See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat

A previous post has discussed issues with PDF proofing for issues relating to quality.

If checking content only, PDF proofs can be an efficient way of checking content, given that hard copy proofs do not have to be created or delivered to the client. If the client also has the latest version of Acrobat Reader, PDF proofing also allows alterations or markups to be made on the PDF proof.

One feature I would like to be able to control in InDesign when preparing the PDF is how the PDF should appear on the client’s screen. Adding bookmarks and other interactive elements to a PDF is fine, but ultimately for the creation of content that is for other purposes rather than a print-proof, these features are not necessary.

It is possible to control the security settings of the PDF:

security

But what cannot be controlled from InDesign is the size and page presentation of the PDF. When viewing a PDF in Adobe Acrobat, the file will appear at the size and presentation options that are in the client’s defaults (from the Preferences/General menu).

pdfpreferences

There are occasions where checking a PDF at the correct size and presentation are important, such as:

  • Seeing pages that feature cross-overs in a readers spread;
  • Seeing the artwork at the finished size (e.g. can reveal if type sizes are too big or small)

pizzafullsize

pizzasmall

In the example above, a pizza recipe is prepared on a business card. Using the default view to check the PDF, all looks good, but when viewed to the true output (final size when printed) size, it looks like a recipe card for ants!

These view settings cannot be controlled by InDesign, but can be controlled in Acrobat Professional. While a PDF is open, the options can be found under the File/Properties menu.

pdfinitialview

These initial view settings can be changed (as well as whether or not to display other features such as bookmarks etc), the file saved and closed. Once the file is opened again, the PDF will view to the settings that were changed in the preferences. That is fine if changing one file, but if changing dozens at once, or wishing to change the view permanently, this is not an ideal solution.

Solution: The Action Wizard

Instead, the view settings can be changed using the Action Wizard. If unsure where the action wizard is, open any PDF to show the side tabs, and then click on the Tools tab, then check the Action Wizard option.

findaction

To create a new action, click the Create New Action button. Once clicked, a new dialog box will appear. Since the initial view needs to be changed, go to the Document Processing tab and select the Set Open Options button.

setopenoptions

The following example would save a file so that it displayed as readers spreads to fit the screen.

makeaction1

The following example would save a file so that it displayed at 1:1 size.

makeaction2

Just like the File/Properties menu, there are more features that can be changed, such as what side tabs to open, whether or not menus or icons should appear.

There is also the ability to change many files other than an open file, as well as what to do with the resulting files. This is done by changing the “Start with” or “Save to” dropdown fields.

whattodowithaction

When all the relevant settings are made, click Save. A dialog box will prompt for a name and description of the action so it can be found later.

saveaction

The action is now added to the list of available actions, with the last action used at the top of the list.

Voila! A solution now exists to change the views without lots of navigation through dialog boxes.

 

Lineart “Spicks and Specks” remover for scanned text

splash

The task of removing the spots from a lineart scan is a boring task, but a necessary one when trying to create an identical copy of previously printed text.

The usual way of minimising the clean-up of rogue dots is to scan the original as a 1200 dpi greyscale, and using combinations of levels and curves to remove the highlights and emphasise the shadows, then convert the greyscale to lineart using the 50% Threshold. Nevertheless, sometimes there are stubborn dots that won’t go away with this process. Also, scanning hundreds of images at 1200 dpi in greyscale (so the images can be 1:1 converted to lineart using the 50% Threshold) requires lots of memory and hard drive space, so in this brief the pages were scanned as lineart images.

One particular brief was to recreate a novel exactly as it had been printed previously, but as the book was last printed 15 years ago, the native files were no longer available. While the cover could be re-set, the black and white text had to be scanned in, rather than use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and format the text into a new InDesign (this would take too long and require many proofs). The client gave permission to cut the cover from the book so that the text could be fed through the scanner’s Auto Document Feeder (ADF).

