InDisbelief at InDesign 2017.1

In the first week of April 2017, Adobe released its latest versions of the Creative Cloud updates. As a regular user of Adobe InDesign, I was filled with anticipation that Adobe had finally gotten around to the laundry list of bug fixes and improvements that users like me had been asking for the last few years. Sadly, the “improvements” to Adobe InDesign were mild to say the least. Rather than give a review of the update, please feel free to read David Blatner’s critique on InDesignsecrets.

I have to agree with David’s take on the update, and it is truly frustrating that the InDesign application continues to go without any real improvements since CS6 that I feel would be noteworthy. What contributes to this frustration is that since 2015, I have met face-to-face (at my own personal expense) with the senior engineers and product managers of the Adobe InDesign team on several occasions, along with dozens of my peers worldwide, to share our frustrations and concerns about the lack of improvements and innovations with each new release or update.

In my opinion, it would appear that Adobe’s strategy for InDesign is to welcome a new wave of users and attempt to make it an easy program to use. Even though I’m now a seasoned veteran with this software, I do remember when I too was a “first timer” to this software and struggled to grasp some of the concepts. Adobe is also trying to make the program do more than it was originally intended for, by producing epubs, online publications via its “Publish Online” button, as opposed to creating documents purely intended for print.

But that strategy aims to gain new users, rather than satiate the requests of existing users, or appeal to and appease potentially departing users.

If Adobe is interested in recruiting new users, might I suggest that they provide better access to training resources so that new users can have a way of learning the application apart from paid providers or fan-based tutorials? Also, maintain existing users by attending to this long list of fixes and improvements so that they can recommend InDesign to potential new users.

In a previous Colecandoo article (yes, they can hear us), I wrote about the methods that Adobe uses to communicate with its users. Upon reflection, this communication often refers to issues such as anecdotal bugs, crashes, and technical queries, rather than feature requests, the mood of users and the InDesign community as a whole… and that’s a problem if they want to be progressive and stay ahead of their competitors such as Quark and Affinity. Adobe is going to have to broaden its communications and do more than listen through its own channels, but also to harsh criticism that is dealt to it by disgruntled users.

Then there’s the elephant in the room, the subscription model. Adopted in 2013, this has been a topic of much debate among single users, enterprise and government clients, and Adobe itself. First to exploit the frustration with this payment model was Adobe InDesign’s main competitor, Quark Xpress, by allowing users to purchase their software outright. That said, this difference is not just exploited, it’s a major selling point. However, the initial purchase price is enough to make some think twice before making the switch.

But there’s a new player in town. Scheduled for release in 2017 is the long-awaited page-layout software by Affinity titled Affinity Publisher (not to be confused with Microsoft Publisher). With a low entry-level price-point, if it is anything like its companion products Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo that both received rave reviews and awards, then both Adobe and Quark should be on-notice to not just listen to their users, but implement improvements… quickly!

For me, it boils down to the three Ls – Loyalty, Legacy, and Lethargy.

  • Loyalty in that I’ve been an Adobe user since PageMaker, so for over half of my adult life I’ve used an Adobe page layout program in one form or another.
  • Legacy in that so many of my files are created in InDesign that while I could use other software going forward, I will have to rely on legacy files for much of my ongoing work and converting them to another application poses risks and uncertainty.
  • Lastly, lethargy – it takes time, energy and commitment to make a change from one layout application to another. It’s easier to remain in the software I’m used to, rather than learn another application and hope it was the right decision.

But while that applies in my circumstances, that doesn’t necessarily mean everybody thinks like me.

If any Adobe employee is reading this, the one take-away message would be this: please don’t ignore your long-term users who want you to implement the laundry-list of fixes and improvements that have been accumulated over the years. We’re paying subscriptions and barely seeing any of the innovations promised at the outset of the CC concept.

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.

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.

InDesign User Interface mods with Startup Scripts

In Episode 16 of my Youtube videos, I briefly showed a startup script that added several options to the contextual menu that allowed a frame to fit a given size. But it’s not the only way I’ve modified my user interface, so this episode of “Must-Haves” is dedicated to scripts that make minor modifications to the user interface.

The modifications mentioned in this article use javascripts that are installed into the startup scripts folder. Scripts put into this folder don’t have to be double-clicked from the scripts palette, instead they are run when InDesign starts up. So let’s have a look at what features these scripts add to the user interface.

goawaystartupscreen.jsx

Origin unknown

This is a one-line script that instead of adding functionality, actually takes it away… If you don’t like the startup screen showing up whenever no documents are open, add this script to the startup scripts and you’ll never see it again.

PalettenmenusinsHauptmenu.jsx

By Gerald Singelmann (Cuppascript)

This script adds a new main menu item that shows all panel menu items within the one menu.

TomaxxiLAYERS

by Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

This script adds three options at the bottom of the layers panel that allow a layer set to be applied upon the creation of new documents. The layer sets are also customisable.

BookOpenAll.jsx

By Theunis de Jong (Jongware)

This script adds two options to an InDesign book palette – open all documents and close all documents.

FileCloseAll.js

By Marc Autret, Indiscripts

This script adds an item to the file menu, particularly close all.

AddPathOperationsToLayoutMenu.jsx

By Olav Martin Kvern, Silicon Publishing

This script adds the functionality of the pathfinder palette to the contextual menu. This is a great timesaver when working with shapes, so rather than having to click off of the object or objects being worked on to perform a command, simply right click to call up the desired command.

ConvertSwatchToGrayscale.jsx

By Gabe Harbs, In-Tools

This adds an option to the color palette that allows a color to be converted to greyscale based on formulas in the script.

ControlBackgroundExport.jsx

By Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

This script adds a menu item to Adobe InDesign that allows the export PDF option in the background to be enabled or disabled. For whatever reason, I prefer to watch the progress bar of the PDF being created rather than let the task run in the background, so having this option is useful to me.

Unfortunately, this script is no longer available from Tomaxxi’s website, and it’s also not my script to give away. However, this link is an InDesignSecrets.com article where the script was conceived, and similar scripts are available in the comments section of the article.

SortFilesBeforePlace_startup.jsx

by Roland Dreger, Roland Dreger GrafikDesign

Adds the “Sort and Place…” item under the place item in the file menu. Once items are selected, a UI appears prompting for the method to be sorted for the place.

PlaceByContextv4.jsx

by Gerald Singelmann, Cuppascript

Adds a place… option to the contextual menu… but with a major difference. Selected frames will have the resulting images imported into the frames either in the order they were selected; or if marqueed at once, then from a left-to-right, top to bottom order. It effectively does away with the placegun and allows images to be placed directly into awaiting frames.

SwapImages.jsx

by Gerald Singelmann, Cuppascript

Adds three options towards the bottom of the contextual menu – swap images, swap places, and load image in placecursor. Certainly a go-to script and very handy for swapping images on the same page or spread; or swapping images between frames.

TomaxxiPLACE2

by Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

Adds two options at the bottom of the object styles panel that applies a given object style to placed objects. Typically, object styles can only be applied once images have been placed.

выровнять фрейм.jsx

by Eugenyus Budantsev

Translated as align the frame, this script adds four options to the bottom of the contextual menu that allows a text frame or graphic frame to resize to the margin size, page size, bleed size or baseline. Images within a graphic frame will resize to fit the frame, but this can be adjusted by editing the script and replacing the words:

FitOptions.CONTENT_TO_FRAME

with

FitOptions.CENTER_CONTENT

Or another preferred option. See this link for the other options that can be chosen.

Lastly:

In a future Must-Haves video, I will demonstrate other user interface modifications that can be made that are installed in other ways.

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