Save time and space with InDesign Workspaces

Adobe InDesignIf you’re the type who likes to have their InDesign panels in a certain spot all the time, or like to have certain panels open for certain types of projects, you simply must take advantage of Workspaces. Workspaces allows you to save your panel locations for use at any time. To save your Workspace, set your panels up the way you like them, then go to Window>Workspace>Save Workspace… Name your workspace when prompted. That’s it. To test it, move your panels around, close some, open some others. Then go back to Window>Workspace and select the Workspace you just named from the list. Your panels should all snap back to where they were when you saved. You can set up multiple Workspaces. I have one for when I’m working on text heavy documents in which I have most of the text-related panels like text wrap, story, character, styles, etc. open. Then I have another one for “all-around use” which have totally different panel locations. If you work on multiple computers, you can bring your Workspace with you, though it’s not quite as easy as it should be. To bring your Workspace with you, navigate in the Finder to: Users/YourUserName/Library/Preferences/Adobe InDesign/Version 5/ Workspaces. If you’re still running CS2, the path is the same except substitute Version 4 for Version 5 in the file path. In that folder you’ll see an XML file named after the Workspaces you’ve saved. Simply burn it to CD or email it to your other computer and place it in the same folder on that computer. Workspaces aren’t exclusive to InDesign. All the Adobe Creative Suite 3 applications have them, and work in much the same way. Photoshop goes a few steps further in that it also allows you to save any custom keyboard shortcuts and menu customizations you’ve made in the Workspace as well.

Good designers copy, great designers steal

Pablo Picasso, the first living artist to be featured in the Louvre, influenced the artistic world in a uniquely original way. So why is he known for saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal?”

The key? Steal from discreet sources.

Cameron Moll, a freelance new media and print designer, wrote an article a few years back on the topic, but I find it still relevant today. Stop by SitePoint and take a look at Good designers copy, great designers steal.

How to use the InDesign gradient feather tool

With InDesign CS3 came yet another useful tool that prevents the need to switch to Photoshop to alter an image you’re using in your page layout. It’s called Gradient Feather, and you can find it under the normal Gradient tool in the InDesign Tools panel. Of course adding transparency to your image directly in Adobe InDesign is nothing new. If you recall, InDesign CS2 offered a simple feather feature to your images, but in a limiting manner in which the feather applied to all sides of the image at once. Not very useful in my opinion. With CS3, we can now select the image in our layout with the direct selection tool, then select the Gradient Feather tool by either clicking and holding the Gradient tool in the Tools panel and selecting the Gradient Feather from the flyout menu, or simply hitting Shift + G. Now all you have to do is click and drag over your image as you would to apply a normal gradient and you’re good to go – see the quick results in the animated gif image to the right.

Use native graphics files when placing into your layout

I can’t stress enough the importance of saving your Photoshop and Illustrator files as native .psd and .ai files, rather than the old standby .tif and .eps. While these older formats will work just fine for most uses, when you place native files you get the advantage of full transparency support and most times, smaller file sizes. Let’s say you have applied a drop shadow to an object in Illustrator. If you save it as an .ai file, the shadow will appropriately darken whatever color or object that is underneath it in your InDesign document. If you save the same Illustrator file as an .eps you get unexpected results – usually a white bounding box behind the shadow either on screen, when printed, or both.

Huge collection of grunge fonts available for download

If you read my article at Macworld about Bulking up your font collection, you’ve hopefully visited some of the great font sites available out there and found a few gems. One of the hardest type of fonts to find to your liking is really good grunge fonts. Many times they’re either overdone and too hard to read, or not “grungy” enough. Enter daFont member named Gyom Séguin (a.k.a. Last Soundtrack). This talented font designer has a collection of grunge fonts like none I’ve come across. Virtually every one of his over 30 grunge fonts is well-crafted and ready to use in your design, including the superb Bleeding Cowboys font seen in the sample above. Check out Gyom’s collection of grunge fonts here.

Design choices can cripple a Web site

AListApart has an old article by Nick Usborne titled Design Choices Can Cripple a Web site. While the article is quite old, it still argues a point that I feel (almost) exactly the opposite about. I believe that the content of a Web site provides the site its worth – the design has to be at least acceptable and pleasant to the eye, but it is not the major reason for me to visit. Nick appears to favor the design of a site over the content (at least, that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn after reading). As designers we tend to focus on the design, the bells & whistles and the functionality of a site. But we must not forget the content. You can’t make a promise with design that you can’t deliver with content.

