Tag Archives: review

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of CSS3

Book of CSS3

HTML5 is probably the most desirable acronym to have in a web designer’s portfolio today, but I think the third iteration of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS3) has greater impact on a designer’s bottom line and clients’ satisfaction. This is because CSS3 can finally deliver the slick user interfaces that used to be only possible with Photoshop and a lot of hacking for Internet Explorer. Browsers are advanced enough today to apply CSS3 and make websites everywhere look extra sharp.

The Book of CSS3 by Peter Gasston covers the full gamut of CSS3 rules and features, and I think it’s a useful book for CSS coders of all skill levels. I use a lot of CSS3 to control backgrounds and box elements, but there are entire sections of the CSS3 spec that I never really appreciated until I read this book. Gradients, color, opacity, transitions and animations are all prime examples. Another is media queries, which Adobe has made easier to implement with recent versions of Dreamweaver.

The book is clear, well-written and documented with good examples. There are a good deal of images to illustrate CSS3 in action, but unfortunately the book is in black and white which sometimes makes the images less useful. A more useful part of the book is the browser chart at the end of each section and in Appendix A, detailing which browsers support the demonstrated CSS3 features. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer still lags behind other browsers and doesn’t support a lot of CSS3 features (though I think this will change with the next version of IE). There are a few CSS3 features that are so experimental that most if not all browsers fail to execute them, including flexible box and template layout structures.

CSS3 will most likely change in the near future. Technology is evolving at a more rapid pace; the Firefox browser, for example, will be updated on a faster schedule and we’ll see more versions (and more CSS3 support) quicker. But I think the basic capabilities of CSS3 are set and web designers need to look at CSS3 now if they want to be progressive and offer clients the best technology today. The Book of CSS3 is a good place to learn the full range of CSS3 features.

The Book of CSS3
Peter Gasston
Published by No Starch Press
US $34.95
Rating: 9/10

buy from amazon

BOOK REVIEW: Eloquent JavaScript Simplifies Scripting For The Web

Marijn Haverbeke’s Eloquent JavaScript: A Modern Introduction to Programming is really about the fundamentals of coding clean JavaScript for websites. In any professional’s career, “fundamentals” are taught early on but can be forgotten or pushed aside in favor of getting projects out the door when deadlines are tight or in favor of new training that do things differently. In any case, fundamentals are usually the foundation of good programming and it’s beneficial to revisit them from time to time.

Eloquent JavaScript does a good job of detailing the fundamentals and explaining concepts like the stack and the environment. This attention to detail is what sets the book apart from other JavaScript books. However, Eloquent JavaScript is a comprehensive JavaScript guide so many features and techniques aren’t discussed. Another downside is the lack of tutorials or step-by-step examples: since the focus is on basic concepts, Marijn only needs basic snippets of code to illustrate his examples. There are a few larger projects used to demonstrate things over the course of a chapter or two, but they’re not really laid out as tutorials.

There are other aspects of JavaScript that aren’t discussed in Eloquent JavaScript, the most glaring of which might be libraries like jQuery. jQuery, Dojo and other JavaScript libraries are commonly used to make coding JavaScript easier, but Eloquent JavaScript mentions them on one page in passing. Again, there are many books out there that cover jQuery—and far more resources and code examples online—but this book is all about understanding JavaScript and knowing how to write elegant code from scratch.

Eloquent JavaScript is a very specialized book for programming purists and web developers who want to write the best code possible. Many developers are happy writing code that simply works, and this book may not be for them—a larger resource like O’Reilly’s JavaScript: The Definitive Guide or a book on jQuery might be a better fit for them. But if you want to grasp all the basic concepts behind JavaScript and write more eloquent code, try Eloquent JavaScript.

Eloquent JavaScript: A Modern Introduction to Programming
Marijn Haverbeke
Published by No Starch Press
US $29.95
Rating: 8/10

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REVIEW: Adobe Captivate 5 for Mac

captivate-box

Adobe Captivate 5, released last July, is the first version of Captivate to be available for Mac OS and so it’s the first version to be on the radar of many creative professionals who produce eLearning material through other products like Flash but don’t work with Windows. The Adobe team did a very good job porting Captivate to the Mac—it looks and feels just like its Windows counterpart—but creative users might be a little surprised by the differences between other creative pro apps like Flash and Captivate, which reminds me of PowerPoint.

