Saturday, October 14, 2006

Visit to a long lost friend... and an introduction to a new one

I've been playing around with InDesign CS2 - thar be XML in that desktop software, you know.

It's been so long since I've really gotten my claws into an Adobe product. I'd forgotten how much I really enjoy working with them. I've been using Acrobat since V2.0 and Photoshop since I dunno when... The level of detail in the products has always been good. But now, something like 5 years after I did the big push to get my Imaging certification, it's like a whole different world out there... and it's a nicer, more colorful one, with more options.

And then there's InDesign. InDesign wasn't around when I was into Adobe stuff on a regular basis. It's very cool. The XML capabilities aren't all that sophisticated, yet - you can't do things like control elements in context or conditionally test attribute values or query for surrounding elements, but the composition stuff is all there and then some.

I did the first lesson in Deke McClelland's Adobe InDesign One-on-One CS2, and wound up all nostalgic over all the stuff that you can do in this product with a few clicks and keystrokes, that I used to do with a pica stick and calculator. And all that stuff was done before I physically handed the galleys off to the keylining/graphics person, who actually put the stuff up on a pasteboard to get the graphics in place... with wax and everything.

InDesign is like this: take FOSI technology (that's Formatted Output Specification Instance, or MIL-PRF-28001C, currently implemented by 2 vendors), add the Adobe Photoshop front end GUI and concept of layers, and then merge in the concept of paragraph, character, and - this one's the exciting one, guys - OBJECT-level stylesheets. Mix, bake at whatever the average temperature is out there in Adobe-land, and you get a really nice, well-baked composition tool. Oh, and if you're really on a tear, you can write all sorts of stuff to automate a lot of the setup, so it can also be a nice tool that, in the right hands, could really compete with the batch composition big dogs, XPP and 3B2.

In the words of Dr. Seuss: "Oh! The Places You'll Go!"

As much as I'm a typography geek, and as much as I'm obsessed all things XML-based book publishing composition, I have to say it was really nice to reacquaint myself with both Photoshop concepts and the Adobe interface. Layers. Yum.

Next entry: WordprocessingML in Word 2003: A Helluva Implementation...

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