Of interest: New Data Merge techniques and quote bug

In the latest Colecandoo Youtube episode, four Data Merge specific features are covered, namely:

  • Adding faux-returns to a data merge field to split over lines, and subsequent limitations of this technique;
  • Using GREP styles to swap a character for a glyph during a Data Merge;
  • Highlighting field codes so that they are easier to see when not showing live data; and
  • A bug that occurs when a double-quote is at the start of any field in a Data Merge text file.

Faux returns within a field

The faux-returns technique is written about elsewhere, so rather than spoil their presentations, please read the articles directly from the appropriate sources:

I’m a fan of this trick, but emphasise that this is a workaround rather than a long-term solution, given that formatting is limited and there are more appropriate ways of accomplishing this task such as dedicated plug-ins or an XML workflow.

Swap characters for glyphs

Daniel Solis also features a clever trick to swap phrases with glyphs during a Data Merge that uses both GREP styles and ligatures. Again, rather than simply repeat the technique, please see his original video here.

A similar method can be employed using Indiscripts’ Indyfont script, but rather than swapping phrases with glyphs, will swap single characters.

Highlight Field Codes

The video also shows a method for highlighting field-codes when Data Merge is not in the preview mode. It relies on the [Basic Paragraph] style using a GREP style that contains a large highlight, and that any other styles in the document are based off of the [Basic Paragraph] style. It also means the document has to be styled correctly.

I’d demonstrated this technique following a real-world example of a live file where fields were very hard to see, and the file had to have an offset shell printed with variable data printed afterwards, so making sure the shell had no variable data on it was crucial. Using this technique would make finding the field codes much easier to see.

Double Quote bug

Also featured in the video was an issue that once again arose from a real-world example where a customer had provided a database that had double-quotes at the beginning of fields, but no closing quotes, resulting in rather unusual results.

 

Housekeeping Scripts

You finally have an approval on that print project you’ve been working on for the last few months. All that’s left to do is make a PDF for the printer and be done with it, right?

Nope. It’s time to do some housekeeping on the file. Let me use this metaphor, once you’ve made dinner, you don’t leave your dirty pots and pans in the sink, do you?

It’s time to do some housekeeping, and in this episode of “must haves” on the Colecandoo Youtube channel, we’ll look at several scripts to keep your files nice and tidy.

Disclaimer

One word of caution with any of the scripts shown in the video. They are all destructive in nature. That is, they intentionally remove items from a document. Make sure you save your work prior to running these scripts, just in case they have a catastrophic impact on your artwork. I’m showing these scripts for educational purposes only, this is not a tutorial on how to use these scripts.

Images and Frames

Cleanup Pasteboard

The first script removes items from the pasteboard. Run the script and select the distance from the trim edge and importantly whether threaded text on the pasteboard should be removed.

I can hear some of you now saying “but what if I’ve left important notes on the pasteboard for the next person who works on the artwork”? Well, either don’t use this script, or put your notes on after you’ve run this script.

Empty Frame Remover

This script removes any purely empty frames, that is no fill or stroke that have no special settings applied such as text wrap or text on a path. Once run, it scans the document and removes all of these empty frames.

Trista DPI

The next script resamples all images over a given resolution to a more appropriate resolution. It’s great for projects such as yearbooks where the resolution of images is often far greater than it needs to be.

Now, I was in two minds to whether I show this script or not. Out of the scripts being shown in this video, this is both the most powerful and potentially most destructive of them. Ultimately, read the instructions before using this script, and make sure you have access to backups in case things go wrong.

Colour

Next, let’s address some colour issues that may have come about from selecting registration by mistake, or left-over swatches from a Microsoft Word import.

Unlike many scripts I’ve shown previously, most of these scripts are buried in forum posts, so it’s a matter of reading the post, finding the script, copying and pasting into a text editor and saving as a .jsx file.

It’s worth noting that all of these scripts only affect colours generated within InDesign, so won’t fix colour issues in links such as PDFs or photoshop files.

Add unnamed colours

Let’s start off with this easy one-line script that adds all unnamed colours to the swatches palette. True, it’s just as easy to select this from the swatches menu. Regardless how it’s run, this should be the first step to cleaning up the swatches. You can cut and paste it from below:

app.menuActions.item("$ID/Add All Unnamed Colors").invoke();

Reduce Colors

This script launches a prompt that allows you to search for colours that are a given percentage different from each other and merge them to the swatch that appears higher in the swatches panel.

If you’re using a special knockout black swatch and don’t want it to become the default black, perhaps make it a spot colour while running these scripts.

I explain the differences between these colours in more depth in Episode 14.

