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March 24, 2007

InDesign Quick Kerning, Tracking & Leading.

InDesign-Kerning.gif

This InDesign tip may be a bit basic, but it did elicit a small "wow" of appreciation from at least one seasoned QuarkXPress user who hadn't discovered the keyboard shortcuts to quickly tweak kerning, tracking, and leading in InDesign CS2.

Hold down the Option key (Alt key in Windows) and use your keyboard's arrow keys. When your text cursor sits between two letters, the left or right arrow keys adjust kerning. Select a range of type and the same keys adjust the overall tracking. Select several lines and the up or down arrow keys adjust leading.

Source: This first tip comes compliments of a free InDesign coaching session with Seattle graphic designer Andrea Herrick. For another Herrick-inspired tip, check out QuickTips #80: "Indent to Here" in InDesign or Quark.

Don't touch your Mac during Software Updates.

This tip's headline is a bit alarmist — so let us clarify. When you are running software updates, or installing new security patches, you shouldn't do anything with your Mac while it's running through the last "Optimizing System Performance" phase of a software update.

OptimizingSystemPerformance.gif

Launching applications while your Mac is performing this last phase of a software update can potentially damage system library files. In the worst case, there is a chance your Mac won't be able to start up again without significant troubleshooting.

Note: We can't vouch for all the technical details behind this supposed bug, but you can read about it at the Unsanity blog.

So how should you run software updates?

We recommend you run security updates at the end of the day. Ideally after restarting and with no other software running at the time. While Apple's software update feature does not make it easy to tell when a particular update was released, we generally recommend waiting about a week after a major update is released before you install on your Mac.

For our clients who schedule regular monthly maintenance visits, we generally run all software updates on each Mac once a month after a fresh reboot.

Source: This tip inspired in part by a unbootable MacBook Pro at The Matale Line which exhibited symptoms of this bug after an iTunes upgrade on a busy multitasking laptop. Additional details on TUAW, with general advice on software updates on John Gruber's Daring Fireball.

March 17, 2007

Photoshop Techniques circa 1995!

PhotoshopTechniques.png

Digging through an old server in the CreativeTechs network closet, we unearthed copies of Photoshop Techniques — a newsletter we published years ago in the younger days of Adobe Photoshop.

With all the buzz in our office around Adobe's upcoming launch of Creative Suite 3, we thought it would be fun to dust off the old files and publish the whole collection in PDF format.

Remember when a beveled edge took four pages of detailed steps?

001 - How to use Quick Mask to Create Special Photo Edges.

002 - How to Create a Neon Object.

003 - How to Build a Soft Shadow for Postscript Artwork.

004 - How to use Postscript Art as a Stencil in Photoshop.

005 - How to Create an Embossed Object.

006 - How to Create a Chiseled Object.

007 - How to Wrap a Texture Over an Object.

008 - How to Create Quick Textures.

009 - How to Cut Out an Object From It’s Background.

010 - How to Build Shadows for Cut Out Objects.

011 - How to Overprint a Shadow.

012 - How to Create Rough, Weathered Graphics.

013 - A visual overview: Combining Photos.

014 - How to Remove Objects From a Photo.

015 - How to Extend a Photo's Background.

016 - How to Add New Objects to a Photo.

017 - How to Create a Hand Painted Illustration.

018 - How to Draw on a Textured Surface.

019 - How to use Photoshop's New Lighting Effects.

020 - How to Create Complex Beveled Graphics.

021 - How to add Shadows or Glows to an Object.

022 - How to Fade One Image into Another.

023 - How to create a Montage of Images Using Layer Masks.

024 - How to Mask a Photo Using a Clipping Group.

025 - How to produce Quick, Clean Desktop Halftones.

026 - How to Evaluate and Use Desktop Scanners.

027 - How to Prepare a Photo for the Printed Page.

028 - Understanding and using the Unsharp Mask Filter.

029 - How to Colorize a Line Art Illustration.

033 - How to Create a Digital Fire.

034 - How to create Transparent Images for World Wide Web Pages.

