InDéjà vu

Just going along, minding my business in a longish document, when all of a sudden I am surprised to see a little white hand wave to me from the Pages panel.

Now we know in InDesign the little hand means “drag to scroll,” and sure enough I can drag to move what’s visible in the panel. I pause and ask myself, “Self, did we know about this?” Self does not reply, which in some ways is probably a good thing. But I am left with the weird feeling that I have always known about this “handy” feature. Earth humor, ar, ar, ar. And yet it seems entirely new. Have I been doing InDesign in my sleep? Sad to say, I have dreamt about InDesign. If I ever apply for a job at Adobe, I’ll be sure to include that on my cover letter. Insanity is a good differentiator.

There may be another explanation for my déjà vu. I’ve always told people to go to the Pages Panel options and uncheck “show vertically” to fit a lot more pages into the space.

Otherwise you aren’t taking advantage of all your screen real estate.

That, plus the fact that I rarely used to work with documents longer than 10 pages, meant that I never faced a Pages panel with a scroll bar. I could always see the entire document. Either that, or I’m about to wake up and realize that the last nine years have all been a…

Cue the wavy lines and swirling harps.

Oh. Excuse me (yawn) I think I fell asleep waiting for Quark to find pieces of missing art…

Y’know, I just had the strangest dream…

Crack Coda

A few extra thoughts on my obsession with InDesign’s Fit Selection in Window:

1. I think some of my joy stems from the fact that I am left handed and thus mouse with my left hand and do keyboard shortcuts with my right hand. So I feel very balanced using stuff on the right side of the keyboard. Righties, your mileage may vary. Still, it won’t be as awkward as the many times I visited a right handed co-worker’s desk and had to cross my arms to drive their Macs out of some digital ditch.

2. Daring Doers of Desktop Demos may also have a conflict, since they often employ command-option-= to trigger the Mac’s Universal Access System Pref screen zoom.

This is an awesome feature when you’re putting on a show and need be sure your audience can see exactly what your cursor is up to. I’ve also used it to magnify markup on scanned PDFs that was otherwise illegible (my eyes are old and bent). But if you’re not in front of an audience you’ll probably benefit by turning it off and using those keys for InDesign.

3. Laptop users, where’s the love? If you have a model with no option key on the right side, you have no choice but to go to Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts and assign something else. Maybe just change it to command-shift-= True, that’s assigned to Superscript by default, but I think Fit Selection easily trumps Superscript. And command-shift-0 is unassigned, so there’s your Fit Spread in Window.

Keyboard Shortcrack

Is it possible to get addicted to a keyboard shortcut? To obsess about it. To look for excuses to use it. To waste time because you go out of your way to use it. To make up off-key ditties of praise and hum them while nobody is listening. Uh, a friend told me they did that. Yeah. A friend.

The answer is true, and I am living proof. The keyboard shortcut I am about to share with you is dangerous. If you aren’t careful, it might take over your life. At least your life using InDesign. Still, it’s so sweet, you have to try it. C’mon, all the cool kids are doing it. Just don’t inhale.

Ready? It’s command-option-=. Go to InDesign, select something, and press command-option-=. I mean it. Do it now, and come back.

How cool was that? InDesign zooms in or out to frame your selection nicely in the window. Not surprising then that the name of this feature you invoked is Fit Selection In Window. Just think of it as intelligent zooming. You may remember a while back when I wrote about double-clicks, and snarkily suggested there should be a feature that reads my mind and selects the thing I need. Well, this is as close as I’m going to get till I get the GoogleBrain implant. There is no reason to ever touch the Zoom tool again. Even pressing command-= more than once makes me feel hackish now.

I just don’t understand why the good folks at Adobe didn’t give this puppy a line in the View Menu. It deserves to be there. And there was room. The Type, Edit, and Window menus are all longer than View. It does appear in the contextual menu when you right-click on a selected object. But I never noticed it before. And I’m betting that 95% of InDesign users don’t know about it because it’s been so unheralded. The only documentation I could find is lost in a bland table on page 636 of the User Guide.

If you have a large frame selected, you’ll zoom out to something near Fit Page in Window. If you can’t see all of the object you have selected, it zooms out (or just re-centers) to show you the whole thing. But in most cases it will zoom in so that the object(s) you selected are centered with a nice amount of space around on all sides. Curiously, the zooming has a limit of 2000%, even though InDesign will go to 4000% with other methods. I can’t think of a time I ever zoomed to more than 2000% to actually do anything other than giggle, so I’ll let this slide.

plus command-option-= becomes

What makes this shortcut even cooler is:

  • It works when you have text selected, or just a blinking cursor. Even in linked frames!
  • It works as document navigation: when you’re zoomed way out, you can instantly zoom to anywhere in the document.
  • It’s easy to remember, since we’re used to command-= (usually thought of as command-+) to zoom in. Or you could think of the = as squinty eyelids, focusing on something far away.
  • It’s even better paired with command-option-0 (Fit Spread in Window). Use them to zoom in to work, and zoom out to admire your work and pick your next target.