Registration Fix

This script converts all registration colour applied by InDesign to its respective tint of Black.

RGB/LAB GREY swatches to Shades of Black

I’ve written a script that converts RGB and LAB values that appear as shades of grey to equivalent shades of Black, while leaving other swatches alone to be dealt with by another script.

RGB/LAB swatches to CMYK

There’s another RGB/LAB converter, though this script converts all RGB/LAB swatches to CMYK values.

Faux Black fixers

There are two scripts that can take faux black values and convert them either to 100% black or rich black. The faux black is determined by CMYK values beyond certain percentages. In this case, any swatch that is over 70 Cyan, 60 Magenta, 60 Yellow and 90 Black will be converted to either 100% black or rich black. You can dig into the script if you like, and redefine what constitutes a rich black or faux black.

Remove unused swatches

This will remove any swatches not used in the artwork.

Styles, Master Pages and Layers

Let’s make sure that we only have the necessary styles, master pages and layers that are required for the artwork.

Remove unused masters

This script removes any master pages that have not been used in the artwork.

Remove unused layers

Next is this script that removes any layers that contain no artwork.

Remove unused styles and groups

This is a series of scripts that removes any styles not used in the artwork, as well as unnecessary style groups that may have been left, whether deep in folders or not. In the video it is combined into one “catch-all” script for convenience, but it is the work of many authors, so it’s not right for me to host it. Links to the originals can be found here, here, here, here and here.

Delete guides

Lastly, this script removes all guidelines in a document. I can see that there would be some use for guidelines to remain in a document, but felt it was worth demonstrating.

Preflight

To be sure that the artwork is completely free of issues, we want to make sure that there are no prepress issues. To make sure that the artist complied with the preflight that was associated with the document, there’s the preflight enforcer.

As shown on the Colecandoo Youtube channel before, I’ve prepared two scripts that will either warn or prevent a user from printing or exporting to PDF until all preflight issues are resolved.

So there you have it, over ten scripts that will help make housekeeping of InDesign files a lot easier. If there’s any that I’ve missed or you feel would be worthy of a future video, let me know via my contact page.

Various InDesign Mods… Part Two

In the third of the “must-haves” Colecandoo youtube series, I continue to look at InDesign mods that can be made using javascripts or free plug-ins. The first modifications are again javascripts installed into the startup scripts folder.

Updates

BookOpenAll.jsx

Theunis de Jong (Jongware), additions made by Martin Fischer and Oliver (Funkturm Mitte)

This update improves on Jongware’s original by adding several additional options to the InDesign book palette flyout.

Exportpop.jsx

John Hawkinson (MIT)

This is an alternative to Tomaxxi’s control background export script that was shown in the last “must-haves” video. Tomaxxi’s script forced the PDF export window to appear during a PDF export. Great if you want to see the progress of a PDF, not great if it’s a large file and you need to get work done.

Instead, this script pops up the background tasks dialog to display the PDF progress while allowing alterations to be made in the ID file that is open. A prompt appears once the export is complete. The original javascript contains the full path name and completion time in the prompt, but I’ve modified mine to just let me know it’s done.

Not covered previously

Preflight enforcer

Colin Flashman (Colecandoo)

Then there’s my own preflight enforcer scripts. These startup scripts will make you the most hated person in a design studio if implemented. They work by preventing the ability to print or make a PDF by either interrupting or disabling with a warning prompt until all preflight errors are clear.

Frans van der Geest’s collection

Next is the website of Frans van der Geest. He has created various startup scripts that add menu items to the interface. There are too many to cover here, but make sure to check out his site, being mindful it is in Dutch, so unless you speak dutch, I’d recommend using the Chrome browser and using its auto translate feature.

Non Startup-Scripts

There are some scripts that can make minor mods away from the startup scripts folder.

Two in particular are run from the regular scripts panel, but become part of the ongoing interface and only removed either at a software update or if preferences are trashed.

Richpaste

Marc Autret, Indiscripts,

Adds the “richpaste” option to the edit menu. Richpaste allows for cutting and pasting text from one application to another, but preserving minor formatting such as italics, bold, underlines; while applying the document’s paragraph style to the incoming type.

Spread rotation menu commands

Peter Kahrel

Adds three options to the pages palette – 90 CW, 90 CCW and clear rotation. Yes, these features already exist in this panel, but require navigating further into the panel. Peter’s script adds these features to a more obvious place in the pages palette.

Free Plug-ins

Other interface modifications are achieved using dedicated plug-ins. Most plug-ins are paid plug-ins and serve specific purposes, but from time to time the manufacturers offer free plug-ins that are always great to have.

