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.


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.


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.







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


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.



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.


PDFs, Wookies, and of course, Twitter

A couple of PDF snacks for you to munch on:

PlanetPDF is a seriously large, all-things PDF website, sponsored by NitroPDF, an alternative to Acrobat. I don’t think a lot of people even realize there is an alternative to Acrobat. I’ve never used Nitro, so I can’t say if it’s the cat’s meow or the litterbox, but it’s been around for more than 10 years, so it must have some satisfied users. The site has plenty of Acrobat-related content: tips, articles, forums, 20 RSS feeds, and a plethora of PDF-related software to buy from all corners of the known Universe. Seriously, I think there are some Wookie developers hawking an “AAAAAAAAAAAARGUUUUUUUMMMMMMFFFFF” plug-in. is another biggie, with tutorials, videos, forums, news, and stuff to buy.

Lastly, in today’s obligatory Twitter bit: for anyone so inclined, you can now follow Publicious on Twitter. Just click the link on the left sidebar of the blog, or here. I’ll tweet all the posts, and related content that doesn’t quite make it into the blog.


Lunchtime Links

Macworld has an article on Twitter for Mac Creatives. I found the comments interesting too. There’s definitely a line in the sand between those who “get” Twitter and those who don’t. As with anything, YMMV, but I think those who complain about the lousy signal-to-noise ratio just aren’t following the right people. Sure, there’s a lot of “I like bacon” tweets. But there’s a ton of good stuff too. Don’t throw the baby out with the TweetWater.

Following up on Eric’s Why XML? post, here’s a link to the slides from O’Reilly’s Start With XML one-day conference that was held in NYC on January 13th.

Speaking of O’Reilly, the annual Tools of Change conference is coming up: Feb 9-11, also in NYC. MarkLogic, Adobe, <oXygen/> and Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing. I’ll take it, with an everything bagel, to go. Of course, if you can’t make it, you can follow the conference on Twitter. SeewhatImean?

While you’re at it, you can follow me. I promise not to tweet about bacon. I don’t even eat the stuff.

MarkLogic announced the MarkLogic Toolkit for Word, which is a free open source means for developers to build applications directly bridging Microsoft Office Word 2007 and MarkLogic. Makes you go <hmmm/>.

Last but not least, GeoEye has some photos of yesterday’s inauguration, taken by Google’s new satellite. See how SkyNet, er, Google views 1.something million people: as a bunch of ants. That reminds me, I should put Judgment Day in my iCal. Thanks for the tip goes to John Nack at Adobe, whose Photoshop blog is required reading for everyone in my household, even the cats (how do you think they put those lightsabers in their paws?). Actually, they use FriskiesPix.

Why XML?

Why XML?

That’s the question. We’re going to assume that since you’re reading this blog, you have an interest in, work for, or run some kind of publishing company. Presumably, you create Things that you sell to People. Presumably you’re successful at that becuase you’re in business. Presumably the People like the Things you produce because they’re buying them, which allows you to stay in business. Presumably you know how to produce those Things because you keep making more of them for People to buy. Presumably you, your colleagues, your managers, and your staff all know what they’re supposed to be doing in order to make those Things that you eventually sell to People.

So why would you want to screw with that?

Maybe it takes too long to make the Things. Maybe it’s very complicated with many steps and you, your colleagues, your managers, and your staff get angry and upset and have to work lots of overtime. Maybe your competitors can make more Things faster and you’re losing the People who used to buy from you. Maybe your Things aren’t as good as they used to be.

Why XML? It depends on what you think needs to be changed. Do you want a simpler workflow? More products coming out in shorter timeframes? To spend less on producing the products? Can XML really help with any of that?

Because you know, and this isn’t a secret, XML isn’t anything more than a markup standard. It’s not even a file format. It’s a text file with lots of pointy brackets in it. By itself, an XML file just kind of sits there, bristling with pointy brackets, taunting you, daring you to figure out what to do with it.

And that’s the trick. What, exactly, do you want to do? Because this is going to be expensive. You’re either going to have to buy lots of stuff, hire somebody to program lots of stuff for you, or hire somebody to take your box of 8-tracks and return the excellent Things you sell, without telling you how they did it.

In other words, you’re going to have to

1) Buy, configure, test, train on, and support the equipment and software required for an XML workflow;

2) Hire a consultant to do all of the above for you, or;

3) Hire a vendor to do all the XML workflow stuff at their plant, so you don’t have to deal with any of it.

You’d do number 3 if you have isolated projects that don’t have anything to do with your normal workflows. Maybe you have 25,000 old documents that have to be converted for web use. You don’t want to invest in an expensive system if you’re only going to use it once or twice.

You’d do 1 or 2 if you produce something, and are going to continue producing it for the long term. 1 and 2 get you to the same place eventually: a system that you own and control. If you have or want to hire the people to build it, then 1 works. If you don’t then 2 is probably a better idea. In either case, though, you’ll need people who can keep the system running after the initial build and testing phase is over.

1 and 2 aren’t mutually exclusive either. We did a combination. We had some in-house experts doing some of the work, and we hired some outside consultants and vendors to do the rest of it.

So why XML? XML can help simplify workflows, speed time to market, help with quality, and save money in the long run. But you have to build a system that stores and manipulates the XML first. That’s going to be expensive and take some time. And the only way you’re going to be able to spend that money and take that time is to make sure that the people running the company are behind the project. You need a good business case. That’ll be the topic of my next ramblings: How To Make Friends and Influence People.