabilities of the new and improved Notes panel:

  • Blocks of text can be marked for PDF annotation, right in InDesign
  • We should be able to choose annotation type, icon, and color in the InDesign Notes panel (preferably without having to open a second dialog box to do so.
  • A note navigator that lists all the notes at the bottom of the Notes Panel, under a new twirl down.
  • These annotations would be capable of appearing in both Print and Interactive PDFs

Here is an illustration demonstrating what I would like to see the UI look like. The Notes panel will have three new drop downs on the top right: Annotation Type, Icon, and Color. At the bottom of the panel will be a twirl down listing all the notes in the document.

New and Improved Notes Panel

New Drop Downs in the Notes Panel
If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about how notes can make your publishing workflow more efficient, join me at PePcon 2014, where I will be speaking on PDF Annotations.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Understanding Dotted Stroke Styles in InDesign

InDesign’s Stroke Styles, especially the dotted stroke styles, are a mysterious topic; and for good reason. The Adobe InDesign Help File offers just basic instructions on how to create custom stroke styles, but essentially no information on the logic behind how they work. This article is dedicated to demystifying the dotted stroke styles. To access the Stroke Styles dialog box, click on the Stroke panel flyout menu, then choose Stroke Styles.

Read the entire article at Creative Pro.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Working With FDFs: Forms Data Files

If you are a designer, you'll rarely come across an FDF file. In fact, you may have never even heard of FDF, since it's not among the familiar formats that designers know and love. But there's a lot to like about FDFs: their compact nature can simplify your workflow and in some instances, save you a lot of time and effort.

Read the entire article at Creative Pro.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Custom PDF Font Encoding: Why You Should Care and What You Can Do About It

As part of my production workflow, I regularly get PDFs of construction work orders. They are highly technical documents that contain all kinds of important information. Recently, I've come across some of these PDFs that were non-searchable. It took me awhile to figure out the problem, because the PDFs weren't scanned. They had live text. I could highlight and comment on the text using PDF commenting tools. If that wasn't live text, I wouldn't be able to use the text annotation tools.

And by non -searchable, I mean this: I see the word "work," in the body of the PDF, but when I search for that word using Acrobat's Find function, no matches are found.

So I tried searching for the word "WORK." But again, no matches are found. What the heck?! 

I tried running the PDF through a couple of different PDF conversion programs (PDF2ID and PDF2DTP) and got nowhere.

As converted by PDF2ID (Recosoft)

As converted by PDF2DTP (Markzware)

However, one of the conversion tools gave me a less-than-helpful error message.

I tried copying and pasting text from the PDF and into a text editor and my email program and I got the same gibberish.

For kicks, I tried saving the troublesome PDF as a Microsoft office document. Not only did Acrobat save it out correctly with editable text, it also converted even the text highlights!

Fast forward a few weeks and I got to thinking that perhaps the inability to search within the PDF has something to do with fonts. So I go to the troublesome PDF and I look at the Font tab within Document Properties. The encoding is listed as "Custom." Now, I'm neither a font developer nor PDF developer, but rest assured I have never seen "Custom" encoding before. I'm used to seeing things like "Ansi" or "Identity-H."

Custom Font Encoding

So I open a non-troublesome (fully searchable) PDF from the same client and check the font encoding there. It is "Built-in."

Built-in Font Encoding
Now, I don't know what "Built-in" means either, but I know that those PDFs are searchable. A quick scan of google leads me to other people that have the same problem. While it doesn't seem that there is an easy way to simply change font encoding, I have come up with a solution.

I remember reading a few years ago that adding tags to a PDF somehow fixes the document so that when you select a paragraph of text and then copy and paste it into InDesign, you won't get hard returns at the end of each line. I also know that tags are really important for making "Accessible" documents. Now normally, I never have to create Accessible documents, so I don't bother with learning all the details involved in their creation. But on a hunch, I decided to add tags to the troublesome PDF and see what happened.

After Acrobat has added tags to the document, a quick check of the Documents Fonts pane revealed something new. There was now something listed below the Custom font encoding.

Now I tried doing a Find. And sure enough, the Find function now worked as expected! Adding Tags to the document somehow fixed the weird font issue and also made it so that I could convert the PDF using my PDF to InDesign conversion tools.

