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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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  • One reason I don’t write books

    December 17th, 2008 by Russell Viers

    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.

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