038 - How to Calibrate Your Monitor Using Gamma.

Photoshop Techniques was published between 1993 and 1995 — back when "Photoshop 3" was the newest cool thing. While most of the techniques are entertainingly outdated, a few tutorials do stand as a testament to how consistent Photoshop's core interface has remained over the years. For example, #29 - How to Colorize a Line Art Illustration shows a technique that remains largely unchanged for many illustrators today.

Other tutorials remind us what has changed. Remember the day when it took 4 pages of dense instruction using channels and masks to create a simple beveled edge to type? (See how we used to do it in #6 - How to Create a Chiseled Object.)

Enjoy a short walk back through the early days of digital imaging.

Source: This tip inspired by Adobe's upcoming release of Photoshop CS3. On March 27, 2007, at 12:30 p.m. Seattle time, Adobe announces Adobe Creative Suite 3 at a special live webcast from New York. The next day, join us to talk about it (check out "Gratuitous Self Promotion" in this week's QuickTips email).

Manage multiple libraries in iTunes 7.

Apple slipped a nice bonus into their iTunes 7 upgrade: The abiliity to easily manage multiple music libraries.

Switching libraries is simple; hold down the option key on your Mac (or shift key in Windows) when you launch iTunes. You'll be presented with an option to create a new library or choose the library you want to load instead.

iTunes-Choose.png

This is a wonderful feature if you want to seperate a collection of audio books or kids music from your main iTunes library.

Note: In my own case, Sandra Boyton's Penguin Lament made the jump from the kids library into the main iTunes library.

Source: This handy tip has been featured on a number of our favorite sites, including CreativeBits.org, Barkings!, lifehacker.com, and Mac OS X hints.

March 14, 2007

DST changes and Microsoft Entourage.

We've been getting calls this week about updating Microsoft Entourage for the new Daylight Savings Time (DST) changes this year. We probably should have run this as a tip a week ago. Here it is now:

Microsoft Entourage 2004: Update your copy of Entourage to at least version 11.3.3. Download the latest patch from Microsoft here: Mac Office 11.3.3 update.

Microsoft Entourage X: There is no official patch for Entourage X. The best fix is to upgrade to Entourage 2004, which is more stable in many other ways. Alternatively you can use this unsupported patch (untested by our own team): Unofficial DST Workaround for Entourage X.

So why is Daylight Savings Time a problem for Entourage?

For various reasons Microsoft originally designed Entourage to ignore your computer's DST settings, and instead use it's own built-in routine for handling date changes. There is an excellent discussion of why Entourage users are experiencing these problems at The Entourage User's Weblog.

Source: This tip belatedly inspired by a number of client calls and questions. Special note to our own Jordan Bojar who researched this issue some time ago. Too bad we didn't take his advice and run this as a tip earlier.

March 11, 2007

Free software training in Seattle.

Update: All the free sessions have been snatched up. If you missed out, drop us an email us at at training@creativetechs.com. If there is enough interest, we might add a couple more days to Jason's schedule.

In February, CreativeTechs welcomed Jason Hoppe into our growing support team. Jason provides high end production training, photo retouching, color correction, and other creative workflow management consulting.

Many of our clients aren't yet used to calling CreativeTechs when they need software training or production support. So to kick things off, we're offering free training sessions for our Seattle-area membership clients:

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe InDesign
QuarkXPress
Adobe Acrobat
Studio Color Management
E-Pro Workflow (General)
E-Pro for Microsoft Vendors

We've set aside 4 days through April, and have 16 11 7 5 4 only 2 no more open slots (sorry). We'll come out to your office. You pick the 1-hour session of your choice. This offer is open for all current CreativeTechs member clients.

Not a CreativeTechs member client? You can still qualify for a free session — but there is a catch. Read on for full details.