If you're interested in taking a deeper dive into learning about PDF tags, check out this article at What are “PDF tags” and why should I care?

Monday, February 3, 2014

How Designers Can Utilize Mac OS X Accessibility Features

This article is for any of those designers who have ever had issues which make it difficult to be productive at a traditional workstation. Here are a few examples: one hand doesn't cooperate, you have difficulty typing, or can't sit upright in your everyday office chair. As a designer, my job is relatively easy on my body. I'm worked a number of physical-labor jobs in my life and I am so grateful that my daily work does not leave my entire body exhausted (like those plant nursery-worker and home improvement warehouse jobs I had many years ago). But still, there are sometimes when bodies just don't cooperate with our deadlines, and eventually, we'll probably all need to find creative ways to get our work done when certain body parts are working against the deadline. I've compiled some ideas that I hope will help some of my fellow designers still get work done on physically rough days.

Working One Handed

Let's say one of your hands doesn't work: maybe you broke your arm, or had hand surgery or something along those lines. For whatever reason, one hand is non functional.

One solution:  Change hands. If you're right handed, try working left handed. Move the mouse over to the other side. At first I tried just moving the mouse to the left of my keyboard. But even though I was working left handed, my left hand still knew that "left click" was supposed to be done with my index finger, and "right click"  was supposed to be done with my middle finger. So I had to also change primary button as well. It was a little slow at first, but I got used to it for the most part. To change the primary mouse button, go to System Preferences > Mouse.

Use speech recognition: This doesn't necessarily have to do with working one handed. But it can come in handy if typing is really difficult and you've got long emails to put together. Did you know that the Mac has built-in speech recognition? After a little digging around in System Preferences, I found Dictation. If you've ever used Siri on the iPhone, you'll find that Dictation works exactly the same, complete with autocorrect (or auto Incorrect, depending upon how it interprets your speaking). After using Dictation, I usually have to do a little clean up work. But Dictation can take a lot of the trouble out of typing complex emails. Unfortunately dictation does not work in InDesign (I wish I knew why). But it works great when writing emails.

Can't Sit Upright

Let's say you can't sit at your desk: maybe you have headaches, or you are in a full body cast, or you have to keep your feet elevated above your head. For whatever reason you are flat on your back but you still have to get your work done. One might think that the solution would be to take your laptop and just lay down on the sofa. But if you've ever tried working like this, you'll quickly discover that it doesn't work. Especially on a 13" laptop when designing oversized newsletters. So try this for a more productive workday:

Step 1: Chaise Lounge: Position a chaise lounge on the floor in front of your desk. Because the head and feet can be raised independently, you can put both at the correct angle for whatever your body needs.

Step 2: Move the monitor close to the edge of the desk and tilt it downward. 

Step 3: Get a lap desk and move your keyboard and mouse down there. In this case, a small wireless keyboard (without a 10 key) would work much better than a large wired keyboard.

Step 4: Zoom in. Now, we all know how to zoom in our favorite Adobe programs using the marquee zoom, but do you know how to zoom in on everything? When sitting upright at a desk, those Adobe panel menus are a perfectly reasonable size. But when you're several feet away from the screen, those panel menus suddenly seem ridiculously small. I used to think that the only way to increase the size of the panel menus was to decrease the resolution of my monitor, but the problem with that is that you lose way too much screen real estate once. I found a much better solution. Zooming in on the OS level! Watch the short video below for a quick demo.

This feature would also be really useful if you're screen-sharing from a small screen onto a larger screen.

Step 5: Giant Cursor: If your cursor is just too dang small and you keep losing it, go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display. Change the cursor size from Normal To Large. The cursor will then display about ten times larger than normal. (I wanted to take a screen shot demonstrating how giant the cursor becomes, but whenever I tried, the cursor is either not included in the screenshot, or shown at its regular miniature size.) I also find Giant Cursor useful when doing training. The people watching may not be as familiar with the software as I am, so having a giant cursor makes easier for them to follow along.

I hope you find these tips useful. If you use any of these tips, I love to hear about it. Please leave a note in the comments. And if you know why Dictation doesn't work in InDesign, do tell!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Help! Where Did the Cross References Panel Go?

