Optical alignment and the oddball, single-function Story palette

Tucked away in InDesign's Window menu is a Story palette. This palette has exactly one function – to turn on and off optical margin alignment.

You can find the Story palette at Window > Type & Tables > Story. There are two settings. The first is a checkbox to activate optical margin alignment. And the second alters the intensity of the alignment.

Optical margin alignment automatically adjusts the positioning of characters on the margin. It's especially noticeable for punctuation and letters like "A" and "W" which look a little odd lined up exactly on the margin. See the example below.

Optical margin alignment. Off (left) and on (right). Notice how the quotation mark and the lower case "w" move in relation to the margin.

Optical margin alignment. Off (left) and on (right). Notice how the quotation mark and the lower case "w" move in relation to the margin.

I'm not sure why Adobe didn't just include it on the Paragraphs palette. Seems odd to hide such a powerful feature on a random single-function palette.

Almost every Wednesday, I post a tip on an Adobe app.

Apple Watch: Cost isn't my biggest question…

When the iPhone was released in 2007, I had never paid more than $15 for a phone. Whatever phone was free with contract was what I purchased. I simply didn't see the point of spending significant money on a phone. But when the iPhone was announced, I wanted an iPhone. And now, 7 years later, every two years or so, I drop significantly more than $15 on the newest model of iPhone.

I've never paid more than $150 for a watch. I don't wear one every day. I really didn't see the point in investing a significant amount of money on a watch. But now I look at the newly announced Apple Watch.

And I want a watch.

I read John Gruber's thoughts on the new Apple Watch the other day. And what he's thinking is what I was thinking. The Apple Watch Sport will be $349 and the prices will increase significantly from there. Luckily, I like the Sport. But I really like a bunch of the other models as well — especially the stainless steel Apple Watch with Milanese Loop.

Price increases significantly as you move from left to right.

Price increases significantly as you move from left to right.

I have lots of questions about the Apple Watch. But cost really isn't the major concern. I expect a quality device with a premium price tag. But the more expensive the watch, the more these questions impact my decision.

Will the battery charge last for the entire day? For me to buy an Apple Watch, the charge has to last for at least a full day. And then hopefully, I'll remember to charge it every night. (I stink at remembering to charge my devices nightly.)

Will the Genius Bar become a jewelry counter? If I'm going to spend this kind of money, I want to try it on. See how it feels on my wrist. Think about the current Apple Stores. How in the world would they accommodate that type of customer interaction? They are already incredibly crowded. Will other retailers sell the Apple Watch? Can you see Best Buy selling solid gold watches? My guess is that Apple will offer the Sport through various retail channels, but the more expensive models will be sold exclusively through the Apple Store.

What will the upgrade cycle be like? Most of us buy an iPhone every two years. But that's because it's tied into a contract. I update my iPads and my Mac less frequently. How frequently will I upgrade my Apple Watch? For me to invest in a more expensive version, it's going to need to last more than two years.

Can I run with my Apple Watch without my iPhone? If I want to use my watch to workout, I don't also want to have to carry my iPhone. If all the GPS and network connectivity is in the iPhone, won't you need both with you to take advantage of apps like Nike Plus? And who wants to run with a giant iPhone 6 or an enormous iPhone 6 Plus? If I can leave behind my iPhone and run with just my Watch, then I'm interested. Otherwise, I'll leave the watch at home and run with my iPhone like I do now.

As we get closer to the release, we'll discover the answers to some of these questions. I have confidence that Apple will do its best to address these issues.

I intend to buy an Apple Watch. Will I spurge and go with the more expensive option? Probably not initially. I have trouble with the idea of investing in an expensive watch that is obsolete after a few years. But just like how Apple changed my attitude towards buying mobile phones, I think they will radically change my attitude towards buying watches.

Follow the leader

Most people don't know how to use tabs properly. But tabs can be really powerful, especially if you are building a form or table of contents.

