InDesign in denial or in decline? Then innovate!

At the same time every year when Adobe MAX comes around, I look at the new features in Photoshop and Illustrator and wonder “will the changes in InDesign be as advanced?” and for the last several years, I’m always let down by the new features that InDesign has in comparison to its companion software.

I understand that the engineers can’t implement all suggestions by the users, and when I’ve had a chance to speak to the engineers and developers directly, I’ll give my “top five” requests rather than give my entire laundry list of ideas, fixes etc.

Between 2015 and 2019, I made a point to travel – at my own time and expense – to attend conferences on the other side of the world, where Adobe InDesign’s technicians and decision makers would be in attendance, so that they could hear these suggestions and understand my determination of 24 hours of airline travel to give them my pain-points and ideas.

In defense

To be fair, InDesign has introduced what I would consider ten features since 2018, not counting bug squashing, catching up with operating systems or minor visual tweaks:

  1. 2021 – Capture fonts, color palettes, and shapes from any image, using the new Adobe Capture extension
  2. 2020 – Use HSB values without RGB translation
  3. 2020 – Locate Colors in your document
  4. 2020 – Intelligent subject detection and text wrap
  5. 2020 – Share for Review with text annotations
  6. 2019 – data merge can use semicolon delimiter and now has “use existing” for variable image frame placement
  7. 2019 – SVG Import
  8. 2019 – Column Rules
  9. 2019 – Variable fonts
  10. 2018 – Import comments from PDFs

For transparency, see James Wamser’s full guide of InDesign features.

I also note InDesign’s Uservoice site now incorporates three priority buttons (Not at all; Important; or Critical) so the development team can further focus on immediate needs rather than non-critical wants.

In despair

For the 2021 release of InDesign, I feel the community was disappointed with that it considered to be major features in the release, such as a change of nomenclature that adopted inclusive terminology.

While the change in nomenclature didn’t affect me either way, I understand that users who were offended by the previous terminology would have welcomed the change… though this should be called an improvement rather than a new feature. Unfortunately, that is where the changes to the pages panel ended, and other requested changes to the pages panel hadn’t been implemented, such as:

  • Ability to have vertical facing pages;
  • Facing pages for spiral binding;
  • Applying parent pages to all even or odd pages;
  • Variable parent pages for data merge;

Asides from this, the frustrating part for the community was, at the time of the new features announcement, there were 4062 requests on the InDesign Uservoice, though the three features listed for 2021 shown above were the ones given priority.

In backlog

There are major changes in backlog that have been in the InDesign Uservoice for years such as:

  • Option to split table rows across pages
  • MathML Support
  • Convert PDF to INDD
  • Make text variables/live captions breakable like normal text
  • Improving the various options of footnotes
  • Allow multiple character styles to be applied to characters
  • Actions Panel

These 7 suggestions above have at least 300 votes each.

Inspiration

I’ve been using InDesign for 20 years or so, and came to the conclusion that if I want great features in InDesign, I’ll either have to script them myself, or look to InDesign’s community of users who have written fantastic scripts and have websites full of great scripts that deserve to be in the UI of InDesign itself.

The community features dozens of great scripters, such as:

These scripters (along with many other InDesign scripters too numerous to mention) have written dozens of scripts that should be in all InDesign users toolbox… but many of these scripts were written because the features didn’t exist in InDesign (and still don’t).

In focus

Let’s highlight one area that was once an innovation for InDesign compared to its then main competitor, Quark Xpress: Tables. Let’s look at the tables panel in InDesign while focused on a table.

In contrast, let’s now look at the tables panel within Affinity Publisher while focused on a table.

At first glance, the differences are night and day, but upon closer inspection, InDesign’s panel does have the majority of items that Affinity Publisher’s panel contains, albeit shrunk in size, or represented icons. What InDesign is missing is the ability to easily select the table or cell strokes, something Affinity does quite well.

It’s what comes next – Affinity’s ability to autofit or sort a row or column based on contextual menus in each axis of the table.

If I highlight some cells but only want to merge the highlighted rows, neither application can do this from their panels or contextual menus, but this can be accomplished through scripting. Scripts from both Marc Autret and Dirk Becker accomplish this task, and can be added to the contextual menu (though at the time of writing, Dirk’s site appears to be down).

In fact, many table items in InDesign can be accessible via scripting. The late Thenis de Jong (aka Jongware) wrote a great article about this. Unfortunately, scripting isn’t something that every user can do without some training.

I can improve on both table panels though by using an Elgato Stream Deck: hardware that – in my case – is 15 configurable buttons that can be contextually based.

To save me time setting up the buttons, sideshowfx have an installable InDesign profile for the Stream Deck that has many of the buttons already set up, including features that aren’t in either InDesign or Publisher’s table panels as single click icons, such as select row, insert column, select body rows, etc.

Some “gotchas” with the profile is that it requires using sideshowfx’s keyboard shortcuts, and these may conflict with InDesign’s or users’ already established shortcuts. What is great though is that if the buttons you need aren’t there, Stream Deck allows these to be added, provided a keyboard shortcut to the desired action is added.