A script was already produced that would remove rogue dots –  but sadly did not work with the latest versions of Photoshop. An answer turned up in a post to the Adobe Forums when Evgeny Trefilov (17th post in) presented a filter he had made. Initially, it too did not work with the latest version of Photoshop, but a 64-bit plug-in was created to work with CS6 and above. Evgeny’s plugin does require the images to be greyscale.

lieartfixsettings

Above: the user interface of Evgeny’s plug-in. Set the Threshold, Max Value, Block Size and C value as above, but to fine-tune the script so that dots don’t disappear above “i”s or letters don’t fill in, adjust the two red sliders until the desired results are achieved.

For this brief, a sample file  was used (out of the many that were scanned) to test Evgeny’s filter, and once refined to make sure that only the rogue dots were removed but other larger dots preserved (e.g. the dot in the letter “i” or a full-stop), an action was made in photoshop to:

  • Convert from lineart to greyscale;
  • Run Evgeny’s plug-in;
  • Convert from greyscale back to lineart;
  • Save and close.

This plugin (download here) and action worked well and certainly saved dozens of hours of removing rogue dots from lineart scans of text.

It should be stressed that this plugin was appropriate for scanned lineart text, but as for cleaning up illustrations, diagrams or photographs, be careful as the incorrect settings can have major consequences.

So correcting the scanned pages is one thing, while one of the techniques from this article was used to place the pictures into a new InDesign file.

Pre-Sort Mail Pressure

Many articles on this blog feature advice for creating Variable Data Printing (VDP), but this post will focus on preparing VDP letters using Australia Post’s Pre-Sort Mail service. While the advice may not apply to everybody, there may be some information within the article that could still be relevant. With that out of the way, it is important to discuss what the Pre-Sort Mail Service is.

What is Pre-Sort Mail?

Australia Post offers many mailing services such as Clean Mail, Print Post and Acquisition Mail, but Pre-Sort Mail specifically refers to the delivery of barcoded mail throughout Australia.

What is the significance of Pre-Sort Mail?

Ultimately it is price and speed. As of 1 August 2014, an individual posting an addressed DL sized envelope under 125g from one Australian destination to another will pay 70 cents to post that letter (full rates of mail can be found at http://auspost.com.au/parcels-mail/pricing-updates.html). Pre-Sort Mail offers businesses a discount on their postage, provided that:

  • There are more than 300 items of addressed mail within Australia in one lodgement;
  • That the mail has been barcoded and lodged according to Australia Post’s standards.

With many items of post being substituted for email, one would ask what the importance of printed mail:

  • Conventional mail is tangible, something an individual can hold.
  • It confirms the street address of the receiver (e.g. letters that are marked return to sender will indicate if the receiver has moved).
  • It can’t be blocked with a spam-filter.

How does it work?

On the surface, “barcoded mail” would imply that the only process is to add a barcode to the mail… if only it were that simple. In fact the procedure is more complicated. The full procedure can be found here http://auspost.com.au/media/documents/presort-letters-service-guide-jun14.pdf but a summary of the process that mostly involves a prepress operator is as follows:

  • The use of dedicated barcoding software to compare the client’s database to the Australia Post database. This applies a barcoded Delivery Point IDentifier (DPID – effectively an 8-digit number that represents a street address… think of it akin to a phone number, without using the actual phone number of that address) to clients’ addresses that match Australia Post’s addresses, and leaves the remainder unbarcoded. That should be the end of it, but sadly no… there is more.
  • Using this same dedicated software, creating a manifest that lists what letters are to be sent to specific mailing locations (not postcodes – one of 54 specific locations that receive the mail and then distribute the mail to their postcodes). The software then creates mailing tags for the cardboard or plastic tubs that will hold the finished articles for mailing. This is to identify the tubs to Australia Post employees who then send the tubs to the appropriate mailing locations.
  • Once the data is exported from the dedicated software, the data then has to be “mail merged” (or Data Merged via InDesign) but it must be in the same order as the manifest. This creates many production headaches such as how to split the merge for the appropriate destinations, dealing with “spoils” (letters that are damaged during their production) etc.

What are the pressure points?

