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.

Data Merge to Uniquely-Named INTERACTIVE PDFs

In this episode of Colecandoo, I’ll demonstrate several ways to data merge to uniquely named interactive PDFs. The first method uses the data merge to single records script that I released in 2015 and can be downloaded here.

myscript

This demonstration features an InDesign file that is a survey for a package tour company. It contains form elements such as check boxes, radio buttons, a combo box, text box and a submit button. It is also a Data Merge document and contains two text fields within the first paragraph.

surveyitself

With my script, this should be a simple task, but as I click on the PDF export preset dropdown, I notice that I don’t have an option for interactive PDF. Why is this? Well put simply, the script works by calling upon the two ways that a Data Merge can normally be exported – to a newly merged InDesign file, or to a PDF.

As described on Colecandoo before, PDF export from Data Merge is neither a print PDF nor interactive, but it’s own style. Read the full article here.

Method One

But I said it could be done, so what’s the trick? Ultimately, we have to run my script to merge to InDesign files first, and once the folder of InDesign files is generated, use another script from Peter Kahrel, namely BatchConvert.

batchprocess

This script is an amazing utility created by Peter Kahrel that I have written about for InDesignSecrets. It takes a folder of InDesign files and can convert them to a variety of formats, including – for our purposes – interactive PDF. Simply point the script to the folder of InDesign files that were made initially, then point the script to a folder where the interactive files should save save to. Choose the output option as PDF interactive, and then run the script. That’s the first way.

Method Two

The second method is identical to the first method in that files are initially merged to InDesign files, and again uses the batch convert script. The difference is that rather than export to PDF interactive, files remain as InDesign files. Instead, there is a checkbox at the bottom of the user interface that allows another script to run during the batch. From here, I’m going to choose a script I’ve written for this express purpose – it will create an interactive PDF with the same name as the ID file but will save it to a folder called interactive PDFs on my desktop. So that’s the second method.

exportoption

Method Three

The third method demonstrates a sneak-peek at the PRO version of the data merge to unique names script.

proscript

The interface doesn’t look too much different to the previous script, with one exception – the option to run a script during an InDesign export. From this new option in the user interface, simply select the script that I used in method two. Choose some fields for the filenames, the range, and click OK. That’s the third method.

Method Four

The last method demonstrates a sneak-peek at another alternate version of the data merge to unique names script. Unlike the other methods shown, this method is by far the most direct, as it adds “PDF interactive” directly to the user interface.

extscript

To accomplish this task, choose the save location, choose the “PDF interactive” radio button, choose some fields for the filenames, the range, and click OK. That’s the fourth method.

Sidenote about Document Fonts

One issue not addressed in the video is the issue of potential font substitution while creating the interactive PDFs. This comes about because all four techniques rely on creating an InDesign file first that is removed from the original merge file, and may not have access to the fonts used by the original merge file. I’m running Extensis Suitcase font management software so I know the fonts will always be active until I turn them off, but for those relying on other solutions such as the Document Fonts folder, beware of this issue. I’ve written about this for InDesignSecrets.

An added bonus

One thing about the PDFs made during the demonstration was that the text in the dropdown field didn’t suit the formatting of the survey. Formatting of text-related form fields can’t really be controlled in InDesign except for the point size. However, I’ve made an Acrobat Action that I can run not just to this file, but all files in a folder. This action will convert the font in the text and combo boxes to Helvetica and make them 12 point. It’s worth noting that while it’s possible to change the font to whatever is on your system, other users may not have those fonts, so be conscious about this before using the action. Helvetica, Times, Symbol and Courier are present in Adobe Acrobat.

I’ve made this Acrobat Action available from my downloads page as well.

For those after a more robust solution, perhaps consider Form Magic from ID-Extras.

So there you have it, four ways to create uniquely named interactive PDFs from Adobe InDesign. If you’re interested in purchasing the upgraded versions of the data merge to unique names scripts shown in this video, contact me directly via my contact page.

