Tagged: InDesign

SneakPeek allows you to view your InDesign and Illustrator files on the Mac, iPhone or iPad

When Apple introduced Quick Look in the Mac OS it was a huge productivity boost to many designers and photographers. Quick Look allows you to view QuickTime compatible files in an overlay right in the Finder simply by selecting the icon of the file and pressing the Space Bar. It wasn’t long before users began seeking out plugins to view more file types than just PDFs and JPG images though.

SneakPeek Pro, by Code Line Communications (the company that brought us Art Directors Toolkit, arrived on the scene and took Quick Look to a new level. This simple Preference Pane allows you to view layered Adobe Photoshop files, Illustrator .ai and .eps files, and InDesign documents. SneakPeek doesn’t stop with just a preview image of your document though. The Quick Look overlay SneakPeek provides also displays information about Illustrator and InDesign files, such as the colors used, the images placed in the document, fonts used, and general file information such as multiple page previews (see the image below).

SneakPeek for Mac

SneakPeek Pro for Mac allows you to view your graphics files in the Finder

I’ve found SneakPeek Pro for Mac to be a valuable addition to any designer’s toolbox. But with more and more designers working on the road, the ability to view graphics files on the iPhone would be nice addition. Thankfully, Code Line has finally brought the power and usefulness of SneakPeek to iOS device users.

SneakPeek renders previews of graphics files stored on your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It works by providing an “Open in SneakPeek” button to your favorite iOS applications like Mail, Dropbox, Safari and just about any app that gives you access to files.

SneakPeek for iOS

SneakPeek for iOS allows you to view the same file information as the desktop version

With SneakPeek installed on your iPhone, you can check the InDesign file for a client’s new business card layout that just got emailed to you without waiting to get back to the office. And rather than viewing a jagged JPG file attached to an email of a new logo, you can view the actual Illustrator file. SneakPeek for iOS also offers you the same file information as SneakPeek Pro for the Mac – such as fonts, images and colors used.

SneakPeek Pro for Mac is available for $19.95, and offers a 15-day demo for you to test out. SneakPeek for iOS devices can be had for only $9.99 directly from the Apple App Store. Both versions of SneakPeek can save you a lot of time, and are well worth the cost of ownership.

Don’t fear the white lines in your PDFs created by InDesign

InDesign CS5You’re working on a brochure under a tight deadline, and upon opening the PDF you just exported from Adobe InDesign, you notice thin white lines around certain objects. Don’t miss your deadline spending too much time troubleshooting the InDesign file. More often than not, those white lines are simply a display glitch in the PDF caused by transparency flattening in the export process.

If you’re concerned, you can check your file in two ways. The first method is to simply open the PDF and zoom in and out – if the thin white line disappears when you zoom in and out, it’s just a display glitch.

The second method is to just run InDesign‘s Package command (Command + Option + Shift + P); when the report dialog appears, make sure you have no RGB images in use. When RGB images overlay CMYK images, transparency flattening problems can occur. If this is the case, then you definitely should convert those RGB images to CMYK before exporting your file as PDF.

Quickly rotate objects in Adobe InDesign without using the Rotate tool

InDesign CS5One of the little features Adobe added to InDesign CS5 is something that’s been in Photoshop for a long time, and just makes rotating objects a little easier.

Rather than selecting your object and using the Rotate tool in the Tools panel, simply move your cursor to just outside the corner of your object with the Selection tool to reveal the hidden rotate icon – then just click and drag the mouse to rotate.

Of course if you’re looking for a keyboard shortcut, you can always just hit the R key to select the Rotate tool without visiting the Tools panel.

Either way, you can rotate multiple objects without grouping them – yet another time saver!

13 Reasons why software is not free: My somewhat (but not really) sympathetic long-winded response

Mac App StoreI recently came across Wild Chocolate which featured an article titled 13 Reasons why software is not free. After reading the author’s commentary regarding the pricing of Mac OS applications, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing at the same time.

Let me start by saying that when discussing topics like this, I almost always side with the developer. In the article in question, the author is (I’m guessing) addressing the trend of app pricing falling lower and lower and still fighting the opinion by vocal users that the software should be cheaper or free. This is nothing new. Adobe has been battling this issue for years, so has Apple, Microsoft, and numerous other software developers.

While I understand completely where the author is coming from, I also felt like it came across as whining and making excuses.

