Small tips to save big time

I often find it interesting to watch the different ways that my colleagues and I may perform the same task. Take the InDesign command Paste in Place for example. I’ll typically use the keyboard shortcut, but I’ve noticed that one colleague will go to the edit menu and select it from there; another will right-click and access it through the contextual menu, while another has an ergonomic mouse that has the shortcut hot-keyed to an additional button (No-one used InDesign’s quick apply panel).

While there are many ways to accomplish the same task, they all take different amounts of time and hand travel. A two-handed keyboard shortcut takes less time than navigating through the menus and – if using a mouse – leaves the cursor in its last position; but takes one hand off of the mouse briefly. In my situation, I’m using a Wacom tablet, so after using a keyboard shortcut, I then have to reposition the cursor as I’m usually still holding the stylus in my right hand. I’m also not a fan of the gymnastics my hands have to often do to in order to execute a task, and recently I’ve been hot-keying eight of my commonly used shortcuts to the contextual menu of my stylus.

Luckily in the Paste in Place example, there is more than one way to accomplish the task, and there’s no right way to use this – it is whatever is most comfortable for the user. What I would like to highlight in today’s article is how to accomplish common tasks more efficiently.

It is worth pointing out that this isn’t an exhaustive list and doesn’t get into details that might require the purchase of dedicated software such as Digital Asset Management software, or the creation of hot folders from software such as EFI Fiery Command Workstation, but is a few tips that anyone of any skill level can take advantage of to save a minute here and there from their workflows.

Within InDesign

Add your own interface items

The option to edit Keyboard Shortcuts and Menus can be found from the Edit menu

Keyboard Shortcuts (KBSC)

From the keyboard shortcuts menu, it is possible to assign keyboard shortcuts to items that do not have shortcuts assigned by default, as well as redefine shortcuts from the defaults. Shortcuts can also extend to scripts in the scripts panel as well.

Add own menu items

It is possible to make your own set of menu items using InDesign’s own menu customisation, but this only allows users to create their own menu sets based on the default set – you can’t make your own new items… without scripting. Indiscript’s Marc Autret has an article where he explains an overview of how this can be done, and provides examples as well.

Add own contextual menu items

Adding the Draw Measurement Arrows script to the contextual menu.

Silicon Publishing’s Ole Kvern wrote an article about making a contextual menu startup script that adds functionality to the contextual menu available via the right mouse button. However, I’ve since added my own functionality based on his script by editing the script in a text editor and adding my own items.

Improve on viewing the current items

Customise workspaces

Does every tool need to be visible or docked all at once? Perhaps consider making workspaces more appropriate to the workspace that is actually being used. InDesign ships with some defaults that behave this way, but it is worth experimenting.

Using Bart van de Wiele’s CreativePro 2020 tip to make a custom links palette separate to the usual links palette.

An extreme (and clever) example was demonstrated at the CreativePro 2020 Online Conference by Adobe’s Bart van de Wiele. In the 3 minutes max session, he demonstrated a way of customising the Links palette and saving it as its own workspace – allowing more information about a link to be viewed briefly, and then navigating back to the regular workspace.

Improvement on the scripts panel

Peter Kahrel’s runscript user interface

InDesign’s default script panel literally mirrors how the scripts are filed in finder/explorer, but is missing many features such as a search facility and could really use an overhaul, given its appearance hasn’t changed since InDesign was released. Luckily, Peter Kahrel has made his own launcher that allows scripts to be filtered by name.

Within any application

Not all tips are specific to Adobe InDesign. One Adobe application in particular – Adobe Acrobat – has long been criticised for its lack of customisation, so any opportunity to improve its use is appreciated.

Better navigation

Use dictation

For users that hunt and peck the keys rather than touch-typing, it is worth considering using the real-time dictation features in Mac and Windows operating systems (and some specific software) as word recognition is on par with typing speeds up to 90 words per minute or more.

Learn the new OS features

Each time the operating system is updated, it is worth paying attention to the changes made by the platform for any time-saving features. One example from my own circumstances is using spotlight to access applications rather than the dock.

Default Folder X

I was introduced to this paid Mac plug-in from St Clair Software several years ago and I’ve been using it since. It extends the functionality of save as dialogs which provides recent folders, open folders and favorites.

Controller specific shortcuts

While keyboard shortcuts were mentioned earlier in the article, it is worth noting that they can usually be applied as buttons to controllers that are beyond the usual two-button mice that can be found in an office.

Wacom Stylus

The default radial menu accessed via the Wacom Desktop Center

I’ve used the base-model stylus for years. In addition to the buttons on the stylus, there are four more buttons on the tablet; and the ability to call upon a contextual menu with one of the stylus buttons that allows more tasks to be carried out.

Gaming mice

Mapping custom keys to the Logitech G300S gaming mouse.

I was introduced to this tip once again at CreativePro 2020 online, and it seemed like such a simple idea that I’d wondered why it hadn’t been implemented in my workplace. For example, a base-model gaming mouse such as the Logitech G300S has nine programmable buttons.

Touch portal

A simulated appearance of an iPad using sideshowfx’s Photoshop shortcuts via Touch Portal.

Long-known to live-stream performers on Twitch and Youtube is a product called the Elgato Streamdeck. Put simply, it is an additional keyboard that is customizable to quickly access shortcuts via one button instead of the keyboard gymnastics that can come with some keyboard shortcuts.

