Posts filed under 'tools'

That Ol’ Black Magick

Add comment May 26th, 2013

I go on a lot about how much I love making books. But there are not-so-happy moments, too. I’ve made enough, the past couple of days, about how badly I think of Adobe’s decision to no longer sell Creative Studio and its components (InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator being the main pieces, or at least the ones that affect me). So I’ll not bore you anymore about that.

But there is the dark magic that computers occasionally bring forth. Happened again yesterday. Or at least I heard about it yesterday. Recently I received a list of a whole batch of corrections and edits for the novel on which I’m working, the one with transliterated Lakota. I assure you I made them all before burning a CD and sending it to my client. This morning my self-publishing author emailed me to say that “[t]he first such fix right out of the box” appeared not to have been done. Now, I know I did that first one, because I had a question about it right at the start and h and I had an exchange of emails to clarify. But, sure enough, the PDF that I copied and sent to him on the CD was missing that correction.

So I went back to my latest InDesign file for the book, the one from which I distilled the PDF. Again, no first correction. But the next twenty or so were done. Then, mysteriously, the a chunk of remaining edits appeared not to be done before they were picked up again until the last one. I have no explanation as to what happened or why. It is, however, making me a little crazy trying to see what the issue is. The simplest explanation is that I sent an older PDF—or, rather, distilled a PDF from an older InDesign file. Except that does not explain why the corrections picked up again after a certain point.

Oh, the joy of freelancing!

Revisiting Software Choices

Add comment May 24th, 2013

A number of years back, working in QuarkXPress 6.5, I created the cover and interior page design and laid out my first children’s book, Mishka: An Adoption Tale. In the process, of course, there were any number of back-and-forths between my client, the author-publisher, and myself. Once the final layout was approved, the PDFs would go to a printer in China.

I don’t remember at what point trouble developed, only that, at one point, the placed art—a full-color illustration on practically every page—no longer showed up in the Quark file after I placed it. Frantic, I called Quark—the company—explained my situation, and just hoped they would be of some help so I could meet the print date.

I wound up speaking to a young woman in Customer Service who apologized from the start that I was having any difficulty working with her product. This was before she even knew what the problem was. Somewhere along the way she discovered that XPress had somehow corrupted the artfiles and sent new XPress docs back to me that were clean.

She also enclosed a gift, a disk of “Extras” that normally went out with the newest version of Xpress. That would have been version 7 at the time; I was still using 6.5 and the “Extras” could not be used with that older version. So I again contacted my new friend in Customer Service and asked if, under the circumstances, she would like me to return the “Extras” disk. She said “no” and to watch my snail mail again.

A few days later I received a copy of version 7. For free. I was pretty amazed, called her, and thanked her. I still remember her answer, “That’s one of the great things about my job in Customer Service: I get to choose to do nice things like that now and again.”

Up to that point, I had been fighting the urge to switch to InDesign. I had never bought into InDy’s pre-release hype, that it would be the Quark-killer. In fact, the first version of InDesign that I worked with, 2, handled type—in my estimation—rather clumsily and I did not care for it. But I had knocked out a book on managing finances for members of the military on InDesign 2 as more of a learning project and saw its potential.

A month or two after receiving version 7, I tried to contact my friend in Customer Service to tell her how great the children’s book had turned out and to get an address to send her a copy. I found that she had left Quark (the company). At that point I decided that since Adobe always seemed to make it easier and less expensive than Quark to upgrade—I know, I know, except for the freebie—it was impossible to ignore how well Illustrator and Photoshop integrate with InDesign in Adobe’s Creative Studio. And so version 7, the gift, is the last version of QuarkXPress that I’ve installed.

I should interrupt here and veer off to say that I briefly investigated open-source possibilities TeX and LaTeX. The samples of such typesetting I saw, however, while I suppose they were technically adequate, didn’t look special. But things appear to have changed some. I’ve been looking at Scribus—essentially a flavor of TeX with a graphical interface over it—and it seems a lot more like the page layout software I’m used to. The other thing is that I seem to remember the TeX/LaTeX installations didn’t use the all the Postscript fonts I had. Now they quickly load into Scribus.

So Scribus is definitely going to get a try. And perhaps something like GIMP or GIMPshop is worth a look-see as perhaps a replacement for Photoshop. Acorn and Pixelmator, though not quite free, are other possible Photoshop replacements.

That all said, I would prefer to stick with Adobe’s InDesign and Photoshop in Creative Studio, f I could only buy the package one time and upgrade when I feel like it. I’m rather angry that Adobe is trying to hold me up, trap me into paying up in perpetuity for the rental of their software. This infuriates me no end. And I’ll look good and hard for the right combination of replacements. I fully expect to find them and switch.