If using command-option-= does become an addiction for you, know that you always have a kindred spirit here. We can all form a support group. Zoomaholics Anonymous.

Oh Where Oh Where Has My Li-ttle Blog Gone?

Oh where oh where can it be?

Top Five Reasons Mike Has Not Been Blogging Lately

5. Been Photoshopping myself into the Celtics victory parade, high-fiving Kevin Garnett.

4. Been writing “I will not forget our anniversary again” on a chalkboard 5000 times.

3. Been driving hundreds of miles in search of gas under $4.

2. Been sulking since the 8-year-old’s blog scored 200 hits in one day.

1. Been designing a steampunk litterbox for the cats.

The merciless calendar mocks me. Two weeks and counting, dude. That’s like two months in internet time. Or three months in dog years. So if a dog wrote this blog, that would be like six months without any new content. WOOF! Saddest thing is, I STILL don’t have time to write anything more than this extended ping. But to assuage my guilt and give you hope that someday soon there will be new content here, I proudly give you…other people’s content!

First, we have Photoshop Disasters, a cautionary site for careless cloners. Six-fingered hands, missing belly buttons, severed hands, impossibly thin limbs, you name it. Monsters everywhere! And you only need to look a little closer at all the media around you to see them. Be warned, it is sometimes NSFW, but APDF (Always Pretty Damn Funny. I just made that up).

Oh and by the way, there might be a solution for THE WORST PROBLEM OF ALL TIME. No, not global warming. I mean the real problem that threatens to pitch civilization into violent chaos. Namely, adding a page to the beginning of a book, switching all the versos and rectos. A set of plug-ins from InTools allows you to set up any object with position relative to the spine. Genius! Stumbled on that one on an InDesign Secrets comment. I haven’t had a chance to play with the plug-ins yet, but when I do, I’ll report back here. If they work as advertised, you will hear the angels singing directly from your RSS reader.

Über-Master Pages

The Master stalks Buffy..
As an unashamed Buffy fan, I have to admit that every time I hear the word “master” I get visions of Buffy’s original Big Bad. The aged vampire who she eventually ends up beating after making a witty remark about him dying (poofing actually, since he was already dead). While he was a A Big Bad, he wasn’t nearly as Bad as he thought he was. Not if he could get beat by a snappily-dressed high-school cheerleader. And all of this is a non-subtle intro to master pages for people who think they’re Bigger and Badder than they actually are.

Over the years, I’ve talked with a lot of designers who are just as afraid of master pages as Buffy was of the Master. Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But once Buffy was given knowledge of the Master , she became less afraid. And I think the same would happen with a designer or production person who is making or needs to use a template.

Like so many things I’ll probably end up talking about, master pages are great because they save time. Time that I’d rather spend watching Buffy, time that Michael would rather spend Photoshopping space suits on his cats, time that you may rather spend reading Tolstoy. Or, time that you may be able to spend working for another client or working for that promotion. Master pages lead to measured efficiencies. Impress your boss with that line.

This is our sample file. This is the first spread, there are other pages that follow this that contain the last bit of our story but this is the perfect example of how to begin creating a template from this document. I wouldn’t consider this a template, but some people would. It’s a point of preference and comfort. Since I often think my way is right and therefore the only way something could/should be done, I’ve become shocked lately to see how some people’s thinking differs from mine. Mine is still right, of course, but I’m willing to be understanding that they’re different from me.

I like a template to contain empty boxes/frames that are linked as needed but minimally styled. For example, my version of the perfect template for this layout to be used across all file types would like this:
Template Outlines

How I got this was by selecting ALL, cutting, going to Master Page A and Pasting in Place. I then deleted all of the content from the text boxes and applied the “none” object style to each frame, except for the footer. Now I have the frames I need to begin creating any of the four types of files without having to remove any text. All I have to do is select a box and style it with the desired object style before I begin pouring. There are a few other things I need to do to make this template work better. By taking a few extra steps now, I’ll save myself a lot of time later.

There are just a few things I’d like to explain more. Let’s start with the red line around the outside of my spread. This designates how much bleed the printer requires of me. This number will vary from printer to printer so be sure to ask yours how much to prepare for. This particular printer asks for a p9 bleed. (That’s 9 points, for all of you who work with other measures. I hated points when I first started, but after trying to do the math with fractions, I realized points were easier.) To set your bleed line, go to your File menu and choose Document Setup. Click on the “More Options” button on the right. At the bottom of the window are selections for bleed and slug.

