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.

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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.

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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.

 

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