Below you see a simple form with the tab ruler above it. Select each tab and type an underscore in the "Leader" box. Whatever character you type in the "Leader" box will repeat all the way to the tab. The underscore becomes the lines on the form. Much quicker and more accurate than trying to draw the underlines yourself. And much, much easier to edit the form later.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.04.58 PM.png

If you are building a table of contents, you may want to have a dotted line from the end of the chapter name to the page number. Don't type a bunch of periods! Just set the "Leader" to a period. You can also use a right-justified tab to line up all your numbers correctly. Faster to build. Faster to edit.

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 10.07.09 PM.png

Does anyone still use TIFF files?

Does anyone still use TIFF (TIF/.tif) files? And if so, why? Back when I was a young designer, a TIFF file was the only real choice for exporting a high quality image. But I can't really imagine why anyone would use one in today's Adobe/Creative Cloud workflow.

InDesign's support for directly placing native files – Photoshop, Illustrator, PDF and even other InDesign files – largely eliminates the need to export to another file before placing. (Although I still save logos as EPS files when they are final.) Many people don't know that InDesign has the capability to place native files or assume that it will cause significant problems in production.

For high quality, high resolution images, you can place a Photoshop file (PSD) directly into InDesign. This way you place the original image and you aren't exporting a new TIF with each revision. One major benefit is that the PSD maintains all transparency when placed into InDesign. The only drawback I see here is that file size might get unwieldy if it's a large image with a bunch of layers.

If you are sharing a high resolution image, a JPG will work fine. Many designers turn their nose up at JPGs because they associate them with low resolution, highly compressed web images. But a high quality JPG doesn't have noticeable artifacts from compression and is much smaller than a TIFF.

Greyscale and bitmap files might be the only remaining use for a TIFF. When placed into InDesign, a greyscale or bitmap TIFF can be colored. So if you are wanted to colorize a grayscale image with a spot color, a TIFF is still your best option. But as 2-color print jobs become less common, I rarely use this technique for anything except screen printing.

Every Wednesday – and sometimes Thursday morning – I post a quick tip for working in an Adobe app.

Quark did one thing right...

There isn't much I miss about Quark Xpress, but I did prefer the way Quark handled text wrap.

In both apps, you select an object and set the text wrap. By default, InDesign applies the text wrap to all objects, regardless of whether the object is on the top or bottom. Quark only applied text wrap to text frames underneath the text wrap.

To turn on Quark-style text wrap in InDesign, go to InDesign > Preferences > Composition... and select "Text Wrap Only Affects Text Beneath." Now text wrap will only impact the frames underneath.

Highlighting bad lines

InDesign can highlight lines of text that are spaced badly. By default, the highlighting is turned off for justification issues. To turn it on, go to InDesign > Preferences > Composition... The highlighting options are at the top of the window:

Turning on "H&J Violations" will highlight in yellow any place where InDesign can't meet your hyphenation and justification settings. Here's an example of a block of justified text with hyphenation turned off:

The worse the violation, the darker the yellow highlight is. Here is the same passage with hyphenation turned on:

Obviously, allowing InDesign to hyphenate and handle the bad breaks results in much better spacing.

I try to avoid full justification because of the issues that almost always come up with the spacing. But sometimes, you have to justify. And when you do, it's easier to spot and fix badly spaced lines with the highlighting turned on.

Every Wednesday, I post a tip on using an Adobe app.

Washington Redacted

There's been a lot of talk this summer about renaming the NFL's Washington Redskins. But this week, sports talk radio has discussed that some announcers will be going out of their way to not even say the name "Redskins" during a broadcast. 

If the network truly deems the word to be offensive, they could just bleep out the word "Redskins" with the 7-second delay. Just think...

"Welcome to an epic battle between division rivals. The Dallas Cowboys versus the Washington BLEEEEEP. John, what do you thing about the matchup today? What do the BLEEEEEP need to do to beat the Cowboys."