Invest in inventors

I note that the Adobe InDesign developers did add a folder in the scripts panel called “Community” where script contributors like myself were encouraged to add scripts to share to the community without charge. While many of the scripts shared by scripters are done so out of philanthropy, the scripts may be there to drive the website traffic of the scripters, perhaps in order to persuade a purchase of one of their paid scripts or software, promote their freelance work, or solicit a donation.  

Bluntly, Adobe InDesign has a team of developers, but scripters are usually sole operators. Speaking for myself, Colecandoo isn’t a team of engineers or developers, I’m it! If the Adobe developers reached out and asked me to include my pro version of the wall planner script to the community tab, I would consider this on a paid commercial basis. Remember, Adobe has a team of developers that could have written a similar feature for InDesign before I did, and they have revenues greater than I’ll ever see.

In Conclusion

InDesign is still the layout software I use on a daily basis, but there are so many innovations that could be made that – in the meantime – have been made by users, third parties or competitors. If the developers are reading this and looking for inspiration, then look no further than:

  • InDesign’s Uservoice site;
  • The InDesign Scripting Community; (i.e. fulfill script requests that haven’t been made; or invest in the inventors who have made scripts the community is using regularly)
  • Other software in the Adobe Creative Cloud; (i.e. look at features that work well in other applications, such as the Actions palette, and port them to InDesign)
  • Competing software; (e.g. the tables feature highlighted in this article)
  • Software innovations in general (e.g. ability to tie into other software using IFTTT or Zapier);

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.

10 years of Colecandoo

To most people, April 30 is another day, but for me, it represents a milestone for the Colecandoo site – 10 years since the site was launched.

Unusual beginnings

While the first post Colecandoo was published on April 30 2011, the idea for the site started its life in the year 2001 while working at Mac and PC Digital as a prepress operator for the busy service bureau. The company’s web page had been amended to include a bulletin board, and one of the topics on the board was Need Help Pre-Press. Feeling somewhat frustrated with the usual errors seen by clients, I posted – under a pseudonym – an article to the board highlighting what not to do when submitting files.

Days later, I was approached by the boss about the post. While I initially denied writing the post, he knew it was me, and made the comment that there was some great information that was presented, though was unimpressed by the tone of the post.

Willing to overlook this, he suggested turning my frustration into clients’ education, and rewrite the post into a series of smaller posts providing practical advice on best practices. I obliged, and when other issues arose that I felt clients should be aware of, I would add them to the posts.

Colecandoo could have been a book

Despite leaving Mac and PC Digital to work for Gillingham Printers, I kept writing notes about issues that I thought others should be aware of, conscious that there was very little literature in the marketplace for prepress advice. As I gained knowledge with my new employer, more information was added to my collection, and I was confident that I could curate the information into a book that I felt had a potential market.

Though one observation remained true – the industry was always changing, and information that could be published in one print-run of the book would quickly be out of date. Quark’s domination gave way to the rise of InDesign and the Creative Suite, Freehand was deprecated, and PDF became the way of submitting artwork for printing.

Given this rate of change, a book was deemed the wrong media to prepare this information… but I wanted to get my advice out there, one way or another.

The plunge

Seeing the success of sites such as indesignsecrets and indiscripts, I felt that the best platform for the information I had was to create a website – not to compete with these sites, but to complement their material with what I felt was finer detail on specific information.

On 30 April 2011, the first posts were published to Colecandoo. Many of the first posts related to the handover of files, such as formats that could be accepted; missing deadlines; and even simple things such as labelling disks and CDs… oh how times have changed.

Then it happened…

In early 2013, interest in the Colecandoo site would turn my world upside-down. I was contacted by InDesignSecrets whether I would be interested in writing an article about Data Merge for InDesign Magazine. Since then I’ve written a few more pieces for the magazine, along with close to 30 articles for InDesignSecrets, and spoken at two conferences in an official capacity (as well as unofficially at CreativeWOW sessions and Ignite sessions).

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to provide advice and assistance to dozens of businesses, including international advertising agencies, Ivy League universities, federal government agencies, and several major franchises.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to speak to Adobe Software Engineers directly, and through support of readers of the site, I’ve been able to do this several times – something I didn’t think I’d ever do when starting the site ten years ago.

Passion Project

For those that aren’t aware, maintaining this site is not my full-time job – my full-time job is as a prepress operator for Openbook Howden Print & Design in Adelaide. That said, everything that is published on the Colecandoo site itself or its social media channels such as the Colecandoo Youtube channel – is done by me. From my perspective, I see the articles on this site as my way of giving back to the community.

My sincere thanks

My thanks go out to everyone who has supported the site, whether that is as simple as visiting the site now and again to see what has been written; or liking and subscribing to the Colecandoo Youtube channel; or purchased the Data Merge to Single Records PRO script.

Finally, thank you for a fantastic ten years, and look forward to many more years to come.

