InDesign to merge with Illustrator

ever since Adobe launched their Creative Suite back in 2003 there has been ongoing speculation about when the various elements would be combined into a single application. the obvious contenders right from the start were InDesign and Illustrator since their functionality overlapped in many respects.

the problem has always been, however, that the fundamental architecture of the two products is completely different, even though the user experience is quite similar. the main reason for this is that Illustrator was developed from the ground up by Adobe, but InDesign is basically an expansion of Pagemaker — originally developed by Aldus.

well it appears that the merger is now well and truly in the pipeline with beta testing in full swing. if you’re not yet involved, you can apply to take part in Adobe’s Prerelease Program here

as with most beta versions there is still a lot of clunkiness to sort out, but the developers have also come up with some quite reasonable solutions to the inevitable problems. one example is the tool panel which, by default, is a monster hybrid of the two panels we are already familiar with. but there are also panel presets for just-InDesign and just-Illustrator panels. and now you can also specify your own custom tool panel, just as you’ve been able to do with menus since CS4 :
screen grab of hybrid tool panel

it looks like Adobe are planning to ease users into this new way of working because the new document window will now let you choose ‘artboards‘ or ‘pages‘ as the intent (the rest of the window changes depending on which intent you choose) — effectively keeping the two working styles independent, at least for the time being :
screen grab of new document panel

as with all change there are many who are not happy. generally speaking, it looks like the mainly-InDesign users aren’t too concerned, whereas the Illustrator aficionados are not at all happy (probably because Adobe is attempting to integrate the Illustrator functionality into InDesign, rather than the other way around) — some uncharitable testers have taken to calling the new application IllDesign.

there are also those who, perhaps not without reason, have questioned the timing — suggesting that Adobe had plenty of opportunity during the ten years of the Creative Suite to get this hybrid up and running but that they kept it under wraps to enable them to continue selling the two separately. obviously that is no longer a concern now that everything is integrated into Creative Cloud.

you can read more at the Adobe forums :

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Illustrator Paths : II

this is a continuation of a discussion started in Illustrator Paths : I, which covered two important facts about drawing vectors. this post will touch on how to anticipate the shape of a curve and drawing economically.

when drawing with the pen tool it can be handy to use a driving analogy — the direction you pull the control point equals the direction of the vehicle (that’s pretty obvious), the distance you pull that control point equals your speed. the three curves below use the same two anchor points and only one control point. the direction of travel is the same for all three, but the speed varies. the first is traveling faster and has to travel further before turning sharply to get to where it’s going. the last one is traveling slower, so can make a more gentle turn :
screen grab show three different curves
direction and speed — you are controlling only two things every time you pull out a control point. but what a lot of variation you can get between two anchors with just one control point :
screen grab of three more open curves
you might prefer the rubber band analogy — direction and stretch — same thing :
screen grab showing three more curves using only one control point

now, these are the simplest curves possible — two anchor points and one control point. but any one curve can have two control points — that’s two directions and two speeds interacting with each other — giving us quite complex curves from just two anchors :
complex curves from just two anchor points
join those two anchor points together and you get quite complex shapes :
screen grab showing complex shapes from just two anchor points

and that’s the main lesson for this post — you can get quite complex curves and shapes from very few anchor points. and fewer anchors generally means more beautiful curves.

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Illustrator Paths : I

this is the first of a few posts dealing with drawing vectors in Adobe Creative Suite — which really isn’t as difficult as some appear to find it.

these posts are more about understanding the mechanics of vectors — for the very basics on drawing with the pen tool see Adobe’s site.

let’s start with some observations about curved paths : when you draw a circle with the ellipse tool (holding down shift constrains the dimensions to a circle) you get four anchor points. each anchor point has a pair of equi-distant control points :
screen capture of circle path

delete two of those points and you’ll get an ellipse with anchor points at either end. again the control points are equi-distant from their anchor points — that’s what makes the ellipse symmetrical. with a bit of experimenting you’ll find that you can make exactly the same shape with anchor points on either side instead. what does this show? … that there is generally more than one way to create any given curved shape (note: this is important fact number one).screen grab of elliptical pathscreen grab of second elliptical path

a seriously under-utilised feature of vectors in CS is that you are not restricted to just adjusting anchor and control points — you can also drag the path segments themselves. take that first ellipse and drag the sides out and you’ll find you can create a circle (maybe not exactly perfect, but so close to perfect that it doesn’t matter). this demonstrates important fact number two : any one anchor point can describe a curve up to 180 degrees :
screen grab of 2-point circular path

fully understanding the implications of these two important facts will lead to more efficient curve drawing (fewer anchor points equals more beautiful curves), and a greater love of vector drawing generally :
screen grab of heart shaped path

