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To be, or CSV, that is the delimiter

From time to time I receive emails requesting support for some of the scripts that I offer through the site. Since InDesign began to support semicolon separated text files for data merge, one particular issue began to receive more requests than normal.

The emails were consistent in nature – users had downloaded the data merge single or pro script and ran the script on files they had prepared. Instead of users being able to select from the fields to the left, all of the fields appeared in one line.

This behaviour usually occurs when the script runs a data merge database that had a CSV extension, but was actually separated by semicolons rather than commas. I’d explain this back to the user and ask them to try a different CSV export from Excel, or use my preferred file export of UTF-16 text from Excel.

However, many users who had exported from Excel to CSV said that this did not change the issue and the problem persisted. Usually the problem was that – despite choosing CSV from Excel’s export options, the software was still using semicolons as a delimiter rather than commas. Luckily, exporting to UTF-16 text usually resolved the issue.

On that note, I was uncomfortable with this issue and tried to replicate an Excel export from CSV that would use semicolons as delimiters rather than commas, but I couldn’t replicate this behaviour. But then I stumbled across the following article.

In short, the article says that Excel uses the user’s locale to determine what delimiter to use for CSV files. In short, if you use a comma to separate a dollar value from cents rather than a full-stop, then a CSV will likely export with semicolon delimiters rather than commas.

Adjusting this setting is not so simple, especially for Mac users like me – the adjustment is to change a system preference that uses the appropriate currency format, but that changes lots of other related information, so this isn’t an option.

Ultimately, if you are using the data merge to single record script, and are doing so with data exported from Excel, I highly recommend that you do so with a UTF-16 Unicode Text format.

I’ll admit this was a phenomenon I was unfamiliar with, and somewhat frustrated that a file format that itself stands for comma separated variables – isn’t actually separated by commas but is in fact separated by semicolons… depending on what system locale your computer is set to and that Microsoft Excel obeys.

Highlighting the benefit of GREP… literally

I’m a fan of the GREP feature of the Find/Change dialog box in Adobe InDesign as it allows me to search for patterns of characters within text based on regular expressions.

As handy as this feature is, I always require assistance writing my GREP searches, just in case my patterns are either too greedy; or not greedy enough. For example, I have a GREP search to find duplicate entries and remove them, but in InDesign the only way to know if I have this correct is to press the Find Next button in the search.

A better way to identify if I have my GREP search correct is to see it in real-time. Luckily, text editors such as BB Edit have this feature.

InDesign’s latest rival, Affinity Publisher, not only has its own flavour of GREP, but also shows all results in the Find and Replace dialog box, though I have to click on each result in this dialog to see where they are.

But it would be great if InDesign highlight the GREPs ahead of time like these two applications. The good news is that it can, but it requires the GREP editor script from Peter Kahrel that has been featured on Colecandoo before.

Thanks to Peter’s GREP editor, I’m now able to see that in this example there are three search results and they are all highlighted.

This tool comes in very handy as it assists me to write more complicated GREP searches, such as this one that is looking for time formatting. This lets me know in real-time if my selection is selecting too much information, or not enough – and in this example, it isn’t enough as the times without the minutes aren’t getting selected.

As for longer, more complicated chains of GREP code, there are resources out there that have pre-baked search chains that other users have already submitted to sites such as RegExLib.com or the Treasures of GREP Facebook group.

Stop Press!

After this article was initially published, I was alerted to another InDesign javascript by Kerntiff Publishing System that has a similar behaviour to Affinity Publisher’s search. The script is called GREP Xtra.

There is also an additional script released in 2013 by Roland Dreger that performs as a combination between Peter Kahrel’s script and the InDesign user interface. That script is called Highlight GREP.

I dislike YouTube’s decision to hide dislikes

The posts here on Colecandoo usually relate to prepress issues via Adobe Acrobat; or tips and techniques for page layout applications such as Adobe InDesign. On this occasion, this post relates directly to YouTube, and more specifically, a decision taken in late 2021 to disable the ability to view the amount of dislikes on any YouTube video.

Background

In November 2021, YouTube announced a change to the like/dislike feature on their platform that has been on their platform since 2010. The change does not affect the ability to like or dislike a video, but the viewer’s ability to determine the amount of dislikes on the video. Their video explaining the decision is here.

My own experience

At the time of writing this post, the way I consume the majority of video content is via YouTube on a smart television. I no longer watch free-to-air television in my own home, and now only watch free-to-air television at friends or relatives’ houses; or while at the gym. I do consume other video content such as TikTok, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc, but the lion’s share of video content I consume is via YouTube.

I will watch YouTube not only for entertainment, but for training in the form of tutorials; education in the form of documentaries and science-based channels, and news by going to the free-to-air channel’s own YouTube page, in this case, usually Australia’s ABC.

I acknowledge that YouTube as a social media platform is far from perfect, and has had its share of issues over the years, whether it be the “Adpocalypse”; the brief Google Plus account stint; or recent issues content creators have had concerning demonetization of their content. However, I do appreciate the creators who are on the platform who create worthwhile and meaningful content.

My take on YouTube’s decision

After watching YouTube’s video explaining their decision, I feel that they understand the purpose of a visible like/dislike ratio, have misunderstood how handle abuse of the feature and are focussed on dealing with the issue of downvote brigading – a phenomenon where some – or all – content on a particular YouTube channel is downvoted by many viewers, usually at the direction of an instigator. Examples of this include:

  • YouTube Rewind 2018;
  • Baby Shark Dance;
  • Ghostbusters 2016 Trailer;

Brigading isn’t always in the form of downvotes, and one instance in particular had encouraged subscribers to a particular YouTube channel to unsubscribe from it due directly to their perceived efforts to trademark the word “React” – an action that cost the channel over 600,000 subscribers at the time.