Awesome, right. Or considering how much the Federal Government loves to redact classified documents, we could just rename them the Washington Redacted. The logo could look like this:

The logo for the Washington Redacted.

The logo for the Washington Redacted.

Same colors. And same number of letters as "Redskins" so die hard fans can pretend the name of their team hasn't changed. Think of the possibilities. You could redact the name of players on their jerseys. Announcers can use all sorts of bad puns. Fans could chant "Redact that kick." Or not.

Washington Redacted, secondary mark.

Washington Redacted, secondary mark.

Of course I'm kidding, but it will be interesting to see what happens with the Redskins name. I'm pretty sure Daniel Synder isn't willing to change it, but who knows, maybe the league or some other outside pressure will force him to change it.

(And by the way, the "official" typeface for the Washington Redacted is Power Grid 2.0, which I released this week. You can buy the entire family for $29.)

InDesign Presentation Mode

InDesign CC 2014 adds a new screen mode: Presentation.

You can enter Presentation mode in a couple of ways. From the menu bar, select View > Screen Mode > Presentation. I often to use the button at the bottom of the Tool Palette to switch screen modes. And if you are a keyboard shortcut person, "shift+W" will do the trick. (Don't worry, pressing "W" by itself still gets you into Preview mode.)

So, what is Presentation mode? It hides the palettes and toolbar and displays only your InDesign document surrounded by black. You can page between them using arrow keys. Or you can click to advance and shift-click to go back. It's very similar to Full Screen Mode in Acrobat.

Presentation mode will be helpful when showing artwork to clients and coworkers. And if you are like me and build "PowerPoint" presentations in InDesign, it will be nice to preview your artwork in full screen mode before you export to PDF.

Could you actually use InDesign to show a presentation? I suppose you could. Although it seems clear to me that isn't Adobe's intention with the feature. Users can add transitions in InDesign that export with a PDF file. Those transitions aren't shown in Presentation mode. If Adobe intended for you to use this mode to show presentations, they would have supported transitions. For building presentations in InDesign, your best bet is still to export a PDF and present in Acrobat.

On Wednesday's, I post quick tips for Adobe apps.

New Fonts: Power Grid 2.0 and Saluda

I'm introducing two new commercial typeface families today: Power Grid 2.0 and Saluda. Both are available now through Creative Market. 

Power Grid 2.0

Power Grid was one of my favorite Fontstruct creations, inspired by lettering I found on some 1920s Russian constructivist posters. A few years ago, I released a free, Opentype version.

My first commercial font, Powerlane, was a heavily reworked version of Power Grid. Completely redrawn from scratch, Powerlane gained new weights, an expanded character set, Opentype small caps and a handful of alternate characters. 

When I released Powerlane over two years ago, I took Power Grid out of my free fonts and disabled download from Fonstruct. But over time, I've decided that Power Grid and Powerlane – while definitely related – are different. Different enough that I've decided to bring Power Grid back. 

Power Grid 2.0 retains the basic look of the original. It's still uppercase only and tightly spaced, but I've reworked some letterforms. The alternate forms that used to live in the lower case have been moved to their proper place in the stylistic sets. The ampersand is much improved and inherited from Powerlane.


The big change is that the regular version of Power Grid also picks up some new siblings: Inline, Stencil and Rounded. Each of them adds a little different character to the Power Grid family. And each has a a regular and oblique version. 

For a limited time, I'm offering the entire Power Grid Family – 8 fonts – for $29 at The Creative Market. If you are looking for a tough, industrial typeface, the Power Grid family is a great option. 


Saluda is a simple, sans serif design in a single weight. I started work on Saluda after I finished Powerlane. And after building a typeface with 20 fonts and thousands of glyphs, I really wanted to tackle something simple. Saluda has modular underpinnings that are rooted in some of my Fontstruct work, but there's nothing modular about the final design.

I'm especially fond of the italic version that adds some simple terminal serifs throughout. Saluda's inspired by the trails and river at a park near my home and is intended for display and identity work. Saluda and Saluda Italic are available as a package at the Creative Market for $10.

