Working hard in Photoshop and InDesign

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 9th, 2003 • 10:47 pm

Currently working hard — in addition to my regular translating job — on putting together the Spring issue (yeah, we’re late) of the academic review published by our local French-language university. (I am not involved in the web site.)

There’s something immensely gratifying about designing such a document. It must have to do with the fact that I’m using reasonably good tools (Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, mostly) and getting results — concrete, hard copy results that I’ll be able to SHOW off for years to come.

While I have serious issues with certain aspects of Adobe’s business and products these days, the fact remains that some of their stuff just works — efficiently, reliably, gratifyingly.

For example, I had an article with tables to lay out for the review. The article and the tables were, of course, “designed” in MS Word. I have several tools that I have designed to automate the cleaning up process for text. (I have macro commands in Word that clean up and standardize punctuation, I apply a rich set of paragraph and character styles, and then I place the document in an InDesign document.) But tables…

Well, it turns out that InDesign does a pretty good job of handling Word-created tables. it does its best to preserve the formatting and TABLE structure, including merged cells. But inevitably, since Word’s tools are so badly designed, people end up messing up their tables. Well, if this ever happens to you, don’t bother fixing the tables in Word. Place them in InDesign, and use InDesign’s TABLE tools.

InDesign is much more clever than Word, for example, when it comes to resizing columns in tables where certain cells have been horizontally merged. Typically if you try to do this in Word, Word doesn’t adjust the cell width of cells that are not technically part of the selection (because of the way a “column” flows when there are merged cells along the way). On the other hand, InDesign does. It just knows that, if you want to change the column width of a “column” that zigzags through some merged cells, you’ll also want to adjust the width of the adjacent cells, so that the whole TABLE remains a square (or a rectangle). Compared to this, Word is dumb and you regularly end up with cells that stick out of your TABLE rectangle and that you have to “push” back in by resizing them individually and praying that Word will “snap” to the appropriate position so that everything is smoothly aligned. (Don’t hope too hard: usually, Word fails, requiring further manual adjustements.)

InDesign’s TABLE tools are not perfect, but for a 2.0 version, they are already much better than what Microsoft has been able to achieve in… 11 versions.

I’m just about ready to ship the files out to the printer. Thank God for PDF: No need to worry about fonts, no need to worry about the printer messing up the contents of the files. Either he can print them, or he can’t. It’s as simple as that. I hope this time he can and doesn’t use the wrong Pantone colour. (Ahem!)

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