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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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  • What else can InDesign do? Adding functionality with Plug-ins…

    April 1st, 2006 by Russell Viers

    I love InDesign…no question. And whenever I work on a project, it continues to amaze me how many real solutions it offers me as a user.
    However, with as many users InDesign has, from so many different markets, it would be impossible for Adobe to address every need without the application becoming unmanagable.
    So what’s the solution? Plug-ins.
    InDesign was created to function primarily on plug-ins. Almost every palette and dialog box and function you use is driven by a plug-in.
    So what’s the point? Well…Adobe has made the technology available to programmers with big brains who sit down and write new plug-ins to do things to meet specific needs…or in some cases, general needs that Adobe may not think of.
    For example, a new plug-in I downloaded the other day is essential to any designer who needs his/her iTunes blasting to get through deadline. This plug-in from Knowbody software (www.knowbody.dk/) allows you to control iTunes from within InDesign. You don’t have to leave your work to turn up the volume on when Tom Jones starts in with She’s a Lady…or skip ahead when you hear any Bobby Goldsboro tune.
    This article is not intended to be a list of plug-ins and their functionality…that’s available at adobe.com or versiontracker.com or just google “indesign plug-ins” and start clicking.
    No, this article is intended to read what plug-ins you are using, how you are using them and what you think. It’s one thing to read a short description on the website of the manufacturer, or read a review from a consultant…what we want is real experience with plug-ins that make your InDesign experience even more valuable.
    I’ll go first.
    One question I get all the time as I teach InDesign and demonstrate the “unlimited undos” and redo function is: “Does InDesign have a history palette?” Well…no. It just remembers what you did and you have to keep hitting undo until you reach the point you want. That is, unless you get a plug-in, and there are two on the market.
    The first is named History 2.1 and is offered by DTP Tools (www.dtptools.com/). And it does exactly as it’s named…it gives you a history palette in InDesign. The other is EasyHistory by 65bit Sofware (www.65bit.com) and it also gives you a history palette in InDesign.
    Both are advertised at $39-ish and available as a download, with a demo mode so you can try before you buy.
    Of the two, I prefer DTP Tools’ History 2.1. For the same price it gives you more functionality.
    Just like the History Palette in Photoshop it tracks your work and lists your actions as you do them. If you want to visually go back to something you did, simple scroll to that point and select it in the list. Bingo.
    If that’s all it did, I’d save my $39 and just Cmmd+Z. But there’s more: also like Photoshop it will take Snapshots of a state and save a thumbnail of that version in the palette. Then, when you want to revert back to a version (or one of many) you can select the thumbnail and you’re back where you were.
    But wait, there’s more. History 2.1, unlike Photoshop’s History, saves Snapshots in the file when you save your document. That’s right! Create multiple versions of a file within a single file. Huge.
    When you’re done designing, and you want to make separate documents, it’s the click of a button.
    That was $39 well spent.
    Your turn…

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