Available Times for Free Training Sessions:

Wednesday, March 21:
    10am: SCHEDULED
    Noon: SCHEDULED
    2pm: SCHEDULED
    4pm: SCHEDULED

Wednesday, April 4:
    10am: SCHEDULED
    Noon: SCHEDULED
    2pm: SCHEDULED
    4pm: SCHEDULED

Wednesday, March 28:
    10am: SCHEDULED
    Noon: SCHEDULED
    2pm: SCHEDULED
    4pm: SCHEDULED

Wednesday, April 11:
    10am: SCHEDULED
    Noon: SCHEDULED
    2pm: SCHEDULED
    4pm: SCHEDULED

What's the Catch if you are not a member client?

This offer is primarily intended for our existing member clients — and they get first priority in scheduling these free sessions. But we know we'll be getting a lot of calls from other Seattle-area creative teams. So here is the deal if you are not already a CreativeTechs client:

Have at least five graphic designers on your team. We want to impact as many people as we can in these free sessions. Let us work with several people at once.

- and -

Get a friend to sign up for their own free session too. We are a 100% referral-based company. If you can find a friend at another Seattle-area creative team who wants to take advantage of this offer it is a win for everyone.

Schedule Your Free Training.

To schedule a free training session for your team: Pick a project you'd like personalized training in, and give us a call at 206-682-4315 or drop us a line at training@creativetechs.com.

The slots tend to fill up quickly, so if you are interested, don't wait.

Stop Entourage background disk churning.

Here is a great tip if you are having problems with regular hangs/pauses in Entourage — especially with hangs that slow down your Mac with extended periods of heavy unexplained disk activity. Particularly noticeable for people with large 1GB+ mail databases.

You can reduce disk churning by using a somewhat hidden option to turn off Entourage's background database integrity check.

Entourage-DBIntegrityCheck.gif

Warning: Turning off Entourage's database integrity check does improve performance for users with large mail databases. However if you go this route, make sure you have an excellently maintained backup system in place to protect yourself from loss of data.

Turning off Entourage's Background Database integrity check.

To access this hidden feature, launch Entourage while holding down the Option key. The Entourage Database Manager utility will launch instead:

Entourage-DBUtility.png

Choose Set Database Preferences and click Continue.

Entourage-DBIntegrityCheck.png

Uncheck "Perform Database integrity check in the background."

Click Save to close that window. Then quit out of the Database Utility.

Warning: Backup and Maintenance Needed.

If you turn this option off it is highly recommended that you use the Database Utility to verify your mail database periodically. To be on the safe side set up a monthly task to remind you.

Also, do not turn this feature off unless you have an excellent, maintained backup system. Loss of your entire email archives (especially large ones) can be devastating for a company. (In fact, the database check provides only a modicum of protection — make sure you have a good backup in place no matter what you do with this option.)

Note from Craig: This feature has been disabled on my personal copy of Entourage for over a year and I have not missed it. However I do periodically verify the integrity of my mail database, and we have a well maintained backup system to protect against loss.

Source: This tip originally inspired by an Entourage troubleshooting issue last year for Hamilton Creative Group. More recently prompted by a post on MacWorld's great Mac 911 blog by Christopher Breen. (There is also a good troubleshooting resource at The Entourage Help Page.)

Get to know InDesign's Info Palette.

InDesign's humble Info palette may not inspire a lot of interest at first. But take a moment to explore some of the handy details it provides. Once you get used to the variety of information it can display you'll be heading there all the time.

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To show the Info pallette, choose Window > Info from the top menu bar.

The information displayed in this palette changes depending on the object you are working with in InDesign. You can use the Info palette to quickly check the printing resolution of placed graphics, get a quick word count on text, or other handy details.

Check your printing resolution with InDesign's Info palette.

You've placed a 100 ppi TIFF file and resized it down to fit in your InDesign layout. So what resolution will that image be when you printed? Put away the calculator, just go to the Info palette and take a look at that image's "effective ppi" which shows you the resolution of this image after it has been resized.

Info-EffectiveRes.png

Counting words with InDesign's Info palette.

Place your text insertion point in any text frame and the Info palette gives you a quick and easy word count for that frame.

Info-TextFrame.png

Highlight some copy with the text tool, and the Info palette counts up only the words and paragraphs in that highlighted selection.