Just not Cricut – Update

UPDATE 2021-03-19: A further statement from Cricut’s CEO Ashish Arora was released on March 18, 2021, stating:

So, we’ve made the decision to reverse our previously shared plans. Right now, every member can upload an unlimited number of images and patterns to Design Space for free, and we have no intention to change this policy. This is true whether you’re a current Cricut member or are thinking about joining the Cricut family before or after December 31, 2021.

Ashish Arora (Cricut CEO)

This follows an announcement made in the previous week that uploads to Cricut’s Design Space that exceeded 20 per month would require a Cricut Access subscription. What followed on social media was an angry backlash of its user base, leading to the article that was previously posted below. I will leave the article for posterity, but in the interests of transparency, the article has since been reflected to post the March 18 statement.

There has been a development since the last article concerning Cricut’s decision to limit free uploads to its Design Space to 20 per month before requiring a Cricut Access subscription. In short, the CEO has released a statement that backs away from this decision… for now. Read the Cricut CEO’s statement on their site.

While this can be perceived as a win for Cricut users for the moment, it is worth noting the language of the second-to-last paragraph of the statement, that reads as follows:

We will continue to explore affordable ways for our future users who register machines after December 31, 2021 to allow an unlimited number of personal image and pattern uploads.

Ashish Arora (Cricut CEO)

Note the word “affordable”, and not “free”. Also, why set a date of the end of the year?

Where to from here?

Until this event, the Cricut maker community was arguably at peace and was happily using their Cricut plotting cutters. Since this event, the trust in the company has now been shaken… and the language used by the CEO in their statement does not rule out that they won’t try something like this to new users beyond next year.

The Cricut’s main competitor in this space – Silhouette – has been quick to capitalise on Cricut’s PR disaster releasing their own statement, of which one paragraph sums up their position:

There is no limit to the number of designs you are able to open and use with our software program. Silhouette has no obligation to sign up for any paid service in order to use the Silhouette cutting system or software, including your own files and designs (such as JPG, PNG, BMP, and TTF font files).

Silhouette spokesperson

The event has also spurred the community to looking into alternatives to the Cricut Design Space to interface with the plotter itself. Attempts to do this nearly a decade ago were met with legal action that was ultimately settled. But that will not necessarily stop everyone in the community from attempting to “Jailbreak” their Cricut so that the plotters can be run on other CNC software, whether a competitor or open-source.

Unfortunately, the whole event has tarnished the Cricut brand that makes arguably good hardware and consumables. Members of the Cricut community were vocal on social media, with the Reddit’s Cricut subreddit briefly pinning a note describing what action could be done – everything from cancelling Cricut Access, joining a class action lawsuit, brigading social media platforms such as Cricut’s Instagram and Facebook pages, buying competitor consumables such as vinyls and tools, etc.

I would personally like to interface the Cricut with any other software than the Cricut Design Space as described in the previous article. Releasing an API to the community so that plug-ins could be made for software such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Affinity Designer and Inkscape would go a long way to not only restoring faith in the Cricut brand, but make people use their Cricuts more as making designs for it would be in software that users would be familiar with already. If the Cricut Design Space is a good enough application, it should be able to stand on its own two feet without forcing its users to use it because there isn’t another application… and right now it is nowhere near that level.

Ultimately, it’s a win for existing Cricut users that has exposed the thoughts of what the company is prepared to do; and it is also a wake-up call to other software developers that software relies on happy users, and that it doesn’t take much to turn happy users into the Reddit army.

Advance “Australia Fair” Notice would have been nice

Those of you reading this article and living outside Australia may not be familiar with Advance Australia Fair, it is Australia’s National Anthem. The anthem is relatively new – adopted in 1984 to replace the previous anthem “God Save the Queen”; and is two verses in length.

So what does this have to do with this blog about prepress and InDesign advice? Well, in this instance, that a change without prior notice can cause major issues, and in this article, I’ll explain how it did just that recently.

Young to One

The Australian National Anthem can be a polarising topic, but in this article I want to put all politics aside and look at the practical effect this change made. For readers unfamiliar with the anthem, here is some context.

In November 2020, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggested a one-word change to the second line of the anthem to better reflect the country’s history prior to colonisation. The line that was previously:

For we are young and free

Would now become:

For we are one and free

This was not the first time an amendment had been suggested to the anthem, and in a news cycle dominated by COVID-19 and the US Elections, it was a story that was largely out of sight. However, unlike the other suggestions, this change was not only accepted – but literally implemented overnight, with the announcement by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on New Year’s Eve 2020 that the change would be made effective on January 1, 2021.

The effect of virtually no warning

In Australia, the school year starts late January and ends early December. This means that unique materials produced for schools for the new school year are normally produced between December and January, including school diaries.

An item requested by many schools to appear in their diaries is the Australian National Anthem, as it will be sung at various events such as assemblies, sporting events, etc.