The user interface

I’ve noticed two different user interface strategies at Adobe in the past couple years (excluding their video applications, which have their own interface design). Creative pro applications from Adobe either have an older user interface with multiple panels and many settings—think Photshop and Illustrator—or a newer, cleaner interface with a sidebar and fewer panels, segmented to show and hide groups of settings easily. Flash Catalyst CS5 is a prime example of this newer design, and Flash Pro CS5 uses some elements of both.

Captivate 5 offers a new user interface based on the newer version, and it’s very clean and easy to use. Like with Flash Pro CS5, the Properties Inspector is the main panel in the sidebar that provides most of the controls needed for everyday operations. I happen to like the older user interface, but that might be because I’ve used it for years in Photoshop and other Creative Suite apps. However, I prefer to have a lot of controls at my fingertips and the Captivate user interface is clean to the point where it might be a little dull and not as useful. For example, the alignment controls are in the menu bar—there’s no Align panel, which is common in other apps.

On the other hand, PowerPoint users might find Captivate 5’s user interface familiar. The panel layout reminds me of PowerPoint’s, and tools and settings are sometimes in similar positions. Ultimately, I think Captivate’s roots in the PC market and its connections to PowerPoint influenced the direction the user interface took. It’s an improvement over Captivate 4.

One more note that relates to user experience: unlike its predecessor, Captivate 5 now allows multiple Captivate projects to be open at the same time. I think it goes without saying that this is a vital improvement and one that will be universally praised.

New editing features

captivate-effects

The Effects menu (in the Timeline window) has several effects for transitions and other events.

Captivate 5’s killer feature is, of course, being available to Mac users for the first time. That in itself makes Captivate 5 notable. But PC users looking to justify an upgrade will want to look at the new features, which are mostly productivity enhancements that are major improvements and also longtime features of other software on the market:

  • Master Slides are simply slide masters that can apply a consistent layout to a group of slides. PowerPoint has had slide masters for years and in Captivate they provide a tremendous benefit.
  • Object Styles, a longtime feature of other creative apps like InDesign, allow users to save and apply design and typographical settings to elements.
  • It’s kind of buried in the Effects panel, but new animation effects are really nice—the list of effects is fairly long and they provide some original transitions I’m not used to seeing in other applications. Related to this is the new Widget API, which are all built with ActionScript 3 starting with Captivate 5. There’s several new classes that respond to more behaviors like a slide change or a video event. Captivate 4 had widgets as well, but they have been improved in Captivate 5.
  • Span & Synch Video allows a video clip to play across several slides and still allow navigation and slide changes. Captivate 5 has an Edit Video Timing dialog box where slide transitions can be synchronized with the clip.

captivate-master

Master slides allow consistent design application.

captivate-styles

Styles can be applied to several kinds of elements in Captivate 5 to make designing faster and less prone to errors.

Things like animation, master slides and styles are not new. Captivate has followed a winding road of evolution since starting out as a screen recording utility (Flashcam) and demo-recording tool for Flash (RoboDemo) before it was acquired by Adobe and turned into an eLearning application. This might explain why Captivate has lacked some basic presentation and layout tools until lately. I think Captivate 4 was the first version designed for layout and presentation, and Captivate 5 has gone maybe twice as far to solidify that purpose.

captivate-videobox

When video is inserted into a project, the slide duration can be made to match the video or the video can span multiple slides.

captivate-video

A spanned and synched video shows up in the slide filmstrip (left) and can be previewed across multiple slides.

New distribution features

Captivate was designed to support the collaborative nature of eLearning. Captivate 5’s major new features is integration with Acrobat.com and its use of Acrobat.com as a learning management system. Connecting with LMSes was an important feature of Captivate 4, but the collaborative nature of Acrobat.com and its various online apps also makes it a nice solution for eLearning if a LMS isn’t already in place.

The Acrobat.com experience is basic but useful. The eLearning product is basically uploaded to Acrobat.com and from there users can log in and participate. As with everything on Acrobat.com, a free Adobe account is required. The benefit of Acrobat.com is its tracking and reporting features, which record and report users’ scores within Acrobat.com and without a LMS. Unless you require a standards-compliant LMS, Acrobat.com provides a solid solution.

