Mac OS Font Best Practices Guide

Extensis has posted a free 20-page guide on font management in OSX. Happily, it’s not just a lengthy ad for Suitcase Fusion. Of course they mention all the problems their products solve, but overall, there’s a strong signal-to-advernoise ratio. The guide has nice, clear explanations of which fonts are installed where with all your favorite apps (e.g. CS2, 3, and 4) And there’s plenty of gory detail on things like which fonts are required for Office to not explode in your face. This is good stuff. Kudos, Extensis.

Lunchtime Links

Time to crack open a new package of Ramen and see if I can write this post before the noodles turn mushy. Should I mix the usual chicken-MSG bomb or try the organic roasted dandelion root? Life is made of choices. Only the good die young.

Elvis is a slick-looking digital asset manager with hooks into InDesign, and based on Flex and Adobe AIR.

iStudio Publisher is an intriguing desktop publishing app that lives somewhere in the “far unlit unknown” between the iWork suburbs and the big city lights of InDesignopolis.

RogueSheep posted back in November, A Developer’s View of InDesign CS4. Worth a looksee because they made a Flex panel in InDesign to play a game like Asteroids. In InDesign.

Here’s a YouTube video of a 1981 news report that asks us to “image if you will..turning on your home computer to read the news.” Sorry, news on a computer? That’s just cuh-ray-zeee!

Lastly, if you are a MacHead, you must must must check out the insanely great freeware app, Mactracker. It is one nifty tool, showing specs and info on not only every Macintosh ever, but tons of other Apple products, including software. Here’s how cool it is: for each Mac, there’s a button to play the Startup chime from that exact model. Ahh, my dear departed 512k, I never thought I’d hear your voice again.

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Operating System Blindness

I think I’m suffering from a new disease. OSB: Operating System Blindness. Sort of like snowblindness, but with pixels instead of flakes.

Last time out I wrote a little thing on two-fingered gesture support for the Creative Suite on my MacBook Pro. Then I left the MBP’s powercord at work, necessitating a frenzied copying of files off it before the battery died, and a moving of said files to Ye Olde PowerBooke G4. The G4 is the beater laptop in the family. The laptop of last resort. It’s tired, but it’s proud and I will squeeze every last spin out of that hard drive.

I immediately noticed that on the G4, the 2-fingered horizontal scroll works just fine, no Command key needed. Duh! Check the System Pref! Indeed, there I found the controls for horizontal scroll and zoom.

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Sigh. Sometimes I think I have Adobe blinders on and forget that there’s an actual operating system sitting between me and the Creative Suite. I live in the Mac OS for so many hours of the day that it becomes transparent, and I forget it’s there. The cure for OSB, it turns out is a daily dose of RTFM, which as we all know means, “Read Things First, Mike.”

How To Make Friends and Influence People

Unless you’re in charge of your publishing company, you’re going to have to convince your bosses that an XML workflow is right for your company. Even if you are the boss, you’re going to have to convince your minions that your decision to throw out decades of experience and processes is the Right Thing for Us.

Because that’s what we’re talking about here. Everyone’s comfort zone is going to be invaded. There will be doubt and sweating. The people paying for it are going to be sweating about their money. The people expected to use it are going to be sweating about their jobs. You might want to crank down the temperature in the building by a few degrees, or it’s going to get funky in there.

The only way that replacing existing workflows and systems with an XML-based one makes sense is if it’s going to save (or make) money for the business in the long run. Oh, that long run. It’s so hard to maintain enthusiasm over the long run. But that’s the only way it’s going to work. Go in thinking the magic of XML is going to transform your business in mere minutes, and you’re in for a huge disappointment.

So, the convincing. It has to be a financial argument. There’s no way around it. There will be charts and spreadsheets involved. You’ll have to figure out some metric that your businesspeople can relate to. Do you pay by the page? By the product? If you’re lucky, you have a finance department that’s willing to put this together for you. Or at least give you the current costs of everything so you can figure out how much it really costs to produce your Things.

Once you do that, you have to figure out how much it will cost to produce the Things once the new XML workflow is in place. That’s like trying to figure out how much money you’d save every month if you bought a plug-in hybrid (which you can’t) and power it with only wind power (which your utility doesn’t provide). There will be guessing involved.

One approach is to figure out what you won’t have to pay for anymore. If you’re going to try to automate composition of some kinds of pages, you might assume that the comp cost will be $0 per page. That would be a horrible mistake. Nothing costs $0 per page. Remember, somebody will still need to write the content, there will be some kind of design involved, and somebody is going to have to make corrections and get the files ready for press (assuming print) or ready to post (assuming web). You can take out some of the comp cost, but not all of it.