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If your text overflows the frame, the Info palette shows you how much extra text you have to deal with. The overflow amounts are displayed as a number with a plus sign.

Info-TextOverflow.png

Tip: Support your copywriter with better word counts.

Once you've roughed out a layout, click inside a text box and fill it with placeholder text (Type > Fill with Placeholder Text). Then check the Info palette for the word count results. This should give you more accuracy than a casual guess.

Source: This tip inspired by a recent InDesign Workshop held at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts for an in-house creative team at Costco. This personalized 1-day workshop was taught by CreativeTechs' newest software trainer Jason Hoppe.

March 06, 2007

Digg This Button Cheat Sheet

About a month ago, Digg announced new "Smart" Digg buttons on the Digg blog. You've seen them before — the familiar Digg badges that appear next to some blog entries showing how many Diggs a particular post has received. There is an example with a skimpy number of Diggs shown at the left for this very post.

Digg has a pretty good tutorial page describing different ways you can implement the Digg This button on your own blog: http://digg.com/tools/integrate

However, that tutorial does not include previews of what the actual Digg badges look like for each set of code. Nor does it include the additional code needed to float your Digg badge to the left (or right) of your blog post text.

I'm posting this short cheat sheet showing the code for a couple standard uses of the Digg buttons — along with a preview of each result.

#1: Basic "Digg This" Button

This is the simplest example of a "Digg This" button. Copy the code below and paste it into one of your blog posts (assuming your blogging package allows the use of <script type=" in the post). Replace the WEBSITE_URL value with the permalink for your particular blog post. This is necessary so your number of Diggs remains correct whether a reader is viewing the post from an archive page, or the actual permalink.

Basic: Copy and modify this code.

<script type="text/javascript">
digg_url = 'WEBSITE_URL';
</script>
<script src="http://digg.com/tools/diggthis.js" type="text/javascript">
</script>

Float Left "Digg This" Button

This is the same basic "Digg This" button with a DIV added to float the badge to the left of your text. There is also a 10-pixel margin on the right, and 2-pixel margin added to the bottom to give a bit of space from the text of your blog post. You can adjust the margin values to taste.

Float Left: Copy and modify this code.

<div style="float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 2px;">
<script type="text/javascript">
digg_url = 'WEBSITE_URL';
</script>
<script src="http://digg.com/tools/diggthis.js" type="text/javascript">
</script>
</div>

Float Right "Digg This" Button

This time, the added DIV is set to float to the right of your text. Now the 10-pixel margin is moved to the left, while the 2-pixel margin remains for the bottom. As before, you can adjust the margin values to give as much or as little space as you like.

Float Right: Copy and modify this code

<div style="float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-bottom: 2px;">
<script type="text/javascript">
digg_url = 'WEBSITE_URL';
</script>
<script src="http://digg.com/tools/diggthis.js" type="text/javascript">
</script>
</div>

Hope this is helpful to someone. I know it's made my own blogging life a little easier.

March 05, 2007

Adobe Creative Suite 3 to be announced March 27.

Adobe will launch formally announce Adobe Creative Suite 3 at a special event in New York on March 27. (Update: The software will not ship until later in Spring 2007.)

This will be the first Universal Binary version of Creative Suite, and Adobe is calling the event the largest software release in its history. If you've been looking for an excuse to finally buy that Mac Pro, this could be it.

While we wait, enjoy an Adobe UK video teaser: What's in the Box?

Source: The next day, March 28th, at 6:30pm, join CreativeTechs and Seattle's School of Visual Concepts for a free talk: Planning for CS3, Leopard, and New Macs! Watch this blog for more details in the coming weeks. We'll help Seattle creative teams plan for the upcoming release of Adobe CS3, Mac OS X Leopard, plus new Mac hardware expected from Apple. 2007 promises to be a fun year for Mac-based creative professionals!

March 04, 2007

Convert scans to searchable PDFs in Acrobat.

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This is one of those tips that is hard to describe or visualize. But when we demonstrate it to someone new, we usually hear "Wow, that's cool."

Adobe Acrobat Pro includes a special OCR (Optical character recognition) feature you can use to convert scanned documents into searchable PDFs. The twist with Acrobat Pro is that instead of converting your scan to a straight text file, you can leave the visual appearance of your scanned document untouched, and yet the text itself becomes selectable and searchable in Acrobat.

Tutorial: Converting documents to searchable PDFs in Acrobat.

Since CreativeTechs is part of the Seattle graphic design community, we'll demonstrate this tip using something more fun: Scans of type specimen samples from antique letterpress typography books.

Step 1: Scan a printed document.

Scan a sample document with enough resolution to clearly read all the letters you are going to want Acrobat to interpret. The best way to get a better ORC translation is to start with a clean scan at a resolution of least 600 pixel per inch.

For the purposes of this quick tutorial we've provided a scanned text specimen page from The Superior Copper Mixed Type Book from the late 1800's. (One of the perks of having a Letterpress classroom next door to our office.)

Download this tiff and try the technique yourself:

Letterpress Sample.tif (zipped)

Step 2: Create a PDF from your scanned file.

In Acrobat Professional (version 7 shown) choose File > Create PDF > From File...

Acrobat will churn for a moment or two and open a new image-only PDF built from your scanned image.

Step 3: Choose Document > Recognize Text Using OCR > Start...

Acrobat-OCR-dialog.png

Acrobat will display the Recognize Text dialog box. Click the Edit button to change the default settings.

Acrobat-OCR-settings.png

For this tutorial use the Recognize Text settings shown here. The Key option is to set the PDF Output Style to "Searchable Image (Exact)" which will maintain the look of your scan, while adding a hidden text layer.

Once you change your settings and click OK for both dialog boxes, Acrobat will process your image. This can take a short time -- watch the bottom left of your Acrobat window for a small status bar.

Step 4: Check the results.

Acrobat-TypeSelectTool.pngSelect Acrobat's type select tool and check out the results. If everything worked properly, you should be able to select, copy, or search type directly from your scanned image. This is the fun pay off that made this tip-worthy for us.

One complaint about this feature is the lack of feedback to see exactly how Acrobat interpreted your scanned text. When you are using the type select tool, you can select all the text in your document. Then switch over to a text editor and paste the results.

Acrobat-OCR-results.png

In our example, Acrobat made a few mistakes interpreting some of the non-text elements. However the results are pretty good in this case. Unfortunately if you find significant errors in Acrobat's OCR interpretations, there is not an easy method for making corrections to the PDF.

Cool. But who would use this?

In all fairness, we offer this tip more as an example of a lesser known feature than because it has proven terribly useful somewhere specific.

Who would want to create a searchable PDF? A classic example would be an attorney who needs to scan in many types of printed documents. The original appearance and signatures can't be altered, but they need to be able to search documents later for certain phrases or words.

This technique might also be a way to incorporate older marketing materials into a company's library of searchable PDFs.

Finally, for some designers who don't have the need for dedicated OCR software, this might be a quick way to scan in and convert documents to text rather than retyping everything from scratch. For example, a client who provides a print-out of needed copy, but no word file, or a project that required extensive quotes from printed magazine or newspaper articles.

Source: This tip inspired by an article titled Is that PDF Searchable? at Adobe's Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog. Not something our normal creative-focused clients would be reading.

Tom Fishburne's Brand Camp Cartoons.

BrandCamp.jpg

Please excuse this short diversion from our normal weekly tip schedule. For those of us in the marketing and design community, many cartoons in this Brand Camp collection ring eerily true.

BrandCamp2.jpg

Tom has posted some past cartoons from his Brand Camp series on his website. You can also buy the full collection in his Brand Camp Cartoon Book on his CafePress store.

Tip: We wrote about CafePress two years ago in Tip #72: Sell stuff with your artwork on CafePress.com. It is fun, low risk way to play around with selling creative work as commercial products. The Brand Camp store is a great example of how one illustrator has done it.

Source: Discovered on the always fabulous Swissmiss blog.