Conclusion

Captivate 5 is ground-breaking if only for the reason that it’s on the Mac: many creative pros who have been building eLearning products with Flash or PowerPoint now have another option tailored for the job. I also think Captivate 5 has several major improvements that aren’t necessarily original but are time-tested and very useful. I think there’s other areas that can be improved, particularly if Adobe wishes to make it more desirable for the creative pro market, but considering its short time as an eLearning product I think it has come far.

Captivate 5
Adobe Systems
US $799/ $299 upgrade
US $1,799/ $599 upgrade with eLearning Suite 2
Rating: 9/10

BOOK REVIEW: The Myths of Innovation Is Far-Reaching, Yet Simple

I was impressed by Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker last year and was excited to get a copy of his 2010 book The Myths of Innovation. Scott has a knack for simplifying the most complex and philosophical topics and writing his findings in a colorful and interesting way, and not necessarily on technology subjects. I wanted to read The Myths of Innovation because I think business and entrepreneurial subjects—which I believe “innovation” is one of them—are some of the hardest to define and resolve, and there’s so many business and self-help books out there on such topics.

The good news is that The Myths of Innovation beats most of them in clarity, originality, writing quality and usefulness. The myths themselves are outlined concisely—”People love new ideas,” “The lone inventor,” “Your boss knows more about innovation than you,” and so on—and Scott makes it seem deceptively easy to see how these myths cloud our vision on what innovation really is and how to achieve it. Everyone seems to think it’s important, and many business leaders talk about it, but very few really understand it and even fewer properly achieve it. Read the book’s epilogue to get a sense of how much “innovation” is spoken about.

As in Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott’s writing style is clear, colorful and full of great detail. I am truly amazed how many anecdotes, stories and citations he can make in his books, on everything from the mouse prototype to Guernica to the Great Potato Famine–and all these things have something to do with a specific point about innovation. The Myths of Innovation is one of the few books where the footnotes provide great reading material—and Scott often makes them funny or otherwise noteworthy.

The last three chapters, consisting of about 20 pages, veer from the scholarly tone of the rest of the book and dives into some real-world techniques for developing an innovative mindset. These include keeping a journal, getting into improv comedy, developing a pitch for your idea or ideas, and even focusing on death (as a reason to fully use the time you have). For me, these chapters fall a little flat and I think it’s because so many other books in your bookstore’s business section provide these same kinds of tips and I’ve heard many of them before. Some of them have been helpful. Some have not. And what works for Scott might not work for you. I believe they are good material to have in a book like this, but the effectiveness of tactical material like this varies with the reader.

The Myths of Innovation, despite my minor complaint with its last section, is a compelling and exceptional book and I highly recommend it for businesspeople—both corporate and creative—who want to look at their approach to innovation with a critical, philosophical eye. I can’t see how anyone would go wrong reading this book.

The Myths of Innovation
Scott Berkun
Published by O’Reilly
US $17.99
Rating: 10/10

BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Photography In Vision & Voice

vision-voice-large

David duChemin‘s Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom would be just another book on Lightroom were it not for the great photography that’s inside. Most Lightroom books boast good photography but I think it’s David’s focus on exotic locations, introspective portraits and quiet moments that unify the material and make the book stand out.

I think the first four chapters are the most important in the book, because they cover the essence and distillation of vision instead of the Lightroom techniques you get in the rest of the book. David’s notion of a “vision-driven workflow” is not really anything new—intention, aesthetics and process—but I like it when authors frame old processes in new ways because it can help readers visualize and refine the rote way they approach things like photography. Other books have done this too, such as Scott Kelby’s seven-point approach to Camera Raw, but that was for photo processing and David’s workflow is for composing and creating images. David will be the first to say it’s not a paint-by-numbers method for making photos, but the exercise of quantifying the process can help improve the process.

The highlights of the book are the 20 case studies that take up the last half of Voice & Vision. These are David’s own photographs and not only do you get to see how he improved the images but also learn the circumstances of their creation—where they were shot at, what was going on at the time, and what David was thinking when he processed them. These glimpses into a real-world situation always interest me and David’s are memorable. He knows how to shoot interesting things and get the most out of them with Lightroom.

