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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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  • Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

    Managing Multiple Versions of Files on One Computer?

    Thursday, December 1st, 2011

    I finally did it. I was putting it off forever, and got so frustrated dealing with all these files from various clients that are different versions that I took the five minutes necessary to download, install and configure Soxy!

    Herein lies the problem: when you install the newest version of any Creative Suite program, it assumes you want to automatically open ALL files of that type in the newest version. So if a client sends you a CS4 InDesign file that you need to work on and send back, but you’re using CS5.5, it will open in CS5.5, even if CS4 is loaded on your machine. This is a real problem for freelancers and anyone working in a collaborative environment.

    In steps Soxy…simple in name and purpose: It allows you to “map” which application you want to have open the various file versions. It looks at the file when you double-click on it to open and says “Hey Mate, this was last saved in CS4 so let’s open it in CS4…sweet as!” Editor’s Note: The developer of the software is from New Zealand…that’s why it talks that way. So now when a customers sends me a file, I don’t have to think about it…I just double-click and it will launch the correct version of InDesign/Photoshop/Illustrator/etc. on my machine.

    Before Soxy, I would be working on a file for a while then realize that I was in 5.5 and they need the file in CS3. Fun. Export From 5.5 as IDML, open in CS4, export as INX and open in CS3. Nice. And then I have to remember all the things CS3 doesn’t do so I know what isn’t working, like spanning heads, conditional text and more.

    With Soxy I can trust that I’m working on the file in it’s “native” version.

    What if you don’t have CS3 (or applicable version)? You can set up Soxy to ask when opening, so, at the very least, you are aware there might be a problem. On this machine I don’t have CS2 loaded. Soxy will alert me and I can choose to continue, or not. If I choose to go ahead and open in CS3, I know the worst is that I have to export INX for the customer. Not the best scenario, but still better than automatically opening in the wrong version unaware.

    Even though my personal experience with Soxy is with Creative Suite, it also works with Quark and other applications…not exclusive to Adobe products.

    Take EPS files, for example. Even though they are a bit outdated for most workflows, they still exist. An EPS file can contain both raster and vector data so it’s important to know whether to open in Illustrator or Photoshop. Opening an EPS file in Photoshop that contains vector data will rasterize everything and make things harder than if you open it in Illustrator and can still edit the vector objects. So in steps Soxy. You can configure it to know if it’s an Illustrator EPS, Photoshop EPS, QuarkXPress EPS or other, and tell it how to open.

    So let’s say you have a logo from a customer that’s an Illustrator EPS, or you get clipart from a service the same way…when you double-click without Soxy it will automatically open in Photoshop, rasterizing everything like a photo. Same with a non-illustrator EPS. Same with a Photoshop EPS that has vector information, it will open and rasterize.

    Soxy to the rescue… Tell it to open Illustrator EPS files in Illustrator (I would recommend you say the same for Photoshop EPS and…well…any EPS file) and it will do that, keeping the raster and vector data as the original, ready to edit.

    I’ve received hundreds of emails over the years from people who want to fix a low-res logo or artwork the customer sent. I ask them to send me what the customer sent and I find out that they were opening a vector EPS in Photoshop, using the default 72 ppi, and ruining the art. If they had Soxy, they could open in the correct program and get better quality results.

    Soxy was developed by Kris Coppieters, a brilliant InDesign scripter and plug-in developer. He has many plug-ins I use and recommend, but we’ll save that for another column. Or you can check them out on his site

    Kris, and his sons, write the code for the amazing Atomic News Tools plug-in that allows newspaper and magazine paginators to upload stories, photos and ads to a website directly from InDesign. Cool!

    You can get Soxy as a trial to test it out before you buy. It’s a cheap $19 if you want a single copy for you and there are discounts for ten and 100 user licenses for an agency/publishing environment.

    Another Editor’s Note: After posting thisĀ  article, I was opening an InDesign files named “Page17indd”…Soxy was smart enough to say “Eh Mate…this file doesn’t have an extension, but Soxy thinks it’s an InDesign File…waddaya think about that?” (I took some liberties with the Error Message). Good stuff!!