Find/Change Queries

The Final Touch

A free plug-in from the Adobe Add-ons, it adds a dialog that lets you export find/change queries that you have created so others can use them.

Layout Zone

Automatication

Adds the “layout zone” feature – the ability to export a selection of object in InDesign to its own file.

Multido

65bit software

Adds two more options to the edit menu that allow undo multiple/redo multiple commands. In-tools has History scripts that perform a similar task, and can be accessed using keyboard shortcuts

API menu

Rorohiko

This adds an interface that shows plug-ins from Rorohiko.com. In this instance, it has several of the plug-ins that Kris has made freely available to the public

There you have it!

While the scripts and plug-ins featured are free, consider the time and the effort that the programmers spent creating them. If the use of their scripts have made you more productive and saved you money, consider a donation to them directly, or purchase one of their paid products.

If there’s any mods that you think I’ve missed, feel free to let me know on my contact page.

InDisbelief at InDesign 2017.1

In the first week of April 2017, Adobe released its latest versions of the Creative Cloud updates. As a regular user of Adobe InDesign, I was filled with anticipation that Adobe had finally gotten around to the laundry list of bug fixes and improvements that users like me had been asking for the last few years. Sadly, the “improvements” to Adobe InDesign were mild to say the least. Rather than give a review of the update, please feel free to read David Blatner’s critique on InDesignsecrets.

I have to agree with David’s take on the update, and it is truly frustrating that the InDesign application continues to go without any real improvements since CS6 that I feel would be noteworthy. What contributes to this frustration is that since 2015, I have met face-to-face (at my own personal expense) with the senior engineers and product managers of the Adobe InDesign team on several occasions, along with dozens of my peers worldwide, to share our frustrations and concerns about the lack of improvements and innovations with each new release or update.

In my opinion, it would appear that Adobe’s strategy for InDesign is to welcome a new wave of users and attempt to make it an easy program to use. Even though I’m now a seasoned veteran with this software, I do remember when I too was a “first timer” to this software and struggled to grasp some of the concepts. Adobe is also trying to make the program do more than it was originally intended for, by producing epubs, online publications via its “Publish Online” button, as opposed to creating documents purely intended for print.

But that strategy aims to gain new users, rather than satiate the requests of existing users, or appeal to and appease potentially departing users.

If Adobe is interested in recruiting new users, might I suggest that they provide better access to training resources so that new users can have a way of learning the application apart from paid providers or fan-based tutorials? Also, maintain existing users by attending to this long list of fixes and improvements so that they can recommend InDesign to potential new users.

In a previous Colecandoo article (yes, they can hear us), I wrote about the methods that Adobe uses to communicate with its users. Upon reflection, this communication often refers to issues such as anecdotal bugs, crashes, and technical queries, rather than feature requests, the mood of users and the InDesign community as a whole… and that’s a problem if they want to be progressive and stay ahead of their competitors such as Quark and Affinity. Adobe is going to have to broaden its communications and do more than listen through its own channels, but also to harsh criticism that is dealt to it by disgruntled users.

Then there’s the elephant in the room, the subscription model. Adopted in 2013, this has been a topic of much debate among single users, enterprise and government clients, and Adobe itself. First to exploit the frustration with this payment model was Adobe InDesign’s main competitor, Quark Xpress, by allowing users to purchase their software outright. That said, this difference is not just exploited, it’s a major selling point. However, the initial purchase price is enough to make some think twice before making the switch.

But there’s a new player in town. Scheduled for release in 2017 is the long-awaited page-layout software by Affinity titled Affinity Publisher (not to be confused with Microsoft Publisher). With a low entry-level price-point, if it is anything like its companion products Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo that both received rave reviews and awards, then both Adobe and Quark should be on-notice to not just listen to their users, but implement improvements… quickly!

For me, it boils down to the three Ls – Loyalty, Legacy, and Lethargy.

  • Loyalty in that I’ve been an Adobe user since PageMaker, so for over half of my adult life I’ve used an Adobe page layout program in one form or another.
  • Legacy in that so many of my files are created in InDesign that while I could use other software going forward, I will have to rely on legacy files for much of my ongoing work and converting them to another application poses risks and uncertainty.
  • Lastly, lethargy – it takes time, energy and commitment to make a change from one layout application to another. It’s easier to remain in the software I’m used to, rather than learn another application and hope it was the right decision.

But while that applies in my circumstances, that doesn’t necessarily mean everybody thinks like me.

If any Adobe employee is reading this, the one take-away message would be this: please don’t ignore your long-term users who want you to implement the laundry-list of fixes and improvements that have been accumulated over the years. We’re paying subscriptions and barely seeing any of the innovations promised at the outset of the CC concept.

%d bloggers like this: