XML – I was afraid but now I get it


I’m at the CS3 Conference in Chicago right now and I just had to write about the session I attended this morning. It was a basic introduction to using XML and InDesign by James Maivald. It was excellent! I had to force myself to go to this session because there is something about acronyms like XML, HTML, and CSS that makes me go cross-eyed and running for the comfort of my sketchbook and pencils. The nice thing is that James is a designer and he presented the material from a designer’s point of view. He has just written a book about how to use XML and InDesign together. He’s also got a nice little website called Cooking with XML which has some good simple overviews and explanations. It also has a nifty definitions page for those of us who can’t keep our acronyms straight. His book looks to be an invaluable training resource for designers called, “A Designer’s Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML.” It looks like it will be published in just a few weeks by Peachpit Press.

Can’t wait for the book to be published for your XML info? Try watching this video on using XML with Dreamweaver. Or check out the tutorials and other XML information on the Adobe Design Center. Anne-Marie Concepción has an XML tutorial worth trying out even though it was written for InDesign CS2. Be not afraid designers, XML may be just the ticket for your workflow productivity!

InDesign vs. Photoshop? No kidding.

Photoshop Contact Sheet


InDesign Contact Sheet


Somebody actually had the idea to pit InDesign’s image editing features against those in Photoshop. Go figure. I guess it makes sense because it really is easier to stay in one application—especially if you need to do something fairly simple. That somebody is one Mike McHugh, and the title of his article is InDesign vs. Photoshop Smackdown: Who Will Be the Winner? It’s on the Peachpit website.

If you haven’t explored that site yet, you should. They have loads of free tutorials and videos. A good place to start is the Reference Guides page. There you’ll find a guide for Photoshop, Flash, Web Design, and Macintosh. These guides are loaded with great instructional materials—videos, articles, and text tutorials. Some of them are for older versions of the software, but that isn’t so bad. Some things don’t change from version to version, and not everybody upgrades right away. I wonder why they don’t have one for Design, Illustration, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat—maybe those are in the works?

Okay, so what did I learn from the InDesign vs. Photoshop Smackdown? I learned that InDesign gives you a much better contact sheet than Photoshop. Mike’s instructions on page 6 of his article have you create your contact sheets starting in Bridge. You can do this for both InDesign and Photoshop. Look for yourself at my results above. The InDesign result is neat, orderly, and legible. Photoshop results are fine but not as nice as InDesign. I started with really long file names which got truncated in Photoshop. InDesign did not cut them off. Also, I can change fonts and layouts in InDesign much easier. I’d say that InDesign definitely wins Round 6!

Table design workflow with InDesign and Acrobat

In Ted Padova’s Acrobat Community Blog entry called, “Working with tables”, Ted details an effective workflow for those designers who create forms for their clients. Starting in Excel, he moves you to InDesign CS3 and then into Acrobat 8. He discusses how to use some of the great new features in InDesign CS3 to create and modify forms and tables. One of my favorite InDesign features for designing tables is the ability to modify the Excel file data from within InDesign. Just double-click on the xls file in the Links palette and you can edit the data. Once you save the file, it will update in your InDesign table. Very cool! Anne Marie Concepcion has a couple of really nice videos on how to use the table creation features in CS3. Start with “Creating and formatting tables”, then look at “Adding headers and footers to tables”, and “Placing images in tables” and “Using table styles.”

Overriding master pages in InDesign

My friend Mordy Golding has created a very informative video tutorial about Master Pages. You can find it on the InDesign Conference Podcast site. I like the way he describes how a master page works by comparing it to a sheet of glass with graphic elements underneath. You can see the elements but they are protected from editing. Sometimes you do want to edit those master pages and this video shows you how.