Unfortunately, the timing of the decision is frustrating. The majority of school diaries are printed between October to December, meaning any diaries that featured the previous anthem were now incorrect. It also meant that any affected diaries that were in production had to be changed, and could mean reprinting single leaves or entire sections of a diary, depending on the printing method used. It could also mean having to reprint entire diaries that had already been perfect-bound; or for coil-bound diaries, the process of unbinding, replacing the affected page and rebinding the diary with a new coil.

I understand why the change to the anthem was made, and understand that January 1 is a convenient date on a calendar as it represents a new year, with Australia Day four weeks later. However, the lack of prior notice has caught not just my own employer off-guard, but anyone who makes similar collateral for schools.

Seen this before?

When preparing diaries for clients, every effort is made to ensure the correct dates and information is used, such as public holidays and school terms. Usually, these dates are planned and gazetted well ahead of time, but there are times that they have changed unexpectedly. One example was in October 2015 when the Queensland Government changed Labour Day from October to May for the next year. This was a mild inconvenience as most diaries were still in the round-tripping stage of their production and could be updated, but there were a handful of diaries that did need sections reprinted.

Yes, a phrase can be used to explain away mistakes in a diary, such as:

while correct at the time of printing, these dates are subject to change without prior notice

but that phrase doesn’t mean much when people that have relied on a date printed in a diary, only to learn – to their own inconvenience – that the date is incorrect.

Last thoughts on the issue

I understand that this is likely to be a one-off issue, but to cause so much rework was frustrating, simply because of a decision made by the Prime Minister – made with good intentions at its core – was done with virtually no warning to implement the change.

Yes, it’s only one word that changed, and yes I’m sure customers may be forgiving of the circumstances, but if the change to the anthem was far more major, then I don’t think customers would be so forgiving.

Personally, if there were to be changes to the Australian National Anthem, how about replacing the word “Girt”? It just means surrounded or enclosed, and isn’t it even in the wrong tense for the verb “Gird”? I also feel that Australia could be better represented by songs in 80s popular culture such as Land Down Under, Great Southern Land or Sounds of Then.

Lastly, even though it breaches part of the anthem’s protocols, the anthem can be sung to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island” or “Working Class Man” by Jimmy Barnes.

New Year’s Message for 2021

Given that the last general news update about this site was November 2012, it’s about time to provide another news update about the goings-on at Colecandoo.

10 years of Colecandoo in April 2021

April 2021 will mark ten years since Colecandoo.com was launched. The site started its life in the year 2000 on a former employer’s web forum in the form of a rant about what frustrated me about the files I had to handle on a daily basis. Upon being given the suggestion to turn frustration into education, I started documenting pain-points and writing suggestions on better practices for anyone who may be experiencing the same pain-points.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I had enough material to create a book, but given the pace of change in the printing industry, it would not be long before the information was out of date and revisions or reprints would be necessary, so what better platform to convey this information than a website?

In early 2013, interest in the site would be turned up to eleven. I was contacted by InDesignSecrets whether I would be interested in writing an article about Data Merge for InDesign Magazine. Since then I’ve written a few more pieces for the magazine, along with close to 30 articles for InDesignSecrets, and spoken at two conferences in an official capacity (as well as unofficially at CreativeWOW sessions and Ignite sessions).

Since starting this site, I’ve spoken at over a dozen events, including Adobe user groups, Adobe Community Professionals, as well as former and current employers.

My thanks go out to everyone who has supported the site, also to those who have gone out of their way to rally behind me to open doors I would have never thought imaginable. For years I’d wanted to be able to put suggestions and pain-points to Adobe Software Engineers directly, and through support of readers of the site, I’ve been able to do this several times.

Ten years on, some pain-points have gone; some pain-points remain, and new pain-points are introduced. I imagine that with the rise of Canva and the Affinity suite that there will be more to come, so stay tuned!

Data Merge to Single Records Pro beyond expectations

It has also been two years since the launch of the pro version of the Data Merge to Single Records script. The script had been on the back-burner for years after releasing the free version but I’d released the pro version after receiving dozens of direct requests for it. I didn’t think there would be much demand for the script from others, but two years on it has been downloaded more than I’d expected. To everyone who has purchased the script, thank you very much and I hope the script is saving time in your daily workflow.

Youtube

Many regular readers will note that it has been close to three years since the last upload to the Colecandoo YouTube channel (make sure you are subscribed to the Colecandoo). The aim of the channel was to show some tips and techniques that are hard to convey in the written format of the blog, and also had plans of monetizing the channel over time.

Preparing videos for YouTube takes many more hours and resources than writing articles for the blog. I also would like to increase the production values of the videos that are produced with better audio, graphics and on-site footage to demonstrate real-world applications of techniques shown in the videos. But in this environment that has been difficult to do, and in terms of production – I’m it! There’s no additional director, editor, producer, sound engineer, ADR… I’m it!

YouTube has increased the barrier to entry for monetization in 2019, effectively postponing monetization of the channel indefinitely. In short, eligibility hinges on having over 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within 12 months, in addition to providing advertiser-friendly/family friendly material.

