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.

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Lunchtime Links: The Bailout Bonus Edition

Now that the corporate malfeasance has been dealt with by a powerful surge of re-branding, AIG can go back to standing for “anchored inline graphic.” Whew! For a minute there I was worried we were all screwed. At least now the printers will be happy with all the millions spent on new business cards, stationery, signs, etc.

I just posted a way of using GREP styles with Preview in InDesign to play and learn GREP with fewer tears and gnashing of teeth.

A few other popular GREP reources:

Master Yoda was actually speaking of GREP when he famoulsy croaked, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” He also said of Peter Kahrel’s GREP in InDesign CS3, “A better $10, you will not spend, my young apprentice.”

BBEdit’s GREP tutorial

JetSet Communications Adventures in GREP.

The InDesiger’s Undocumented Bit of GREP Gold.

GREP-free links

This summer Montreal will play host to the XML alpha geek community when the Balisage 2009, conference hits town. Montreal, summer, XML, oui, oui, oui! Anyone interested in being a speaker must submit a paper by April 24th. Ahem, Mr. Damitz, I’m looking at you…

Counting human beans: maybe the AIG bonuses wouldn’t have happened if the execs’ performance had been subjected to this kind of scrutiny.

If you like your graphic design preserved with a good dose of sodium benzoate, check out the magnificent decontrstuction of Pepsi’s new look. at Before&After.

NCAA, meet PDF: in Adobe’s Ultimate Tourney Guide. (Acrobat 9′er required). You only have to pay for it if your picks all lose. Call it a virtual vig. 😉

Lastly: Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for exactly five years ago. When Adobe was touting the new CS as the most important box of software you’d see for the next five years. Guess they didn’t see the fact that in five years, there wouldn’t BE any software in boxes. They were clearly living in the past. If the cloud people have their way, in five years, there won’t be any software on my computer.

See ya, kids. I’m off to collect my bailout bonus: a bowl of Ramen.

A Little Greplet

Just a quick example to whet your grepetite.

I was looking at some XML code in InDesign today and wishing I could emulate Dreamweaver, Oxygen, etc, where you can pick highlighting colors for code, to make it a lot easier to read. The code was actually an example spelled out on the document page, not real live XML in the structure pane.

Even a small piece of code can be pretty taxing on my little brain when it looks like this.

I look at that and think, “when’s lunch?”

Then I think, “what’s a quick way to make the tags bold and something other than black?” I think you could get some fancy results with nested styles, but a) that was more work than I wanted to do, and b) I didn’t want to add any styles to the document.

Voila, a greplet is born.

What this dialog is saying to InDesign is, “find all my opening and closing tags and make them bold and blue.”

Literally, find “<” followed by one or more word characters “\w+” followed by “>” or “|” “</” followed by one or more word characters “\w+” followed by “>”

Hit Change All and we get this:

It still ain’t the Mona Lisa, but at least I’m not eating my lunch at 10 AM just to get away from it.

Peel Me A GREP

I am not a scripter, nor do I play one on TV. I know my share of HTML, CSS, and XML, but really I’m just an old school publishing geek who never tires of learning the next trick or tool. My hands are all GUI from years of keyboard shortcuts.

I know scripting is in my future. It’s just too powerful, too useful, too cool to put off much longer. And I am totally jealous of the power of scripters. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve attended AppleScript and JavaScript seminars, but they didn’t stick. Hell, I have driven around an 800-page JavaScript book on the passenger seat of my car all summer, in hopes that it would start talking to me during my commute. No dice. So as a gentle, evolutionary step toward scripting, I’ve been working to learn GREP within InDesign

GREP was added to InDesign with CS3 as a more powerful means of finding and replacing text. While it sounds like something you should be inoculated against (“The nurse gave Johnny his Dip/Tet, his Grep, and a lollipop.”) it really stands for General Regular Expression Print. Forget the General and the Print part, the heart of it are these things called Regular Expressions, little secret codes that function in a Find/Change operation. And they make GREP searches a jillion times more powerful than a plain Text search.

Text search in InDesign only gives you four wildcards: Any Digit, Any Letter, Any Character, and Any Whitespace. GREP has those plus many more wildcards. It also lets you look for locations, like the beginning and endings of words and paragraphs. So you can say “find every word (of any length) starting with a capital letter”.

It lets you specify repeat values, so you can say things like, “find every number of three or more digits”. Or, even fancier, “find every hyphen in between numbers of three or more digits”.

And you can add logic, to say find “Mike” or “mike,”, or find every word ending in “ike,” except “Mike.”

And it lets you take any part of a found expression and leave it alone. So you can find phone numbers, add parens around the area codes, and leave the numbers themselves unchanged.

Combine this text-finding ability with Find Format settings, and I think it’s fair to say you can now Find/Change anything you can think of in an InDesign document. Providing you’re thinking of text, of course.

The only “problem” with GREP is, it’s more digital trivia to learn. Your brain’s already addled with passwords, keyboard shortcuts, file formats, and the names of all the actors on Barney Miller. For the love of Abe Vigoda, how are you going to learn GREP codes?

You can just start playing, but that can be frustrating to say the least, because like all coding adventures, you don’t get much feedback when you’re doing it wrong. Nothing happens, or the wrong thing happens and you have no idea how to fix it. I bought the O’Reilly Safari book on GREP in InDesign CS3, which very good, well worth the $10. But there’s something even better, and it comes from New Zealand.

For learning GREP, there’s a great, free online tool called The Lightning Brain GREPGrokker. It’s offered up by Rorohiko Ltd. who also have a bunch of free and commercial plug-ins for InDesign (make your own Sudoku! Sweet!). The GREP Grokker is an interactive tool for learning GREP. You can follow the step-by-step instructions and see how typing in certain codes selects text. Or you can type/paste in your own text and search on that. It is just so cool to see how the selection changes as you change your codes. It’s very “oooh”, “ahh”. Check it out. And check out Rorohiko’s other plug-ins. There’s some fun free stuff in there. Like if you used to love Quark’s Jabberwocky, they have a version of it for InDesign.