Publicious Links: The Dude, Where’s My Blog? Edition

And we’re back.

Sometime Monday the domain mapping that transforms mild-mannered “” to it’s super hero identity “” expired. Silly me, forgot to pay the bill. For about 48 hours, I was thinking I had offended some very important bots in Internetland. All the incoming links to Publicious disappeared and traffic was down more than 90%. It felt like Publicious had been put in solitary confinement.

After the inital shock, I said, “Oh well, whatever. Home alone at last. Now that everyone’s gone, I have all the time in the world and the whole internet to myself. Maybe I’ll just put on some Carpenters, kick back with bag of Cheetos, and check out SpongeBob On Demand.”

Every sha-la-la, Every whoa-o-oh, still shines.


But then I got lonely. I finally figured out I should check one of the sites that links here and see what happens. Bingo. A hop, skip, and credit card payment later, I am once again master of my domain. Now, help yourself to some Cheetos. On with the show.

Might as well start with my latest post at, Snippet Style InJectors. I stumbled on this idea when I was preparing for a presentation last fall, and noticed that all the document resources used by a snippet get placed before the snippet itself. I said to myself, “Self, this could be useful someday.”

Drawn! the cartoon and illustration blog has an interesting video of an artist laying out a comic book in InDesign. You’ll never look at the Pencil tool the same way again.

Miverity has a tutorial on how to build a Flash XML slideshow app for a website.

Smashing Magazine has an article on Ten Simple Steps to Better Photoshop Performance. Life is short, no time for beachball cursrors.

The Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog has an good article on ebook format wars. Which one will end up the Betamax of the 21st century?

Speaking of which…

InformationWeek weighs in on the same ebook format issue, with a Sony v. Amazon angle.

Gigaom is ready to declare a winner: Adobe, because of Sony’s embrace of EPUB.

Relatedly (is that a word? if not, I just made it one) Digital Media Buzz has the scoop on Adobe’s Open Source efforts.

Thinking of using an online word processor? Read’s comparison of GoogleDocs, Zoho, and Buzzword.

Quick, how do you make a dotted line in Photoshop? Sitepoint has some nice quick tips about using Photoshop brush options for dotted lines and such.

One writer thinks the bloom is off the Rich Internet App rose already, with the arrival of Google’s Chrome. Please, don’t be evil, Google. Please. has some ‘tony tutorials (as in duotone, tritone, etc).

Finally, if you’ve ever wished to see Photoshop and Illustrator battle to the death as giant transformer robots with foul language (and who hasn’t?) I recommend checking out GoMediaZine’s ongoing Photoshop vs. Illustrator series.

Announcing: Publicious To Go!

I know in this day and age, no one is disconnected from the Web for longer than they can hold their breath. Still, I have heard from some people that it would be nice if Publicious content were served up in a PDF package, for viewing offline or just sans browser. Being the media-agnostic guy I am, I heard and obeyed. So now you can get Publicious To Go. Just pull up to the drive thru and grab yourself 18 pages of the tastiest publishing tech content anywhere.

You can download either the “Big Gulp” (48.7 MB), which contains an awesome bonus Easter egg, or the “lite” version (3.67 MB). Both versions have the same Publicious content.

Publicious To Go, vol. 1 July 2009 (lite version 3.67 MB PDF)

Publicious To Go, vol. 1 July 2009 (with Easter egg 48.7 MB PDF)

Picture 12


Publicious Links: The Moonwalking In Threes Edition

They say celebrity deaths come in threes. I say, you see what you want to see. But this past week was pretty hard on 20th century cultural icons. If you’ve lost track of who’s still with us, consult Dead or Alive? Oh, nevermind, I’ll save you the trip: Abe Vigoda still walks the earth.

First off, poor Ed McMahon. The guy spends decades in the public spotlight as Carson’s sidekick. Night after night, and with Memorex precision, he delivers the chiseled-in-the-collective-memory line, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” For a side gig, he props up a molten Jerry Lewis every Labor Day for the final timpani. He even has the cartoonish celebrity second act with Star Search and the thing that wasn’t quite Publisher’s Clearinghouse. And when he dies, he gets two seconds of attention.