Put simply, I’d like to continue making the videos and hope to do so in the future, but at the moment – videos are on-hold… for now.

Affiliate links

In 2021, I’ll be adding a page dedicated to Amazon affiliate links, and may mention affiliate links in articles that I write. These will always be mentioned up-front because the first and foremost aim of this site is to provide prepress and InDesign advice to anyone.

For those unfamiliar with Amazon affiliate links, they are links to products on Amazon that – if a person who clicks upon a link then makes a purchase using that link – will allow revenue to be passed back onto the person hosting that link, which in this case is Colecandoo.

To come in 2021

COVID-19 has been devastating and 2020 will largely be remembered for this reason alone. Vaccines may be on the way but won’t resolve the crisis on its own, nor do it in a timely fashion. We must still play our part by social distancing and maintaining good personal hygiene.

This year has been a slower year for articles for reasons that should be self-evident – with two articles prepared, compared to 14 articles in 2019. I aim to correct this for 2021.

I also aim to revisit some scripts on the site, and add new scripts to the list, including pro versions of scripts such as the wall planner script.

Additionally, I’d also be interested to hear thoughts on whether or not to set up a Patreon, and also thoughts on merchandise through Redbubble or Teespring.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone a safe and prosperous new year for 2021, and in the words of my old Design Manager, “Let’s Do This!”.

Can I get a (Microsoft) Word in edge-wise?

Further to my article in April 2017 the InDesign team have certainly received the message loud and clear, and have now implemented some long-awaited improvements to InDesign. To their credit, the InDesign team have also made their communication with their technical staff far more transparent with the “wishform” page, where InDesign feature requests and bug reports can be viewed in real-time, along with their progress. The team have also made it easier to see what will be available in future versions with greater access to the prerelease program.

While I am not in the prerelease program myself, I like to have a look at the feature requests for InDesign to see what may or may not be coming to the next version. My own submissions for feature requests  are usually as a result of:

  • A recent issue I’ve encountered during a project or forum request;
  • An innovation by one of InDesign’s competitors, such as Quark, Scribus or Serif;
  • An innovation in a complimentary application such as Acrobat, Illustrator or Photoshop;
  • Simply finding a bug and reporting it

During the 2018 Adobe Symposium in Sydney, there were frequent mentions of Adobe’s recent innovation, Adobe Sensei. Apart from the obvious submission to the feature requests page for InDesign to adopt Adobe Sensei technology, I was reminded of certain features that I knew existed in Microsoft Word.

IMG_0127.JPG

For the first five years of my working life, Microsoft Word was my workhorse. I’d started my working life in an office performing clerical duties, and I would routinely use Word. Through my employer at the time, my job was slowly integrated into the printing and stationery arm that it had, and once I’d entered my next job exclusively in the printing industry, Word clearly took a back seat. I would refer to Microsoft Office products to import content into the applications I’d used over time, such as PageMaker, Quark Xpress and of course, Adobe InDesign.

That said, new or recent users to InDesign aren’t always from a marketing or graphic design background, but can be self-publishers, clerical staff, project managers, or simply anyone who has been told by their printer that they won’t accept Word files, but InDesign files are fine.

It is important to consider that users of Microsoft Office products can struggle to grasp concepts of usage that are present InDesign, and the learning curve can be steep. I’m also concerned about how new users of InDesign are acquiring their skills, given that hands-on training doesn’t appear to be a big part of this, but rather, methods such as:

  • Teaching themselves
  • On the job training from colleagues
  • Video courses from training sources
  • Video courses from anyone with screen capture software (yes, this includes my Youtube channel)

While reading InDesign forum requests lately, I have noticed InDesign users asking about features they are used to in Microsoft Word, and answers usually range from “InDesign wasn’t set up for that” or “InDesign can’t handle that”.

My question is: “Why not? Word can do this quite easily, and has done for decades!” Personally, there are many features of Office products that I think InDesign could easily benefit from, such as:

  • Macros
  • Calendars
  • Basic print impositions (a Publisher feature)
  • Mail merge
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Autoformat
  • Citations
  • Equations
  • Shapes
  • Smart Art (e.g. flow charts, venn diagrams, etc)
  • Charts and graphs

It is true that many of the features listed can be accomplished by third party scripts or plug-ins, but I would argue that if software with a lower price tag can accomplish these tasks without having to make further financial investment in a plug-in that may be obsolete upon the next CC update, how about adding these features to Adobe InDesign? It would make it easier for Office users migrating to InDesign, and would give veteran InDesign users some handy tools that were not previously available.

Post CreativePRO New Orleans update

It’s not often that I post an editorial on the site, usually the articles featured on the site outline a procedure, tutorial or general advice. For today’s post, it is worth standing on my soapbox to announce a few items:

Another great CreativePRO Conference

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This year’s CreativePRO conference was recently held in sunny (and humid!) New Orleans between June 4-8. As expected, the conference was fantastic and I left with even more pages in my notebook filled with tips, this time on Illustrator, Photoshop, and somewhat surprisingly, Excel. It was also an opportunity to appear on-stage at two brief CreativePRO organised events – the Ignite session and the CreativeWOW session.