The rest of Vision & Voice focuses on Lightroom tips and techniques, and they are well-written and illustrated but do not make a comprehensive Lightroom resource like other books. This is expected since the book has a lot more going in it than just Lightroom tips. If I were buying a gift for a photographer starting out with Lightroom, a good combination would be Vision & Voice with a more comprehensive book like Martin Evening’s The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers. Vision & Voice stands up very well on its own but by its nature it can’t be all things to all people. That is not a bad thing.

Vision & Voice: Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
David duChemin
Published by New Riders
US $44.99
Rating: 10/10

BOOK REVIEW: Two iOS App Books

This review covers two books on iPhone and iOS development: Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C by Steven Holzner and iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual by Craig Hockenberry. Ironically, the iPhone App Development book was published just after the release of the iPad and nowadays we call this iOS development after the operating system these devices use. This also includes the iPod Touch.

Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C, like most Visual Quickstart books, offers a solid introduction to the topic and many exercises to get readers familiar with the programming language. Objective-C is the native language for writing iOS applications and for awhile Apple would not accept apps written with other languages and cross-compiled to Objective-C. This has since changed but many developers believe coding with the native language makes for a better application.

The Visual Quickstart Guide teaches the basic elements of Objective-C but it doesn’t address every aspect of the language. Readers who are new to object-oriented programming will benefit more from this book, which teaches the concept and its implications in iOS development. Experienced developers who know OOP or similar languages like ActionScript 3 can learn a few things from the book but I think there are better resources out there.

The Missing Manual sets itself apart by offering beginning-to-end training for iOS development—everything from installing Xcode to selling apps from the Apple App Store. I really like this aspect of the book, and developers who want to make money with their products will find this very useful. I think there’s less emphasis on Objective-C but part of that is because Craig uses Apple’s developer tools like the Interface Builder to create the applications demonstrated in the book. The obvious downside to this is the fact that Apple’s developer tools are available only on Mac OS X computers—Windows users are out of luck, even though iOS devices are marketed to them too.

Both books are good buys, and as with most things each one offers something a little different. Objective-C is a solid introduction to the language and green developer would find it very useful. The Missing Manual is a more complete resource for iOS development and is written for the entrepreneurial developer who wants to sell apps as much as develop them.

Visual Quickstart Guide: Objective-C
Steven Holzner
Published by Peachpit Press
US $29.99
Rating: 8/10

iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual
Craig Hockenberry
Published by O’Reilly
US $39.99
Rating: 9/10

Comparing the HP EliteBook 8540w and the MacBook Pro

elitebook

I’m a designer so a lot of friends assume I use a Macintosh, which is true. Some also assume I’m a Mac fanatic, which I disagree with: I have used Macs in my work for several years but I started with a Dell PC and have used PCs in various workplaces. I happen to think the Mac operating system is better and Macs provide a subtly better experience for creative pros in particular.

This article is about the 15-inch Hewlett-Packard EliteBook 8540w and how it compares to my 17-inch MacBook Pro, an older model from late 2006. This won’t be a full review—there are reviews out there better than I could write, such as this one—and I won’t be making a purchase recommendation. Consider this article a look at an elite PC laptop by someone who’s only used a Mac laptop in the workplace.

Construction

The HP EliteBook 8540w is built like a truck and takes the term “hardware” seriously. The EliteBook line is the top of HP’s business laptops and I expected solid craftsmanship, but while many PC laptops I come across are slick and plastic the EliteBook is built with brushed aluminum and is very tough. HP calls it their “DuraCase.” The MacBook Pro weighs a little more (3.1kg vs. 2.9kg) but it has a larger monitor. The 15-inch MacBook Pro from the same year weighs 2.5kg. Their sizes are pretty much the same except the MacBook Pro is significantly thinner and a little wider and longer.

elitebook_case

The EliteBook’s DuraCase looks and feels tough. The MacBook Pro is durable too but not to the EliteBook’s level.

The EliteBook looks like a hunk of iron compared to the MacBook Pro, but the EliteBook also accommodates more jacks and connectors in its body. This is an example where HP focuses on function while Apple focuses on form, which should surprise no one. The EliteBook also complies with the MIL-STD 810G military standard, which sets requirements for resistance to vibration, water, dust and temperatures for products used by the U.S. Department of Defense. The well-known Panasonic Toughbook line of laptops meets the same requirements.