Finding a mouse for the creative Mac Pro

Behind the Mac itself on the list of most important pieces of equipment to buy, I generally find the input device as the uncontested Number Two. It’s what you use to communicate with your Mac. When considering an input device in the design business (and probably audio/video editing), not only is comfort a consideration, but the feature set ranks pretty highly as well. Recently, I found myself wanting a new mouse and decided to dig out some of my old hardware and try out some new stuff. In this Macworld article I review Apple’s Mighty Mouse, the Kensington Expert Mouse (trackball) and Logitech’s MX Revolution.

Review: Inside Adobe InDesign Newsletter

Somewhere on the Web I came across an offer for a free issue of Inside Adobe InDesign, a monthly newsletter for ID users, and took advantage of the offer. You’ve seen these offers, get your free issue, no obligation, cancel at any time, blah, blah, blah. About three weeks (give or take) after I signed up, I received an invoice for $147 from Eli Journals (the publisher), stating that they haven’t received payment for my subscription yet. To be quite honest, I didn’t even remember what it was they were invoicing me for since I hadn’t received anything yet, so I tossed the invoice. About a week or two after receiving the invoice, I finally got my copy of IAID. It’s a 16 page, 8.5 x 11 glossy, full color newsletter which was pre-punched for a 3-ring binder. Nothing overly fancy about the design of the newsletter, but hey – I’m paying for the content, right?! Oh, by the way, I also got another invoice. I guess I’m spoiled with my subscription to Layers Magazine, which by the way costs 1/3 the amount and averages over 120 pages. The content of IAID fell WAY SHORT of what I was expecting, though maybe that’s my fault for expecting anything useful. Inside I was treated to the following content:

  • Four pages on “avoiding registration mishaps by setting a perfect trap.” Now I must admit that knowing what trapping is and how it can affect your document when printed is important, but any commercial printer worth the ink on their business card handles the trapping for you. Additionally, 99% of the RIPs out there that a printer uses will override your trap settings when printed unless you specifically tell them not to – in which case your carefully trapped document can turn out to be a mess because their RIP is calibrated to trap to their particular output device. In the end, this was a great way to fill four pages, but of little use to anyone who knows commercial printing.
  • Three pages of a tutorial on how to “Create realistic Polaroid-style frames for your images” without the use of Photoshop. Great, I love tutorials. Unfortunately, the end result of this tutorial looked like a design-school first-day project. It was horrible. The image was at a different angle than the white Polaroid-style frame it was sitting on. Completely amateur, completely useless. Plus, there are easier ways to create Polaroid-style frames for your images.
  • Two pages of “10 surefire ways to cut your printing costs.” Now this was something of use for most designers – except that the tips were so vague in nature that they were barely useful. One full tip essentially is to “properly prepare your digital files.” Another was “plan ahead to avoid rush charges.” Well no duh!!! Another wasted 2 pages.
  • One full page on how to “upgrade your workflow with Adobe Creative Suite 3.” This was nothing more than the product chart showing what programs are included with what Creative Suite – the very same chart you can find on Adobe’s Web site (and the 5,000 other sites that had the chart and description several months back and that you’ve already seen).
  • One full page on how to “nest frames to create a one-of-a-kind object.” OK, so this was actually useful.
  • One full page on “getting text and objects to peacefully coexist” – which was basically a very brief tutorial on how to anchor an object/image into a text frame. This tutorial was also useful to new InDesign users, but didn’t really go into enough detail to show you how useful it really can be.
  • One and a half pages on how to see what color profile is embedded in your Photoshop image and how to safely scale images. Yawn…
  • Three quarter page software review of Teacup Software’s ImageSwapper plugin – which allows you to replace your low-res images with their high-res equivelant just before print time. Um, who still does this? Well, large catalog-makers probably still do this, but there are automated workflows for OPI that link to image databases to handle the job. I can’t blame the newsletter for covering this, because it is a nice piece of software, but so limited in its audience that I hardly think it worth the back cover of the newsletter.

That’s it. $12.25 of my subscription for one issue, and not a single valuable piece of information as a pro-user, and about a page and a half of useful info for beginners. Perhaps I just received an older issue (it was Volume 4, Number 6 for whatever that’s worth) and the content has gotten better. Or maybe when you get the “free issue” you only get a portion of a full issue. Either way, I wasn’t impressed at all. This is definitely not something I consider worth the investment. Needless to say, I won’t be subscribing. Oh, by the way, I received another invoice a few days after receiving the free issue… I give them an “A” for persistence.