The 2019 event will be hosted in Seattle, Washington, and marks the 10th year of the CreativePRO events that include the InDesign Conference and PEPCON.

25th article on InDesignSecrets

It was also during the CreativePRO conference that my 25th article on InDesignSecrets was published. As well as hosting this blog, I also prepare articles from time to time over at InDesignSecrets.com, so definitely check out the great articles there, as well as their Facebook page.

Youtube Hiatus is nearly over

Those familiar with my Youtube Channel will notice that it’s been some time since the last Colecandoo video was posted. Be patient, more videos are on the way. I can only say that 2017-2018 has provided perfect storm of events that have given less incentive to create video content on the Youtube platform, whether it be the “Adpocalypse”, demonetisation, or increasing the barrier of entry for monetisation. That aside, I would also like to add my Colecandoo character as part of the videos, and this requires more experience with Adobe Character Animator… as I say, the videos are on their way.

If you’re not familiar with my videos on Youtube, feel free to have a look here. As usual, if you want to be notified of new content, make sure to subscribe and click that bell that Youtube makes people click.

See you at MAX 2018

If you’re heading over to Los Angeles in October 2018 for Adobe MAX, I will see you there.

 

Do you REALLY need to trash your preferences?

As a regular in the Adobe InDesign Forums, from time to time I see this one line given out as a “cure-all” to any issue occurring in InDesign: Trash your preferences. There’s even dedicated instructions on how to trash your preferences in the main screen of the forums, so it should be the first thing to do once InDesign goes off the rails, right?

NO!

When I see this suggestion offered as a solution to a strange or bizarre situation that a poster is encountering, the person offering the advice usually neglects to tell the poster that by doing so, all of their settings and preferences will be gone, and have to be reset. There is also no guarantee that trashing preferences will resolve the issue that the poster had, and in doing so the poster not only has the same issue, but now has the complication of rebuilding their preferences.

Instead of this advice, I would suggest a checklist of the following:

  • Is the issue happening in all documents, or just the one that I’m working in? What happens if I try in a new document?
  • Could it be a conflict with other software? What happens if I close other software and try again?
  • Could it be InDesign itself? Does restarting InDesign help?
  • Could it be the machine? Will a restart return InDesign to normal?
  • Is an InDesign plug-in to blame, or a recently installed script? If the plug-in or script can be turned off, does this make a difference?
  • If you have access to other versions of InDesign, is the issue able to be replicated in other versions of InDesign?
  • If you have access to InDesign on other platforms (e.g. there are other machines in the office that may run InDesign on another operating system) is the issue able to be replicated on other operating systems?

If the fault is persistent, before going to the forums, check the Adobe InDesign Feedback page first. Does the fault appear on this page as either a bug or feature request?

If the fault is not listed here, then go to the InDesign forum and search the forum first for the particular issue. Chances are if you are experiencing the issue, that someone before you has as well.

If the forum is showing no results, feel free to ask the question but remember to state:

  • the version of InDesign being used;
  • the platform and version of the operating system that is being used;
  • what is done to trigger the fault (e.g. When I print; When I click on the pages panel…)
  • what the fault actually is (e.g. a warning comes up; it crashes; the image appears backwards…)
  • any debugging you have taken to remedy the fault (e.g. I tried turning it off and on…)

Posting on this forum may take some time to receive an answer, as the majority of posts are handled by other users. Occasionally the Adobe staff will answer the queries, but they are clearly identified as “STAFF”.

If one of the responses that is received on the forum is “trash your preferences” ask the following questions:

  • What led the poster to come to that conclusion that trashing preferences would resolve the issue? Did they suffer the same fault and this solution worked for them?
  • Look at the poster’s history. Do they have a habit of suggesting this solution over and over again?
  • Did the poster warn of the side-effects of trashing your preferences?
  • Is this the consensus of all other posters on the thread, or are there other solutions that have been offered?

My concern with providing the “trashing your preferences” option as a solution is that it should only be performed as a last resort when all other methods short of a reinstall have failed to resolve the issue. In recent years, I’ve seen this advice given out on the forums like candy at Halloween, and no doubt I too have suggested it more than once.

If you have received “trash your preferences” advice on the forums, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Some basics of noteworthiness

As a user of InDesign since its creation, I’m used to many of the quirks and behaviours of the software, as well as general practices that are accepted in the printing industry. In recent times, I’ve noticed issues that would generally be known by experienced InDesign users, but these particular issues have come from users that are either new to InDesign or print media generally.

On that note, it’s worth going over a few issues that newer users of InDesign may be unfamiliar with.