You may have heard the buzz recently about InDesign’s and improved hyperlinks panel. Rufus Deuchler made a great video about it here. Hyperlinks are now simpler to make and easier to edit. But I want to point out that what’s been a bit glossed over is how the Hyperlinks panel has changed: specifically, what has been removed from the Hyperlinks panel.

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I'll be Speaking at PePcon 2014!

For the last four years, I have attended the Print and ePublishing Conference. This conference has taken me to Seattle, Arlington, San Francisco, and Austin. The 2014 conference is in Chicago. Each year at the conference, I've presented at Ignite InDesign. The Ignite sessions are basically like on open mic night. Where, for anyone brave enough to speak in front of a few hundred strangers, they'll hand you the microphone and let you do a 5 minute presentation on your InDesign-related topic of choice. I have done this each and every four years I have attended the conference. Each year my presentations have become a bit easier and a bit better.

For the last two years, the producers of the conference (David and Anne-Marie) have allowed potential Speakers to submit their ideas for topics they'd like to speak on. The result is that there was an influx of new speakers into the conference. Last year, we got to hear presentations from a variety of innovative people who are not necessarily professional trainers, but who are working hard every day in the trenches of print and publishing. These folks have come up with interesting and unique solutions to challenging publishing problems.

Although I wasn't chosen as a speaker last year, I filled out the form again this year and crossed my fingers, hoping to be chosen. Well good news: after four years of doing Ignite presentations, I was chosen to be a speaker on the Big Stage! I'll be doing a 20 minute session on PDF commenting. I'll also have a session or two at the Meet the Speaker table.

Here are some great PepCon resources:

I hope to see you in Chicago! Use the discount code below for $50 off.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Knitted Branding: Interpreting a 2D Vector Design with Double Knitting

Last year, my niece and her husband took over a coffee shop in a small northwest town. They named their new venture "Arrow Coffee," and had plan to rebrand it as a northwest themed coffee shop. As the family graphic designer, I am often called on to help with designs. Around that time, an illustrative designer, Von Glitschka, started a satirical logo design service called 5ive Minute Logo. He draws the logos on his iPad, as a creative exercise. Not being a logo designer myself, I thought it would be fun to see what Von could come up with. Surely his 5 minute logo would be more creative than anything I could design. If my niece didn't end up using the logo, who cared? Because it only cost $5!

Besides the $5 fee, Von only asks for three things:
  • Name of Business
  • Type of Business
  • Valid Email Address (so he can email the logo back to you)
So I paid the five dollars and waited in anticipation for what he would come up with. A week or so later, I got my completed logo. In only 5 minutes of drawing, Von came up with this.

His name is Chief Piping Hot
Though my niece didn't end up using the logo, I liked it so much that I decided to make a knitted version of the happy coffee cup. I thought it would be a fun challenge to convert a 2D design into a 3 dimensional knitted sculpture, devising the pattern as I went along.

Around that same time, my mom gave me a classic knitting book as a Christmas gift: Notes on Double Knitting by Beverly Royce. Double knitting allows you to knit seamless tubes on a pair of straight knitting needles, without the use of double pointed or circular knitting needles. I thought it would be fun to tackle this double knitting technique, creating a 3D knitted version of the Arrow Coffee logo.

With the exception of the face, I made the entire project using double knitting, including the feathers and the arrow. When I started the black hat (coffee cup lid), I didn't have the illustration handy and I couldn't remember what color it was supposed to be. For some reason, black seemed like the logical choice. Later on, when I realized the original illustration had a brown hat/lid, I was a bit disappointed that I had gotten the color wrong. However, it turns out that in real life, brown coffee cup lids are a special order product, and that's why we never see them. Black and white lids are the only standard lid color choices.

But back to the knitting: The only part of the sculpture/toy that was not double knit was the smile and the eyes, because those didn't need to be tubes. I knit the smile flat, and then stitched it on. For the eyes, I crocheted some small black circles and some small white yarn buttons for the eyes, and sewed them on like I would regular buttons.

To make the cup more able to stand upright, I stitched in some white plastic canvas into the base of the body and some black plastic canvas onto the underside of the lid. I was able to find plastic canvas in different sized circles, and just trimmed them down to the size I needed.