Keyboard and Touchpad

One feature I really appreciate on the EliteBook is the extended keyboard with numeric keypad. Numeric entry is so much easier with a keypad, and it also has a specific creative purpose: the page layout application Adobe InDesign requires numbers from the keypad for its character/paragraph styles’ keyboard shortcuts. I have never understood why InDesign does this, but it has been this way for years. Apple won’t produce a wireless version of the extended keyboard, and it’s not on any MacBook Pro.

elitebook_ui

The EliteBook has an impressive user interface, with multiple touch and mouse inputs and a full keyboard and numeric pad. See the blue lights above and to the left of the keyboard? Those are the buttons for the quick apps (see below).

The EliteBook also provides two touch input devices, the Touchpad and also the “TouchStyck” button in the middle of the keyboard. Combined these provide seven buttons—if you count the TouchStyck—and a trackpad. Apple is notorious for limiting the number of input buttons on their hardware. My MacBook Pro has one button and a trackpad, and the newest models don’t have a button at all. They register taps on the trackpad as a button click. The EliteBook keyboard and touchpad can look a little cluttered with all the buttons and input devices, but it does make the computer more versatile and adapt to users’ preferences. However, it’s likely a user will gravitate toward the one input element they like the most.

Power Adapter and Cord

The EliteBook’s power supply/adapter and cord is not very portable or easy to use, which makes traveling with it difficult. The power supply is like a brick compared to the smaller and lightweight Apple equivalent. I’m not sure it would even fit in my laptop bag! The other thing I noticed is Apple’s power supply has its own plug so I can plug it into the wall and not use the other cord. HP’s power supply has no plug so the other cord must be used.

DreamColor display

This EliteBook 8540w sports a new DreamColor display, which is designed to provide more accurate color reproduction. The DreamColor whitepaper (PDF, 3.2MB) explains all the display’s technical details but my personal impression with this DreamColor display is positive. The thing I really notice is the EliteBook puts out much more brightness than the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro is four years old though, so these can’t really be compared, but I don’t think the MacBook Pro was as bright as the EliteBook even when it was new. In terms of color, the EliteBook looks like it does a better job of capturing very strong colors including fluorescents and those on the fringes of the RGB and Lab colorspaces.

QuickLook and QuickWeb

One more thing the EliteBook can do that the MacBook Pro cannot is boot specialized applications without booting up the entire unit. This really surprised when I first learned about it, but HP has put this in its laptops before. The two apps are designed to provide timely information quickly without booting up:

  • QuickLook is an Outlook-like interface for calendar, email, contacts and task lists. It caches Outlook data while the computer is running so when it’s launched it can access some data without booting up. QuickLook cannot send mail, but the goal is to give the user information immediately and it can save changes to events, contacts and tasks and sync them with Outlook later.
  • QuickWeb launches a Linux environment and web browser for fast Internet access. This for me was the more useful of the two applications, and the user experience was good.

I should point out these apps don’t boot up instantaneously, but they do avoid the load times associated with Windows. These apps are useful but today many mobile devices and phones have instant connectivity, the same data and push/send capabilities. I wonder if the EliteBook’s apps will lose usefulness as mobile devices continue to develop.

Conclusion

Apple is known for its product design and also for following form over function, but Mac fans wouldn’t have it any other way. However, the EliteBook shows that Macs aren’t the only PCs that are well-designed and I would say the EliteBook was designed with its purpose in mind. It does make for a big and clunky product in some ways but I understand the benefits of this. I found the EliteBook to be a useful laptop and professionals who want an excellent machine for work should look into it.

Adobe MAX: Android, AIR, Edge, HTML5 and jQuery

Adobe MAX provided several news items and inspiring developments, but of course some of it is out in the wild now while others are only in the rough stages. Here are my impressions of several announcements made by Adobe at MAX.

Android and AIR

The strong penetration of the mobile marketplace by Android proves that Adobe was wise to develop for that operating system. Adobe announced AIR 2.5, which supports Android as well as Apple’s iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS, and this really sets them apart as a platform-inclusive service provider. A more comprehensive news article on this can be found here.