Creative Market

Power Grid and Saluda join Valdes Clarendon in the Sketchbook B store on the Creative Market. I've also added Powerlane to the store as well. You can buy Powerlane Complete (20 fonts) for $99 and subset of the family –  Powerlane Select (10 fonts) – for $49. Look for more products from Sketchbook B on the Creative Market coming soon.

Lorem Ipsum in Photoshop CC 2014


The newest version of Photoshop includes the ability to paste dummy text into a text layer. Create a text layer and then select Type > Paste Lorem Ipsum. A paragraph will appear with the classic lorem ipsum text. I imagine that web designers will use this feature when building comps. And print designers will continue to yell that you don't do long passages of type in Photoshop.

Every Wednesday (well, ALMOST every Wednesday), I highlight often overlooked features in Adobe apps.

Evernote for Designers

Designers love to look for inspiration and resources. And many of us have really complex ways of keeping track of all of it. Folders, pictures, bookmarks, binders... designers can create some complex methods to organize stuff. And that's why I'm surprised every time I meet a designer that doesn't use Evernote.

Evernote is an online ecosystem that is ideal for designers. Store anything -- designs, pictures, ideas, audio, links, PDFs and more -- in an online app and access it from any device. And I mean any device. Evernote offers desktop versions for Mac and PC, mobile versions for iOS and Android and web version if you are away from your own machine. Evernote has an API that allows developers to interact with the ecosystem, too.

I know a lot of designers that use Pintrest for saving inspiration. But Evernote's more flexible and lets you save different types of material. Plus you can actually save the text of an entire article or web page, not just the link. So if the link is moved or broken, in Evernote, you will still have the original content. In Pintrest, the link is gone.

Evernote allows you store your notes and thoughts in virtual notebooks that you can search and tag. Organize your notes in any structure that makes sense to you. 

If you don't have an Evernote account, sign up for one now. (Using this referral link will get you a free month of Evernote Premium.) 

Free vs Premium accounts

Evernote offers a free account that will likely offer everything you need. But the Premium account does add some great features for only $5 per month. If you really get into Evernote, you may want to upgrade.

Inputing Inspiration

So how do you get your ideas and resources into Evernote? There are lots of options that can work with your own personal workflow.

Evernote Web Clipper. Save anything you find online to your Evernote account. You can save just a bookmark or an entire text. The Web Clipper lets you add notes and a variety of annotations to screenshots, too. One drawback is that the Web Clipper doesn't work with iOS because of current sandboxing rules. Hopefully that might change with iOS 8.

Email. One of my favorite ways to add tweets and links from my iPhone to Evernote is with email. Go into Account Info on the desktop app or Settings > General > Evernote Email Address to set a custom email address. Add it to your address book. Pretty much every app on your phone lets you share links or files via email. Just type Evernote into the email address field and your upload email address will pop up.

TIP: I create a "Notes to be sorted" notebook in Evernote and make that the default notebook. Everything I add via email lands there. Once a week, I sort my notes into proper notebooks.

Skitch. Skitch is an app for your phone or computer that lets you capture images, annotate them and send them to Evernote. It's great for taking reference shots for photo shoots, site notes for signage, screenshots and more.

What do you keep?

I use Evernote to keep everything. A few of the design related things I use Evernote for:

Inspiration. I find inspiration all over the internet... not just articles about design, social media and communication, but also pictures and articles completely unrelated to design. Evernote lets you easily save and organize these treasures so you actually can find them later.

Read later. There's a whole series of online services that help you save articles to read later. But for me, Evernote works great. I save the article link to Evernote and read it later. If I love the article, I tag it and move it into a notebook. If not, I just delete the note.

That great Photoshop tip. Evernote's great for storing tips and techniques for your favorite apps. When you need a tip, it's much easier to find it in Evernote than having to search the web to rediscover it. 