Next up, poor Farrah. I never quite got the obsession with her or her bodacious hair. Yes, Farrah was incredibly beautiful. But I had only one true love during my single-digit years, and that was Lindsay Wagner, aka Jaime Sommers, the true, be-scarfed Bionic Woman. Still, the impact of Farrah’s locks and teeth is undeniable. And happily, she earned major props for her acting craft as well as her looks. So she got four seconds of attention this week.

Which brings me to the King of Pop. What more can anyone say about the Curious Case of Michael Jackson? I was a teenager in the 80s, but it never occurred to me to actually buy Thriller. It would be like buying air. I watched MTV for about four years straight, without blinking, from 1982-1985. I heard Thriller on a daily, if not hourly basis, for years on end. It was like life in a prison in the Phillipines. Now I watch this video of him auditioning for Berry Gordy at age ten, channelling James Brown with such precision that it freaks me out. For his otherworldly talent, this ten year old kid got his childhood replaced with showbiz, and became the most famous person on the planet. The unraveling that occurred afterward, is amazing to me, only in that it took so long.

So to Ed, Farrah, and Michael, I will picture you three moonwalking off the stage together. Rest in peace.

Oops, in my self-indulgence, I forgot this is a blog about publishing technology. How about some links?

First, GridIron Software has just released Flow. It is way cooler than sliced bread. How would you like for your files to know how they are all related? Images know which InDesign layouts they’ve been placed in. PDFs know which documents they were created from. You say you only remember the name of a layer in a Photoshop file? No problem, you can find it. And so on and so on. I don’t like to throw around the word “amazing,” but Flow really is A-freaking-mazing. I’ve installed the trial version and I think living without it is going to be impossible from here on out.

From the how did we ever live without Photoshop category, part 1: Gizmodo has 65 Ancient Video Games I Wish Existed.

From the how did we ever live without Photoshop category, part 2: Wonkette has Sarah Palin’s quixotic and hopeless war vs. Photoshop.

Ever wonder how Adobe came to be? Wonder what it might have to do with Xerox? Check out a nice little bio of founder John Warnock.

Here’s a couple of my recent posts from InDesign Secrets: Honey, I Blew Up the Color Panel, Bridge Font Blind Spot, and Eye Candy, Part 5: Blending a la Mode.

As the digital revolution comes full circle, the phrase “Web to Print” is going to be heard a lot. Bitstream’s Pageflex Storefront uses InDesign Server to power its piece of the Web to Print pie.

GREP Master Peter Kahrel has posted a brilliant tutorial on Dealing With Long GREP Expressions. My advice: caffeinate heavily before reading.

At work, I was asked to evaluate someone’s choice of 100c70m drop shadows. My evaluation was “um, no.” Here’s how to make a blue shadow in real life.

Brian Lawler (author of the Official Adobe Print Publishing Guide) has posted an interesting idea for using Photoshop’s Count tool.

From the It’s A Small World, But I Wouldn’t Want to Print It Dept: How about a digital archive that contains all the peer-reviewed mathematical literature ever published? That’s about 100 million pages. No sweat, say the folks behind the Digital Mathematics Library Project.

Print and prepress guru par excellence Steve Werner is giving a eSeminar on InDesign Best Prepress Practices on July 1. If you miss it, you can catch the recorded version.

Thomas Silkjær has posted a nice set of highly-organized pre-defined styles for InDesign, which you can modify to suit your own needs.

ShapeCollage is a nifty, free tool for making collages out of your photos. You can arrange any number of pictures into any shape.

Popular Science has a prototype color-picking pen, that mimics Photoshop’s eyedropper. It’s supposed to scan the color of any real life object and then recreate that color with ink. Too bad the desinger needs a remedial lesson in the physics of subtractive color and CMYK. Still, it’s a mind-blowing concept.

