The InDesign ACE eBook is Published!

Woo-hoo!

My first ebook is published and now on sale!

Click here to visit the InDesign Secrets store.

Here’s the official description:

The InDesign Secrets Guide to the InDesign CS4 ACE Exam eBook (PDF, 150 pp) is the most thorough resource available for anyone interested in becoming an Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) in InDesign. More than a simple study guide, it offers you a comprehensive plan for preparing for and passing the exam.

The Guide breaks down every one of the 58 InDesign CS4 testing objectives (as published by Adobe) and shows exactly what you need to practice and study. Objectives are illustrated with screenshots from InDesign and are hyperlinked to the relevant information in InDesign’s online help, so you can get immediate answers to your questions. Each chapter ends with sample test questions (and their answers) to help you gauge your progress as you go.

Additional chapters detail the testing process, self-assessment, personalized study plans, study tips, and test-taking strategies, and re-certification. With The InDesign Secrets Guide to the InDesign CS4 ACE Exam you can accelerate and focus your preparation so you walk into the testing center with confidence, and walk out an ACE.

  • Download a Sample Chapter (11 pp, a 2.2 MB PDF) to see how Mike breaks down the test objectives (in this case, tables) into clear, concise, and generously illustrated explanations.
  • Only $9.95 for each copy of the full e-book (150 pp); download it immediately after purchase.
  • 25% Introductory Discount off your order if you enter the discount couponRANKINRULES in the shopping cart before Nov 30, 2009.

No doubt, I’ll have a lot more to share on this topic, but for now it’s just…woo-hoo!

Publicious Book Review: Presentation Zen

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended any books, but right now I have two good ones to share, Presentation Zen and Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide. The first is an absolute, five star, required reading, go get it RIGHT NOW book. The second is more of a textbook that will appeal to a limited audience of brainy desingers who get off on knowing how we got from Roman majuscules to uncials to, God help us, Comic Sans. I’m not finished with Graphic Design History, so I’ll save my thoughts on that one for now. But Presentation Zen rocks. (pun intended)

  presentation-zen-book

If you have ever been the victim of “death by bulleted list”, or suffocated by a boring speaker droning on until all the air is sucked out of the room, I think you will love this book. Over the years, I have endured many a dreadful presentation consisting of a person basically reading over a set of ugly, confusing slides, that taught me nothing. Presentation Zen recommends quite a different approach: clean slides with very little text, bold visuals, and..get this…speaking in a real human voice. What a revelation!

The author practices what he preaches. The book is beautifully designed with lots of white space surrounding the text and examples, so reading it is a pleasure. It’s the rare book where you feel like you learned something on every page. Edward Tufte’s data-ink ratio is honored. Nothing is wasted. Inspiration is drawn from daVinci, Einstein, Thoreau, and that master of Zen presentation, Steve Jobs. 

There are plenty of examples of good and bad presentation design. Most of the bad stuff comes from people mistaking decoration for design, or trying to make their PowerPoint slides into full-fledged documents, aka slideuments. Slideuments suck. Your slides are not supposed to be pages in a document, crammed with tiny details. For that, you should create an actual supporting document to hand out to your audience after the presentation. Giving it to them beforehand, or even worse, giving them your slides printed out, is the kiss of death. Everyone is so busy flipping back and forth, dividing their attention between page and screen, that they will remember nothing. I’ve seen it many times.

Dissolves, logos, 3D effects, and tired PowerPoint templates are all to be taken out behind the barn and shot, for the crime of crippling human communication.

One of the most interesting points the author makes is that slide presentations have more to do with comics and documentary film making, than anything else. It’s about the story, the audience, and using emotion and visuals to maximum effect to get the audience to remember your story (and you, BTW).

Presentation Zen also has a companion website well worth visiting. I’d recommend you check the book if you plan on speaking in front of an audience any time in the foreseeable future.

Who Killed Print, Part 2

For those wondering where I got the “evidence” against cats, I looked no further than the bookshelf in my kids’ playroom.