Notes. I'm always thinking about projects, even when I'm away from the office. Got a great idea at lunch? While watching TV? In the middle of a meeting? Just make a note in Evernote and it will sync up with all your devices.

To Do Lists. I use Wunderlist for most of my task management, but Evernote has the ability to create custom and flexible to-do lists. Handy for managing projects.

Book recommendations. People recommend books to me all the time. But sometimes, I have to remember those recommendations months later when I'm looking for something new to read. Evernote is perfect for saving those recommendations.

Vendors and partners. I come across talented photographers and illustrators that I'd love to work with, but often, I don't have a project for them right then. Store their contacts and work samples in a notebook and easily find them when you need someone.

In addition, there are lots of non-design reasons to use Evernote. Travel ideas, gift ideas, confirmation emails, fitness plans and more. And you can organize these things right along side your work notes.

Finding stuff

The first level of organization in Evernote is how you sort and organize your notebooks. But that's not the only way you can find and organize things.

Of course, Evernote allows you to easily search across all your notebooks for any content you've saved. And you can even enable a feature that allows your saved notes to show up when you do a Google search.

Evernote allows you to tag your posts. So you can build a tag structure on top of your notebook structure. Basically, Evernote is flexible enough to allow you to organize and find your stuff in the way that works best for you.

Sharing your inspiration

Evernote is not just a place for storing ideas. It's also a powerful tool for sharing ideas.

Social media. Evernote makes it easy to share links via Facebook, Linked In and Twitter.

Sharing a notebook. You can share a notebook with another Evernote user and both of you can view and modify it. You can also create a public URL to the note if you are sharing with a group that doesn't use Evernote.

TIP: Upgrading to Premium adds some more flexibility with how you control sharing and collaboration. So if you are planning to share notes with a small workgroup, you may want to invest in Premium.

Presentation Mode. Evernote Premium also adds a presentation mode that lets you convert your inspiration into full screen, Keynote-esque visuals. Great if you're trying to share ideas with your team around your laptop or with a projector.

Give it a try

If you haven't given Evernote a try, sign up for a free account now and see if it will work for you. (If you opened up an account a while back and forgot about it, give it a try again.) It's key strength is really the flexibility to build a archival structure that works best for you. For designers that love to find and keep inspirational resources, it's tough to find a tool better than Evernote.


Teleport Photoshop Layers

The Wednesday Quick Tip is back with a simple Photoshop tip. I use a lot of layers in Photoshop. And so I frequently duplicate layers by selecting one or more layers and selecting "Duplicate Layer..." from the flyout menu on the Layers palette.

But Photoshop also lets you duplicate layers to other destinations. By default, the destination for your duplicate layer is set to the current file that you are in:

But you can change the destination to any other open file or even create a new document with the layer:

You're not just duplicating the layer... you're kind of teleporting it to a different file. It's especially helpful when you want to copy an adjustment layer to a similar photo or combine a few images into a new document. 

It's a simple feature that many people don't even notice.

Every Wednesday, I post a quick tip on an Adobe app.


Next week, I'll start with back with my Wednesday Quick Tips.

Below are a few shots from my trip to Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. All were taken with my iPhone and all have been processed with Flare. I've posted a new Flare preset, Arco, for download.

Grouping Colors in InDesign CC 2014

The new versions of Creative Cloud are out, and InDesign has picked up a few new features. One of the minor tweaks will be really welcomed by obsessive compulsive designs.

InDesign CC (2014) now lets you group your colors into folders. Just click the folder icon at the bottom of the Swatches palette to make a new color group.

While it's a small thing, having the ability to group colors will be helpful or large and complex documents.

Every Wednesday, I post a tip for an Adobe app.

Not everyone upgrades right away

Adobe introduced some new versions of Creative Cloud today. And since not everyone upgrades right away, it's a great time to remind you how to save an InDesign file so it can be opened in an older version of InDesign.