By adding a measurement to the bleed boxes, you’ll get the nice red line outside your spread so you can visually check that all of your images bleed off the page as required. If “Snap to Guides” is selected, it’ll be even easier to make sure that you have the right amount of bleed on frames that run off the page. It also means that you can easily set up your print styles to include this area when you print a paper copy, or print a postscript file. If you want to have the exact same amount of bleed on each side of your layout, all you have to do is input the number into the Top box and select the little chain icon to the right of the entry boxes. This will apply the same amount to each box without you having to type the information four times. “Measured efficiencies” remember?

We won’t be using the Slug yet, but if you wanted to include a frame that would appear outside the layout when the InDesign file was viewed and easily be printed or not printed you would set your slug area as desired. One possible use for slugs might be to create a box in the slug area where you can leave notes for the Designer to view.

Another time saver is to set up our file so it automatically applies the page numbers in the footer. And this is much, much easier than you may fear. Simply place your cursor where you want the auto-number to appear. Now go to your Type Menu and select Insert Special Character and then Auto Page Number. Click and you’re done. If the pagination changes, your page numbers automatically update and you never have to manually change a page number. In fact, I would highly suggest never manually changing a page number.

Now I briefly talked about layers in my first entry here on Mike’s wonderful site, but I want to revisit it. I propose a simplification and standardization of layers. Your organization mileage may vary, but there’s no reason to have dozens of layers in a file. For this layout I propose 4 layers:
Art (which isn’t being used for this spread, but will be used for the spreads that come after this one)

Very simple, right. You can look at the name of the layer and look at the item on your page, and probably guess on which layer that item will reside. The only thing which should live on the Footer layer are the footer boxes that contain the page numbers, and any book title, chapter title, etc. info. That’s it! This layer will begin in the unlocked position, but once you add the needed info to your master page, you will lock this layer. This will help you feel confident that you won’t accidentally edit this item.
Template with links showing.

The second layer in your palette is the text layer and it should contain any boxes that will have text poured into them. I would also suggest linking all of your text boxes together in the order you’re most likely to come across the text. This will help your pouring job easier in CS2 and even easier in CS3. I also suggest selecting all of your text boxes and grouping them together. Since the text boxes will remain on your master page, but you’ll actually begin to pour the text on the working page which means you’ll have to break the link for these items from your master page. And only these items, actually.

There are still a number of “efficiencies” we can express in this template, especially for the pages that we’re going to add to it next time. But we’ve got a really good start, I think. I may not be as witty as a cadre of Hollywood screenwriters made a high-school cheerleader sound, but hopefully I’ve at least given you a little more confidence so you can start to tackle the über-master pages in your own documents.

Silly Rabbit, Blogging’s For Kids

Just a quick note in case any of you out there were confused by the fact that my name was appearing on another WordPress blog, called Mr. Sports. I am the administrator, but the posts are actually authored by my son, who has caught the blogging bug in a big way from his old man. What he sometimes lacks in terms of content, he more than makes up for with enthusiasm and exclamation points. Funny thing is, he gets more hits than me. This is the source of great, animated debate at the dinner table. Note to self: use more exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Splitting An Ice Cream Sandwich With McCain

Dude, not THAT McCain. God, I am shameless. And for my link-baiting sins this site is probably being monitored by the FBI right now right now.

The McCain in the title refers to a binding style known as McCain. It is a case-bound and side-sewn style. Jargon free version: folded piles of paper stitched together through the top and glued to a hard cover. Variations on this theme are called Smyth sewn and Moffet sewn. McCain is industry standard for thick, heavy textbooks (are there any other kind?) because of its strength. Schools need something strong enough that eccentric French teachers (are there any other kind?) can throw at a kid mis-conjugating the verb “savoir.” Sacre bleu! Le subjonctif! Yes, this actually happened. No I was not the kid; my pronunciations were “for-me-DA-bleh.”

McCain stitches pinch the paper with great strength, like the way the playground bully used to pinch that spot where your neck meets your collarbone. And just as hard. While the book can lie flat, some of the paper is lost in the pinch and will never be visible unless you rip the book apart. Industry standard for the kind of book I used to work on was to leave a quarter inch or 1p6 on the inside margin of each page empty as a “no print” or “no ink” zone. You can see it if you look at the top or bottom of a side sewn book.

Oh, how tempting it was to put secret messages to the kids in the no print zone.

If you can read this, you’re too close!
I am the Walrus.
Neo, this is Morpheus, get out of that classroom NOW!
Frodo lives.
And so on.

So when you have a photo that spans the gutter, you have to account for the no print zone. Otherwise half an inch of the picture will be lost. This is great if you’re doing a Mad Magazine Fold-In, or have a thing for cyclopses,

+ McCain =

but it’s not usually recommended. My $60 ginormous Beatles Anthology book doesn’t have a NPZ, and thus there’s a cyclops George Harrison on p.450.