IMG

This book was published in 1986, which may explain some of the “fashionable” feline attire, and other details like phones with cords on them.

It got me to thinking, what would a sequel to this book look like? So here’s my take on..

How An E-Book is Made

I’m the design and production cat. I’m creating the template in InDesign and exporting the stories to InCopy.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m the author. I’m writing the content directly in InCopy. I can see the fit and layout.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m adding graphics, hyperlinks, and other interactive elements, plus running spellcheck and other QA.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m tracking changes.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m proofing.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m outputting to PDF.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m creating the book’s website.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m publicizing the book on Twitter and Facebook.

ebook-cat-crop

I’m desperate for Google Juice.

ebook-cat-crop

I got listed on Amazon!

ebook-cat-crop

Oprah likes my book!

ebook-cat-crop

Now maybe I can replace this computer from 1986.

ebook-cat-crop

LOL! I’m so glad print is dead.

ebook-cat-final

Who Killed Print?

We all know print is dead/dying/coughing up blood. But until recently I never knew who to blame. Then I discovered the ugly, shocking truth which I will now share with you all. Print didn’t just die. It was killed… by cats. Yes, cats. Frigging cats! Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Who killed print?…

IMG_0017

Let’s take a closer look at this dirty deed.

IMG

Save it for the litterbox, lady.

cateditor

Um, no, since you’re pointing to a mouse, not a word. In fact, you’re illiterate. You’re a cat!

catdesigner

Not as scary as a giant black and white polka dot tie with a red striped shirt. This is your designer?

IMG_0005

That copyeditor looks like he needs some catnip or he’s gonna start shredding the manuscript. Give the poor guy some yarn at least!

IMG_0006

Actually the copyeditor (copycat?) really said, “Here’s another !@#$%! mistake!”

IMG_0007

Of course, the printer was in China so the production director should have said “良好的厚纸!”

IMG_0008

Seriously, an ascot? Since when did Charles Nelson Reilly do prepress?

IMG_0009

OK, fair enough.

IMG_0010

I think the prepress cat is going to kick some tail when he hears this crap.

IMG_0011

Why are these cats so relaxed when the book is totally screwed up? Can’t they see the deadline right behind them? Sure enough…

IMG_0012

Sigh. This is not going to end well.

IMG_0013

Assuming there is a next job.

IMG_0014

I think a few whiskers ended up in the F&Gs.

IMG_0015

Uh, yeah. But instead of going out and selling the book, the cats started a website filled with photos of themselves with silly misspelled captions. And they all got rich and never made another book again.

IMG_0016

And then little kitten fell asleep, wishing for an iPhone.

The end.

PS If you want to know where these images came from, check out Who Killed Print, Part 2.

Publicious Links: The Parallelepiped Edition

Had a “whoa” moment a little while ago. Whilst taking a deep dive into Adobe history and technology, I came across an article on the math behind Bézier curves. If you’ve ever used any of the Creative Suite apps, you know what these are. They’re the edges of objects you shape by pulling little control handles attached to the ends of lines. You can draw pretty much any shape by varying the number, length, and angle of the control handles.

I’d known for many years about the man who invented these curves, Pierre Bézier. He was a French engineer who used them to design precisely manufactured auto parts for Renault. They also come in quite handy in computer graphics. But what I’d never seen before is the control handles in the context of the 3-D shape they describe: a parallelepiped. Here’s the article that blew one of my 100 amp geek fuses. What amazes me is that I never realized how I was in effect, pulling and pushing these control handles in three-dimensional space. Hence the “whoa.” You are warned, there is math involved. If you ever wish you could play with Bézier curves in real life, you can, and probably already did as a kid, with string art.

I’d be remiss to be talking about vectors, without mentioning the VectorBabe, Sandee Cohen. You may know she’s the author of The InDesign Visual Quickstart Guide by PeachPit Press. You may not know she recently launched a blog called From Design to Print to augment her book of the same name.