Here are my specific thoughts/responses to some of the author’s points:

1. The majority of software is made by small software shops, usually less than a dozen people. They specialize in creating software and do not have billions in other revenue streams to fall back on.

I sympathize, I really do. But how is this my fault or problem? Few companies have billions in revenue and still manage to put out a quality, affordable product. YOUR financial situation is not MY problem, and neither is the quantity of people it takes to develop your product.

2. Software is not easy to create — especially not software that people consider easy to use and attractive. It’s a whole heck of a lot of work, in fact.

Welcome to adulthood and the common workplace. Nothing I do at work is easy, especially producing a quality product. But I have no control over what people perceive is the value of the product I produce. The market dictates the price – no matter how hard I work or how great the work is.

4. Software is created by hard working people… like you. Do you get paid for your work?

Yes, I do get paid. But as I stated above, the market dictates the value of my work. I found the above statement to be completely lame and pointless.

5. People who make software have more to do once your purchase has been made. We are here for you when you run into issues by providing a support team to answer questions, walk you through troubleshooting steps, fix bugs, etc.

Make a product so easy to use that we don’t have to ask questions. Perhaps your help files (if you bothered to create comprehensive ones) need some work. Bug fixes? Fix your bugs before you release to the masses. This is a tough one. I get the developer’s perspective on this one, and quite frankly I get quite annoyed at people that complain who don’t bother to try a little harder to understand the application they just paid for and are using. They appear to expect every app to work the way THEY want it to work.

6. Software teams are constantly working on improving and updating the software to keep up with changing technologies. It’s a continuous process.

Only if you want to continue making money on it. You could do like so many small developers who release a product, make money, then move on to other projects and never touch the original application again. They ruin their reputation by violating the trust of their customers, of course. But let’s not pretend that improving your product is mandatory and without reward.

8. It costs money to put out a software product. We have to spend years creating it, paying people’s salaries, renting office space, purchasing computers, etc. If we want you to actually find out about our product, we often need to spend money to advertise as well.

Business 101: Cost of doing business. As far as the advertising goes, in modern times you often don’t have to advertise if you build a great product. You send out some press releases and some review licenses to key websites in your market and they do the work for you.

12. Without software, your fancy laptop or iPad would be… well… pretty darn useless.

Without our fancy laptops and iPads, your software would be absolutely useless.

The bottom line:

Visit the original article and decide for yourself whether or not you sympathize with the developer or the end-user.

As for me, the bottom line is complex. On the one hand, I’ve grown tired of the latest generation of Mac users who expect software to be perfect, free, and custom built just for them. Nothing annoys me like a comment on a MacUpdate software listing like “fix these bugs/lack of feature I want and I’ll pay for it,” or the only slightly more annoying “I’m removing your app from my Dock until you add XYZ feature.”

Developers work hard (well, most of them do) on their applications, and they’re made for a specific audience. For some users, the features in any particular app are worth every penny the developer asks for. Oddly enough, people seem to complain more about cheap apps than they do with more pricey ones. There’s a sense of entitlement that some users picked up somewhere and insist on publicly complaining whenever they get a chance.

On the other hand, developers have found themselves in this tough spot of producing a quality app and having to sell it cheap or give it away by their own doing. It’s not the fault of the user that your competitor makes a similar app that’s almost as good as yours, but at half the price – or even 99 cents. Your costs are your problem, not mine. As the user, I get to decide if the price of your application is appropriate for what it does and how it makes my life better.

I use several Adobe Creative Suite applications for my work. It’s an expensive collection of applications. Heck, it’s a lot more than I care to pay. But for what I do, there’s nothing better and I generally recoup the costs in no time. It’s a cost of doing business for me. Adobe prices these applications for people like me – people who find the value in them.

As soon as a developer makes an app that’s 75% to 80% as good as Adobe InDesign, I’ll consider switching. When Pixelmator does enough of what I need it to do, I’ll be happy to consider it over Photoshop; but it currently doesn’t, and so for me the price is simply not worth it. In that respect, I set the value of Pixelmator, and it doesn’t really matter how much time, effort and money they spent developing it. And let me just say that I think Pixelmator is an awesome application – worth every penny if you don’t need the power of Photoshop like I do.

Ultimately, I think many developers try to do too much with their app. Possibly in an effort to up the perceived value. Make an app you can code in a month that addresses a popular need and sell it for 99 cents. Or make a more complex app and sell it for $39 and sell a lot less copies. Either way, it’s up to the user to decide which to buy, and complaining about it isn’t going to change anything.

