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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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  • Where do we begin?

    March 3rd, 2007 by Russell Viers

    I’ve noticed a lot of new InDesign users are a really new. I don’t mean new converts from Quark XPress or PageMaker…or even Microsoft Publisher. I mean new to the “desktop publishing” world, altogether.
    Perhaps I’m seeing it more now because PageMaker used to absorb this type of new user. Maybe it’s because InDesign has finally taken its place as the respected tool of the industry.
    Regardless of the reason, there are people buying and installing InDesign who have no prior knowledge of layout, design, tools, fill, stroke, frame, PDF, etc. They are sitting down at computers and realizing very quickly that before them on the screen is a very powerful tool that has a learning curve…and it’s even bigger for a newbie.
    So here is my question to all of you experienced users: Where do we begin? If you had to give one bit of advice to a new user who knows nothing about print production, design, layout, InDesign, Photoshop, Illlustrator, you name it…what would it be?
    Of course there are the obvious things, like the basic tools, or fill/stroke, or what is a frame and how do you fill it with photos and text.
    But you probably wouldn’t jump right into Edit Keyboard Shortcuts, now, would you. Or XML, or Data Merge (unless they were doing something that specifically needed that).
    So, where does the new user start?
    When we talk about publications, I’m a firm believer in the power of templates. I would, therefore, recommend a new user understand what a template is, what it can do for them and what goes into one. These would include, Styles, Master Pages, Swatches, design elements, page numbers, frames, preferences and more.
    “Your cheating” you say, noting that this would show the new user nearly ten items, not the “one thing” I asked about. I said “one bit of advice” not show them one feature.
    So now I continue.
    If the user were heavy into design I would focus on that. Perhaps they have a history of design, but the computer is new to them. I would get this person right into the “toys” that will make them want to learn more about the program and keep them growing. I wouldn’t spend all day on Story Editor and Preferences.
    But what if someone is a wordsmith? I don’t think I would waste my time on Mixed Ink Groups, but rather focus on the nifty editing and typography tools of InDesign.
    Just some thoughts…and now I turn it over to you.
    Pretend your mom, or your aunt Josephine has just bought a new iMac and the Creative Suite to work on the church newsletter, as well as some other projects. What’s would you tell them to get them started in the right direction as quickly as possible?
    And don’t say “Just let me do it.

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