Sumo Paint is another “whoa” experience. It’s a free, web-based painting application with an interface so full-featured and well-executed, you won’t believe it. Makes you think you could create anything with Flash.

Sixrevisions.com has an awesome list article on 25 Excellent Typography Tools for the Serious Designer. Silly designers, you can click the link, but don’t let me catch you goofing around. No funny business.

While you’re at Sixrevisions, also check out another list: Ten Unusual Places to Get Design Inspiration.

Thenextweb.com has an entertaining man-in-the-street video, produced by Google wherein the question posed to the public is “What is a browser?” How horrified you are at the answers = how much of a geek you are. Personally, my favorite is the WAY over-caffeinated lady who says, “I use the Yahoo!”

Occasionally, we are reminded the world is more than pixels and prepress. You can show your support for those protesting the election in Iran by changing your avatar.

Speaking of the Iranian election, I don’t know if it was rigged, but I do know that the government needs to spring for a few of Deke McClelland’s Lynda.com Photoshop videos. Because, as BoingBoing said, Ahmadinijad Sucks at Photoshop.

You can’t get Flash on the iPhone, but thanks to AIR, you can get the iPhone in Flash. Desktop iPhone is an AIR application that simulates the iPhone on your desktop. You can even make phone calls with it.

Drupal is everyone’s favorite open source CMS, n’est ce pas? RefCardz has a free Guide to Getting Started with Drupal.

MarkLogic is offering another free eSeminar for publishers. This time the topic is Three Ways To Innovate: How Smart Publishers are Thriving Now. Count on a lot of “XML is da schizznit” rap.

Finally, Meninos is at it again, making me lust after geek merch. This time it’s Illustrator and Photoshop palette, er, panel magnets. No geek fridge should be without ’em.

Lunchtime Links: The Economapocalypse Now Edition

All the bad economic news is starting to get to me. Stocks were up yesterday, but that doesn’t offset the fact that Zillow says my house is worth the same as a pepperoni pizza. I’d be tempted to go to the mall and pick pennies out of the fountains, but somebody probably beat me to them. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Now that my 401k has minned out, the fountain gig is my retirement plan 😉

If the prospect of a Great(er) Depression has got you down too, pull up a bowl of mac and cheese and check out these links. They’ll make you feel better (or at least distract you while the bank changes the locks on your house).

First up, Prepress Pilgrim. It is an excellent blog written by DJ Dunkerley, about marketing, business, and technology issues in prepress. There’s also a whole section of career management posts, including stuff like Trying To Find Job Websites That Aren’t Skanky. DJ used to work for Creo back in the day, developing a little PDF workflow thingy you may know better as Prinergy. For my money, Prinergy is coolest thing in prepress since, um, ever.

So you say you need a content management system, but the global economic crisis has left you broke? Check out Drupal. It’s a free, open source CMS that’s gaining popularity. And it’s the CMS behind Allyouneedischeese.com. What more do you want?

Bulletin Bulletin Bulletin…Adobe makes it safe to swap PDFs with strangers again, by posting a patch to Acrobat 9.

Crowdsourcing: necessary evil or evil evil? Personally, I’m thinking evil evil. Pitting designers against one another, and eroding the quality and wages of their profession, just ain’t my idea of a party. What’s next on the road to the bottom? How about we crowdsource medical care? Post your symptoms and anyone who claims to be a “doctor” can diagnose your illness on spec. Then you pick the treatment that fits your budget. Hmm that might work; Obama are you listening?

If you are a freelancer, or think you might be one soon, check out Michelle Goodman’s blog, the Anti 9 to 5 Guide. She’s been freelancing for more than 15 years and has written a great book on the do’s and don’t of the freelance world. Yes, it’s aimed at women, but good advice is good advice.

This I found interesting bit of Google on Google crime: Hitwise notes that GMail is now more popular than YouTube. It’s well on its way to becoming more popular than food, water, and air.