I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how to stuff the body. Regular poly fiberfill just made the piece lumpy. And also, the white body was knit a little too loosely (that was the first piece I made, so I didn't know what size needles I should use to get the gauge that I wanted), so the fiberfill started poking through the stitches. As a side note, double knitting has the effect of loosening your gauge, so use needles at least two sizes smaller than you normally would.

Another challenge was figuring out how to get the arrow to be straight across the coffee cup. Because if it was simply attached on either side of the cup, there was a tendency for the arrow to sag. So the arrow needed to be in a single piece, physically going through the pillow.

It seemed that I needed a custom pillow form made, so I began the hunt to find someone who did sewing. You might think it would be easy to find a custom sewing service (not a tailor shop), but it's actually quite difficult. Neither quilt shops, craft shops, nor sewing machine centers offer custom sewing services. After a few months of asking around, I found a local lady that did sewing and asked her to see what she could come up with. I dropped off my knitting with an explanation, a shrug of my shoulders, and a hearty "good luck." A month or so later, she found a solution and was ready for me to come and pick up the pillow.

For the body, she ended up rolling up a cushion from a piece of lawn furniture and using that as the pillow form. It had the softness of a pillow, but offered the smooth, lump-free texture that I couldn't get with the fiberfill. For the arrows, she ended up using my original idea, which was bamboo shish kabob skewers, inserted three-at-at-time,into white plastic drinking straws, which were them inserted straight through the body of the cup.

In order to make the feathers stand upright, I stitched them together, then wove a black twist-tie into the edge of the red feather. Then I stitched the end of the twist tie onto the top of the lid. That gave me a way to bend the twist tie into the correct angle so that it would hold the red feather upright.

Normally, I only knit afghans, so this sculptural project was a fun change. It will probably be a few years before I decide to knit another pillow/toy/sculpture, but when I do, it will be helpful to have double knitting in my bag of tricks.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Creative Cloud a la Carte

I'd like to offer Adobe a perspective on a pricing model that may help convert more people to using Adobe Creative Cloud. In my discussion with various people about Creative Cloud, many times they say "I can't justify the price," or "It's too expensive to upgrade my entire team." Sometimes this comes from professional designers, sometimes from educators, sometimes from printing companies.

But Adobe says: the price is so affordable! You get ALL the apps for around $50. What a deal! Which is true is you're going to use them all, or at least a few of them. But as great as it is to have access to all the apps, I don't use them all. Nor will I ever you use them all. Nor will ANYONE ever use them all. Not even the best trainers in the world whose mission it is to know and teach all they can about Adobe software will ever use all the apps.

Why? Here's why. There are apps designed for various workflows. No one person will ever use all of these tools in a workflow.

Adobe has broken down these tools into several large categories. I've highlighted in red the tools that I used every day. I've highlighted in Blue the tools that I use once in a while, maybe a couple of times per year. Everything else in Creative Cloud I'm really not that interested in. Are they great and useful and loved by thousands of people around the globe? Yes. And I'm sure there are plenty of people just as passionate about their tools as I am about InDesign and Acrobat. But in my workflow, I only need a handful of tools.

But again they say, "What a deal! You get it ALL!" I liken that approach to going to a buffet. A buffet might serve 100 different items, and by paying a set price, I can eat all of the items, as much as I want. The price is all inclusive. How amazing! So I start eating my favorite foods, and then I go back for seconds, and then I start slowing down... Then I've eaten so much that I physically can't eat any more. Does that lessen the beauty of the all inclusive price? Well, it doesn't matter how great of a deal it is if at the end of the day, I  can't humanly take advantage of all the offerings to me. I'd rather just go to my favorite local restaurant, choose my favorite dish from a dozen or so offerings, and not feel guilty by not taking advantage of all the is available to me.

So I propose that Adobe adopt a similar approach to a restaurant, specifically a taco shop. Taco shops are interesting because they present their menu is such a way that it offers endless configurability at a reasonable price.

Each combination is composed of two or three main items, plus you choice of sides.