One thing is for sure, if you come up with a revolutionary app, or one that is so far above the competitors, people will happily pay for it.

Save screen space with Adobe InDesign’s convenient Control Panel

InDesign Control Panel shortcuts for swatches, fill and strokeWith more and more designers opting to use laptops for their work, screen real estate becomes more of an issue. One unfortunate side-effect of using Adobe Creative Suite applications like InDesign is the plethora of panels a designer keeps open on the screen in day-to-day work. But Adobe does make efforts to lighten the load of panels you have to keep open for convenience.

Rather than keeping the Color Swatches and Fill/Stroke Panels open all the time, you can keep them closed and use the shortcut icons in the Control Panel across the top of the screen. Hitting the “X” key switches between fill and stroke, a text entry box allows you to adjust stroke weight and style, and drop down icons offer access to your colors in the Color Swatches Panel. All of this fits in a relatively small area in the Control Panel, as seen in the screenshot at the right.

Temporarily turn off InDesign’s Snap feature

InDesign CS5If you happen to have a lot of objects in a relatively small area and are trying to drag and drop an object in a specific location, it can be difficult to do so due to Adobe InDesign’s Snap To feature. You object may try to snap to other objects on the page, or even guides.

You can avoid this headache by turning off the Snap To feature temporarily by press and holding the Control key as you drop your object into place.

Spanning your InDesign headline across multiple columns of text

In the past you had to create a separate text container for your headline when you wanted to span it across a multi-column text box in InDesign. This presented problems with accurate spacing, and was a general pain in the behind. Thankfully, Adobe InDesign CS5 makes the process simple.

InDesign column spanning

Headlines look pretty horrible in multi-column text by default

As you can see in the image above, a headline that stays in the multi-column format looks pretty horrible. Most people want to have the headline span across both columns. It’s simple to do, and you don’t need to create a separate text box to do it.

First, select the text you want to span columns, then click the fly-out menu icon in the Paragraphs panel and choose Span Columns… to activate the Span Columns dialog box you see below.

InDesign Span Columns dialog

InDesign's Span Columns dialog box offers you plenty of customization

Simply choose Span Columns from the drop-down menu, choose the number of columns you want the headline to span, and optionally choose how much space before and/or after the spanned text you want.

InDesign's Span Columns results make it easy to work with your text

InDesign's Span Columns results make it easy to work with your text

After you hit OK, your text will span the columns (as seen above), and will easily reflow with any text changes you make to the body text before or after the spanned text.

How to balance text in multiple columns in your InDesign document

One of the cool new features found in Adobe InDesign CS5 is the ability to balance the amount of text appearing in multiple columns.

Unbalanced columns of text

Unbalanced columns of InDesign text

Take the image above for example. Rather than inserting hard returns, using the Enter key to force text to the next column, or adjusting the size of the text container itself, you can simply use the Balance Columns feature. To do so, select the text container to make it active, then go to Object>Text Frame Options… (or hit Command + B). In the dialog box that appears, tick the Balance Columns checkbox. The results are a balanced columns of text, regardless of the text container size as seen in the image below.

Balanced columns of InDesign text

The same text with InDesign's Balance Columns feature applied

The beauty of this feature is that you can add more text later and the text columns will always adjust to stay balanced, as opposed to having to go back manually and remove hard returns or re-adjust the size of the text container.

Quickly hide all InDesign layers except one

InDesign CS5Adobe has built-in a handy shortcut into InDesign that allows you to hide all the layers in your document except the one you wish to focus on.

When you have a lot of layers in your document and want to work on the objects on one single layer more easily, activate the Layers panel and hold theOption key down while you click the little eye icon of the layer you want to work on. All other layers in the document will be turned off. When you’re done, simply Option click the same eye icon of the active layer again to make the remaining layers visible.

Resize objects precisely with InDesign’s Control Panel

InDesign CS5If you have an existing object and want to resize it by a precise amount, you don’t have to re-create the box, or even do the math yourself to resize it. You can simply have InDesign do the math for you.

InDesign measurement inputFor example, if you have a box that measures 1.25 inches wide, but you really want it to be 1 3/8 inches wide, you can simply add +.125 to the existing 1.25 width measurement in the Control Panel input box and hit the Enter key (see image at right). While that seems trivial, the usefulness becomes apparent when you consider you can also use “/3” to divide the width by 3, or use “-” and a number to subtract an amount, or even “*” and a number to multiply the amount.