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ianborcic

Precise text justification in Affinity Publisher

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I have been using Affinity Publisher since it’s early beta version and it has pretty much completely replaced Adobe InDesign for me. In general I am super happy with all 3 Affinity products which have become the main tools for my professional work. There are though still a few issues where I unfortunately do not get the performance I've been used to from InDesign. One extremely important thing for me and other designer colleagues of mine is precise fine tuning of justified text. In InDesign you can adjust the justification settings to get a pretty much perfect text box without weird spacing and gaps between words. My colleagues and I have until now been unable to get satisfactory results using Publisher’s settings so I would kindly ask the Affinty team working on Publisher to take an extra look into this feature and try and get it up to par with what's possible in InDesign. Maybe we have all been doing something wrong though I doubt it because I have heard this complaint in the forums before. I am including a screenshot of the settings I have been using for years in InDesign which pretty much give perfect results every time. I have yet to find the same ‘magic’ formula in Publisher and until then this will unfortunately be a major issue for me.
 
Thanks for looking into this :)

InDesign Setting.png

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5 hours ago, ianborcic said:

have until now been unable to get satisfactory results using Publisher’s settings

This is largely a result of the Affinity products not currently having an equivalent to the "Adobe Paragraph Composer".  This has been requested on various other threads and Serif does not seem to be prioritizing this at the moment, so it is unclear if or when this particular limitation of the product will be addressed.

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Well, I think a feature like this is a must and a basic feature if Publisher wants to be an app for professionals that competes with the likes of InDesign. I hope they get around to it soon. For this reason alone I might have to do the final design of a particular book project I am working on that requires precise  justificatied text in InDesign and believe me this is something I wish not to do.

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1 minute ago, ianborcic said:

I think a feature like this is a must

This feature was discussed at length here in this forum. Just search for this term.

It's not a must because not all competing programs have it, QuarkXPress is one of them.

On the other hand a lot of people would cringe at the fact that people distort glyphs (scale them ) to achieve as you call it precise justification. 

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Something like the paragraph composer could be included, and probably should be, but I'm one of the people who would probably object to scaling the glyphs.


-- Walt

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I just know that both InDesign and Quark (I own both of them) are capable of creating good looking and balanced justified text boxes without ugly gaps. Publisher does not unfortunately match up here at the moment and I hope thay change this.

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I do often use a very small amount of glyph scaling (1 or 2%). I personally would not want to look at text with much more than that.

As to the multiline/paragraph composer, I have been a frequent proponent of that feature on this forum. I was just discussing that with my boss this morning, in fact. We have been experimenting on moving over to Publisher from InDesign with some smaller projects. Some of the "missing features" (that is, features we wish were added, like footnotes), I have reasonable confidence that they will eventually make it into Publisher. But this feature is one that I am very uncertain of, not even at the level of "we hope to do this eventually, but we have other priorities for the near future." It made for an embarrassing turn in the conversation, as I have generally been praising Publisher as a young but promising new offering.

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I use glyph scaling only for copyfitting (to shrink certain paragraphs so that short last text row disappears, or to add a text row to a certain paragraph). . 

And I would much prefer to have paragraph composer, but single line is manageable.

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The glyph scaling is only a minor aspect of the Adobe InDesign paragraph composer.

When an app typesets a paragraph, it can employ whitespace justification (narrowing or widening of spaces between words) and hyphenation in various degrees. The same paragraph can be typeset in many different ways. InDesign, and also TeX/LaTeX, compose paragraphs in such a way that the whitespace change across all lines of the paragraph is minimized. 

Primitive linebreaking apps such as Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Affinity Publisher or web browsers don’t do that. They just go line-by-line, find the first hyphenation point of a word that overflows, break there and then justify the whitespace. Then they go to the next line. 

So in Publisher, you may end up with a paragraph where one line has huge word gaps and the next line has tiny word gaps, and then some lines again have huge or tiny word gaps. 

In InDesign, the word gaps within the entire paragraph are more evened out. On top of that there is the glyph scaling. 

Affinity Publisher at this point is of Microsoft Publisher/Serif PagePlus quality. It’s vastly inferior to Microsoft Publisher in supporting different languages.

Affinity Publisher is only useful for typesetting simple documents in a handful  of languages. Comparing it to InDesign at this point is like comparing a Fiat to a BMW :)

This, btw, is not necessarily a bad thing. There was a market for a simple page layout app. But this is a completely different class from InDesign. 

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I appreciate your post. I think this feature request is not as popular because many people do not understand the difference (though to be fair, there are a few who do understand and still are not interested, who prefer to turn off the Adobe Paragraph composer in InDesign work).

I think I can come to defense for Publisher as compared to Microsoft Word in one thing, however. I understand that Word only justifies by word spacing (unless I am mistaken—please correct if this is misinformation), whereas Publisher uses both word spacing and letter spacing. I would much prefer laying out justified text in Publisher than in Word, even if just for this reason alone.