Guided by the Light (Blue, Magenta, or even Gray)

Guides are a wonderful thing. If you’ve ever drawn a guide on your layout so you can lock frames to that guide, you’ll know how nice it is to just click, drag, let go and get perfectly aligned rows of frames. But sometimes you don’t want dozens of guides drawn all over your page.

If you haven’t used the Margins and Columns panel under the Layout menu, I suggest you check it out. It’s a fantastic way to create guide lines on your layout without having anything that can be accidentally dragged or moved.  The margin guides can be hidden, are visible in InCopy, and make it a great way to show that you’ve got your art and text in the live area of your file. Whether you are creating a book where you need to make sure that there is the correct amount of white space in the gutter to keep things from getting cut off in the binding, or whether you’re creating a postcard and want to make sure you don’t have text too close to the trim so you don’t risk losing something that is very important in the final image. And if you’re often dragging around frames, if you keep your Snap to Guides selected, your boxes will lock to the margin guides and you’ll have less work to perform to get items to align.

If you have a non-facing pages document, your Margins and Columns guide will look like this:
If you have a facing pages document, your Margins and Columns guide will look like this:

And that’s great. Having a guide on the page to always let you know if you’re within your safe printing or binding area is wonderful. But there is more that you can do with unselectable guides.

In that same window there are column guides you can set, too.  Imagine a newspaper front page. There are likely very even columns of text with white space between them and occasionally image boxes that align on those columns.  But what if your layout calls for you to have one really wide column and one skinny column? Well, if you choose 3 columns and adjust the gutter (which is the white space between columns) then you just can create one text area that runs across two columns and one text frame that runs across one. In this example the light blue box is your main text column and the light pink box is your secondary text column.

The Document Setup window also has settings that will apply permanent guides. If you’ve got documents that need to have a set bleed per your printer’s requests, you can set that as well in the Document Setup window. Click on More Options and you can enter in the amount of your bleed and a colored guide line will appear outside your document edge. If you enter a slug area in that same window you’ll get another colored line appearing outside your document edge. The slug area is a great place to put information that you may want to be able to include in a printout or a PDF, but that you would also want to exclude from a printout or PDF.  (When you print, you can choose to have your bleeds or your slug area included in the printout or PDF.


The nice thing about all these guide lines is that you can determine what color they appear in your document. And you can align those colors with the colors of your layers. Say your slug guide lines are light blue. You can create a layer called slug, make sure it is colored light blue, and then you can add whatever info to a text frame that you might find helpful. This makes the slug guidelines and your text frame the same color so they’re easy to visually relate to each other.

And because InDesign is almost as flexible as a performer for Cirque de Soleil you can either create all of these items when you create a new document:

You can have different margins on each spread, or even each page.

If you know you’re going to have just a few different types of shell files with guides, swatches, layers, even styles then you can create a file that has all the info in it you want all of your documents to have, save it as a template (it will have .indt in the name). Then when you want to create a new file choose File/New/Document from Template. Open your desired file and you’re ready to go and you’ll know that all of your preferences are set. In fact, if you choose that option now you’ll be taken to Bridge where you can see all the different templates that InDesign comes loaded with. Might be worth poking around to see if there is anything that will help you out.

X-Treme Rogue Spots: Issue 1

Sometimes when I’m creating templates I feel like an X-Men style mutant. Able to see things others don’t see or care about. Finding latent threats hidden in plain view. Finding myself enthralled with a single-dimensional world where colors are brighter than the real world. (Hey, it’s been pretty gray in Chicago lately.)

And one of the things that I find myself running into pretty frequently, especially with files that have been saved up from a previous version of InDesign, is something I like to call rogue swatches. (Now do you get the X-Men reference?)

Anyway, I opened a file recently to turn it into a template. There were several pieces of art that had been linked but that I wasn’t given. I knew that these art pieces were going to be placed in the final document by someone else and I didn’t need the art to create a template. And I knew that my document was going to be printed in 1-color. And that color was the very acceptable, but very boring Black.