The fix is to split the image and move the two halves away from each other a half inch (or whatever your industry standard is), with the gap centered on the gutter.

Say you had to make this ice cream sandwich to look right across the gutter.

Select the frame and copy and paste it in place (cmd-shift-opt-v, or even easier, option-nudge/nudge back).

Throw a guide where you want the image to match up till you get the hang of it, or to check your work. Then move the copy 3p to the right.

Or move the other one 3p to the left, or split the difference and move them in opposite directions 1p6. Which way you go depends on the flexiblity of your layout. If you have no flexibility, you have to scale or crop your image to make it 3p narrower.

Close up the frames to empty the gutter and you’re done. Or leave a little extra something for someone to stumble upon when the book is old and falling apart.

The guides show that the two sides will match up when the book is laid open.


InDesign Summer School

Just as the kids are getting close to their summer vacation, I’m going back to school. InDesign school, that is.

I’m spending a chunk of my summer digging through every last shred of the official Adobe documentation to study for the certification exam to regain my ACE (Adobe Certified Expert) status.

I foolishly let my certification expire, so instead of gliding through the open book re-certification exam, I’m going in like a first-timer. Fork over $150 and show up at the testing center with a full brain and empty pockets. Security will give me the hairy eyeball. They’ll make me toss my water bottle in case I had keyboard shortcuts etched behind the Poland Spring label. The mouse will be sticky and my chair will squeak. My one allowance–the little dry erase doodle board will be no help. I’ll hold it up to the light and see if I can make out any clues left from the last person. Hmmm, the answer to question 31 looks like command-shift…Snoopy. OK, seems unlikely, but I’ll go with it.

Aside from these complaints, having to re-take the exam is a blessing in disguise. It’s forcing me to look at tools and features of InDesign CS3, that I have ignored, forgotten, glossed over, or flat out avoided. And there’s plenty to have igforglossvoided. 32 tools, 11 menus, 41 panels, and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 unique commands (I counted 500 in the menus plus 8 panels before I realized, I’m not THAT crazy, and quit. Hey, I count them so you don’t have to. Enjoy the madness.

It is humbling to go back to page 1 of the manual, and read every word like a newbie. I am no longer Jedi master of the page. Take the batteries out of the lightsaber, Adobe-Wan Kenobi. You’re going back to school. Every menu, every palette (er, panel) now stares back at me from my screen, posing the question, “Do you REALLY know me?” Everything becomes a potential question. Given the test makers’ fondness for trivia, no detail is too small. Quick, without peeking: is Index in the Window menu or the Type & Tables submenu? Could be on the test.

The more I study, the more I start to nitpick. Do Notes really deserve their own menu? Couldn’t Show Hidden Characters be in the View menu instead of Type? Why is the Edit menu an unholy brew of text and frame commands, InCopy functions, and application- and document-level preferences? If Einstein was right and time travel is possible, why do we STILL not have a History panel? Why the hell is it even called InDesign? What am I doing with my life? What is the cat eating now? Some things are better left mysteries.

When it comes to InDesign I’m pretty much home schooled. I’ve taken plenty of classes, read books, and haunted websites, forums, and blogs. But IMHO there is no way to truly learn the program unless you use it regularly. As in, more days than not. Case in point: hyperlinks. The only time I’ve ever used hyperlinks in InDesign was studying for the ACE, and about 10 seconds after I passed the test, all knowledge of hyperlinks passed straight out of my brain.

What I really want is to know the InDesign commands more in my hands than in my brain. That is, when you use a command every day, your hands are usually one step ahead of your head, instinctually going to the right spot in the right menu or panel, even as your brain is wondering stuff like what Peter Tork is doing at this very moment.

For study aids, I’ll refer to the ACE guide, the Classroom in a Book, and the Help menu. But I also like to make my own. Here’s one that I cooked up to serve like a set of flash cards for learning a set of keyboard shortcuts. I specifically wanted to learn all the command-option shortcuts (for a future post here). I took the text file from Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts > Show Set… and placed it into a layout.

I created a Character Style with strikethrough to simulate a highlighter.

Did a Find/Change to Find a text string that would grab all the command-option shortcuts, and no other ones. So I included the colon and space, Opt, +, Cmd, wildcard, and end of paragraph.

And wherever this string was found, I told InDesign to apply the highlighter character style. Later, for good measure, I did a similar FInd/Change with a paragraph style to number the shortcuts I found. This made it easy to select and delete the other shortcuts I wasn’t interested in. Which left me with a nice numbered list of just the command-option family.

By default, the answers are hidden. To show them, just toggle Overprint Preview on (cmd-shift-option-y).

Not a bad first day of class. We’ve made an InDesign annoyance (onscreen strikethrough knockout) serve our study needs. Our hands and our brains are learning. And somewhere, Peter Tork is smiling.