How NOT to make annotations in a PDF

In early July, I prepared a video for my employer that demonstrated how to mark up a PDF correctly, primarily how to use the commenting tools. This came about as a direct result of the Adobe Acrobat team removing certain icons from the comment panel, meaning that many of my customers had to be re-trained on how to mark-up PDF proofs that they were sent. Since July 12, the Acrobat team has decided to return one of the icons it had removed from the comment panel, but still pushes for the use of the blue arrow tool to make additions, deletions or replacements of text. I’m happy that the icon has returned, but frustrated that it was removed in the first place.

thumbsup

This is important because PDF mark-ups can use the annotations workflow that works like this – simple comments are taken into Acrobat using the comments tool and then imported directly into InDesign using plug-in software available from DTPtools. Here is a link to a video of the workflow in action – it effectively takes the mark-ups that were made in the Acrobat file into the ID file, and these mark-ups can be accepted or rejected in a similar fashion to revisions made in Microsoft Word.

There will be occasions that alterations outside of the scope of the annotations workflow will have to be made, but I would encourage anyone who has been asked to mark-up a PDF for their printer to please read these suggestions:

Use the Adobe Acrobat Reader

Yes it is possible to mark-up a PDF in other software such as Preview (Mac) or in some browser plug-ins, but for the mark-ups to save and be interpreted correctly by the DTPtools annotations plug-in, please use the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Mark-ups only please

That being said, please do not:

  • attempt to make the changes live in the PDF, but instead use the commenting tools only. This means staying clear of the typewriter tool and only using commenting tools, namely the blue arrow tool to make deletions, additions or replacements (or use the classic icons); highlight or sticky note.
  • open the file in Microsoft Word and save it back as a PDF. This can make it impossible to tell the distinction between the two files and will result in the artwork being set up again from scratch.
  • print the PDF and then mark it up in pen, scan it to a new PDF – this will quite clearly not work with the annotations workflow.
  • add or delete pages from the PDF. If pages need to be deleted, use the mark-ups to indicate this. Likewise, if pages need to be inserted, use the sticky-note tool to inform the operator that pages need to be inserted.

Good instructions

  • Delays and misunderstandings because of unclear instructions = $. This will result in a new proof that will no doubt contain misunderstood edits will need to be corrected, resulting in further proofs, chargeable time, delays and frustration.
  • Make sure your instructions are so clear that edits are easily understandable by anybody. Even if you have had a conversation with someone about the alterations to be made, never assume that the person making the alterations will be the person you had a conversation with.

dogeindd

When working in groups

  • Make a distinction between comments intended for collaborators and authors; and comments intended for a printer. Collaborators generally know what is being referred to, but prepress staff are making changes only, so make sure that the instructions for the printers are easily understandable. Any notes, such as opinions (e.g. I don’t like that font), or topic specific queries (e.g. need to fact-check this statement) really should be between collaborators and authors.
  • “Duelling banjos”. If collaborators can’t agree on specific alterations, don’t take it out on the prepress operator – they are doing what they are told to do in the PDF. If there is a dispute between authors about what does/does not need to appear in the publication, resolve that prior to submitting the PDF to the prepress operator for changes.
  • When collaborating, make sure each collaborator is either looking at the SAME PDF, or the same COPY of the PDF, and that changes are submitted at the same time rather than staggered. There is a great video that specifically deals with collaborating groups here.

Think about the practical application of the mark-ups

  • Have realistic expectations of the edits. For example, supplying a 5 page word file with the instructions “fit on 1 page” is unrealistic.
  • Understand the implications of changes. For example, pages that are designed to work as readers’ spreads will be jeopardised if an instruction to shuffle pages forces the spread to break… a segue to this issue…
  • Shuffling pages… Again this can be quite confusing, especially if LOTS of pages are being shuffled around. Remember that shuffling pages can also break pages that are meant to appear together, such as pages set up as readers spreads. Make sure that the new order of the pages is clear to avoid any confusion.

Ultimately, a well marked-up PDF proof can result in more reliable changes being made faster and on-time.

See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat: Part 2

2015-07-03 NOTE: This article is now out of date since the release of Adobe InDesign CC 2015. However, I have left the article here for posterity.

A previous Colecandoo article presented a way of being able to control the view size and page presentation of PDFs used as soft-proofs for clients. The solution was to use the Actions tool in Adobe Acrobat to apply an appropriate action that contains the necessary view size/page presentation settings.

This method certainly works, but there is a far more easy method that can be done directly from Adobe InDesign, and that is to export as an interactive PDF.

As a printer that, I had created very little interactive content until recently. I felt that the “Export to Interactive PDF” was only of use for content that contained form fields or other interactive elements, so I had not considered this an option… until now. In fact, this method is much easier than the method described in the previous article. Once again though, this should only be used when a client is checking the content of the PDF only.

To do this, select File/Export (or command + e on a Mac) and from the dialog box, select Adobe PDF (Interactive) from the dropdown list and click Save.

interpic01A new dialog box will appear showing the available options for export, including the view and layout settings.

interpic02If preparing a proof that is to appear as readers spreads, be careful that it is possible to select the same view in two places in this dialog box, with some unwanted consequences.

interpic03To avoid this, use the Two-Up (Cover Page) option available from the Layout dropdown menu, rather than the Spreads option from the Pages/Spreads radio buttons.

The method still needs improvement…

One important note is that unlike the PDF export option for print, there is no way to save export presets for Interactive PDFs. Instead, the options used to last export an interactive PDF are maintained for the next export.

With this in mind, PDFs can also be exported en masse using Peter Kahrel’s batch convert script, but make sure that prior to using the script, one file is correctly exported to interactive PDF before using the script. Peter’s instructions do say this already, but it is worth writing it again.

See it at the final size – view size and Acrobat

2015-07-03 NOTE: This article is now out of date since the release of Adobe InDesign CC 2015. However, I have left the article here for posterity.

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.

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?

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 289 other followers

%d bloggers like this: