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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 April, 2007

    Well if they can do all that…

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

    The other day, here in my little town in Austria, we went to see Grease, Der Musical. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I assumed the show would be in German. Since I don’t speak German I don’t know how to say greased lightning or you’re the one that I want, but I was pretty sure I could recognize the tunes.
    So we went.
    Much to my surprise, the opening number was a language I recognized…English. Wow, I thought, this will be the first show I’ve ever seen over here where I would know what was going on. So far I’ve seen AIDA and Der Troubadour in German and I’m still not totally clear on those plots. I’ve seen some movies, too, and I think I need to see them again in English to really understand them.
    So I’m tapping my foot along with Doo-wop-a-doo when, all of a sudden, out of the blue, there was a language switch and I was lost again. That’s right, they sang the songs in English and spoke the lines in German. What a mess for a unilingual, like myself.
    At intermission my son asked me if I thought they were from England or the United States. I told him I didn’t have a clue but it sounded like they were from Germany to me.
    “Nope,” he informed me, “they speak it with a heavy accent.”
    “You don’t have a heavy accent?” I asked my very American little boy.
    “Nope,” he informed me with great confidence.
    So we headed out to the lobby and some of the actors were selling programs. We approached them and asked if they were English or American.
    It seems strange that with all the English speaking countries in the world we only offer two choices. Then, when a third is offered by the questionee you feel stupid for not thinking of the other options.
    “Well, actually,” he informed us, “we’re Canadian.” Why didn’t we think of that?
    “Sorry,” we offered with embarrassment, but I don’t think it mattered. Luckily Canadians are a nice lot and I don’t think it ruined his day.
    So during the second half my mind wandered away from the show, which is easy to do when you don’t understand the language that is spoken. Oh, I know the general plot since I’ve seen the movie, but it still gives a person lots of time between songs for the mind to drift away to thoughts in a more understandable language.
    My thoughts ended up landing on this: “if they can be Canadian, speak perfect English, dance like Broadway stars, sing in perfect English, look cool and speak what I thought was perfect German, I can certainly learn how to master electronic media.
    Yea…that’s what I was thinking about while Rizzo was thinking she might be pregnant.
    I was thinking about how many of us who are so comfortable with print production are afraid, not interested or too busy to make the leap over to the growing world of electronic media…websites, video, multi-media presentations or even ads for cell phones.
    I’m concerned that many print production geniuses will eventually lose business to less print savvy freelancers who are adept at creating work that is truly crossmedia.
    I believe the day is here, or very close, where the customers are going to want one source for everything, instead of working with two or three different agencies to meet the needs of both electronic and print media.
    And if that’s the trend for the hired guns, it won’t be long before employers demand more from the workforce. Just as years ago you didn’t have to know layout to write, photo manipulation to layout or page layout if you were a photographer, but now you do. It won’t be long before employers expect a print-minded graphic artist to also build the website. Some are already feeling this.
    Now is as good of a time as any to get started.
    As I look at what Adobe’s doing with CS3, it seems they are really trying to help us with the transition. They have done a good job of integrating the different worlds together, so as we veer into uncharted territory, there is some familiar ground on which to walk.
    A good example of this is Bridge. If you’ve never used Bridge, I suggest you start. It is shared by so many of the applications that it can almost be your home base. And even if you don’t know all the programs in the new Adobe world that well, if you poke around a little you might find what you’re looking for in the Bridge.
    For example, I got an email awhile back from someone who wanted to use Illustrator’s Live Trace function on a bunch of progressive video frames to created a hand-drawn video cartoon affect. They didn’t know Illustrator and didn’t want to spend the time opening all those video files one-by-one and doing the trace. The question really was “Does Illustrator have Actions like Photoshop so I can do this faster?”Bridge. Save the video frames you want, select them in Bridge and go to Tools> Illustrator> Live Trace.”
    I’m not saying Bridge is THE tool. I’m only saying it’s a great place to start finding common ground among the various apps. From there you can start learning how the tools you already know can be used for web and video creation.
    It’s also worth noting what apps are shipping in the Creative Suite 3 Design Premium…pretty much everything you need to start a print/web cross media business. InDesign for print, Dreamweaver for web, Flash for…uh…Flash (web, multimedia…) and the programs shared by both worlds including Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge.
    Oh, by the way, I just found out Rizzo isn’t pregnant, after all…I think that’s what’s happening up there on stage.
    You don’t have to go it alone (I’m not talking about Rizzo, anymore). In the near future we will be doing training videos on taking your print expertise and familiarity with the Design Tools over to the other side…some would say the dark side.
    We’ll focus on how Photoshop and Illustrator can be used to help you create electronic media easier than you may have thought. We’ll talk about how InDesign fits in to this scheme, too. And, of course, more about Bridge.
    And the good news is, I’m convinced, that learning electronic media creation is a heap of a lot easier than learning to speak in German, sing in English and dance bilingually…with grease in your hair.

    Stop complaining about Text Wrap, will ya?

    Monday, April 23rd, 2007

    I can almost finally quit complaining about the way InDesign handles Text Wrap. Over the years I’ve gotten used to it and learned the workarounds of what I thought was a poorly designed tool from the get go. But now Adobe has revamped the Text Wrap Pane (palette) so that I only have one complaint left…and I’ll get to that in a bit.
    But for now, let’s celebrate InDesign CS3’s new Text Wrap functions, like the ability to sync all four sides of a bounding box when setting the wrap distance. Remember how you used to have to enter p9…tab…p9…tab…p9…tab…etc. Unless, of course, you are paid by the hour, in which case it’s p9…grab mouse and highlight next box…p9…grab mouse and highlight next box…p9…etc.
    Some of you probably just selected the Wrap Around Object button and set the one value to go on all four sides. This trick was faster, but the corners were rounded and didn’t always give the desired results.
    Well, now it’s fixed.
    Watch the video to see it in action.
    The bigger new feature for me is the ability to have the text flow along only one side of the object it’s wrapping, just like Quark XPress does. But in Adobe’s typical style, they one-upped them by allowing you to select which side the text flows.
    That’s right, you can tell InDesign to flow the text on the right or left side of the object, or to flow where there is the Largest area.
    And for those of you who might do books, you have the nifty choice of having the text flow toward or away from the Spine. This is only offered if you are using the Facing Pages option when building your book.
    You won’t know you can control this unless you look for it, because the default setting is to flow text on Both Right and Left Sides, which is how it has behaved since the beginning. Look for the menu on the Text Wrap Pane.
    There is more subtle fix that many may not feel. This is for the Master Page users in the room.
    Have you ever built a Master Page with an object on the page you want to have force a wrap on the document page. But then when you flowed text onto the corresponding document page it ignored the Text Wrap. Yep. And it wouldn’t recognize the object on the Master Page unless you did an Override on the document page? Frustrating.
    Well, it’s frustrating, no more. Nowadays, with CS3, you can put an object on the Master Page and apply the Text Wrap to it and it will work on the document page automatically. And in case there are a few sick people out there who actually liked the way it behaved for the past seven years, you can change it back in the Text Wrap flyout menu. Just select the object on the Master Page you want to have behave the old way and select Apply to Master Page Only.
    So what is it I still have to complain about? No keyboard shortcut for Ignore Text Wrap. You know what I’m talking about…you want to put a text box over a graphic that has Text Wrap applied to it but the text keeps disappearing. You have to go to Object> Text Frame Options and click on Ignore Text Wrap. It might be a little quicker to hit Cmmd + B (Ctrl + B Windows), but not much. I want a short cut to toggle the Ignore Text Wrap on or off.
    Until Adobe fixes this feature, we have to thank brilliant InDesign mind Dave Saunders for coming up with a script for us that does it. Here it is for you. Just drop this into your scripts folder and assign a shortcut to it and it will do the job.
    If you want it, just go to and either Ctrl + click (Macs) or Right Click (Windows) on the file named ToggleTextWrap.jsx and selectDownload Linked File.
    Well, time to wrap up this article…haaaaaaaa…get it…wrap up this article…Text Wrap…wrap it up…get it…oh, my, that’s funny…wrap it up…sometimes I slay myself…okay…that’s enough.