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InDesign tip : #19

ok, here’s another follow-up post to cover stuff you weren’t told the first time around. InDesign tip : #12 showed how to place multiple images — a really brilliant feature we’ve had since CS4. that tip showed how to load a bunch of images into the cursor and place them one at a time throughout your document.

this tip is about the other cool trick — placing all images on the page in one hit. the images are arranged in a nice, neat grid which makes it a perfect technique for creating contact sheets.

first, grab all your images :
screen grab showing loading multiple images in the place cursor

as usual, your cursor will show a counter and a ghosted version of the first image. click and drag to begin making a frame (this will be in the proportions of your first image) before letting go of the mouse button, use your up and right arrows to add rows and columns to make a grid :
screen grab showing grid being drawn

now you can drag the grid to whatever proportions you like. if you need to remove rows or columns, just use your down and left arrows. when you’re happy with the way your grid looks, let go of the mouse button and your images will all be placed, in order, in the new grid :
screen grab of final grid with all images in place

what you end up with is a whole bunch of individual frames (not a grouped grid). only enough frames are created for the number of images you are placing — so, if you draw a 12-frame grid but only have 10 images loaded, only ten frames are created. if your grid isn’t big enough to hold all your images, the remaining images remain loaded in the cursor ready to be placed elsewhere.

but that’s not all…
if you find the grid you’ve drawn isn’t quite right, just undo (command-z) — all the frames disappear and all the images are reloaded into the cursor — ready to try again. you can change the spaces between the frames while you’re drawing the grid by using the command key with your arrows. and if you hold command-shift before you start drawing your grid — you’ll get a grid with the same columns, rows and spaces as the last grid you drew.
cool, eh?

but wait, that’s (still) not all…
this isn’t just for when you’re placing images. you can use the same technique if you just want a grid of rectangles, ovals, polygons, text frames or even graphic lines. some of you will have noticed that this new ‘gridify’ functionality stuffs the ability to adjust polygons (arrows) and stars (command-arrows) on the fly like in the old days. but, if you hit the space bar while drawing a polygon you’ll deactivate the grid thing and get the old functionality back. hit the space bar again to reactivate gridify.

can you believe that’s still not all?…
you could use the same technique to create text frames and add live captions to include name labels for your images, but the next scripting lesson will show you an easier way to label all images in a file in one sweep. making contact sheets is easy as.

incidentally, if you like those funky little icons, you can find them over at shutterstock — an excellent source of good value stock images. just search in the contributor field for ‘samer’.

• related post : InDesign scripting : lesson 21 : label all images in document quickly.

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InDesign tip : #18

InDesign tip : #14 talked about different ways of zooming about an InDesign document. but it missed one really cool little trick which has, apparently, been with us since CS4 — when the navigator panel was dropped — and it’s called, impressively, power zoom.

you start with the hand tool. as always, you do not have to select the hand tool from the tool panel — you activate it temporarily in one of three ways :
• if you have one of the selection tools active — hold down the space bar;
• if the text tool is active but no text frame is selected — use option-space;
• if the text tool is active in a text frame — use option only.
why the developers insisted on making it this complicated is a mystery.

anyway, once you have the hand tool up, click and hold the mouse button. after a couple of seconds the screen will zoom out a little and present you with a red outline (and you can let go of whichever keys you’re holding down). drag the red outline to wherever you want in the document — scroll up or down (or use your arrows) to resize the red outline — let the mouse button go and you’ll zoom into the new outlined area. now THAT’S cool :
screen grab of view before power zoom
screen grab of view during power zoom
screen grab of view after power zoom

incidentally, if you like that groovy little image by dek wid, you can find a tutorial showing how it’s done over at photoshop tutorials.

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