To quote from YouTube’s explanatory video:

“seeing the number of dislikes on a video helps us know, as viewers, if it’s a good video or not, if it’s a helpful tutorial or not, or if what a creator is saying in their video is generally agreed with or not”.
“unfortunately, research teams at Youtube have found there’s this whole other use for disliking a video” “…and it’s usually just because they don’t like the creator or what they stand for.”

It is my opinion that YouTube’s solution to combat the abuse of the like/dislike ratio is on par with cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. In order to assist victims of brigading, they have done so at the expense of every viewer’s ability to determine the potential quality of content before it is viewed.
This is a sentiment also echoed by YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim, who – in the last line of the updated description of the first video he posted to the platform, wrote:

‘In business, there’s only one thing more important than “Make it better”. And that’s “Don’t f**k it up”‘.

Jawed Karim, Co-Founder of YouTube

I personally find the like/dislike ratio helpful for the following reasons:
As a viewer:

  • I can tell at a glance if the video accurately reflects its thumbnail and description, and wasn’t clickbait at best; or nefarious at worst;
  • I can determine whether the video was worth watching or not; and if I agree or disagree, leave my own feedback to help others;

As a creator:

  • Having a high like to dislike ratio tells viewers that my content has substance and is worth watching;
  • Lets me know if a video I’ve made is bad, that I need to work on – or remove – the video in order to edit and correct it.

As a YouTube content creator myself, I appreciate the feedback that I get in the comments, and have also gone to extra lengths to value-add my videos by:

  • making sure that my content is thoroughly researched and checked prior to publication;
  • providing closed captions so that the episodes can be watched without the volume, whether that is because the videos are being watched in an open-plan office without headphones; or that some viewers may find my accent difficult to understand;
  • adding chapter markers to my videos so that viewers who do not need the background to a video can just scrub ahead to the important parts.

All is not lost

As necessity is the mother of invention, it is – on desktop versions of YouTube at least – to return the ability to see the dislike amount by using browser extensions such as “Return Youtube Dislike” – enter this exact phrase into the search engine of your choice to find the extension for your browser.

Using a smartphone as a loupe

Part of my work as a prepress operator requires looking at printed material under magnification, usually a loupe. This is done for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Determining if a previous print was printed in full colour process or spot colour;
  • Assessing the effectiveness of trapping;
  • Checking if print is aligned in register;
  • Determining the dot structure of a printed product (was it stochastic or halftone; and if it was halftone, was the dot shape round, Euclidean or other);
  • Attempting to determine the value of a colour breakdown;
  • Confirming that barcode width reduction appropriately compensates for ink gain on a printed barcode.

In previous posts on Colecandoo, I’ve shown several photos taken using my digital microscope, such as this image that was used to illustrate the misregistration of a varnish compared to the ink underneath.

The digital microscope is certainly useful for checking details not immediately obvious with a loupe such as the barcode example, but for most magnifying tasks, a loupe works just fine.

Isn’t there a smartphone app for this?  

Yes and no. There are specific smartphone apps I will use for prepress work, such as:

  • What the Font – great for identifying fonts when I’m far away from my laptop;
  • Measure – when a tape measure is unavailable and centimetre precision will do;
  • Adobe Scan – when I need to take in typeset material when I’m not near my flatbed scanner; or if a customer’s original can’t be taken apart to fit on a flatbed scanner.
  • Touch Portal – when I need extra buttons for my laptop – an equivalent would be elgato’ streamdeck.

Many smartphones now feature macro lenses that have comparable zoom to a loupe, but require the phone to be held the correct distance away from the subject and to have a steady hand or a rig established for the purpose.

Enter smartphone lenses

I’ve recently invested in a macro lens for my smartphone. Since using it at work, it has been quite useful – to the point where it inspired this article.

To demonstrate the difference of the smartphone macro lens to the default macro lens and the digital microscope, here is a comparison on a printed image.

For me at least, I can now safely stash my old loupe in the desk drawer and begin to use the macro lens as an alternative. Here are some reasons that I’ve made this decision:

It has several advantages over a conventional loupe:

  • Virtually no chromatic aberration
  • Others can see the image without me needing to share the loupe
  • Can share the footage live using screen sharing software so that the image isn’t just on the phone screen, but on a larger display; or take a photo and email to the client or file for later use.

There are also several advantages of this lens over iphone’s macro lens:

  • Higher magnification;
  • Stable to hold as the diffusion filter also acts as a rest;
  • As any Sandmarc lens is shipped with a case or clip to allow the lens to be mounted, it also provides the ability to change out lenses for other purposes

This also has advantage over the digital microscope

  • No wires;
  • Requires no additional power;
  • No additional “unitasker” software (serves one purpose alone)

However, the macro lens isn’t without it’s disadvantages:

  • Needs good lighting – a backlight would help tremendously;
  • Requires a case or clamp to fasten the lens, though with the Sandmarc lens that I purchased, this was provided upon purchase;
  • Requires additional software to access the individual lenses as the iphone’s default camera app will not allow this flexibility – software such as Adobe Lightroom is what I use, but this was on my phone anyway;
  • Not portable enough to become part of my everyday carryables such as car keys, phone, wallet etc. Is small enough to fit in a tiny bag that sits on my desk.

So while I now have a new tool in my prepress arsenal, I’d like to know what other apps or tools that people are using to assist them in their design or prepress tasks – feel free to comment below.

Finally, as a matter of full disclosure, this article is NOT sponsored by Adobe, Sandmarc, Apple or any other company mentioned in the article. If they would like to sponsor Colecandoo in the future, that may be something to explore, but this article is my own thoughts and opinions and the macro lens I purchased.

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