Feed For Thought

Lately I’ve been wrestling with issue of whether to publish full or partial text feeds for RSS readers. On the one hand, there’s the partial feed virtues:

  • I like the idea of people coming to the site
  • As far as I can tell, the version of WordPress I’m using doesn’t track RSS readers, so I have no idea how many people are reading until they click through to the site.
  • I open myself up to splogs ripping off full content from the feed.
  • Cinnamon and I usually write really long posts, which might be more than someone wants to deal with in a reader.

On the other hand, I’ve read that full feeds don’t decrease readership, and they might actually increase it. I’ve also read that most people hate partial feeds, and some lose interest in blogs that don’t give them everything in their RSS reader. Truth be told, I am one of these people. So today I switched over to a full feed. Enjoy.

Oh and just to make me look like a doofus, Firefox crashed while I was updating my WordPress prefs, so the first time this post was published, it went out as a partial feed. Hee hee, I Iike kampooters.

Blue Skies and Coke Cans Forever

Hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day Weekend. Here in New England the weather was glorious, and we celebrated by partaking of pure All-American fare: amusement park, little league baseball, ice cream, cookout, and Indiana Jones. The kids marched in the parade down Main St (actually they marched down Route 14, but Main St. sounds better).

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Basically Adaptable Styles: More InDesign Template Streamlining With Cinnamon

One of the best aspects of using a program like InDesign is the ability to use styles. With styles, you’re able to create definitions in appearance and apply them to an item. This is great for two reasons. When you’re first creating a document, if you have styles created, you set up the attributes one time and then you just select the items that you want to have those attributes and apply them. The other reason why this is great, and honestly the main reason I love them, because when those attributes change you’re able to change every item that has been styled in one central location.

With paragraph and character styles, you can set up the font, type size, type spacing, hyphenation, ligatures, color, underline, and so much more in one central window. But starting with CS2, InDesign has something wonderful called Object Styles. This lets you pick those attributes that get applied to an object (a frame) so you can apply and edit them the same way you can with text. These will come in handy if you remember the file I used last time you’ll know how basic it is.

Basic layout page

In this project, there are going to be four different feature types: “nonfiction”, “fiction”, “biography” and “reference”. The fonts used for each of these types will be different and the color schemes will be different. But the rest of the layout will stay the same.

One of the hardest aspects of making really dynamic templates, is to put on your ESP cap on and try to figure out worse-case scenarios so you can make your job easier later on. In this instance, you may be thinking that you should set it up so each type of feature will have its own layout. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s possible to use this one template for all 4 feature types, by just changing object and paragraph styles. One thing I’ve learned (often the hard way) is that editors change their mind and nothing is ever set in stone. Colors change after printer test proofs are received. Fonts change, spacing changes, drop-shadows change, so many things change. And you can either be prepared for it, or you can suffer through hundreds, if not thousands, of manual changes.

Another plus with this setup is eliminating places that you can either accidentally change things, or where you have to change things. Say, for example, that the running body text (which will be the same across all four features) changes by .5 pt. You only have to update that style in one template instead of in four. And that one template can be used to update your entire set of files, or your book of files. Or, say, you’re tweaking a Nonfiction style and accidentally change the type size in one template. Of course, because you know its true, you won’t realize the font changed until the end of the project when you’ll have to change them all. With this one-template method, if you realize the error at the end of the project, you can make a case for consistency.

My goal is to show you how you can use this one file, this one template, and simply create three paragraph styles and three object styles for each feature type. It also makes your designers job easier because they don’t have to approve as much. In this workflow, all you’ll need from your designer is:
• The background color for each feature type
• The lozenge color for each feature type
• The lozenge text color for each feature type
• The title color for each feature type.
• The title font for each feature type.

Since all of these styles are the same except for a few items (color, font type, etc.) it’s best to use the “based on” option in your Paragraph Style palette to create these styles. Let’s start with the Paragraph Styles palette and let’s start with the title treatment.

Place your cursor in the text box that contains the word “Away”. Bring up your Paragraph Styles Palette and choose “New Paragraph Style” from the drop-down carat. In the “Style Name” slot type in “Nonfiction Title*” and click through all of the menus to make sure the style is selected as you would see best. Click on OK. You know have your base paragraph style for every feature type. All you’ll have to do is duplicate the Paragraph Style, rename it, and change the options that need to be changed. Sounds pretty easy, eh?