Prior to Creative Cloud, Adobe had grouped its software into a few major categories. They had:

  • a package for Print Designers
  • a package for Web Designers
  • a package for video editors
  • and a package that included everything.
 I propose that they do the same thing with Creative Cloud.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a handful of programs that I use every day. And another handful of programs that I use once every few months. And still another one or two programs that I will never use, but someone else in my office will. As it stands right now, if my husband needs to use After Effects (which I never use, but he needs to use every once in a while), we have two choices:

  • We can buy him a $50/month subscrition for a whole bunch of software that he'll never use, or
  • We can deactivate the license on my laptop for the duration of his project (so we have Creative Cloud installed on two computers owned by the same person, as the license allows for). When he's done with After Effects, he just needs to remember to deactivate the license so I can use the programs on my laptop again.
But should we really have to jump through those hoops? What I'd prefer is to order a Combo Meal: I choose the package that contains the main dish (the applications that I use every day). And then I choose a few items I'd like as side orders so that someone else on my team can use them (After Effects and team file sharing). 

I think by offering people choices that cost less than $50 per month, many more people would be likely to buy the package that best suits their needs. I won't spend $50 a month so that every once in a while my team member can use AfterEffects. But I will spend $5-10 month for a couple of add-on programs for him.

This problem gets compounded when a large team is involved. Years ago, I worked in the production art department of marketing/printing company. We were on old software, and anxiously awaited the day when we could get modern tools. I think we were perpetually three or four versions behind because the cost to upgrade a team of 30 designers was really high. We had the software installed on more computers than we had licenses for. Sometimes, I'd be working in Photoshop and get a call from the Art Department saying, "Can you please close Photoshop?"

Why? Because I had to share a copy with one of the designers upstairs. The price to upgrade the entire team to the latest software was so high that the management found it cheaper to have us jump through hoops to share a single license. (Never mind the legal aspects of that).

I'll take a guess and say that that printing company could upgrade one seat to Creative Suite Design Standard for $600.  Multiply that by 30 designers, and it costs around $18K to upgrade. But they only upgraded about once every five years or so, so they could amortize that expense over that timeframe. So the expense of upgrading software worked out to about $3600 per year.

Now, let's consider moving the entire team to Creative Cloud. $79/month x 30 designers x 12 months x 5 years: $142,200. Will many companies make the move? Probably not.

But let's go back to the restaurant menu analogy for a moment. Let's say I'm ordering Mexican food with my husband. He orders a burrito. It comes with 2 sides:  rice and beans. But he doesn't like spanish rice, so he asks for something else as a substitute. No problem! 

But as an alternative, to substituting another side item, he also has the option of giving the rice to me, because I will eat it. Of course, he could say "no rice in the burrito" and then I could order an extra side of rice. But if the cashier is thoughtful, they'll likely ring it up like this:

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside
   - Rice

Why do they do this? Because it is the same food packaged differently, and saves the customer money. The customers recognize that thoughtfulness and are more loyal.

Now what if the restaurant only offered side dishes when served alongside an entire entree? The order would look like this.

#1 BURRITO: $7.00
-No rice inside

#2 BURRITO: $7.00
- No burrito

Customers would throw a fit! We would be paying for 2 burritos while only getting the contents of one burrito. Likewise, I think it would be good move for Adobe customers to have the ability to mix and match products so they only pay for what they want.  I need:
  • InDesign
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Acrobat
  • Bridge
As an add on, every once in a while, I'd like to pay for a single month of After Effects. What if there was a package that included just the five programs I need, and then for a small fee (let's say $10 for a month long subscription), I can choose from one of the other programs in Creative Cloud. And for an extra $15 per month I can choose 2 additional programs. But here's the important part: I need those two programs to be used by someone else, with their own Adobe ID. The price point has dropped from $79 for the entire Creative Cloud to $15 for just what they need. Do you think more people would be willing to take advantage of that? I sure do. It offers a affordable entry point for those who cannot afford or are unsure about making the leap. This low entry point allows them to test-drive cloud services for a team, and see how easy it is to update software and share files.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hover Scrolling in InDesign CC: It’s a Feature Not a Bug

Apparently in InDesign CC there is a new feature that lets you interact with the dropdown menus without ever having to click on them. Sounds cool, right? It can wreak havoc on your document without you ever knowing what happened until it's too late.

I started out with a text frame filled with Minion Pro. Then I started Hover Scrolling and in short order, I had created this beauty. Let the fun begin!

Read the entire article at InDesign Secrets:

Please leave a note in the comments there sharing your thoughts (pro or con) on Hover Scrolling.