Staying Relevant

Add comment February 1st, 2012

I do not remember the last time I made a mass upgrade of software. Back in 2005, I think it was, I got a PoweMac tower and Adobe CS2, but that’s not what I mean. It came to me the other day, however, that it is high time. So I made my plan …

I finally see the tools for making ebooks starting to show signs of maturity. InDesign CS5.5 has been available for some time. In fact, CS6 is rumored to be around the corner. But it’s Export to epub  function, I hear, works pretty well. And Apple’s iBook Author looks—from the demo I saw—like it does what I have asked for, making iPad a serious tool for multimedia ebooks.

I am going to make the move to Apple’s Lion OS. I will install iBooks Author. But since I also want to be able to create works for more than Apple’s iBookstore, the upgrade to Adobe Creative Studio 5.5 is a no-brainer.

I have needed a couple of other new versions, too, for awhile. I always like to have the latest MathType, as Design Science regularly adds increased functionality to the equation creation package; and the latest version makes equations for iBooks. I have been inconvenienced by being able to open .docx files directly in Word 2004 long enough and will also move to Office 2011.

The interesting upgrade would be to QuarkXPress 9. My last Quark upgrade was to version 7.31. A nice story goes along with that. When I worked on the children’s storybook, Mishka An Adoption Tale, some years ago, I had a bit of difficulty with the Chinese printer and fonts. I cannot quite remember what, as the fonts would have been embedded in the PDF and that should have been enough. But I wound up in extended discussions with someone in Quark’s customer relations unit, a great, young woman who helped me work out whatever the problem was.

For some reason, on top of her helping me, she decided she would send me a gift for the trouble I had been put through—none of which was Quark’s fault—and as I was a long and loyal user of XPress, since about 1990. She wanted to send me a CD of extras. I told her that was mighty nice, but that I saw the extras were not usable with my current version, 6.something. She replied that one of the perks of her job was doing nice things for people and she sent me the Quark 7 upgrade for free. Soon after, she left Quark for a dream job of some kind. And I remained a loyal XPress user until more and more clients requested I use InDesign.

I finally added InDesign to my software arsenal. Gradually it just became easier to stick with InDy. Then the other day I got an offer from Quark for a reduced price for version 9—actually, 9.2. What struck me was the inclusion of something called App Studio for making e-versions of books for the iPad. I decided to make that upgeade, too. I had until yesterday, January 31, for the reduced price, after which the cost would climb some. But I wondered whether the nearly $300 investment was worth it for just that module.

Enter Twitter and why you need to know it does not need to be a time-sink. Tweeting on my dilemma led to the information that App Studio is a third-party module available also for InDesign. For free. Now, just as with Quark, there are fees for actually publishing something with App Studio. But the upgrade to Quark … well, is superfluous.

My thanks to Twitter stalwart, gentleman, scholar, and all-‘round good guy Pariah S. Burke (@iampariah on Twitter) who saved me $299 that I can use to get an iPad2 for debugging and displaying iBooks.

Four Questions for Book Designers

24 comments April 3rd, 2011

In July of 2007, I ran my little survey for the first time, getting the idea from something similar that Smashing Magazine addressed to web designers. Little did I know that I would later find value in running it annually. That is, until my website, blog, and Twitter account were hacked into and I got kind of turned around from anything that called for comments.

But it’s back, primarily because a lot has come and gone since the last time I asked these questions. I won’t give my answers yet, but some comments after each one.

  1. Name the first aspect of designing a book that you give priority to once you accept a project and sit down to start. Originally I was thinking of things like page size and proportion, font choices, and the like. These days a few other things come to mind, such as whether an ebook edition is in the cards.
  2. Has InDesign proven to be the Quark killer for you; and, if so, what was the feature that did it; or do your clients determine which software you use?Again, when I first asked this question, I was not at all pleased with the early InDesign’s handling of type. I was even defensive about the possibility that Quark’s time might be running out. Although I still continue Quark a capable tool, and I know there are plenty of Quark users still out there, I think the fight has passed. InDesign prevails … mostly. The more interesting source of competition for InDesign comes from open source software: there are a number of flavors of TeX and I wonder whether many professional book designers use any of them?
  3. What’s the first font comes to mind for body text each time you begin a book design project; and do you usually stick with that choice or say something like, “Yes, I really like that font, but it’s time to work with something else”?Nowadays, I find myself interested in how you buy your fonts. I mean, do you buy one font family at a time or do you look for collections of type? For instance, the bedrock of my typeface library has been the bundle of fonts Adobe includes with Creative Studio (and before that, Illustrator).
  4. Name one design-related book you highly recommend to book designers—please don’t suggest Tschichold’s The New Typography (Die neue Typographie), as I am just up to here with that book, as much of an earth-shaker as it was.I cannot get over how rudely I put that: up to here with Tschichold. So I will try to be clear.  I have nothing against the books below. I have always regarded them as my core references. But I’m ready to consider some new ones. Five Hundred Years of Book Design proved a little disappointing. And I have high hopes for one I just ordered, Joost Grootens’ I swear I use no art at all. Still, I would rather not hear about the following books for this little questionnaire.
     