AIR 2.5 is available today, as is the BlackBerry Tablet OS SDK. I can’t tell yet if AIR 2.5 will boast strong performance, but it’s important that it does. Since Apple banned Flash from iOS, some people have said online that Flash is a buggy and cumbersome technology that should be eliminated everywhere. I don’t see that myself, but if AIR 2.5 runs the same way then it will get the same criticisms.

The Edge prototype and HTML5

One of the most interesting early sneak peeks for me happened in the first keynote, when a prototype application codenamed “Edge” was demoed. Basically, Edge converts simple timeline-based animation to HTML5. A good demo can be found here on Adobe TV. Adobe also demoed a rough Flash-to-HTML5 export in its sneak peeks.

It’s important to notice Edge is not Flash: its focus on transitions and animation looks a lot like Flash Catalyst, which can produce Flash content but is not as robust as Flash Pro. My review of Flash Catalyst CS5 is here. I see Edge being rolled into Flash Catalyst at some point, perhaps as an HTML5 export feature in Flash Catalyst CS6. It performed well but, like Flash Catalyst, Edge only produces a subset of the what’s possible in Flash.

Again, Adobe is wise to push hard to get its content production tools on all platforms. Flash Player is still ubiquitous—CTO Kevin Lynch reported Flash Player 10.1 has the best market penetration ever seen with Flash Player—but the design community has its eyes on HTML5 as the next standard and device and software manufacturers need to follow their lead, whether or not it’s the best option for developers and consumers. I think it’s ironic some people criticize Adobe for sticking with the Flash Platform, while the things they demoed at MAX revolved around the adoption of HTML5 as an alternative.

jQuery

John Resig, the creator of the popular jQuery framework, sat in on one of the keynotes as Adobe touted some internal development happening with jQuery and jQuery Mobile, the latter of which is still in the alpha stages. There was some vague allusions to how Dreamweaver might integrate with jQuery in the future, and if that’s the case I would be curious how it combines with—or replaces—the Spry framework Dreamweaver already has. But details were scarce and there’s not a lot to report on this front.

Conclusion

I think that compared to last year’s MAX, this year touched on more platforms and runtimes. This is a response to the fragmentation of the developer marketplace due to HTML5 penetration and also the number of mobile operating systems coming out all at once.

This could be a great thing for future development but I personally worry that developing for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and HTML5—and possibly XHTML—will get us away from the standards-based mindset that has worked well in the web design community. The idea of “write once, publish everywhere” may still be possible, but it’s hard to see how it will work in practice.

BOOK REVIEW: Talent Is Not Enough

I think sometimes the designers who stand out in the marketplace, land the most prestigious clients and make the most money aren’t those who have the most brilliant talent. Instead, they’re the ones who can build a brand and a business around their work and handle it professionally. Creative people aren’t always the best businesspeople and so many can struggle with the business side of graphic design.

I used books like the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook when I started my design business, but Shel Perkins’ Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers might be a better book than any I had. It’s almost 450 pages long and very focused on the business of design, and the advice Shel gives is solid. I think it can really set a designer up for business success.

There is some breadth to the topics covered in Talent Is Not Enough: marketing, human resources, cash flow, office management and intellectual property are all covered in the book. Many are essential topics, though some business types—such as sole proprietor—will find some chapters not very useful because they don’t apply to them. I’ll also say that some topics—marketing in particular comes to mind—are not fully covered in this book and should be supplemented with other books and information.

The other criticism I have of the book is it glosses over what I think are the two questions always asked by new creative professionals: “How much should I charge?” and “How should I write my contracts?” The chapter on pricing models is short and doesn’t give any dollar amounts, which is hard to quantify for everyone but help new designers the most. The aforementioned Graphic Artists Guild Handbook did share hourly rates, and it really helped me start my business. It also shared some boilerplate copy for proposals and contracts. Talent Is Not Enough does share contract boilerplate as well, and the copy is well-written, but it’s not clearly marked in the book. Placing the legal documents in an addendum might be helpful in a third edition.

Despite these quibbles, Talent Is Not Enough is a very fine business resource and updated for our times with the second edition. I have over ten years in the industry and I learned new things from this book. A designer just starting out will gain a good business foundation by adding this to his or her other repertoire of books on business development.