However I couldn’t find the unwanted Pantone spot swatch in my document and went through every paragraph style and character style trying to find where it was used. I didn’t have the linked art to see which piece of art might be bringing the swatch into my palette so I decided to delete everything to try to find it. I deleted all the art frames, all the paragraph styles, all the character styles, all the object styles, all the table and cell styles. I ended up with a document that only had guides in it, and that blasted swatch.


The designer confirmed that there should be no spot colors in the final document. So I began looking for other methods of deletion. Based on several websites (none of which had the cognitive abilities of Professor Xavier) I created a set of steps that seem to work most of the time.

Step 1
Choose “Select All Unused” in the Swatches palette. You should be able to “Delete Swatch” by clicking the trash can icon. If it is greyed out like the screenshot above, then move on to the next step.

Step 2
Export your document as an Interchange Document. Open the .inx file you’ll find located on your hard drive. Try to delete the unused swatches again. Not feeling super-powered yet?

Step 3
Create a new InDesign file. Select all of the unused swatches and delete them. Grab your rogue swatch from your original file and drag it to this new document. If any other swatches come through with it (seems to happen for me in CS3), delete them. Create an empty frame and fill it with your rogue swatch. Export this file as a pdf. Place the pdf in your original file. Delete it. Your chances of being able to select the rogue swatch and delete it should be greater now. But still no? Ay yi yi! I know how you feel.

Step 4
Create an empty Illustrator file. Create a new swatch that has the exact same name as the rogue swatch, but the swatch makeup doesn’t matter as long as it does have a color applied. Make sure that it is saved as a spot color if your rogue swatch is spot, and process if your rogue is process. Save this as a .ai file and as a .pdf. Open your original InDesign file, place both elements on your page and delete them one at a time. You should now be able to delete the rogue swatch.

I sincerely hope you can delete the swatch. If you can’t, please, please contact me. I’d love to take your file and see if I can figure it out. Seriously! Cause my super-power? Total geekery.

Lunchtime Links: The Happy Birthday Publicious Edition

Happy Birthday, Publicious!

One year ago today, I published my first Publicious post. Here we are 150 posts later! This has been incredibly fun, rewarding, and tiring. In honor of the occasion, all of today’s links are staying “in house.” Sort of a Greatest Hits thing. Without further ado, here are the 10 most popular Publicious posts to date, according to the WordPress stats.

10. Über-Master Pages in which Cinnamon shows she is the Buffy of page layout.

9. Adventures in FontStruction in which I re-create the 8-bit Atari glory of my youth, one pixel at a time.

8. House of a Different Color in which I apply a virtual coat of paint to my in-laws’ house, thereby avoiding the actual job. Gotta love digitizing your chores. Now if I could just apply the Scoop filter to the litterbox…

7. Try to Tri-Fold Correctly in which Cinnamon drops the knowledge of just how tricky it is to make a brochure really right. Almost as cool as being able to fold a t-shirt in 2 seconds. Oops, OK, I’ll let that one external link slide.

6. TLF, My New BFF in which I wax rhapsodic about the possibilities of Adobe’s text tech.

5. Streamlining InDesign Templates in which Cinnamon shows how to build an InDesign document right, from the ground up.

4.  Basically Adaptable Styles in which Cinnamon offers up a sequel to her templating hit.

3. The Road to Hell is Paved With Double Clicks in which I reveal to the world just how far I am willing to go down the rabbit hole in search of that last morsel of geek.

2. Is This What a Kindle Killer Looks Like? in which I think I’m smarter than a company that got 615 million visitors to its website last year.

1. CS5 Revealed! in which I play a Nostradorkus, foretelling of the future of publishing tech in a book that I found at my town recycling center one Saturday. It’s Back to the Future, with mullets and vectors.