    Print Separations from InDesign CS5 and Snow Leopard

    Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

    DISCLAIMER: By giving this information, I am in no way endorsing this type of behavior and don’t want to be labeled as an “enabler.” If anyone asks where you learned how to do this, just say “This guy I know in Poughkeepsie.”

    The question came up again today, this time from my buddy Jimmy Hines in Houston, TX: “Russell, using InDesign, can I export to PDF and get color separated files? Some of my printers only take color separated PDFS (process and spot), and the latest MAC OS no longer supports printing to PDF.”

    No. Nope. Can’t.

    You can Print and Distill a separated PDF from InDesign, however, and that’s probably what you are really asking since you NEVER could export a separated PDF from InDesign.

    With Snow Leopard and CS5 some of the rules have changed. In short, the Adobe PDF Printer is no longer an option in your apps. If it is, it’s a dirty lying trick and it doesn’t work correctly.

    So what do you do if your printer insists on separated PDFs? Tell them to get with the times by either buying newer equipment or learning how to use what they have correctly. The other option is to switch to a printer who doesn’t drive an AMC Matador to work while listening to 8-track tapes.

    Why am I so harsh? Printers have been able to print separations from Acrobat from version…um…six (don’t quote me on that, but it’s been a long time). Which means you can give them a composite PDF and they can control the color separations on their end. So if they are still asking for separated PDFs, they are either using older versions, didn’t know they could do that or [advance to next paragraph].

    Some printers have workflows where PDFs are simply dropped in a hot folder and it zips through the RIP to output. If this is the case, they must not have an output device that can handle in-RIP separations. Printers in the room, help me on this…name some RIPs that cannot separate as part of the imaging process.

    “Why NOT send a separated PDF, Mr. Smarty Pants?” you might be asking me. Well, you can’t impose it, can’t edit it in Acrobat, it’s been flattened, doesn’t have metadata in the images and other good reasons not to.

    AND NOW FOR A COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    All that aside, let’s pretend that you absolutely, positively HAVE to create a separated PDF from InDesign on Snow Leopard…you CAN!

    You need to do a couple of things first.

    Step One: Go get a [insert favorite beverage here, unless it's alcohol and you're driving while reading this on your smart phone]

    Step Two: Download an unzip this PostScript Printer PPD, which you can do right here at this link I’ve cleverly titled: Click here to download the PostScript Printer PPD.

    Step Three: In the Adobe InDesign application folder, in the Presets folder, create a folder named PPDs. Exactly that…not PPD Stuff I need, not My Cute Little PPDs not even PPDelish…just PPDs.

    Step Four: Put the PPD file you just downloaded in that folder.

    Step Five: Restart InDesign.

    AND NOW FOR ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    Step Six: When you go to print your document, you can choose the PostScript file as your printer and choose RTI RIP-Kit v3 as your PPD. For the record, you can use any PPD for a postscript device that allows custom page sizes, this is just one I had handy. See dramatic graphic below.

    Step Seven: Now you can go to the Output tab of the Print Window and change Composite CMYK to Separations and then do whatever custom settings your Printer as asked of you.

    Another reason I don’t recommend separated PDFs is because of all the controls the Printer has put in Your hands. Not that you can’t handle it, but it’s YOUR responsibility to know screen angle, line screen, etc. I just think you lose flexibility when working with a printer with multiple presses, various paper types or maybe you want to send a PDF that’s going to be printed in multiple locations. If so, separated is going to be problematic.

    Let me know if this helps. But remember…I’m not encouraging this type of shenanigans.

    AND NOW FOR A FINAL COMMERCIAL BREAK: I just finished a video titled “11 Things Every Newspapers Should Know About PDFs” and you can buy your copy here from Video2Brain.

    One reason I don’t write books

    Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

    I’m often asked if I have written a book or plan to write a book…and the answer is no.

    I get asked to write books from time to time by various publishers and the answer is always the same: “I’ll think about it.” Then, after 15 minutes or so…”No thanks.”