Talent Is Not Enough: Business Secrets for Designers
Shel Perkins
Published by New Riders
US $39.99
Rating: 9/10

Adobe MAX: Digital Publishing Suite

The unveiling of the Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) at Adobe MAX interested me more than any other news, since I am a developer who’s also a print designer and I’ve worked heavily with print publications in the past. Unfortunately, we’ve known about the DPS for some time—having had a sneak peek of Condé Nast’s WIRED Reader and The New Yorker months ago—and we still need to wait for the DPS to actually be available to buy next spring (you can use it now through the prerelease program though). However, Adobe revealed a lot and I’ve been looking at the material from both the designer and developer perspective.

InDesign has changed little

I had expected more tools or changes to the publication designer’s workflow, but this isn’t really the case. Everyone should note the Digital Publishing Suite is a set of new services and AIR applications, and there’s just one plugin to add to InDesign CS5, which is required. The best demo of the DPS/InDesign workflow I’ve seen is this one from Terry White, and there is really no changes to InDesign itself. The main points to remember are:

  • Design for the iPad’s 1024×768 screen. This is already available when a document’s Intent is set for Web in the New Document dialog box.
  • Build one InDesign file per article, and horizontal and vertical versions for each if you want it to change with the iPad’s orientation.
  • InDesign’s interactive features are supported, such as hyperlinks and rollovers, but not its rich media features such as video. An AIR app, Adobe Interactive Overlay Creator, can be used to generate this media and the resulting SWF files can be placed in InDesign. These SWFs are converted to iPad-friendly media when the document is bundled.

Creating horizontal and vertical version of your publications is a mild nuisance but it is optional—the Adobe Content Viewer allows for single-orientation publications. Having to create a document for every article and ad seems very cumbersome. I think segmenting one document into sections—already an InDesign feature—would be a great way to keep everything in one file and still separate articles and ads for use on the iPad.

After a document is bundled and prepared for iPad, it will be viewed on iPad with the Adobe Content Viewer. It should be noted this is designed to work with several tablets, including Android tablets and the upcoming RIM Playbook (shown in the MAX Day 1 keynote) as well as the desktop via an AIR app.

The rest of the suite

The meat of the Digital Publishing Suite is in its various services:

  • Production Service takes the InDesign document and makes the final assembly, including the addition of metadata and export to a variety of formats including HTML5. This includes the Adobe Digital Content Bundler app, which Adobe plans to integrate into the hosted service.
  • Distribution Service stores documents in the cloud and distributes the content to the Adobe Content Viewer. This includes a dashboard for library content and reader notifications.
  • E-Commerce Service monetizes the enterprise on retailer platforms or mobile marketplaces such as the Apple App Store or the new Adobe InMarket (also announced at MAX).
  • Analytics Service, supported by Adobe SiteCatalyst/Omniture, provides an impressive analytics dashboard including not only general page views and trends but also the way readers view and read the publication.

A full list can be found in this PDF.

The price

The big news should be the large price tag associated with the Digital Publishing Suite. The cheaper Professional Edition is US$699 per month on top of a per-issue fee that is based on volume. The Enterprise is a totally customized solution that gives publishers total access to the API and integration with back-end services like subscription management, but it’s a negotiated cost with Adobe and constitutes a multi-year agreement.

I think a lot of people hoped to build iPad publications with InDesign when they saw the WIRED Reader hit the Intenet a few months ago—imagine using File > Export > iPad just as easily as exporting to PDF! It would have probably been that easy if Apple allowed Flash on the iPad. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case and along with the iPad conversion there’s also the leveraging of Adobe’s purchase of Omniture and the inclusion of its analytics in the DPS. All this makes the suite far removed from the cheap and simple export some people might have hoped for. Instead, it’s priced for serious publishers and its focus on analytics, distribution and e-commerce shows it’s been developed for the business side of publishing.

Adobe tells me they expect to put a reseller program in place so DPS customers can resell the service to smaller publishers and independents at a cheaper price. There’s no details on this yet but it’s good to see Adobe at least thinking about how to penetrate the small and mid-sized publisher market. I know there’s a lot of potential there, as the publishing business in general is full of small publishers and self-publishers.

Participate now

If you want to try the Digital Publishing Suite now, visit Adobe Labs and download the package. You can also learn more by visiting the Digital Publishing page on Adobe.com.