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Sandee Cohen and David Blatner Talk about Adobe InDesign CS5

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Sandee Cohen (author of InDesign CS5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickStart Guide) and David Blatner (a coauthor of Real World Adobe InDesign CS5) share questions and conversation about Adobe InDesign CS5.
From the author of

InDesign CS5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickStart GuideSandee Cohen is the author of InDesign CS5 for Macintosh and Windows: Visual QuickStart Guide

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Real World Adobe InDesign CS5David Blatner is the coauthor of Real World Adobe InDesign CS5

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In Part 1, Sandee asks David some questions about his book and InDesign.

Sandee Cohen: What does the "Real World" in "Real World InDesign" mean to you?

David Blatner: There are two basic philosophies of the Real World series, reaching back to the earliest books in the late 80s: First, it's more important to focus on what people really need to get their work done than it is to be comprehensive. However, some Real World books have stuck to that better than others. Real World InDesign, for example, is probably more comprehensive than we had originally intended—it covers lots of little pieces of the program, even if only in passing. On the other hand, that's earned it the title of "the bible" for many users. (We don't call it that because there's another competing book that uses that term. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure our book fits the bill better than theirs.)

The second philosophy is that we want to tell people how to use the tool, not just what the tool does. That is a big difference between our books and many non-Peachpit books.

Sandee: How has the program changed since you started writing about it?

David: When I started using InDesign 1.0 and 1.5, I had no interest in writing a book about it. The program was just too immature and slow and unusable. So Ole Kvern wrote the first Real World InDesign (for version 1.5) by himself! I later signed on to work with him on it for version 2 because Adobe really made huge strides toward making it a great page-layout tool. That's when InDesign started getting better than QuarkXPress. What's amazing to me is that every version of InDesign is not only more powerful, but also faster and more efficient.

Sandee: What do you think of the new features for multimedia, interactivity, animation, and epubs?

David: I'm psyched. I got involved with publishing in the middle of the first digital revolution (during the 1980s, as publishing went DTP). Now we're at the beginning of the second revolution, and publishers need all the help we can get.

I have to say that one reason I like InDesign's interactive features so much is that they remind me of a souped-up version of the old QuarkImmedia tool that Quark made. I loved that old Immedia thing, though it was ahead of its time and overpriced, and so it crashed and burned. But now here we are again!

Sandee: I've worked on my VQS books all alone. What is it like working with your co-authors?

David: Ole is a joy, and I'm not just saying that because he's so much taller than me. Jeez, I've known him for over 20 years now. And with this edition we have brought in veteran writer Bob Bringhurst, who made the update incredibly easy. Wow, what a professional!

The main concerns with working with a co-author are who is responsible for what, and who changed what? That's getting much easier to manage with InDesign's Track Changes features.

Sandee: I try to put in little jokes in my book. Like "Never point a loaded cursor at someone." and "It's only fun until someone loses an icon." Do you have jokes in yours?

David: You and I both know that humor is one of the most important tools in teaching, whether it's on stage or in a book. After all, if user and teacher all aren't having fun, then we're not doing it right! We love including bits of humor in Real World InDesign. But I have to say that some of the funniest jokes are in the index, which is created by Jan Wright. She sneaks all kinds of things in there.

Sandee: Is it true you used QuarkXPress 3.32 to lay out your book? Seriously, though. What do you feel is the future of Quark Inc. and QuarkXPress? Certainly they're not going to roll over and go to sleep.

David: You know, there are still some folks using Aldus PageMaker. People will keep using QuarkXPress for many years. They've actually done some great work with version 8, and I'm sure they're just going to keep making it better. Quark has some very smart and motivated people on their team. It's very rare for anyone to switch from InDesign to XPress, but I think Quark will likely hold on to enough users that they can keep going. Besides, having some competition is a Good Thing.


In Part 2, David asks Sandee some questions about her book and InDesign.

David: What is your favorite InDesign feature? Okay, if not one, then favorite few features?

Sandee: I'm split on favorite new features. The interactive, multimedia geek in me loves all the features under Window > Interactivity, with Animation my ultimate favorite. And obviously with the online interactive chapter, I've been able to have a lot of fun creating animations and buttons. I even learned a new technique for triggering actions. (You'll have to download the chapter to see how its done.) And I've pushed ID's animation features to the limit by creating a terrific cartoon that opens the animation section.

But as a long-document compositor, I must give props for the new electronic cross-references and text variables (from CS4). Those two features alone have saved me tons of hours of work. What I see now is that an electronic cross reference doesn't just save me time in creating the link. It saves me time later on in not having to proof to make sure the cross-reference is correct.

Similarly with the text variables. I used to have to manually type in the name of the chapter for the running heads in the book. And always worried that I might have forgotten to change the dummy text or created a typo that would appear on 20 pages. Now with text variables, I don't have to worry about any of that. I know that InDesign will automatically set the running head to the correct chapter opener.

David: You've taught InDesign in books, articles, and in person since the program first came out. What do you think is the hardest thing for new users to learn?

Sandee: Styles and masters. Obviously they're not that hard to learn. But they are definitely the hardest thing to teach people to take the time upfront to create.

I just gave a quick class to a friend who I taught QuarkXPress 4 back in the early 1990's. That's almost twenty years that she has been using page layout software. And yet she came to me with sample pages she had shown to her client that had nothing on the master and no styles applied at all.

These are people who are still creating new text frames to move text up or down the page. Or worse, hitting the return several times. I shudder to think about what her final documents look like.

So it's not knowledge that is the problem, it's discipline.

David: The Visual QuickStart Guide seems like a difficult format to write into—for example, each section can take up just one spread, and rules like that. Do you find it difficult to write like that?

Sandee: Thanks for noticing. Yes, it's less laying out a book and more laying out a magazine or coffee table book. Almost every exercise must take less than a page. And no exercise can EVER jump from right hand to left hand page.

But being a compositor (layout person) who is also the author makes it much easier to do the layouts. If I wind up with an exercise that is too long for a page, I just tell the author to make the cuts. It's not too difficult to get her to do it.

David: You did a great interactive chapter for the CS4 book—as an actual interactive PDF document! Are you doing that again for CS5?

Sandee: Yes. As I said up front, I'm doing another interactive document. Peachpit calls this "enhanced media". I call it the future of textbook publishing. Instead of just drawing an arrow to show how to drag an object across a page, I can insert a little movie that shows the action.

I realize now that the original interactive chapter from the CS4 book is very similar to some of the storybook apps (such as Alice in Wonderland) that have been created for the iPad. It is much more interactive and enjoyable than a plain ePub book.

I am interested in contacting Adobe to get my hands on their new software that they are using to turn InDesign documents into iPad apps such as Wired magazine. Imagine a chapter on InDesign sold as an app!

David: What is your sense of the future of InDesign? Where do you think this program is headed?

Sandee: Interactive. Interactive. Interactive. Right now I show students how it is easy to use Layout Adjustment to change a portrait orientation to landscape and then add a few multimedia movies to create an enhanced product catalog.

I had one student who told me his company has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing costs by turning all their press releases from print to online interactive. Just from my seminars and book!

That's the future. And even with all the new interactive features, there are still plenty more that could be added.

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