Data Merging into the same Text Frame

From time to time, I hear the question along the lines of “how to I get Data Merge to put the next records in the same textframe during an InDesign Data Merge?” Well, if you’re expecting to do this procedure in one step, you are going to be disappointed because there is no one-click, turnkey solution to do this in Adobe InDesign itself.

That does not mean that accomplishing this task is impossible, in fact it can be done, and in Episode 16 of the Colecandoo Youtube videos, I outline several methods of how to accomplish this task, such as:

  • Merge in Microsoft Word beforehand and import into InDesign as a regular text import;
  • Merge in InDesign using the multiple record feature and use one of three scripts to re-thread the text so that it can be combined into one textframe;
  • Use a script from Ozalto that performs this task with almost no effort;
  • Venture into the rabbit-hole that is XML publishing; or
  • Consider one of the half-dozen paid plug-ins that are dedicated to the production of catalogues.

The video demonstrates several scripts that are absolutely essential for this task, as well as a bonus script that will help in everyday InDesign use:

This is a question that comes up often on various forums, and I feel that by showing how to accomplish this task through a video tutorial that it makes it easier to understand why this task needs to be done differently to Data Merge campaigns related to direct mail items or the creation of business cards.

Better Infographics for Data Merge with Chartwell Bars

While speaking at the 2016 PEPCON in San Diego along with Co-presenter David Creamer on the topic of Data Publishing, I presented an older tip that allows shapes to change size based on numerical values that appear in Data Merge. The tip requires the Chartwell typeface, particularly the Chartwell bars font. I’d mentioned at the time that while it was a novel tip, I didn’t have a practical purpose for it. I’d also mentioned in my presentation about using knockout groups in InDesign to hide information and had demonstrated it using my “Parkway Drive” demonstration where it is used to hide parts of a sign that changes size, but again felt there should be a better use of this tip.

However, it was on my 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne where I thought of a new and much more practical purpose – creating infographics. I also thought about getting some sleep, but that was a fool’s errand!

Once I arrived home, I tested out the theories I had during the flight, and while the results were mixed, I was happy with what had been achieved.

Ultimately, I have created three techniques for anyone making infographics. In all instances, I’ve colored the chartwell bars font as black so that the technique can be demonstrated, but in application the type (and its spacer) would be given the color “none”:

1 – Infographics as scaleable shapes.

01image

This uses the method described in an earlier indesignsecrets.com article that I have written. Rather than rewrite the tip, the link to that article is here. The point of difference is that the shape being transformed into an infographic is what is being scaled.

There are some drawbacks to this method.

First, the shape has to allow the chartwell bars font to expand from the left to the right without getting caught on any part of the shape, so not every shape will work. Bottles that were used in the example were fine because they meet this criteria.

02image

Second, there is a lack of precision, especially concerning low numbers as the graphic scales. This appears to be because there is a minimum size that the graphic can shrink to.

03image

2 – Data that is pasted into a vector

04image

This method works the same way with the exception that the data is in a rectangular shaped textframe that is pasted into the target shape, and also given a 2mm spacer object to allow low figures to be presented. The 2mm spacer is a 2mm square that is an inline object before the figures in the chartwell font.

05image

For anyone wondering why such an odd technique was used to add 2mm to the frame, I had tried using a 2mm left align or a 2mm inset space in the shape itself but these presented issues.

3 – Hiding an image underneath

06image

This works the same way as method 2 with the exception that rather than being pasted into the graphic, it is pasted above the graphic. An additional anchored object that is larger than the infographic is then pasted after the figures in chartwell bars and given very specific values in the anchored object dialog box, along with being given the fill color of paper and a multiply effect of 0% from the effects panel. The frame with the values is then grouped with the infographic that is underneath and the “knockout group” checkbox is ticked.

07image

To make the effect more impressive, an “after” graphic is added that is the same size as the infographic but has different properties to make the difference in the values clear to the reader.

Moving forward

By itself, these techniques aren’t that impressive if creating one-off graphics, but if preparing infographics for variable data (whether for a catalogue or direct mail) I’m sure that readers will find these methods quite useful. These are not the only infographics tricks I have recently discovered, so watch this space.

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