Simply go to File > Export and choose "InDesign Markup Language (IDML)" at the bottom of the dialog box. The resulting file will be have an .idml extension and should open up in older versions of InDesign.

Of course you'll still need to package your images and fonts if you are transferring the file to another computer. Just collect the job by selecting File > Package... and selecting your options. Then save an IDML file, too.

Every Wednesday, I post a tip on an Adobe app.


Typekit integration

At the top of the Type menu in Adobe InDesign CC is a new addition: Add Fonts from Typekit...

Selecting it will open Typekit in a browser window and you can choose typefaces that you would like to install.

Pick which versions and weights you want to use and sync them to your computer. There are lots of tools to help you discover new type, allowing you to search for type styles, thicknesses and weights. Creative Cloud automatically downloads and installs the fonts for you. 

A large selection of type, including Mark Simonson's excellent Proxima Nova, are available as part of your Creative Cloud subscription. I'm surprised at how many folks have no idea that this is part of your monthly subscription cost. And the type can be used in any app.

Every Wednesday, I post a tip on an Adobe product.

Measure twice...

InDesign has a built-in ruler – the Measurement tool that hides behind the Eyedropper. You can use it in a couple of ways.

Select the Measurement tool and draw a line to measure something. The Info palette should open. Your measurement results will appear in the Info palette.

Below, measuring the left side of the magenta box, you can see the length (D1) and the angle. Also note that the width and height of the shape, the coordinates and the colors are also shown in the Info palette. And once you've drawn a measurement line, you can move it around to compare to other shapes.

Distance and angle is easy to find.

Distance and angle is easy to find.

But that's not all. You may need to measure the angle between two lines. If I want to measure the angle between the pink and black boxes, InDesign has a hidden "protractor" measurement mode. Draw your first line. Then, holding down the option key, draw a second line that starts at the endpoint of the first line. Your cursor should change into a protractor that looks suspiciously like a compass. When you draw both lines, your measurements for the first line (D1), second line (D2) and the angle between them is shown.

Protractor measurement mode in action.

Protractor measurement mode in action.

Oddly, this ruler is more capable than the one in Illustrator where I would use it more often. The Illustrator measurement tool lacks a protractor mode. Seems like it would be an easy addition for them. (And if Adobe really wanted to improve the ruler in their apps, they should take some tips from the type design app, Glyphs, which has an amazingly functional measurement tool.)

Every Wednesday, I post a quick tip on an Adobe app.

InDesign's hidden distraction-free writing mode

I’m a big fan of distraction-free writing environments that strip away all of the formatting and let you focus on the words. (I normally use Byword for iOS and Mac.) What does this have to do with today’s quick tip? Adobe InDesign has a built-in, distraction-free editing mode.

It’s called Story Editor and it’s helpful when you are trying to edit text without the formatting. To activate it, select a text box and go to Edit > Edit in Story Editor. A simple window will open that looks like this:

The default Story Editor in InDesign.

The default Story Editor in InDesign.

Any text changes you make in the Story Editor are also made in the InDesign layout. It's just a different view of your story.

To the left you have the Paragraph style and a ruler showing how many inches of text you’ve written. The ruler takes into account the type style and width of column to give you an accurate estimate of how long your text is. If you don’t find them helpful, you can disable them by going to View > Story Editor and hiding them.

Also, I’m not a big fan of the type settings. Thankfully, you can change the appearence in InDesign > Preferences > Story Editor Display... Change the typeface, size, background colors line spacing and more.

With some tweaks to the interface, the Story Editor now looks like this:

Slightly customized Story Editor.

Slightly customized Story Editor.

In a perfect world, Adobe would include some other options. Personally, I'd like to be able to adjust the width of the side margins so can take the window full screen width and still have an easily readable line length. As you can see from the shot above, the text goes all the way to the edge of the window.

It's not going to replace Byword for me, but it is a nice option when editing text in InDesign and really helpful with complex documents.

Every Wednesday, I post a quick tip on an Adobe app.