However, what you say about calculating justification on line-by-line is a true limitation that Publisher shares with the more simple layout apps like word processors and browsers. Serif had to start somewhere, but I hope that they do aspire to greater heights when it comes to justification.

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I agree that creating an app of such complexity as Affinity Publisher is a huge task, and no matter how large your team is, you have to prioritize. But implementing proper typography is a tedious task, and requires not just engineers who know how to code but also people who know what exactly should be coded. 

Quality typesetting is not just a matter of implementing some “algorithm” (btw, the Knuth algorithm is very old and does not work well is quite a few languages). This also requires research. 

Publisher lacks even basic support for most writing systems and languages of the world, and I guess adding that might be a higher priority than increasing the quality of support for Western languages.

But overall, it does look like AP is an app for leaflets and simple magazines. It is not an app for people who do serious text publishing. 

Perhaps in a few years this is different, but today Affinity Publisher is not much of an alternative for InDesign, except for a specific segment of uses of InDesign.

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8 hours ago, adamtwar said:

It is not an app for people who do serious text publishing

Can you give a couple of examples of serious publications that would not be suitable for designing with Affinity Publisher.

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Every single page of a simple novel typeset in Affinity Publisher will look vastly inferior to the same novel typeset with the same fonts on the same page dimensions in InDesign. Basically it's a difference between playing on a piano in a bar and on a concert grand piano. Both can emit principally the same sound but only one sounds good enough to be on a studio recording. 

Any publication that has even a brief portion in a non-European language (any Asian or Middle Eastern language) will fail in Publisher unless you use a different app to typeset the non-European portions. 

Any publication that uses longer paragraphs of justified text will naturally look much worse when made in Publisher than when made in InDesign — a school or university text book, a collection of essays, a scientific journal. 

The cost of the page layout software is often relatively minor compared to other cost of creating a quality printed publication (the printing itself, paper, distribution). Choosing Publisher over InDesign may be dictated by the fact that Publisher is cheaper — but it also obviously produces inferior results.

(This is not so with Designer or Photo — there, a skilled user may produce very high-quality output, and the apps are in many aspects better and more usable than the Adobe counterparts.)

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Exaggeration. Publisher can do large and serious jobs, it just cannot do complicated jobs. It can do good typesetting when output is helped manually occasionally. It is unpolished software which means all jobs cannot be done as smoothly and quick as with competing sw.

That said, InDesign is wonderful software and I will continue using it as long as CS5/6 runs in my system.

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On 1/12/2020 at 4:18 AM, adamtwar said:

Every single page of a simple novel typeset in Affinity Publisher will look vastly inferior to the same novel typeset with the same fonts on the same page dimensions in InDesign. ...

Hello Adam.

I have my own reasons why I won't use APub for publications, especially of some length.

However, I would be interested in seeing a few novel-size pages/content from ID you believe is well set. Please use a widely available Adobe font (say from Font Folio, etc.) to set it with. 

Oh. And resist the temptation to try the same content in APub, Word, QXP, etc.

Thanks, Mike

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On 1/12/2020 at 12:18 PM, adamtwar said:

Every single page of a simple novel typeset in Affinity Publisher will look vastly inferior to the same novel typeset with the same fonts on the same page dimensions in InDesign.

You seem to think that the Adobe Paragraph Composer is the panacea of typography and that programs that don't offer this feature are vastly inferior.

Like I said earlier in this thread there is so much more to typesetting than that. 

Although my go to application is inDesign I think that QuarkXPress does a better job at typesetting text than inDesign.

I would rather have Pair Kerning option in Affinity ( a la QuarkXPress) than Adobe's Paragraph Composer to be frank.

If only Affinity extended Optical Alignment to include pair kerning option that would be awesome.

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I am glad to see all of this discussion on this issue. A multiline composer is indeed very high on my personal wishlist—or perhaps I should just say better justified spacing and let the developers bring that about in the way best suited.

I welcome the gist of what adamtwar is saying, and in a sense I am "on his side" since this is a feature I also desire. However, I do want to be fair, and certain aspects of what Adam said seemed exaggerated to me as well. "Vastly inferior" seemed overstated in my opinion, especially as that was referring to even "a simple novel," where typically there is a single column across the whole page, which is a less challenging scenario than tight multi-column text. And let's not forget that one can manually tweak the spacing to achieve similar results, albeit it takes a lot more time. I am noticing this in the shorter texts I try in Publisher, while I am still leaving the larger works to InDesign.

@MikeW I was wondering whether you would jump in on this one, and I'm glad you did. Even though you and I have differing opinions of the paragraph composer, your comments are a welcome balance to help us keep things in perspective, lest we get carried away.

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On 1/13/2020 at 6:51 PM, KEITHY said:

I Cant even cut and paste text without it messing the word space and lines of text.

Can you elaborate a bit more on that as your statement above does' take any sense to me.

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