    Why the new Agates in InDesign CS3 are so important

    Friday, April 13th, 2007

    If you’ve never heard of an Agate, or you didn’t know people were still using them, then this new feature of CS3 probably doesn’t mean much and you may want to stop reading right now.
    Watch the video about Agates here
    I don’t use agates…never did. So why am I writing about agates? Because it proves, once again, that Adobe is listening to us.
    I remember the time I was training at a newspaper in Canada on InDesign CS2 and someone asked “How do I set InDesign for agates instead of picas.”
    “Under Preferences> Units and Increments,” I quickly replied, not knowing if InDesign offered agates, but if it did, that’s were they would be. I knew they had ciceros, and I thought if they had ciceros, they HAD to have agates.
    “It’s not here,” they quickly pointed out, with great disbelief that InDesign wouldn’t offer such an oft-used system of measurment.
    Well, every day of that Canadian training tour was met with the same question: “Does InDesign have agates.” At which point I could confidently reply, with as much sympathy as I could muster, “No…with deep regret, I have to inform you that it does not.”
    Honestly, I didn’t think anyone still used agates until that trip.
    In fact, I was so upset with myself for not having my thumb on the pulse of the industry’s need for agates, that the next week I was doing a seminar in Boston to about 100 newspaper people and I had to ask: “How many of you are using agates?” Not one hand was raised. Someone asked “What’s an agate?” and someone else shouted out “They still have those?”
    So you know, an agate is the equivalent of 5 1/2 point type and was used as a common measure of column length in newspapers.
    So back to my real point…if Adobe cares enough to put agates in the new InDesign because of a select group of users (and I’m not saying that only Canadians use agates, I’m sure they are used in Albania and Liechtenstein, as well) then they are really trying to create a piece of software that meets our needs….all our needs. And if you need agates, we’re going to give it to you.
    You want to be able to place multiple files at once? Okay, we can give you that. You want a better Text Wrap, okay, we’ll get on that.
    You may say “Yea, but I’ve been asking for a better Text Wrap since InDesign came out in 1999,” and I’d agree. But they did it…and a lot more in that time.
    So if Adobe is listening to us, the question then is, are you talking? There has been functionality changed in Adobe products in the past that I didn’t like, and I’m convinced it’s because the wrong people were talking. If you want this software to behave the way you want, you need to let them know about it.
    An example is the renaming of the Black Channel in a grayscale image. It’s not gray…it’s black! Why? Because it’s going to print in black and look gray due to the dots.
    Ignore me…I’m venting.
    Adobe has set up forums for us, the average users to go for information and idea exchange. Have a look at and you’ll notice there are forums for all the applications as well as the Creative Suite as a whole. Follow the rules and know that this is a great opportunity to be heard.
    And heard you will be. I was amazed during the beta testing at how quickly someone from Adobe replied to my bug reports. They wanted more info, or sample files, etc., but I knew there were people on the payroll reading my forum submissions. And they will read yours, too.
    So when the next version of Creative Suite comes out and you don’t like something about it, don’t go around with a bumber sticker that reads “Don’t blame me, I didn’t report my complaints and suggestions to the Adobe forums.” You’ll just have to live with it.
    And as a “thank you” to Adobe for listening to us, from now on I’m going to use agates. Not for my InDesign documents, because I use inches and picas too much. No, I’m going to start using agates in all other parts of my life. When my kids ask me “how much longer” when we’re on a trip, I’m going to say “Oh, about 37.2 billion agates…or so.”
    When asked how tall I am next time I’m arrested, I’ll kindly tell the officer “991 agates.”
    You try it…just know that there are 14 agates in an inch, 36 inches in a yard and 1760 yards in a mile.
    The rest is simple math.

    InDesign CS3: Multi-file Place and InDesignInDaInDesign

    Thursday, April 5th, 2007

    What’s the big feature in InDesign CS3?
    You know the one I’m talking about. Everytime Adobe releases new software there’s that one new thing that, when demonstrated, makes everyone in the room sound like their at a fireworks display… “ooh…aaahh!”
    For me it’s a combination of the Multi-file placement feature and the ability to place InDesign documents inside other InDesign documents.
    Big stuff.
    First, the Multi-file plac-a-lizer.
    Watch the video
    So here’s the scenario: You’re at your desk, you just finished putting frames on an 11” x 17” spread for a product brochure you’re doing and just as you’re done, the photos and text come in. “Finally,” you mumble under your breath.
    All you have to do to finish this bad boy up and hit the road is drop in 20 photos, a couple of text files and a few logos…and thanks to InDesign CS3, you can go File> Place and select the whole shootin’ match and you’ll see a thumbnail of each graphic, text, etc. so you know where to drop ‘em. Click, click, click and a bunch more clicks later you’re on your bike heading home to catch the game, or movie or whatever you do after work.
    And just like any new feature release, it only takes 15 minutes before someone says “Yea, but will it do this?”
    Thus is the case with Jeremiah Shimshak with the Winona Post in Winona, MN, who writes:

    “I do alot of Real Estate ads which of course have many graphic frames that I have to place photos of houses into. I’ve got the photos saved by the MLS number, such as (2921234_55 E 2nd St.psd). Now, using CS3 I can select all the photos to place at once, and see a preview of the photo next to the cursor. But that really doesn’t help me. What I really need is to be able to see the Filename instead of the preview, so that I can make sure I get the correct photo with the corresponding description in the ad. Is that possible at all?”