Viewing PDFs

One of the first Colecandoo posts was an article that described the issues that can happen when checking PDF proofs via email: https://colecandoo.com/2011/08/21/the-proof-is-in-your-email/

When this article was written, it was during an era when Adobe Acrobat was the PDF viewer that had the lion’s share of users since its creation in 1993. Nowadays, Adobe Acrobat (Reader or Pro) is one of several programs that can open a PDF, given that PDFs can also be opened by software installed in an operating system (e.g. Preview on a Mac) or any Internet browser (e.g. Google Chrome).

So what’s the issue? A PDF should look the same no matter what software is opening it, right? Well, no – not all PDF readers can interpret all features such as:

  • Overprints;
  • Layers;
  • Interactive Form Fields;
  • Initial view;

So if receiving a PDF from a print supplier, ensure that Adobe Acrobat is the software used to open the PDF.

Graphic file formats into InDesign

When Quark Xpress dominated the printers’ landscape, the two formats that were largely used for placing graphics were EPS for vector graphics or raster images that contained paths; or TIFF for flat raster images. Once the Adobe Creative Suite became “king of the hill”, the two formats recommended by Adobe for use within Adobe InDesign were either AI for vector graphics or PSD for any raster images. The suite also allowed PDF and INDD files to be placed into InDesign as well. The main reason was that these particular formats preserved transparencies, effects and layers, but did not have to be re-saved from their native file formats to another format in order to be placed.

Enter the age where the internet is all around us, and GIF, JPG, SVG and PNG file formats are the norm. From my point of view, I’m increasingly seeing these file formats used in a print reproduction workflow. My concern is largely with PNG or GIF, given that JPG works within a print workflow, and SVG cannot be imported into InDesign at the time of writing this article. While these two file formats do preserve a transparency effect, they are not necessarily designed to work within Adobe InDesign and can result in some strange and bizarre errors.

One noteworthy feature of PSD is the ability to make non-destructive changes to artwork by making adjustment layers – something not available natively to JPG, PNG or GIF.

Given that InDesign can now also be used to also design media for an on-screen intent only (e.g. exporting to JPG or PNG, Publish Online, interactive PDF, HTML via in5), it would be great if PNG, GIF and SVG formats could be used in the first instance, and perhaps it is something the Adobe InDesign team could look into further.

Microsoft Word and other content

Remember when Microsoft Word was the go-to file format for word processing? Nowadays, there are dozens of word processors that are either open source (e.g. Libre Office, Open Office), part of the operating system (e.g. Pages) or accessed online (e.g. Google Docs), and that’s only the word processors – not to mention spreadsheets or presentation software. At the time of writing this, Adobe InDesign – as shipped – can import Microsoft Word or Excel files, but many other proprietary formats usually need to be converted to Word, Excel, RTF or TXT.

There is also a limitation on what will import when placing a Microsoft Word file. Users with recent versions of Microsoft Word will notice that newly created equations do not import.

Once again, it’s worth noting that times have changed, and to reflect the habits of users worldwide, perhaps it is worth having a look at what InDesign can and cannot import.

Print requirements vs On-Screen requirements

Artwork for on-screen publishing in InDesign such as PDF or publish online does not have to be as forgiving as publishing for print. Such examples of on-screen artwork are

  • not having to extend past the trim area,
  • any colour format is acceptable,
  • printing phenomenon such as Creep are not an issue.

When preparing artwork for print, these issues are much more important for accurate print reproduction. It’s impossible to cover all print issues in one article, but they have generally been talked about in other Colecandoo articles over the years.

Prepress vs Design

For those who have navigated every page of Colecandoo, you might notice that I’m not the best designer in the world. That said, this site isn’t intended for users to learn design. As the masthead says: Prepress and Indesign Advice. The distinction is that the purpose of prepress is to make sure that artwork submitted for print output will not pose any printing problem and will give the best finished result not just for the client, but the rest of the production process. For Designers who prepare print artwork as part of their role, understanding and appreciating prepress requirements certainly contributes to better artwork output and happier clients.

It’s worth remembering that a great designer doesn’t necessarily know anything about prepress, as they may design for other media or industries; and a great prepress operator doesn’t mean they’re a great designer.

Training vs Self Taught

Programs like Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign admittedly have steep learning curves. I would not expect anyone unfamiliar with InDesign to download and install it, and create fantastic artwork on their first try, let alone their twentieth. I was fortunate enough to attend training courses for Quark Xpress and Adobe PageMaker, with many of the PageMaker features evolving into Adobe InDesign. It is also true to say that much of what I have learned in InDesign is also self taught, but much of my training was also on-the-job training in several printing factories and service bureaux who had experienced users of the software. There are parts of Adobe InDesign I wouldn’t have been able to grasp if it wasn’t for training, such as:

  • XML
  • Javascript
  • Advanced bookwork, such as indexes, cross references etc

But I understand that not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes, people are thrown into InDesign as part of a new job where they have never used it before, and neither has anyone else in the company because it’s specific to that role.

