Preflight video and “Enforcer” Scripts

Adobe InDesign has a magnificient feature that displays a list of prepress issues that may be present in artwork, and updates this in real-time. It is the live preflight feature, and it’s certainly not a new feature in Adobe InDesign. That said, considering some of the files that I receive that are considered to be “finished art”, I wonder how many people know that this feature exists; or uses the feature before handing off their finished artwork to their printer or supplier.

To be fair, the live preflight feature is rather passive in Adobe InDesign. If the preflight panel isn’t loaded into your set of panels in your workspace, it is only visible at the bottom of the screen, and is less than 50 pixels in height. The default preflight that is performed on artwork only alerts on a handful of items, some of which have dedicated alerts to their absence anyway (such as overset text, missing fonts and missing links).

In this Colecandoo video, I demonstrate that the preflights can be much more powerful, the basic preflight can be replaced with far more powerful preflights, and I demonstrate some traps to look out for that are not detected with any preflight. The video also demonstrates two scripts that are designed to prevent users from printing or exporting their artwork until it passes the live preflight check. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of this on-request script, head to the contact page and ask for the “preflight enforcer scripts”.

In a future video, I’ll elaborate on the demonstration file used in the video, as it contains dozens of prepress errors.

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How NOT to make annotations in a PDF

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

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

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

Use the Adobe Acrobat Reader

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

Mark-ups only please

That being said, please do not:

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

Good instructions

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

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When working in groups

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

Think about the practical application of the mark-ups

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

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

Updated commenting in Acrobat DC

UPDATE 2016-07-13 Adobe has since put the replace text icon back (see this post) but I will leave this post here for posterity.

On 10 May 2016, Adobe released compulsory updates for Acrobat DC and Acrobat Reader DC. Unlike many updates where there is a prompt to install the upgrade or not, this release did not present the user with a prompt and installed the update.

I was aware an update had taken place because there was a new prompt window that would not disappear until I had selected the checkboxes that acknowledged that I had learned the new features.

That said, I should have paid a bit more attention to the update, especially this one!

It was not until late May that a colleague who was proofreading some artwork had noticed that a fundamental commenting tool was missing: Replace text. Concerned, I opened PDF that I sent my colleague and attempted to edit it, indeed learning that the replace text commenting tool was missing, along with the highlight and comment tool.

A quick search on the forums revealed that we weren’t the only ones to notice. Strange too because not all of the Adobe help issues have been changed to reflect the recent update. This page still has old instructions.

In short, to improve the experience with the commenting tool, users are encouraged to use the black arrow tool to highlight affected text and either hit the delete key to denote a deletion, begin typing to denote a replacement, or place their cursor and begin typing to denote an addition. To be fair, once a user is familiar with this behaviour, it is easy to begin making alterations to a proof.

However, I was less than impressed with Adobe’s execution of this strategy by removing tools to force us to use the new tools, especially considering that the change wasn’t explained in their own updates. I decided to vent my spleen via twitter to Adobe’s customer care and the Acrobat team.

awfulupdate

As you can see from the tweets, it largely fell on deaf ears.

The reason for my frustration is not my one-off frustration in learning the new commands, but the fact that I now have to explain this behaviour to hundreds of customers who infrequently use Adobe Acrobat. It has taken years to train the customers to use the commenting tools so that markups can be made that can then be edited in Adobe InDesign using the DTP tools annotations plug-in. That’s assuming that the Adobe Acrobat team doesn’t change the interface again and decide to remove more tools.

This is not my only gripe with Adobe Acrobat at the moment. My colleagues and I are experiencing strange and unusual errors with Acrobat at the moment. In fairness to Adobe, this may have something to do with the Enfocus Pitstop plug-in that is installed. Regardless, it is making what was once an efficient workflow much more complicated.

Now you see it, now you don’t… why?

Several posts ago I wrote a piece concerning Acrobat XI and its ability to undock the comments panel so that it could be moved away from the right hand side of the screen. This had advantages when scrolling the list of comments, as to get to the comments further down the list you have to use the slider (that can sometimes miss comments if scrolled too far) or single-click the arrow at the bottom of the scrollbar, and this can inadvertently:

  • Invoke my Dock to pop up on my mac;
  • Invoke a “hot corner” action on my mac that is set to the bottom right of the screen;
  • Inadvertently open an email alert that pops up via Microsoft Outlook (alerts pop up on the bottom right of the screen).

Read the full article here.

The solution was to click on a button within the commenting panel that would allow the list to be undocked. Here is how it used to look in Acrobat XI:

trackalts2However, in Acrobat DC, the “Undock Comment List” is no more!

wherediditgo

There is no ability to change this in the Commenting Preferences either.

This might seem like a rather obscure feature, but when working with marked-up PDFs as a workflow it is a handy feature to have that will save lots of time.

Fortunately, the ability to view comments that were unchecked does remain… for now!

However, I am less than impressed so far with Acrobat DC, and this is largely due to the way it was released. When the product was made live via Creative Cloud, Acrobat DC appeared as an upgrade, but what wasn’t apparent is that uninstalled the existing version of Acrobat! Luckily there were other users that experienced this before me and had tweeted about it:

taketh3For most users, this may not have been a problem, but my version of Acrobat was also running a paid plug-in and had several scripts that had modified the user interface menus, such as the ability to reverse the page order or collate another PDF into the currently opened PDF. So installing Acrobat DC would have completely deleted these enhancements, and meant putting them back on… and in the case of the plug-in, would have meant purchasing the new version (there was no free update to work with Acrobat DC), and waiting until it was available!

To be fair to Adobe, they have now amended the installation process and introduced a checkbox that is ticked on by default that says “Remove old versions”. I’m glad we’re now given a warning and an option, however I think the default of that option should be ticked OFF.

That said, Adobe have received the message loud and clear not to do it again. I say that as an attendee of the PEPCON 2015 Conference in Philadelphia, where attendees met the Adobe InDesign engineers on day three for a general questions and answers session, where this (and many other suggestions) were passed directly onto the team.

Unfortunately, it came a little too late for the find font panel in CC2015. Mike Rankin at indesignsecrets.com posted this piece on the sudden disappearance of icons in the find font menu of Adobe InDesign that many in prepress find invaluable.

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