A cheaper alternative is software called Touch Portal, and this turns a smartphone or tablet into a streamdeck-like device – ideal for anyone who has an old smartphone or tablet that isn’t otherwise in daily use. The free version is limited to two screens with eight icons each, but a paid version is offered with far more extensibility at a price that is affordable for any pocket.

While this does require its own customisation, SideShowFX has boxed up a collection of Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects and Premiere shortcuts that are ready to install. Their youtube page has a great explanation of how it all works.

Have it your way

Ultimately, these are solutions that I find helpful, but I like to keep an open mind to new techniques and strategies to get my work done efficiently and accurately. If you have any techniques or strategies you would like to share, please leave a comment or get in touch directly via the contact page.

Welcome to Colecandoo

Adding other languages to the Colecandoo scripts

As this site has become more widely known around the world, the issue of localization has been raised. The scripts I’ve written are based on my initial use as an English speaker with the International English version of Adobe InDesign. That’s fine for myself and other anglophones, but there are also times when scripts that are run on different language versions of Adobe InDesign:

  • Have an English user interface or output; or
  • Didn’t work because the script relied on coding that required a code reference based on the English language version of Adobe InDesign.

To this end, I’ve rectified issues concerning non-functioning scripts based on coding issues. However, translating the scripts into other languages is a task that I cannot undertake on my own as I do not speak other languages besides English, and would never solely rely on automatic translation software or services such as Google Translate.

I’m also aware that some of the scripts on this site gain more traction from countries where English is not the first spoken language, such as the following videos:

Though recently, the stars have somewhat aligned. I was approached to update my wall-planner script so that it could contain German and French user interfaces and outputs. With the assistance from the requester, as well as further assistance that has expanded this to Portuguese as well, this script has been updated.

In addition, the script can provide a wall planner in one of fourteen languages:

  • English
  • dansk
  • deutsch
  • español
  • ελληνικά
  • français
  • italiano
  • Nederlands
  • norsk
  • polski
  • português
  • Русский
  • suomi
  • svenska

The updated script can be found on the scripts page. Ultimately, I would like to update this – and other scripts on this site that contain user interfaces or outputs – to feature other languages besides English. If this is of interest to you, please contact me via my contact page.

Revisiting the [Registration] Colour

One of the first articles written on this site discussed the (mis)use of the Registration colour. In short, Registration is a unique colour that – upon output – appears on every colour separation, primarily for the purpose of prepress marks such as registration crosshairs or crop marks.

If used in general artwork as a design feature, it can create problems by:

  • Causing ink saturation values to be beyond recommended levels (i.e. a Full colour print containing registration colour in the artwork will have a 400% saturation value, but the paper stock may recommend no more than 320%);
  • Cause artwork to print on digital machines at a higher click rate, as the software believes the artwork is full colour process, despite containing what may only appear to be black and white artwork.

Unfortunately, because it looks like a black swatch in the swatches palette, it can easily be confused for black and inadvertently selected instead of a black swatch.

Worse still, it may have been chosen on purpose because it gives a “blacker” black when output to a desktop printer. I have a separate article discussing the creation of more appropriate Rich black colours here.

Why not just delete the colour?

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible. The colour is one of four default colours (as indicated by the square brackets around the colour name), and as such cannot be deleted, nor added to a folder by itself.

However, the colours can be moved, so to make sure I don’t select Registration by mistake, I put it at the top of the swatch list.

Is there a script that can help?

Yes there is a script that will warn a user that they’ve selected the Registration colour – and it’s made by Adobe too, but it isn’t directly shipped with InDesign, but is available as part of their scripting tutorial guide.

First, make sure the InDesign application is not running.

Next, download the zip file linked above and then navigate to the following file and open it in a text editor such as notepad or textwrangler:

Once the file is open, change the following two lines:

var myDocument = app.documents.add();
myDocument.eventListeners.add("afterSelectionAttributeChanged", myCheckForRegistration);

To the following one line:

app.eventListeners.add("afterSelectionAttributeChanged", myCheckForRegistration);

Then save the file into the startup scripts folder, keeping the .jsx file extension.

Relaunch InDesign. From here, create a new document and draw a rectangle and attempt to fill it with Registration colour. Note the dialog that appears:

From here, click OK. Unfortunately, the script does not remove the Registration colour, but it should now be apparent that it needs to be fixed. I think if a user sees this enough times, they will get the idea not to select the Registration colour.

Just for fun, the dialog that appears can be adjusted to your liking. This is done by adjusting the line:

    alert("The Registration swatch is applied to some of the\robjects in the selection. Did you really intend to apply this swatch?");

Anything within the quotation marks can be changed. The \r denotes a line break between the heading of the dialog box and the dialog text. For example:

    alert("Good Grief!\rYou know better than that! Go back and select the Black swatch instead!");

Will yield the following dialog box:

There must be a better way!

That said, it is my own opinion that there should be a way to hide or lock the Registration colour via the Swatches “hamburger icon” so that it can’t be inadvertently selected without toggling an associated unhide/unlock feature. As usual, I’m not the only one who has thought so, and if you would like to vote on the topic, please do so here.

Similarly, it would be great if crop marks could be set to a user defined colour, rather than the default of Registration. This is moreso the case for digital printing where there are differences in costs between black and white click rates and full colour click rates. Fuji’s XMF imposition software already has a feature that allows users to change the colour of any prepress mark from Registration to:

  • Darkest Colour (based on ink density); or
  • A given colour that is entered by the user.
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