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Mike Perry

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  1. Mike Perry

    World-Ready Paragraph Composer

    For those unfamiliar with InDesign, I will explain what a "world-ready paragraph composer" is. The world-ready simply means it works with a host of different languages, including those that go from right to left. Paragraph composer describes how it deals with how lines break inside paragraphs. The typical word processor only looks at one line at a time. It breaks the first line as best it could, then the second, the third and so forth. A paragraph composer like that of ID, is far smarter than that. It looks at the entire paragraph, trying to find the most appealing way to break lines so the entire paragraph looks good. For instance, it may discover that slightly squeezing a short word onto line 3 then allows a longer word to be included on line 4 without wrapping too soon or having a ugly amount of compression on line 4. It can work wonders at making a document look better, particularly one with justified lines and no hyphenation. It can also reduce the need for hyphenation. And the best thing about it is that we need only turn it on for it to work its wonders. We don't have to play the niggling games layout designers once did with forcing a line to break early and seeing if the result worked. I would go so far as to say that without a "world-ready paragraph composer," an app isn't really a professional one. And of course the beauty of the idea is that, if it's a built-in feature, then everyone from experienced professional to rank amateur can benefit. It's one reason why I encourage independent authors to look into page-layout apps. Their books will look much better.
  2. Mike Perry


    Add me to those voting for footnotes and endnotes, but with a strong stress on the later. Visit any university library and you'll find that endnotes replaced footnotes long ago, perhaps in the 1950s. In the era before computers, endnotes were far easier to typeset. In todays world, their appearance at the bottom of a page is seen as clutter by most readers. And being able to have both in the same document would be handy. Footnotes could be used at the bottom of a page to clarify ideas. Endnotes far away could be used to give references that most people don't read. I would, however, agree with those who'd like to see footnotes handled in a more powerful way. Untangling Tolkien, my day-by-day chronology of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was done in Framemaker, which allowed me create the equivalent of footnotes for references to the source in LOTR in a sidebar alongside the text to which it applies. That worked far better than bottom of the page footnotes or endnotes. I can't do that in ID.
  3. Whether the discussion is about smartphones or page-layout apps, I find discussions about copying versus innovation pointless. A smartphone has to fit a narrow range of shapes and sizes. Given that, the tweaks that smartphone makers can achieve matter little. Page layout apps are the same. What one does another must do. Calling that copying makes no sense. It's complaining that the second car ever made copied the first because it also has wheels. I've been using InDesign for about fifteen years and I've watched how it has grown. I'm no more concerned about where Affinity Publisher resembles ID than I was the ID resembles Quark Express or Pagemaker. Apps that have similar tasks will have similar features. Looking at the beta of AP, I'm impressed. Since its to-do list included a lot of features that ID took years to add, I'm impressed with how much smoother many of AP's features are. Thus far I've only developed two gripes with AP—or at least AP as I have perceived it. 1. Page-layout apps typical handle styles in two different ways. One way is to define a bit of text in some way and turn that into a style. Those doing magazine layout find that appealing. The other way is to create a new style from scratch and define what it looks like without looking at it. I layout books and have created thousand of styles. I don't need to look at or bother with seeing as I create. Stick that in my create-a-style workflow and I get ticked off. The tutorials from Affinity that I have watched seemed to stress the first method. As best I can tell, the other is also an option that is easily used. I hope that is true and that option can remain. 2. There's one aspect of AP that I flat out don't like. That's the repeated mention of "text styles" to refer to both paragraph styles and the styling of text inside paragraphs. In ID text and paragraph styles work quite differently and the distinction the app makes between them is a good one. I don't want to see that distinction muddled. There's also another factor. The books I work with in ID often have hundreds of paragraph styles and dozens of text styles. I have enough trouble managing the resulting long lists. Creating confusion between styles that apply to paragraphs and those that apply only to a selected text only make matters worse. Paragraph and text styles are as different as dogs and cats and need to be treated as such.
  4. Mike Perry

    Book publishing

    As someone who's done dozens of books in all formats, print and digital, using InDesign, I'll add my remarks to this book publishing discussion. 1. Writing as chapters versus the book in one file. With ID I write (or layout for other publishers) the entire book as one document but break the chapters into separate text-frame flows. Initially, as I do the layout, adding graphics, I have an excess of pages in each set of frames. That way, adding a graphic to chapter one has no impact on the pagination for chapter 21. It's also necessary to do that to get ID to do endnotes right. I will be blunt. I will flat-out not use or recommend an publishing app that forcing me to do editing, proofing, and layout in chapter-length segments. I don't thing that is going to be a problem with Affinity Publisher. But I know that if it becomes little more than a brochure-making app, it won't sell. I can give an illustration why I feel so strongly. Suppose some word in an entire book needs changing. That is a very common problem. With that entire book handled by ID, I simply do a document-length search and replace (rather than a story-length one). I typically could do that in less than a minute. With each chapter in a separate document, I might need to do a dozen or more searches and take perhaps 15-20 minutes. I won't put up with that nor will I put up with some complicated process to create and merge contents, an index, or pages into a PDF. I want the book to be in and managed as one document. Again, I don't think that'll be an issue with AP. 2. Printed book v. ebook. ID lets me create multiple versions of a book from one master document. That means a print-ready PDF, along with reflowable and fixed-layout epubs. (I handle Kindle editions by sending Amazon a reflowable epub for conversion.) That seems to work well enough. Again, I will be blunt. The books I write and edit myself and those I do for other publishers are revised and updated up until the day they go off to be printed. I am not going to klutz with any workflow that means I have to do that editing in one app for the print version and another for the digital version. I am not anal retentive. I won't put myself through all the niggling, detail-mongering that maintaining two versions requires. And why should I? ID can manage to output multiple formats from one source. Any other app that I might adopt or recommend must do the same. 3. PDF as input text. My response to any mention of that is, "are you insane?" PDF means "Page Description Format." That means it has already determined how a page is formatted, so why would I want to import it into a page layout program? I use page layout apps to take unformatted or poorly formatted text from Word and other sources, turning it into something that's appealing. I do not want any prior attempt at laying that text out to intrude. It only gets in the way. I already spent quite a bit of time trying to get rid of extraneous Word formatting. And yeah, I realize that in a lot of businesses, all they have is a PDF they want to tweak. They want to be able to import that, ignoring how ugly it may look, and make that tweak. That's fine for them. I just don't want to make that my work flow. I hope I don't sound too negative. Given my work, I'll continue to use ID and may even continue to use it for all the books I layout. I am well past ID's initially steep learning curve. But as a writer, I would love to have a powerful page layout app that I could recommend to independent writers, one that doesn't have as steep a learning curve as ID or ID's inflated, $240-a-year subscription cost. --Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books
  5. Mike Perry

    GREP find/replace

    Ah yes, it's easy to spot heavy users of InDesign like myself. We absolutely love ID's GREP abilities, keeping in mind that doesn't just mean sophisticated text replacements. It also includes the ability deal with paragraph and text styles as well as an app's other formatting features, searching and replacing those too. The book drafts I work with run to hundreds of pages and, being scientific in nature, make heavy use of italics. I need the ability to import Word documents, retaining all the italic formatting that doesn't use the italic text style. I then need to be able to change those hundreds of italic fonts into an italic text style. With ID's GREP that's easy. I search for italic fonts and replace them with an italic style. Only then can I begin to do the layout in earnest. GREP has other marvelous time-saving advantages. Science texts often come to me with hyphens for page ranges that need to become N-dashes. Looking for every hyphen in a book would be a pain. GREP allows me to search only for hyphens that are bordered on both sides by numbers.