Now that’s a spicy meatball. First, a huge thanks to Cinnamon, since four of those top ten posts are hers. If only I could sabotage her sewing machine… Second, there are no posts by Eric on that list, simply because his stuff hasn’t been around long enough to accumulate mad stats yet. However, IMNSHO, Eric’s “Bits and Pieces” series should be required reading for anyone who may have to deal with XML in publishing. Which is, like, everyone, right? So here you go.

The Bits and Pieces I: Making XML

The Bits and Pieces II: Content Model

The Bits and Pieces III: Building Blocks

The Bits and Pieces IV: The Vendors

And what’s a birthday without presents? Here’s a gift for everyone: I’ve found another massively talented person to agree to be a contributor. She’s an amazing digital artist who will bring a whole new area of expertise to Publicious. Who is this person? Stay tuned!

OK, I have to go blow out these candles before the wax drips inside my keyboard.

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.


Try to Tri-fold Correctly

Mike was nice enough to mail me a crowbar and my postal carrier (a rather awesome woman named RoJean, actually) was nice enough to apply a little bit of leverage once it arrived so I could crawl out from under that rather heavy load. And the timing was perfect since my cats had eaten through the supply of potato chips and were starting to eye my toes. *shudder*

But while I was under that looming hunka heaviness, I thought back on how my life has changed since I started doing page layout work for a living. I’ve been fortunate to work in a couple of different industries, including a service bureau that honestly felt like a Kinko’s-style copy center with nicer carpet. I punched and drilled and bound and proofed and pdf’d my little heart out. And while I recognized that most of our clients were administrative assistants who had to figure out how to get something printed, I hated them for using Excel to create posters and Powerpoint to create banners. But, I learned a lot at this job and a lot of what I learned was what NOT to do. It was at this job that I realized that there are a fair number of websites with introductory information and thanks to great Google-foo (If I could have a black belt in this I totally would!) I can usually find more information about my more obscure and advanced needs on the internet. But what is lacking, and what I’m *obviously* geekily interested in, is transitioning users from having the basic knowledge of how the tools work and making it possible for them to use those tools with slightly better practices to create files that work better and cleaner. And there are limitations to what you can get some pieces of software to do (personally I’d love to see Adobe completely rewrite the Office suite of products), but with a little creativity and finger-crossing you can often get something beautiful with crudely made tools. So not only am I hoping to write more often about some great ways to use InDesign better (to keep Mike from mailing me a wrecking-ball), but I also want to exorcise some of my previous-life print demons and share some information that many mind helpful.

One of the most commonly printed promotional items that this previous job printed was the tri-fold brochure. A tri-fold brochure is a really fancy way of saying a piece of paper that has been printed on both sides and then folded into thirds. So if you’re going to put together one for say, oh maybe a small accessories company, you’d probably just start with a basic InDesign document set up like this:
to get a page that looks like this:

1p gutter gives you room to fold the brochure without having anything important touching the fold line. The p3 margin keeps anything important 1/4″ away from the edge of the paper which should take into consideration most color copiers gripper edges. I’m assuming that you’re planning on having your brochure printed on letter-size paper on a standard color copier. If you’re getting your brochure printed on a more traditional press, or if you’re planning on having your items bleed off the edge and get trimmed to size later, then these limitations won’t matter. But I’m going to assume this is getting printed on the cheap.

However, what this very basic setup doesn’t take into account is the “turn” of the paper. If you’re going to have a piece of paper folded and then folded again, there is an extra piece of paper in the way of permitting your brochure to fold flat, and its even more noticeable if you’re using a sheet of 80 pound coverstock. Now if you take into consideration that the paper is getting folded by a machine and that if the machine isn’t calibrated perfectly, the inner-most folded flap could be just a wee bit wider so when the other fold happens you get flap interference that results in your inner-flap getting crinkled as it goes through the folding device.

