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:

Update 1-3-18: PDF Stickies has been updated to InDesign CC 2018.

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.

Edit: 9-13-918
If you need an easier way to create highlighting objects in your PDF, check out my article on Bluebeam Revu. It's an amazing program designed specifically to meet the needs of users in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction. The drawing tools in Revu have a "highlight" checkbox, enabling any shape to act as a highlighter.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Number Knitting #3: So Why am I Republishing "Number Knitting?"

So why this book? What's so special about it?

This book is based on a method of knitting that's actually patented! It's based on garter stitch knitting. Many knitters are familiar familiar with the garter sticth pattern of the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman. What's so amazing about "Number Knitting" is that the author was a contemporary of EZ, yet most people have never heard of her. 

Why the Long Production time?

The reason for the lengthy production process is the very nature of a knitting book: it is a book of instructions on how to make a particular knitted object. In the case of this book, it is around 275 pages, and contain instructions to create 75 different projects. The projects range from small objects, like a placemats and scarves, and go all the way up to very large objects, like a huge lace shawls and complex jackets and coats. The small items could take a couple of evenings to knit, but the large objects could take many weeks, or even several months.
Snowflake Scarf
Snowflake Scarf
Gold Butterfly Stole
Gold Butterfly Stole
Hampton Shirt
Hampton Shirt
My goal is to knit all the items in the book, so that I can take new color photographs. In the meantime, to help generate some interest, and to begin to bring life back to the patterns, I have been colorizing them in Photoshop, according to the colors listed in the book.
Tropical Leaf Car Throw
It's a momentous task, and I have hundreds and hundreds of hours ahead of me. If you are a knitter, and would like to help reknit the items in the book, please consider joining our Ravelry Group. Ravelry is social media and portfolio platform where we discuss all kinds of knitting related things for this book project: things like technical questions regarding various ways to join pieces together, how to interpret the knitting charts, etc. (For you non-knitters reading this, Ravelry sort of like Facebook+Behance+Amazon+Pinterest+Messages, with an inventory database system thrown in the mix. It's amazing!)