For those who are reading this that are self-taught, I would definitely encourage you to try some of the leading publications for Adobe InDesign such as Real World Adobe InDesign CC, or A Designer’s Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML. Have a look at some of the courses offered by Linked-in Learning or any Adobe Certified Expert. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to be in such a situation, attend conferences aimed at InDesign users, such as the CreativePro conference.

 

My Calendar Caffuffle

UPDATE 2020-06-20: The script is now working and available from the scripts page. Click here to read more about the script in action.

Around this time of year, I usually get into the festive season by offering a new script for readers of the website. This year, I intended to release a free script that would generate a year planner based on the calendar year, page size and school term dates. After a weekend or so, I’d managed to create a proof of principle script using a Native InDesign Dialog and used it in a live project. Here are some shots of the first iteration of the script, along with the output:

01oldUI
02oldresult

While the script worked, it was not perfect, given that there was no error correction for the date fields, so if values were entered into date fields that weren’t the correct date syntax, the script would return an error. It was at this moment in time that I’d realised something very important:

There’s a difference between Native InDesign Dialogs and ScriptUI

Gabe Harbs has a brilliant write-up about the differences on the InDesign Scripting forums but ultimately it meant that the script would not allow for error correction unless it was rewritten using ScriptUI, something I was hoping to avoid. I’ve begun the re-write of the script but have not proceeded to far as I’m encountering a few issues. Here’s what I have now:

03newUI

For now, that’s as far as the script has progressed, and this leads onto the second issue:

A busy work schedule that included Adobe MAX

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Between October to December is usually very busy as there is seasonal work such as school diaries, yearbooks and other collateral that is wanted by the end of the Australian school year. In addition to this influx of work, I also had the opportunity to attend Adobe MAX 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

During MAX, I’d informed several of my peers about the upcoming script that I’d planned on releasing, only to realise the following:

Schools years, terms and holidays differ between countries

In Australia, the school year starts towards the end of January and ends in the second or third week of December. There are four terms and each state has their own term dates. Within this structure, private schools can also set their own dates, and this usually varies by a week or so of the Government schools. Given that I live in Australia, I’d created the script for use within the rules that apply for Australia.

However, I’d neglected the fact that users in the northern hemisphere have a completely different school year that starts in one calendar year and finishes in the next calendar year. This rendered my script of little to no use to most InDesign users, so for now the script sits on the shelf waiting for a quieter time before I revisit the idea.

I won’t leave you empty-handed!

Despite these setbacks, I still have a festive season gift to bestow: A day to a page planner script. Upon running this script, the user is asked for a start and end date range in ISO date format. When an appropriate date range is chosen and the OK button is clicked, a new InDesign document is made, creating threaded frames that contain a day to a page that contains the correct date.

04dotwmaker
05dotwmakerresult

The script can be downloaded from the downloads page of Colecandoo.

If you are interested in the year planner project discussed in this article, feel free to contact me via my contact page.

Check out the Youtube videos too!

Since 2015, I’ve also been preparing a series of short videos on Youtube that complement the articles already on the Colecandoo website. I plan to release more videos and if you haven’t seen the channel, check it out here.

Made it to Adobe Make-it 2017

Moments before the start of MAKE-IT 2017

Moments before the start of MAKE-IT 2017

Between August 2-3, the International Convention Centre in Sydney played host to the Adobe MAKE-IT conference, a gathering of close to 2,000 creatives and design professionals from Australia, New Zealand and beyond. While I was unable to attend the sessions on August 2 as the sessions were sold out, I was lucky enough to attend the conference on August 3 thanks to my employer – Openbook Howden Print & Design – providing me the leave at very short notice, for which I am truly grateful.

Speakers on the day of the conference included several creatives in differing fields including an animator using a variety of media; a conflict-zone photographer; a craft-based designer; a social media “disruptor” and author of the “Sharpie-art Workshop” book; and a self proclaimed “digital hipster”. Other speakers included several Adobe staff, including Adobe evangelists Paul Burnett and Photoshop guru Julieanne Kost.

While there were no jaw-dropping announcements about product releases or upgrades, Adobe did provide glimpses of ongoing upgrades and projects such as Project Felix, Adobe Character Animator, Adobe XD, Lightroom enhancements, Adobe Stock improvements, and a revamp of their Youtube site to make easier to follow tutorials.

The conference also provided me an opportunity to catch up with several speakers who had presented sessions the previous day, and whom I have met before at various CPN conferences such as PEPCON, The InDesign Conference and CreativePro Week.

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Jesús Ramirez, Julieanne Kost, Mark Heaps, Karen Alsop and Colin Flashman at Adobe MAKE-IT 2017. Photo credit: Mark Heaps.

As someone who uses InDesign for most of their work, I was a little deflated that the software barely had a mention during the conference. Nevertheless, programs that were more familiar to the rest of the audience such as Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects – applications I also use regularly – featured predominantly.

It was great to see so many people both in attendance and watching online, and hope that not only that the event can return next year, but with greater scope to be the “Mini-MAX” event for Australians who can’t necessarily make it to Adobe MAX in the USA.

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