    • The Elements of Typographic Style
    • On Book Design
    • Book design: practice and theory
    • The Design of Books
    • Bookdesign: A comprehensive guide

So … what do you have to say?

Free Tools for the Beginning Book Designer

Add comment November 20th, 2010

This is one of my favorite pieces from the old, compromised blog. I enjoyed my wiseass take on grandkids as “our replacements”—it stills makes me smile when I read it now. But the meaning of this piece to me is that it’s when I began to acknowledge a sense that things I learned and learned about could assist others starting out on the freelance path I chose

It’s taken me awhile to write and post this. Mostly because my granddaughters—“our replacements,” an old friend calls them—were visiting the last week and a half. But that may also have pointed me toward my material this time around.

See, I’ve been thinking about novice book designers starting out. It can be an expensive proposition when one begins, I realize, all while striving to get one’s foot in the door. Hardware is just the initial investment.

Software, too, adds up. Additionally, with software, there’s the stinking suspicion that open-source software—TeX (in all its flavors) and Scribus for page layout, plus various printing, drawing, and photo editing programs—may make an investment in QuarkXPress or InDesign, and art programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator a waste of money.

I know there are those who swear by open-source, regarding commercial software as unnecessary. I am certain these same people do relatively good work. But no book publisher or packager who was looking to hire someone for design or layout of a book ever asked me whether I was skilled in Tex or Scribus.

But I come not to praise—or take shots—at software choices. Rather I want to discuss the tool next in line: typefaces. Where do we get them? What’s the story with how expensive they can be? Are there alternatives to paying top dollar to Adobe and the other foundries out there, boutique and otherwise?

The first types we handle are the resident fonts in our computers. On the Macintosh, my choice, that means Times Roman, Helvetica, Palatino, etc. On PCs I imagine that means fonts called Arial, Swiss, and Comic Sans—there’s an “inside sports” joke here that I’ll get back to … if I remember—among others. Then there are the “bonus” fonts packages with other software. I know of two reputable sources like that: Corel (Draw, Paint, WordPerfect, which I have never owned, because Quark, Adobe products, and MS Word seemed to be pretty much the professional software of choice that a book designer/layout artist would need to consider) and Adobe.

My first font purchase, as I;ve mentioned before on this blog, was a twosome: Adobe Garamond and Futura. I wish I could remember what they cost back in 1989. I think I recall around $100 each. Next I bought Bodoni and Frutiger from Adobe. And those were my last individual purchases for some time to come, because it wasn’t long after that I bought a version of Adobe Illustrator—version 6, I believe—that came with the aforementioned generous slice of Adobe’s Postscript 1 Typeface Library.

Many of my favorites, typefaces that I still use today, are in that Adobe collection. So I would urge any new book designer to look around for it, as there are more than mere favorites in it. Classic typefaces can be found in that collection. But that still requires an investment of cash.

What about totally free typefaces?

Well, I should digress here and say that there are many great resources to learn about typefaces. My favorites are John Boardley’s wonderful blog, I love typography and the Typophile forums. Truth be told, there are many others that I frequent now and again. Smashing Magazine, although primarily a web resource has good material about fonts. And there are countless others. For this piece I searched through all of them and more. I also put out the word for suggestions on a number of forums, though not on Typophile, as I thought it a bit much to ask professional type designers who earn their living creating types to suggest free typefaces.

One thing that becomes immediately apparent when doing a search such as this is that most free fonts are display fonts, not particularly good, and rarely complete. (By “complete,” I mean a complete set of characters, from upper and lowercase, to numerals, punctuation, and accented glyphs.)

But I did come up with eight typeface families that I think might be used in designing and laying out books. Now, to be fair, two of them, Fontin and Fontin Sans, I had learned about some time ago on the aforementioned “I love typography.” The fact that Jos Buivenga designed both a serif and a sans serif, making Fontin a comprehensively complete family caught my attention and I’ve been meaning to use them and plan to soon. [It took three years, but I finally found a book they matched really well with and I used them.] I would advise novice book designers who choose to make such a search as mine to take a look at Mr. Buivenga’s exljbris Font Foundry, as well as his fine blog of the same name. He has a selection of eight fonts on the site, as well as an intriguing new one, Calluna [this one has come a long way since I first wrote about it here], in the works.