    Uhhh…No…not that I’ve found, but I’ll bet it will be in the next version. Great suggestion, thanks.
    As for putting an InDesign document inside another InDesign document, is this a dream come true?
    Watch the video
    Now you can keep ads or parts of a design you want to use in multiple projects editable all the way through the project. No more making a PDF, placing it on a page, seeing a typo, finding the original file, editing it, re-PDFing it, hoping you rename it correctly so it overwrites the old one, etc.
    Wow…good stuff.
    There is a dark side, however, and one we should all be aware of. You can’t embed fonts into an InDesign document. So if you are working alone or in a controlled environment like an agency, you should be fine. But if you start sending InDesign documents in lieu of PDFs outside of your four walls, you may have some problems.
    And even though you can embed graphics in an InDesign doc, I only recommend it for specific instances…and I’m not sure, yet, if this is one of them.
    Until I get a little more live production time with it, I see this feature as a huge collaboration tool with people on the same network, with access to the same fonts, graphics, etc.
    Designer A works on a part of a design that is going to drop into many different magazines his company produces. By placing an InDesign document instead of PDF or other format, designer A still has the ability to edit up until the page or pages are going to be output or packaged for press. In theory, designer B could drop the InDesign document on the page while it’s nothing more than a blank space, and as A works on it and saves, B will get a Modified File notice in his links palette. When B updates, he can see the current state of A’s work. In fact, since A’s work is placed in many different magazine, when the document is updated, it will be changed automatically for designers C, D, E, F & G, as well.
    For a lot of what I do, Snippets and Libraries are still the answer. Why, you ask? Because you can’t edit the InDesign doc inside the other InDesign doc. Not a big deal as you can opt/alt + double-click on it to open it in InDesign and edit it, but it’s a different way of working.
    This is yet another example of where the new tool is really nifty and powerful, but it won’t replace all the old ones. There will still be value in Libraries, Snippets and PDF. This is just one more new tool to tackle a different need.
    Together, the Multi-file place and InDesign in InDesign, or perhaps InDesignInDaInDesign feature, are a powerful new way to get to deadline quicker.

    Photoshop CS3: Black & White Adjustment

    Monday, April 2nd, 2007

    If part of your daily routine is converting RGB or CMYK images to black and white, you’re going to love a new adjustment tool in Photoshop CS3…called the…um…Black & White adjustment tool.
    Watch the video to see it in action.
    There are tips-a-plenty all over the internet on how to convert to grayscale. Most customers I watch work just use the standard Image> Mode> Grayscaleand get it out the door. Others will often create an action to convert an image to LAB mode, select the Luminosity Channel, then Image> Mode> Grayscale and discard the A and B channels. Others do all sorts of other nasties to get the job done.
    The big challenge is that certain colors that look different in RGB become the same shade of gray in grayscale.
    This new tool gives you total control over the different colors and how they translate to grays. For example, if you have a red shirt on a blue background, it could easily become nothing but a continuous gray. With the new tool you can have the red become dark and the blue become light…with the simple movement of a slider.
    Look at the rainbow graphic, Figure 1.

    Photoshop Black and White 1

    If you simply convert to grayscale, you get Figure B, which loses definition between some of the colors, like the cyan and green and megenta and red.

    Photoshop Black and White 2

    Instead, if I go to Image> Adjustments> Black & White, you’ll see that with no adjustments the colors have more definition, Figure 3,

    Photoshop Black and White 3

    but if you play for a bit moving the individual sliders, you can really create some contrast, Figure IV.

    Photoshop Black and White 4

    I can’t imagine ever converting to grayscale again without it. And if you are tinting photos, you not only get to apply the color cast you want, but you can still control the colors to create the contrast necessary, as well. This is far more useful than the Hue/Saturation techniques to create a CMYK duotone effect. How many of you used to create a true duotone, then convert back to RGB or CMYK? And, of course, there is the Color Overlay of Photoshop’s Layer Effects, but this beats ‘em all.