We assumed $0 per page comp costs. Project budgets were created based on that. Not cool.

Another thing that you might save on is data conversion. Print-to-web type stuff. XML does make that easier. You probably will save money, especially if you normally send that kind of stuff to a vendor. Should you assume that vendor cost will be reduced to $0? No. Nothing costs $0! Somebody still has to make sure the conversion worked. And if it doesn’t, somebody has to fix the problem. The cost will be greatly reduced, but not to 0.

Think of all the steps in your workflow where people touch the content. Think of which steps will be removed, replaced, or facilitated by the XML workflow. Make a CONSERVATIVE determination about how much money the XML workflow will save you. Don’t try to sell your boss a bag of magic beans.

Then put it all into a fancy presentation with lots of charts and graphs. I’d avoid cheesy clip art though. You work for a publishing company, after all.

A Kind Gesture or Bartender, Pour Me Two Fingers of InDesign

This one’s for the laptop lads and ladies.

Even though I don’t have one of the latest and greatest MacBook pros which offer extended support for gestures in Creative Suite apps, I am still a fan of two-fingered trackpad scrolling. One finger on the trackpad moves your cursor. Two fingers on the trackpad scrolls the window. It’s just how I roll (the screen). It works in pretty much every app I’ve tried, and it’s just so smooth and easy, once you try it, you’ll never scroll any other way. Until they invent retinal-scan scrolling, this is as easy as it gets. Well, yesterday while working in InDesign I accidentally discovered it gets even cooler, and I kicked myself for not discovering the trick sooner. I forgot the Mac Geek’s Rule of Thumb/Index/Ring/Pinkie: if something is cool, add Command, Shift, or Option to make it cooler.

Hold the Command key and pull two fingers toward you to scroll right.

Hold the Command key and push two fingers away from you to scroll left.

Add shift and you jump a whole screen at a time (probably only useful when you’re zoomed in to the viewing level of an electron microscope).

Hold Option and pull two fingers toward you to zoom out.

Hold Option and push two fingers away from you to zoom in.

The left-right scrolling seems to only work in InDesign, but the others work in Illustrator and Photoshop too.

I am not alone in my fandom for these shortcut gestures. Some folks have been trying for years to spread the word, if only I’d been paying attention.

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PR = Publicious Reading

A few books caught my attention enough to being ’em home from the ‘brary this week.

First up: PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences by Deirdre Breakenridge

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I am a little skeptical, since the Web moves so fast, and this book was published a long time ago—2008 for goodness’ sake! Put it this way, Twitter doesn’t show up till page 245, and there’s no index entry on hashtags. Actually, I fear that Twitter is already being diminished by marketing types, so maybe it’s a good thing. Anyway, I like the topic.

Random quote: “…we need data that shows how people are connected. Online social networks, blogs, mobile phone call records, e-mail servers, patent databases, and co-publishing databases are typical data sources that have information about how people are connected. We take this data and apply proprietary algorithms to create social network maps and indices.”

*WTH?  Is wiretapping now a marketing tool?

I probably won’t have time to do a proper review, but I’ll at least do the commuter’s skim and post my notes.

What Are Your Skills Worth?

That is the question, with all apologies to the balding bard from Stratford-on-Avon.

And there’s a website from some place near his old ‘hood that can answer the question.

ITJobsWatch is a UK site that gathers data on the tech job market and maps it to provide a moving picture of the value of tech skills, or at least the value of those skills in the UK. Man, I wish I could find a site that did the same thing for the U.S.

The site provides charts and graphs showing the evolving level of demand for almost 5000 tech skills, tracking average salary and freelancer rates. You can break down the results by region or specific location.

Setting aside cosmic questions of free will and the value of art, if you’re a UK parent you might want to start coaching your kid to dream of one day being a Senior SAP Programmer, and downplay notions of becoming a Flash animator. The SAP kid makes seven times what the Flasher does. They barely make more than a telemarketer, who, in turn, makes more than a Helpdesk operator. Ouch.

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You can compare different skills, so you know if learning Flex might really pay off (it will), or you should throw out that old PageMaker manual (not yet—there’s only about three PM jobs left in the whole UK, but they pay really well).

There are tons of interesting data to look at. F’rinstance, the salaries for Quark and InDesign top out at nearly the exact same amount: £30k. But there’s a greater gap between the Quark haves and have nots, and the overall trend for Quark seems to be under the influence of gravity.

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