My other six selections to start a type library for free are nearly evenly split between serif and sans serif types. They include another from exljbris, the sans Delicious. Next up is Gentium, “a typeface for the nations.”. (Designed by Victor Gaultney, “Gentium” means “of the nations.”) Goudy Sans is an idiosyncratic sans by Frederic W. Goudy. The Fell Types, developed for computer typesetting by Igino Marini, are a selection of different serif, “modern revival fonts” I loosely categorize as a single selection. They bear some careful study in deciding whether and where to use them. Last are Liberation Sans and Liberation Serif, developed by Steve Matteson, again pleasing to me not just for themselves but because they form a complete serif and sans family.

I think these form a nice set of types to study and use athe best of all prices. Which is not to say that there are not others out there that deserve to be mentioned. In fact, I invite anyone who has a favorite free typeface family that is suitable for book design, to please make mention of them in a comment to this piece.

The Platform and Upgrade Conundrums

Add comment November 3rd, 2010

Here’s another one from the archives of the corrupted blog. I thought of it this morning because I’ve been reading some on the forums about when to upgrade, the costs of it, the ramifications to working the way one is used to.

Aside from the ever-present challenge of keeping new book design and layout projects coming in, both to keep working and just to stay fresh, I find the thorniest issue to be the question of when to upgrade. This pertains to both hardware and software.

Without even considering the obvious question of whether my finances will bear the cost of upgrading, for years the first question I asked myself concerned the continued existence of Apple Computer (now simply Apple, Inc.). There was a time when predictions ran rampant that Apple could not possibly survive much longer on their own thin share of the P.C. market.

Ignoring the annoying attitude I continue to sense occasionally that one’s chosen computer platform is akin to one’s religion, I always believed that a computer is simply a tool, like a wrench or a saw. If I worked as a plumber or a carpenter, and Sears forever closed its doors and Craftsman tools were no longer available, I doubt that would cause me to quit my trade. Instead, my tool company of choice would probably change. So I remember a time when I thought the next computer I bought might, of necessity, be a Windows machine. I began preparing myself psychologically. Thankfully, it never happened that way.

That said, it was back in 1990, that I first found that—at least for page design, typesetting, and layout—the Macintosh and the peripherals I needed to use were in sync from the time I plugged them in and cabled them together. They just worked properly together right from the jump. I turned the computer on, began learning to use the software I would use, and started to work productively. Every Windows machine I saw back then seemed to require technical expertise to get peripherals such as printers and scanners to work with that platform and to perform all the supporting tasks to making books: opening, copying, and saving files; printing; and otherwise using page layout software.

Currently, I work on a G5 PowerMacintosh. [Needless to say, that’s changed since I’m now on a 24-inch Intel iMac.] My G3 PowerBook laptop died over the winter, so when I can, I plan to purchase a 17-inch MacBook Pro. That will mean beginning the switch to Intel processors in my production environment. Not being one to pioneer unnecessarily, I just set up my wife on an Intel iMac.

I upgrade software even more cautiously: only when clients let me know the time has come. Until then I don’t fix something that works. For instance, I recently got QuarkXPress 7; no client has requested I use it yet, however. So my work with it has consisted of noodling to this point. I’m ready when the time comes.

And since I originally wrote this, in June or July of 2007, I haven’t used Quark again. InDesign really did kill my need to use Quark. Partly because many clients request it and partly because it is so well-integrated with Photoshop and Illustrator.

New Tech and eBooks Again

Add comment April 26th, 2010

To recap: my first experience noodling at the making of an eBook left me cold. So the arrival of Adobe’s Creative Studio 4 and its direct-to-EPUB capability was welcome—even though I did not upgrade to CS4. And with the coming of CS5, an upgrade I have already ordered, I hope the InDesign-to-EPUB path is even more seamless.

That sums up my software news.

As big a development as the foregoing is, there is another, even more significant step toward the inclusion of eBook production in my repertoire: adding an iPad to my computer line-up of desktop (24-inch iMac with second, 23-inch, Cinema Display), laptop (17-inch MacBook Pro), and handheld (second-generation iPod Touch) completes my toolbox for troubleshooting eBooks.

* * *

What I wrote above should have been the beginning of a whole different piece than this is turning out to be.

Instead, my wife mentioned to me that in noodling through some of the hits that came up when she googled me earlier today, she came across an exchange I had somewhere online sometime back. Apparently I felt compelled to say repeatedly that  had no interest in eBooks, I would never make any, and would never get myself any kind of eReader.

Well, we see how that resolved itself.


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