It is. But, here is a little tip that I’ve discovered that has made my templating easier. I try to base as many styles on other other styles as I can. I can always disconnect them, unlink them, later. But if all of my title treatments suddenly need to be underlined, by changing this Nonfiction style, all of the other styles will change as well. However, because the projects I work on go on for years, because there are so many styles across so many file types, I can’t always remember what was the original style that I based all my other styles on. To get around this, I simply add the * at the end of the base style name. This way, every time I go to update that style, I know that other styles will change as well. I try to name my styles in such a way that I can tell which styles are based on this original style as well.

So now that we have our master style, we’ll want to create the style for our three other feature types. With your list of information from your designer you’ll be able to create the four different versions of the following items:
• The non-shadowed title paragraph style
• The shadowed paragraph style
• The object style for the dropshadow
• The lozenge paragraph style
• The lozenge object style
• The background object style

And that’s it. You’ll end up with three object styles and three paragraph styles for each feature type. Not too bad, eh? I didn’t think so. Let’s take a look at what the paragraph styles palette looks like.
Paragraph Style Palette for Template 2

At the top of the paragraph styles palette are a few styles with a “1-” in front of the name. If you don’t have InDesign CS3, with its Style Groups, this helps to keep all the paragraph styles that are good for every feature together in one area. Even if you do have CS3, it still might be a good idea to name your styles like this, since it makes them backwards-compatible. If you ever have to save down a version, you won’t lose the style groupings. (With CS2 and earlier, you can’t reorder paragraph styles by dragging and dropping them, so adding numbers, or letters, at the front of the name will help keep them in order of how they’re used. The other paragraph styles at least fall into alphabetical order which means that they stay grouped together by feature type pretty well.)

Now that our paragraph styles are organized, let’s make our base object style and then duplicate it and change it for each feature type. Begin by selecting the background box and choosing “New Object Style” from the menu in the Object Styles palette. Call it “NonfictionBackground*” (remember this will be the style that all other background styles are based on, so it gets the * at the end of the filename).

Object Styles are a little bit different, you want to keep them as simple as possible. So in this case, we’re going to deselect everything except for Fill and you’ll use the color that applies to the Nonfiction background. For the yellow Lozenge, you’ll deselect everything except for Fill, Stroke & Corner Effects, Paragraph Styles, Text Frame General Options, Text Frame Baseline Options. You’ll then select the functions within each of these menus to match the original design provided to you by the designer.

For the text frame that includes the portion of the title with a dropshadow, you can deselect everything except for Fill (which in this case is None), Paragraph Style where you select the style for the Nonfiction type treatment in this case and Drop Shadow & Feather. You’ll set this box as you need to and for all future title treatments you’ll simply have to change the name of the duplicated object style and change the color of the Drop Shadow.

This is what your Object Styles Palette will look like when you’re finished:
Object Styles palette for the 2nd tutorial

You’ve not got the basis that you need for a great template that will be easy for you or anyone else to use with very little information sharing needed on your part. Your styles will make it easy to change anything in the future and your organization system will help to create a clean working file as well as a clean template.

In the next installment of “Create a Template” with Cinnamon Cooper, I’ll discuss master pages and how to decide what goes on them and what doesn’t.

House of a Different Color, part 2

We left off our home improvement project with cobalt blue dahlias and a ruby red driveway. What else can we do but paint the house green?

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House of A Different Color, part 1

One of the fringe benefits of a career in publishing tech is that once in a while you get to use your DTP skills to amaze your friends and family. The other main benefit is the catered meeting leftovers at work (mmmm, corporate brownies).

Granted, it’s not as practical as a plumber who can fix anything that leaks, or a mechanic who can get your car started. But when the iPhoto red eye tool just won’t cut it, I’m your guy. The 8 year old is out of graph paper? No problem, young man. What size, color and weight would you like your grid lines to be? While we’re at it, want to make a picture of the cats fighting with lightsabers? Of course you do.

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A Blog About Nothing

Tonight was the 10th anniversary of the last episode of Seinfeld (and coincidentally, the last call for Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra). I always got a kick out seeing the Mac in the background of Seinfeld’s apartment, and how he silently “upgraded” each year to Apple’s latest and greatest. In the final season, Jerry even had one of those crazy 20th Anniversary Macs.

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Rain In The Forecast

Sorry for the long dry spell. Real life and real work have taken all my time this past week. I promise it’s gonna start raining fresh content here, within the next 24 hours. Get your umbrella ready. I have 8 posts in draft right now, plus another storm of InDesign templating wisdom from Cinnamon is coming in from Chicago. Hang in there.