  • The dedicated barcoding software. It isn’t cheap, and this leads to many businesses reconsidering the idea of barcoding their own mail in-house, given the return on investment of mail savings is eaten by the subscription fee to the dedicated software. The software tends to be Windows Operating System specific and requires ongoing updates from Australia Post to maintain current address data.
  • Quality of a customer’s database. Items such as soft returns, address fields where the suburb-state-postcode details are in one field instead of three separate fields can hamper not just the dedicated barcoding software, but its import into InDesign. Similarly, values that need to be presented in a set format (such as dollar values, or names needing to be title-cased rather than UPPER cased) need to be resolved before importing the data into InDesign. Another trap is the length of fields – for example, a design feature that allows for most full names that would be 15-25 letters long, but names in the database that can be 35-45 letters long may not fit the space required, unless the square peg round hole trick is used.
  • The strict rules set down by Australia Post for lodgement, such as the height, width, clear zones and allowable skew of the barcode. These rules also apply to the appearance of the envelope, particularly if an address is being printed onto the envelope instead of using a window-faced envelope.
  • The speed of the lodgement. This will determine what postage paid imprint is to be used on the items to be mailed.

The last pressure point is the one that will catch out many customers and sales representatives alike. Since its introduction on 2 June 2014, Australia Post has introduced two speeds to business mail: Priority and Regular. Apart from the lodgement, the other way that this is indicated to Australia Post staff is the imprint graphic on the top right hand corner of the envelope.

What this effectively means for customers is that instead of having one variety of business envelope stationery, they now need to have two varieties for the different delivery speeds, unless the customer wants to stick to one variety of stationery, and this will lock them into a set delivery speed. At the same time, printers and mailing houses have to be aware of this when asking clients for a delivery deadline, especially if envelopes supplied by the client are at a different delivery speed to the requested lodgement speed.

What do I need to remember?

It is possible to save money on your postage by using the Pre-Sort Mail program via a Printing company or Mailing House. My employer offers this service, but it is worth asking a few questions in advance:

  • Can they barcode letters from the database I’m using, and what is the best way to supply the data?
  • If I have a set date I would like the letters in the hands of customers, when should I have my data and letter ready to begin the campaign?
  • What items can be variable on the letters that I send? Is it just type, or can I have graphs, barcodes such as QR codes, or images tailored to each letter?

 

Giving Scripts Descriptions with Tooltips

Adobe InDesign ships with a limited set of scripts within the scripts panel. While these scripts are appropriately named, they do not contain tooltips that elaborate on how the script works or what each script does.

For users of InDesign who rarely – if ever – open the scripts panel, this is not really an issue. But for users who have embraced the power of scripting within InDesign and have acquired or created scripts, the scripts palette can become quite unwieldy. Left unchecked, the scripts panel can get to the point where it is unknown what many scripts do, how they work (i.e. if they had a user interface or were designed to be implemented in specific workflows) or if they still work since they were added to the scripts folder.

It is possible to organise the scripts folder into categories using Windows Explorer or Mac Finder. Even so, there are still hundreds of scripts, and the file naming of the scripts often leaves very little to the imagination.

Scripts can have tooltips

Seasoned scripters will be aware of this, but for InDesign users who have used scripts but cannot write them, this practical tip may be of some use.

It is possible to have better descriptions in the form of tooltips – some script authors have the foresight to add such a tooltip to a script so that when one hovers over the script name in the scripts palette, a good description of the script was given instead of relying on the filename. Such an example is IDentify, from InDesign javascript expert, Jongware.

desc1

Luckily, it is possible to add tooltips to scripts that do not have them. To demonstrate, a description will be added to the empty text frame script. To do this, Right click (or control click) on the script while in the scripts panel of InDesign and choose “Reveal in Finder” (or Explorer on Windows). Once the folder window is presented, open the text editor (NOT a word processor but a plain text editor) of choice.

desc2

The following script needs a description added to it. To do this, add a line at the start of the script that looks like this:

//DESCRIPTION:type the description of what the script does here

(since it is known what the script does, a better description will be written)

desc3

Save the file and return to InDesign. Return to the script panel and hover the cursor over the script that was just edited.

desc4

And there it is – a better description for the script, in case the script isn’t used for a while and its purpose becomes forgotten.

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