Publicious Links: The Better Edition

I feel better. Thanks to the CVS-brand version of Zyrtec, I can breathe, sleep and surf the Web for the usual graphic goodies. With all the money I’m saving on tissues, I might even buy a new laptop. 

Kungfugrippe has a hilarious take on SnowLeopard and the cult of Mac.

Speaking of SnowLeopard, wikidot has a SnowLeopard compatibility list, so you can see if anyone else has got SoundJam to work in OS X 10.6 😉

If you’ve ever wanted to try out Adobe apps, but not actually go through the trouble of installing them, you can use Runaware to check out demos from within your browser. Not all apps are available, but Photoshop, Framemaker, and a few others are.

Discovered a cool RIA today, Fractal 4D. With it, you can draw some really cool vector shapes and export them to Illustrator.

Picture 4

Speaking of Illustrator, didja know that the Illustrator team at Adobe has their own blog, with the cool moniker Infinite Resolution? You do now. sponsored a contest where kids could design their own high school yearbooks using InDesign. Judging from the looks of the winners (and even the honorable mentions) there are some scary-talented young InDesigners out there. 

ContentServ offers some interesting-looking Web to print solutions for InDesign.

ZenTextures has hundreds of cool, free textures for Photoshop 

Know those hip “painting with light” effects used the Sprint ads and elsewhere? Well, if you ever wanted to try your hand at it, check out Designmag’s post on Light Effect Brushes. 

On the other hand, if you’re designing a logo, Tripwire magazine has a huge set of logo design tips and tutorials.

Adobe wasn’t satisfied with just buying Omniture. They also scooped up online business solution Goodbarry. and rebranded it Business Catalyst. It’s not too hard to imagine a web designer clicking an Export to Business Catalyst button in Flash, Flex, or Dreamweaver soon. TechCrunch has more details.

Working on PSD files without Photoshop? Blasphemy! Yet, there is more than one way to skin a pixel.

I love restoring old photos with Photoshop. TipSquirrel has some good info on bringing back ancient faded photos.

If you ever need to illustrate a professional quality map, definitely check out Ortelius.

Lastly, Halloween season is here, and with it the Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack will once again be playing in our house nonstop. If you know any kids (of any age) who are fans of Jack Skellington (and you don’t mind a bit of Ăźber commercialism) check out Create Disney, where they have Flash drawing apps where you can make all kinds of creations with the Pumpkin King, and many other minions of the Mouse.

Publicious Links: The Squirrel Bombing Edition

OK, let’s just get it over with.







Ever since he was first spotted, that damn rodent’s been following us around all summer. Now on to the links.

First up, my latest post at InDesign Secrets, Document Differencing.

Layers Magazine has an article on using Conditional Text in InDesign. Aside: ten years later, I still hate the phrase, “in InDesign.” AwKward.

What do you get when you cross Mad Men with Illustrator? Sketchpad, a 1963 computer illustration program created by Ivan Sutherland at MIT.

Thanks to for the heads up.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (leopard, that is). Here’s a PDF on Adobe’s Creative Suite compatibility with Apple’s new version of OS X.

Elpical has a product called Claro Layout (which I haven’t tried yet) which gives you the ability to optimize and enhance your photos from within InDesign. has a vintage Ford Thunderbird drawn in Illustrator that is so awesome it’s either going to inspire me to refresh my vector skills or make me never touch the Pen tool again. Too soon to tell which. has a story about some members of the UK Parliament considering a ban on Photoshopped images for ads targeting kids. They’re upset about the widespread Photoshopping of already attractive people into poreless, wrinkleless monuments to Barbie-doll perfection. Here’s an interactive example of the typical process. Of course, this has been going on for a long time, witness the these pics of 18th century First Lady Dolly Madison:





Prompting Ben Franklin to say, “M’lady, thou art a hottie.”

Designussion (i.e. Design Discussion) has 13 Amazing Vector Cartoon Tutorials.

If that wasn’t enough for you, Designreviver has 50 Illustrator Cartoon Tutorials.

Ever heard of Flash cookies? AKA cloud cookies? Apparently some sites now keep cookies on your surfing habits on their machines. Thus removing the last shred of a hint of the illusion of privacy. Might as well just post your browser history on your Facebook wall.

Wish you knew more about CSS? has 250+ Resources to Help You Become a CSS Expert. Hmmm, wonder if those resources include six months off from real life and a fresh brain.

Stumbleupon has the definitive list of Adobeans on Twitter.

Finally, if you just didn’t get enough rodent, here’s more squirrel bombing and an automatic squirrelizer app.

Layers of Awe

I’ve been dragging a mouse around a Mac screen for over two decades/more than half my life/since Max Headroom was spokespersonality for New Coke. So I’d like to think it takes something insanely cool to get me all worked up. Well, today I came across something insanely cool thanks to Branislav Milic, the guru’s guru when it comes to InDesign. He sent me a link to a simple application called Layers. Layers raison d’etre is “screen forensics.” Think CSI Macintosh. It allows you to save your screen as a layered PSD image, a composite PNG, or as a bunch of separate images. Everything, and I mean everything, down to each icon in your menu bar, can be a separate layer if you like. The whole idea of a screen grab just changed. Every window, every icon on your desktop is separately manipulable. Every object can easily be moved, adjusted, deleted, whatever you like. If you don’t regularly have to capture high quality screen grabs, you are allowed to roll your eyes at me and yawn. But I have to document applications all the time and to me this is freakishly cool and useful. And it’s $15.


MathType + iWork = ?