But thankfully there is a very easy to prevent this. All you have to do is make three even panels, and then make the panel that gets folded in 1/16″-inch more narrow. You can either pay to have that narrow strip trimmed off your paper (but we’re going for cheap, right?) or you can divide that 1/16″ by two and add 1/32″ of an inch to the other two panels. No matter your paper width, your brochure formula looks like:
Panel 1- (front panel): 1/3 of the paper length + 1/32″
Panel 2- (back panel): 1/3 of the paper length + 1/32″
Panel 3- (inner panel): 1/3 of the paper length – 1/16″

If you’re going to be using letter-size paper, your panels look like this (converted to decimals, instead of fractions):

Panel 1: 3.67 + .03125 = 3.698
Panel 2: 3.67 + .03125 = 3.698
Panel 3: 3.67 – .0625 = 3.604

And if you think this little bit of extra math is so not important, then keep in mind that your print-shop will remember that they had to do extra work to your file last time so next time they’ll charge you more to make up for it. Or, your client (the accessories company) might decide that since your brochure had crinkled pages, they’d be better of finding someone else to layout their “really simple” brochure. Trust me that paying attention to the smallest of details will set you apart from the mass of people who don’t. I always, always, always recommend calling your print-shop and telling them what you’re getting printed and ask if they have any requirements.

So, now that we know what our brochure panels should be set to, what is the best way to set guides so we don’t have to draw guides and rules? Unfortunately the Margins and Columns option (shown in the first screenshot above) will no longer work for us since our columns aren’t even. So draw a ruler guide and make the X-location = 3.698. Copy the guide, paste in place, and type +3.698 into the x-location box so it reads
<b>3.698+3.698</b>. If you haven’t yet figured out that you can do basic math in these boxes, give it a shot.

Hit return and you should now have two guides on the page. This page is now the inside of your brochure. You’ll need to create another page to be the outside of your brochure. Since the last panel of your first page will be the first panel of your second page, you’ll create the panel widths differently. Draw a ruler guide and position it at 3.604 in the X-location. Copy the guide, paste it in place, and add 3.698 to position the second guide correctly.

You now have a very basic skeleton of a brochure template. And this setup is perfect if you know that the folding capabilities of your bindery or print shop is great and you can have full-color bleed go directly to the fold-line without it going over. However if you’re not sure about the folding accuracy of your final product, here are a few suggestions.
* If possible keep the inside of your brochure having no background fill in any of the columns. Think of it as one piece, instead of one piece divided in three.
* If you have to have solid fills of color, keep the fill 1/4″ from the outside edge of the paper and at least 1/8″ from the fold-line. This will prevent you from getting a sliver of your front cover bleeding into your back cover.
* As tempting as it is, try to not make the text and art on your front and back cover perfectly centered. If it is centered perfectly you’ll see exactly how badly the folding was. Try to keep the imagery and text balanced, but not even.
• Or, keep any items that need to be centered and as close to full-bleed as possible, at least 1/4″ away from the edges of the panel. This should keep you from getting a badly folded brochure that makes your panel look really off-kilter.

So if you’re really unsure about the quality of the final folding (keep in mind that your sample is most likely going to be folded by hand and therefore perfect), and you want your template to take this into consideration, here is a simple way to alter your template to create a “no ink zone” in the fold area.

Draw a line that overlaps your guide perfectly. In the stroke palette, change it to be .25″ wide. You know have a very wide stroke that you can make any color that makes you happy. Keep in mind that if you want to duplicate this line and move it to overlap your second guide, you should have the center square of your “reference point” chosen. Otherwise, the left edge of your guide will align if you have the top-left reference point chosen. And as we’ve proven, 1/32″ can make a difference in your final product. I suggest putting these strokes on a separate layer and setting it to be a non-printing layer.

TLF, my new BFF

Peoples, peoples, peoples, if you are the least bit interested seeing what will drive publishing workflows in the very near future, run, don’t walk your mouse over to the Adobe Labs and check out everything you can on Text Layout Framework. Such a dull-sounding name for such a mind-blowing technology. They should have called it the Textinator, or Fontapocalypse, or something. It’s going to be large. TLF (in beta) is a framework in Flash and Flex that will allow developers supreme control over typography in the browser. Any font, any layout, anywhere (OK, anywhere there’s Flash Player 10 installed, but that’s going to be everywhere).