Another fine blog, this time from inside the Adobe Empire. Bob Bringhurst is the man in charge of official InDesign documentation. Can’t get much closer to the source than that.

On my bucket list is to solve the frigging Rubik’s Cube once and for all. In case I never get there, I can always fake it with a tutorial to make your own Rubik’s photo cube in Photoshop from any image. It also gave me the idea that you could print out whatever picture you wanted on sticker paper and make your own photo Rubik’s in real life. I might have to try that.

Guess I’ll have to put my plans for an origami TV screen on hold. Those super cool OLED flexible screens are also feeling the bite of the lousy economy.

Last, if you might find yourself up on stage in front of a crowd anytime soon, I suggest you first check James Duncan Davidson’s 8 Tips For Speakers. His perspective is literally unique, as he is a photographer who’s shot speakers of all kinds in the act of connecting (or not) with their audiences.

Till next time, I just have one question. You gonna finish those fries?

Lunchtime Links

Ignite is a site sponsored by O’Reilly, and devoted to building the worldwide community of Ignite speakers. Who’s an Ignite speaker? Anyone with something interesting to say on topics “geeks hold dear.” Could be almost anything. Past topics range from hacking chocolate to buying cars to using Twitter to keep tabs on your houseplants. But there’s one catch. You must do a slideshow presentation that is exactly five minutes long, exactly 20 slides long, and each slide automatically rotates after 15 seconds. The tag line is “Enlighten Us, But Make It Quick.” Not only am I a fan of the Ignite speaking rules, I think they should become law for all business presentations. Keynote and Powerpoint should only save in Ignite format.

Here’s a pretty lengthy list of Adobe products and people on Twitter. Sadly, no Big Electric Cat.

I posted the results of a little bug testing I did with the latest InDesign update (6.0.1). A couple major bugs squashed, a few other critters still scurrying around.

The CMYK-RGB t-shirt inspired me to look for more geek merch. CafePress has a well-formed assortment of XML-tagged apparel. My favorite is the baseball cap. If you need to hire an XML developer, wear the hat when you meet them. If they laugh, hire them.

Flash on Tap is an upcoming conference here in Boston that will bring together the coolest Flash developers and brewmasters, and mixing code with kegs. Should be a great time. If you have any interest in going, be aware that the early bird pricing ($595) ends April 28th.

From the Department of Awe-inspiring Process Diagrams. Behold. And Bewarned, it takes a while to load. This is either showing how to use Wikipedia to do news article clustering, or it’s the process my wife and I follow to get our kids ready for school in the morning. Insanely brilliant or brilliantly insane?

The Book Cover Archive is pretty much what it says it is. Just don’t judge the books, by their uh, never mind. In our house, we installed front-facing book shelves in the kids’ rooms, as a stealth literacy-marketing tool. Works like a charm. Showing the covers instead of the spines makes the kids about 1000% more likely to pick up the books and check them out.

TweetGrid is a browser-based “Twitter search dashboard that allows you to search for up to 9 different topics, events, converstations, hashtags, phrases, people, groups, etc in real-time.” I’m not sure what a “converstation” is, but TweetGrid is pretty neat, with the potential to be completely overwhelming. You can set up search boxes in a grid layout, to have literally hundreds of streaming tweets on your favorite topics pour down your screen. Works great, especially if you have nine brains and eighteen eyeballs.

InCase you haven’t heard, Adobe has acknowledged a “critical” vulnerability in Acrobat and Reader, whereby a ne’er-do-well could maliciously take control of your machine and drive it off a digital cliff with your data strapped in the back seat. Or something like that. To avoid death by PDF, you can try disabling JavaScript, which will help in some cases. But until the real fix comes, don’t take candy from strangers.

Now that you’ve had your broccoli, I leave you with a sugary dessert. Blambot.com’s article on comic book typography and grammar. Yum (and thanks, Greg). They also have some fun fonts for sale.