    There are many reasons I don’t want to write a book, but one of them involves my unwillingness to put something that is ever-changing, like the technology we use, into a permanent form. I just can’t think how much sleep I would lose if I wrote something in a book, then, after it was printed, realized a better way or that I was just plain wrong about something.

    An example of this is this nifty new feature in InDesign that I demonstrated awhile back at the Photoshop Convention in Munich, Germany. I was showing Adobe Bridge CS4 and all the new features…cool stuff…and wanted to show how you can use Bridge with InDesign to place graphics and text quickly.

    I selected several photos in Bridge, held down my mouse and flipped over to InDesign. This loaded my cursor in InDesign with 12 photos.

    If you’ve never used the Multi-File Place before, InDesign CS3 and CS4 allow you to cram a bunch of files for placement into the cursor for faster page layout. You can choose multiple files, including all file formats InDesign supports, including text, photos, Word, PDF, InDesign and more…very fast.

    And you can scroll through the contents of the cursor previews by banging on your right and left arrows. If there is a file you don’t want, after all, just hit escape and it will be…uh…unloaded.

    New in CS4 is the ability to hold down your Cmd/Ctrl + Shift keys and your cursor icon changes from the preview into a grid of small squares. You are now setup to place your files in a grid on your page.

    As you drag, you’ll notice there are only nine frames. You can hold down your left/right/up/down arrows to change the space between the frames, which is cool, too, but there are only nine of them.

    When you let go of your mouse, the files are placed in the newly created frames, and any files left over are still loaded for placement elsewhere.

    BUT I WANT 12 OF THEM!!!

    So this is where my reason for not wanting to write a book comes in. While demonstrating this new feature, an attendee at the conference raised his hand and said “How do I get 12 of them?”


    In my job of learning software, I try lots of things. I push buttons and hold down various key combinations to see what happens. For the life of me, I had not figured out how to get InDesign to change the number of frames from nine…and I tried everything…so I thought.

    I told him “I don’t know of a way…”

    What a loser I am.

    Well, after a few days I was playing with Bridge and InDesign again and I lifted a finger (not the way you might think) and there it was. The secret key. The hidden code. The secret passage.

    After you start drawing the grid holding down your Cmd/Ctrl + Shift keys, release your Shift key and now, if you bang on your up/down/left/right arrow keys, you will remove and add frames both horizontally and vertically, depending on which you hit. And it’s sticky, so if you create a 12-frame grid, it will be a 12-frame grid the next time you do it (this session…next time you restart InDesign it goes back to the default nine frames).

    Imagine my turmoil if I had written that in a book instead of only letting down 30 people, or so. I still lose sleep at night thinking of ways to contact those people in Munich and admitting my ignorance and showing them the missing link to total grid control.

    I need therapy.

    And finally I’ll note that even though there might be some use for this, it’s limited, in my opinion. It automatically places the photos in order of their names, and you can’t control it. So if you wanted to place photos in a certain order, that is not numeric or alphabetical based on the first character, you’re out of luck on this one

    You also can’t numerically control the spacing (gutter) between the rows and columns, so from a design perspective, it’s not as precise as I would like. What if you hit your up arrow twice and left arrow twice to create the look you want for this grid…how are you going to remember that in six months when you need to recreate it?

    But it’s fun to show your friends.

    Linking Text Between Multiple Documents

    Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

    If you have ever wanted to link a text frame from one InDesign document to another, you can’t. But I have written a little step-by-step trick that allows you to do it now, thanks to CS4′s Conditional Text feature.
    I just posted the tip on my buddy David Blatner’s InDesign Secrets Blog. Check it out at:

    Quick Color Balance Trick

    Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

    Please Note: In the story to follow there is a reference to the possibility of a Miss Margeret Sturton from Winchester drinking excessively. This rumour has been dispelled by the aforementioned Miss Sturton who, in fact, claims to be a teetotaler. Therefore, it must be assumed she was not drinking excessively, but, more likely, out all night dancing with Germans who had been drinking excessively. We regret any inconvenience the below reference may have caused.