That would be big enough news if it were just about a revolution in web design. But what I’m thinking about is the ways this technology could be used to make content, as well as deliver it. Because of what I do for a living, I’ve been babbling about the need to have content authoring in the browser. I’m sooo beyond sick of Word templates and web forms. I want an authoring tool with the feel of working in Adobe InCopy, with a rich layout and typography that matches what I get in InDesign, combined with the slickness of Buzzword, and capable of delivering some XML I can transform into some cool output.

Well, I think we just took a giant step in that direction with TLF. We’ll have websites and RIAs (Rich Internet Apps) that exploit TLF to deliver authoring anywhere. I promise you, in 5 years you won’t recognize the Creative Suite. This is the beginning of the end of the age desktop publishing applications, as we’ve known them for the last 20 years or so. They may be virtualized in the cloud, or mashed up and served as RIAs. They will morph and evolve like the liquid metal terminator in T2. But hopefully with less dying involved.

Disappointed to the MAX

This one hurts. For the last two years, I’ve trekked westward to partake of the AdobeMAX conference. A few days ago I got the bad news that The Corporation would not foot the admittedly substantial bill this time. As for paying the $1600 myself, I’d have an easier time convincing the home Board of Trustees (wife, kids, cats) of putting that money in an Icelandic bank. Jeez, it’s as if there were some kind of global economic meltdown happening. Did I miss a meeting?

MAX is Adobe’s biggest, glitziest, most-cutting edge user conference event of the year, where they show off the tools and the vision that they’re pouring their best efforts into. And it’s where the cool kids hang out. It’s the hipster Macromedia crowd, with Adobe’s $$$ to spend. The Vegas show in ’06 was particularly decadent. Someday I’ll blog about the party at Rain. Though I’d be breaking the WHAM SAM policy (What Happens At MAX, Stays At MAX). It’s easy to feel a little old amongst the sk8boarding Flex shredders. I have computers older than some of these people. But the vibe and the energy are a lot of fun. The technology is exciting. I get free drinks when people mistake me for Kevin Lynch. And after a long day in XMLand, I get treated to the vocal stylings of Richard Cheese. It is geek heaven. Man I’m gonna miss it.

MAX is where I first saw Adobe AIR, then called Apollo. Ditto for Mars technology, which is a XML-based file format for PDF rendering. Sound familiar? IDML for InDesign, XFL for Flash, Mars for PDF. To say that Adobe sees XML as the core of future publishing technology is the understatement of the year. To them, it’s not Cousin Oliver, it’s the whole damned Brady Bunch. And the ramifications are huge. These file formats will be even more revolutionary than what MP3 was to audio. No longer is content locked in a large, opaque formats. Anyone with the knowledge and a text editor can open, examine, and edit InDesign, Flash, and PDF content. Not that you would, but you could. More to the point, a developer could write an application to parse InDesign, Flash, and PDF content via XML. Oh wait, that already exists. It’s called a browser.

“But,” you say, “a browser doesn’t have a tool panel like Flash, InDesign, and Acrobat. And a browser only works when you’re connected to the internet.” Right. I hate to get all Socratic in a blog with a candy-like logo, but you just answered your own question. Adobe AIR and Flex let developers write rich internet apps that work online or offline, with all the benefits of a browser, and a completely custom interface.

If this vision becomes reality, the Creative Suite will be exploded into a thousand rich internet applications. Each customized up the wazoo. All seamlessly fitting with each other because they all speak in XML. All connected back to the Enterprise Content Mothership, be it MarkLogic, XHive, or Joe Mama’s XML Database. InDesign on your iPhone? No problem. Just deciding which flavor of “InDesign” might be the challenge. There will be hundreds.

Gotta go, there’s a board meeting in 5 minutes. The cats are demo-ing a Rich Internet Litterbox.