Huh. Just saw that Design Science, makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, and MathBurger (just kiddin’—I’m hungry), announced that MathType works with Apple’s iWork ’09 suite. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers now all support MathType. Apparently it was announced at MacWorld in SF, but I didn’t know till now. This is weird. For years I have wished for some of MathType’s capabilities in InDesign, and now I get them in iWork. Wished for a pony, got a puppy. That’s OK, puppies are cool. Of course, I’ll hold off on joy till I see how this puppy works. Seems like I can save iWork as Word. But maybe not .docx? Dunno. I’ll find out because I’m going to get Apple’s “Box Set” of iLife, iWork, and Leopard. I’m notorious for losing my OSX install discs, so having a back-up is good, and the kids are pining away for the latest versions of all the iLife apps. Whatever happened to crayons? When I get iWork working, I’ll try out MathType with it and report back here. Man, what’s next—DITA support in GarageBand?

Welcome to Publicious

Hello and thanks from visiting this blog. My name is Mike Rankin and I plan to write mainly about publishing technology since I like it, and I’ve used it to make a living for the last 13 years. I’m most interested in things like Adobe’s Creative Suite, especially InDesign and Photoshop, XML, Flash, and newer tech like rich internet applications. But I’ll also write about things like prepress, CMS, PDF, fonts, color management, etc, and offer up whatever good links I come across. I also hope to have contributions from some of my friends in the design, production, and editorial realms.

But first thing’s first: who am I and how did I get to the point where I would want to blog about publishing technology? I am 39 years old, married, father of 2, living and working in the Greater Boston area. As for my interest in publishing tech, the seed was planted back in 1987. I was a sophomore at Middlebury College, and I got my first computer: the Mac 512k Enhanced. Here it is back in the day.


It cost $2000. In 1987 dollars. That’s like $3700 now. Wow, thanks Mom and Dad.

I don’t have that machine anymore, but a few years back, I rescued a pair of its cousins, 512k that someone had abandoned by the side of the road. One keeps me company at work, the other is destined to be a fish tank, if I ever get around to it.

That first Mac was a huge upgrade over my Sears 300 word processor. Incredibly, the Sears machine was recently unearthed from the darkest recesses of my parents’ closets.


It looks like it would still work, and I even found a site that sells the ink ribbons. Stay tuned for the resurrection.

But in 1987, the Mac 512ke was awesome. My friends and I were like the ape-men in the beginning of Kubrick’s 2001, gathered around this stubby beige monolith. We laid our hands on it and evolved.

At first, I used the little machine just to write papers. Usually with Handel’s Organ Concertos as background music. Ah, soothing toots of genius.

For illustrations, I used a nifty application called FullPaint. 72 ppi bitmap graphics, lovingly crafted pixel by pixel. Here are some samples of my goofier artwork.



Little did I know that there was a guy out there at that very moment using another MacPlus to set the foundation for a little program we now call Photoshop. His MacPlus should be in a museum somewhere.

Fast forward to 1995. In need of a career change, I took a class and learned Quark XPress 3, Illustrator 4, and Photoshop 2.5 on Windows 3.1. I’d call that a digital hazing. The instructor was equally impressed and horrified when I drew a self-portrait using only Quark text boxes. Look ma, no layers!


The redraw was breathtaking. It would’ve caused seizures, if only it had gone faster. But what’s up with that mouth? One day I saw a job posting from an educational publisher in Boston. Money was tight, so I applied, and got the job right away. I never actually finished the class. Wonder what the diploma looked like.

Next up, learning the trade. First freelance. And I mean FREElance. As in, “here’s some pictures of internal organs, re-create them perfectly in Illustrator. When you’re done, we’ll let you know if you can come back tomorrow.” Plus no health insurance, and double social security out of your pocket. Freelance makes you learn fast and work faster. I worked on some difficult books, and some silly ones. Interesting times, but I don’t miss them.

Then came Contract. Six whole months of employment? In a row? Yahoo! My very own phone? Luxury! But still, the end is coming. You work hard so they think of you next time around.

Then at last, there was Staff. My first cubicle. 50 square feet of real estate in the publishing empire. Dilbert took on a whole new meaning. I loved what I was doing, and I was good at it. And I loved being good at it. I wanted to know every Quark command, every keyboard shortcut, every “secret.” I read the manuals. I wanted to be faster and more accurate than anyone else. I played Quark like it was a game. My boss said it was like watching someone play pinball. I collected printouts of Postscript errors like pieces of abstract artwork and decorated my cubicle walls with them. I had achieved desktop publishing geek nirvana.

I stayed in educational publishing and evolved along with it. Projects came and went with the years. I learned new key commands, forgot old ones. PDFs grew like moss everywhere. InDesign replaced Quark. I studied up and became and Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and InDesign. We started to make stuff for the Web. And the jobs started moving away. A lot of good people moved on. I went from making stuff, to teaching people how to make stuff, to writing reports about how someone could, in theory, make stuff. More stuff, faster stuff, customized stuff, multi-media cross-platform stuff. My language became softer than a toasted marshmallow. I went from making books, to authoring solutions. I gave up all hope of my parents ever understanding what I did for a living. My job became very Zen. Or very Seinfeld. I worked on nothing. And yet, I worked on everything.

So here I am today, with head, hard drive, and filing cabinets full of information on publishing tech, and few people to share it with. Nearly all the designers, editors, and production people I worked with have moved on. It’s like I’m in some publishing version of the Lorax. Maybe that’s too grim. Maybe I just need to summarize and organize all this stuff. I need to outsource some of my thinking and memory functions to the Web, so I can devote more mental resources to things like learning Japanese and my kids’ science fair projects. This blog is my way of freeing up brain space by giving me a new container for all this content. You see where I’m headed? Sure you do.

OK, that was probably waaay more information than anyone needed about me, but at least now you know who’s typing this stuff. Next up: The first of many XML posts, plus a sampler of tasty publishing tidbits.