    My new friend Margeret Sturton from Peter Symonds College in Winchester, England emailed me with a question the other day, and it’s worth sharing.

    She attended the Fall Yearbook Conference we host every year and she saw me color balance a photo with a yellow cast very quickly using the eyedropper in Photoshop. I don’t know if I just did it too quickly or if she had been drinking excessively, but she didn’t get the notes down properly. So here is the refresher course for her and perhaps a new trick for the other two people who might happen to read this article.

    It’s all about gray. In a photo studio, when setting up lights for a photo shoot, photographers will use a gray card in a photo to measure the color balance of the set. The logic is this: if the lights are throwing off a yellow cast, the gray card will turn yellow, as well. Then, when developing the photos (or adjusting digitally in Photoshop) if you make the gray card (which became yellowish) gray again by adding filters, etc…the rest of the photo will adjust, also.

    So image a gray card that shifted to yellow ten percent. That means the rest of the shot has taken on a ten percent yellow cast, as well. Make the gray card gray by taking out the ten percent yellow and the same amount is subtracted from the rest of the photo giving you color balance again.


    So here is the problem with photos NOT taken in a studio: where’s the gray card? It’s a little hard to get David Beckham to hold a gray card while dribbling down the field for a shot. Nope…you have to find your own gray card in a shot.

    Look around you…there’s gray everywhere…especially in Seattle. If you have a photograph that has something in it that is supposed to be gray, you’re set. It doesn’t matter what shade of gray. It could be concrete, a metal trash can, a gray car or a dark gray sweater…doesn’t matter.

    Once you find that you’re only a click away.

    Notice this photo of a P-51 Mustang. It has a slight yellow cast turning the sky a bit green. You don’t really notice it in the plane so much, but often in a photo some areas show a more pronounced problem then others. Note: I’ve seen people focus on the problem areas by making selections (like of the sky) and only adjusting that. I recommend you try this solution first and then do selective adjustment only if really necessary.

    Now, select Image> Adjustments> Curves (or Levels, but I prefer Curves). You will see three eyedropper tools. The white one sets the White Point and the black one sets the Black Point (which we will discuss at another time). The middle one sets the Gray Point. Choose that one.

    Now simply click on something in the image that is supposed to be gray and BOOM…Photoshop neutralizes the color of that pixel to gray again, and applies the same adjustment to the rest of the photo.

    If you don’t like the adjustment, keep click on gray stuff until it looks the way you want it to. Just like the airplane photo above…the sky is blue again and the plane looks better after a single click of my mouse.

    I had a lady ask me one time “What if there isn’t anything in the photo that’s gray?”

    Well…then you can’t use this technique. But if there IS gray, you’re set.

    After showing this trick at a conference in Oklahoma, a person in the audience approached the next day and said “I saved about three hours work adjusting photos last night. I had a bunch of photos of old people to adjust and all I did all night was click on gray hair, click on gray hair, click on gray hair….

    The Great Missing Font Mystery

    Saturday, May 13th, 2006

    Have you ever opened you InDesign document only to have it scream at that your missing fonts?
    Who needs ‘em? Just print it, anyway, you’re thinking?
    Ahh if it were only that easy.
    No, you have to find ‘em, one way or another. But what if the missing font isn’t really there? What if it’s on the list but InDesign won’t show you where it is or won’t let you swap it with something else…now that’s wierd.
    One trick I like to do first is the ol’ InDesign Interchange Format.
    I received a file from a reader just this week with Times Bold Condensed showing up for no reason. Sure enough, it didn’t exist in the doc. After running it through the inx format…good as new.
    Click Here to Watch the Video
    Or what about when you copy and paste from another document, or drag from the library and all of a sudden…when the fonts were fine…they’re not fine anymore? Now that’s just crazy.
    We’ve created a little video to show you one common reason for The Great Missing Font Mystery.
    Click Here to Watch the Video
    If you have other examples of missing font issues, be sure to let us know…we’ll add them here.