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Tips & Tricks

In our last blog, we talked about the best way to insert graphics into Microsoft Word and demonstrated the settings that would preserve the quality of the original image without decompressing the life out of them. Following that procedure is a huge improvement toward maintaining the quality of your final printed document, but the best approach is to always keep the original graphics files as separate files, not just a copy of the file embedded within Word.

But we all live in the real world. Sometimes images are inserted into a Word document and then wander away from the herd. How do you extract graphics from Word and get them into your InDesign document in a way that gives something better than poor results? We’ve found a couple of approaches, one better than the other, and we’re happy to share that knowledge with you.

First Method: Word to HTML conversion

  • First, do a Save-As of your Word document, selecting as your new file type “Web Page, Filtered”. It will create an HTML version of your Word file and open it in Word. (You might want to remember this tip for the next time someone asks you, “How can I make a webpage from a Word document?”)
  • We’re not concerned with the resulting Word / HTML file itself, so you can go ahead and close it.
  • Use File Explorer to go the directory (aka folder) whree you stored your Save-As HTML file and you’ll find all of the graphics from the Word file saved as GIF files. They’re small and they’re bitmapped, but they’re there. Use them as you see fit.

Second Method: Word to ZIP conversion

  • Save a copy of your Word file as a DOCX file.
  • In File Explorer, rename the DOCX copy from filename.DOCX to filename.ZIP. (You’ll get a warning message that says something like “Are you sure you want to do this?” Yes, you want to do it.) The Word DOCX file format is really just a disguised ZIP file! Who knew?
  • When you unzip the newly named ZIP file, there will be a number of folders inside. You might need to drill down through a layer or two of folders to find what you need, but you’re looking for a folder called “Media”. The Media folder has all of images broken out as either EMF (Enhanced Meta File) or JPEG files, either of which can be imported into InDesign. Or you can bring them into Photoshop and edit them as desired.

Recent Results from Testing Both Methods

In a recent test we performed, the files extracted by the ZIP method were much better quality than the GIF files produced by saving the Word file as a Filtered Web Page. By comparison, one of the extracted GIF files was 14 KB, 72 dpi, and measured 2.83″ x 3.25″. The same file extracted from the ZIP file weighed in at a hefty 2,596 KB at 96 dpi and measured 7.83″ x 9.24″. Now that’s something you can work with! While 96 dpi is too low resolution for high-quality printing, the graphic was only needed at 3″ wide. When we downsized the graphic (without resampling it) we were able to boost the resolution to an acceptable level.

This process is an emergency recovery method that you don’t really want to have to resort to. Even the better of these two (darned cleaver!) approaches will not give you results that are as good as using the original source graphic files. Your best option is always to keep the original graphic files and provide them to your desktop publisher when you’re ready to move your document from the draft stage to a professionally desktop published document. Your promotional products vendor will also thank you when you provide a decent logo for an order of pens or T-shirts.

One final thought: Always keep the original graphic files!

I’ll bet you already know how to insert an image into Microsoft Word. You’ve probably been doing it the same way for years. It’s easy and it works. Right up to the point where you want to print the file with anything close to decent quality. The graphics come out looking anywhere from marginal to pure crap. Why is that and how can you prevent it?

Word’s default setting compresses graphics by decreasing their resolution. It does it automatically in the background, and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that you didn’t even know it. And you probably didn’t know that there was something that you could do to change it. (We didn’t until recently.)

Go to the File menu and select Options down near the bottom of the list. The Options dialog box opens with a menu in the left column.

You want to select Advanced.

The Advanced Options dialog box has a lot of stuff in it that you’ve probably never seen before. Some of it can be darned useful for giving you more control over how your Word documents are created, saved, and printed. The various options are grouped together under subheadings. I’m using Word 2010. In my version, the stuff we’re looking for right now is in the third subhead, called Image size and Quality.

Word OptionsRight next to the words “Image Size and Quality” is a drop-down box. This will give you the option of applying the settings you’re about to change to this document, to any other Word document that you currently have open, or to all new documents. I went with the All New Documents. (See the top circled box above.)

There are a couple of check boxes under the subhead of Image Size and Quality. The second check box says “Do not compress image in file.” There it is! Put a checkmark in that box to disable the automatic file compression that’s been taking place since forever. (See the second red circle above.) Not only will this make your images print better, it will also be the best option for when you lose the source graphic and have to resort to copying the image from Word and pasting it into another file.

In our next blog, we’ll discuss extracting graphics out of Word when you have to have a discrete source file.

Calendar for 2014
Need to create a calendar for 2014? Check out Sandee Cohen’s blog on She’s written about scripts and templates for creating 2014 Calendars that are available InDesign. Sure, there are lots of calendar programs that will print out a calendar for you, but that calendar will undoubtedly lack design and you may not be able to print it in the format you’re looking for. Find a script or template that will meet your needs in Sandee’s blog.

Why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already done the heavy lifting?

There’s always more than one way to accomplish a task in InDesign. This video blog demonstrates 4 ways to underline text. Sure a simple underline works when that’s all you want, but in this blog you’ll learn the more advanced methods of underlining text or paragraphs. Watch the tutorial by clicking on the video below or use this link to view the tutorial in YouTube.

We are HUGE fans of keyboard shortcuts. Studies have proven again and again that you save a ton of time when you type commands from your keyboard instead of moving your hand to your mouse then moving the mouse pointer to the proper place on your screen to implement a command.

Of course you only save time if you know the keyboard shortcut. Otherwise you’re losing time while your brain searches it’s various nooks and crannies to find the illusive info.  I hate it when my brain heads into nooks and crannies! Much time is lost there. So, here’s our tips for learning keyboard commands:

  • Only learn the ones you use most commonly. The most common keyboard shortcuts are consistent across most Windows programs. Start with those.
  • Use alliterative mnemonics to help remember commands whose keyboard shortcut begins with the same letter as the command.  For example, Ctrl+P is the keyboard command for “Print” and Ctrl+S is the keyboard command for “Save.” Remember, “P” stands for “Print.”
  • Use associations to learn similar commands. For example:

Paste: Ctrl+V
Paste Into: Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste in Place: Shift+Ctrl+Alt+V
Paste without Formatting: Shift+Ctrl+V

  • When neither of the above exist, create your own phrase that foolishly reminds you of a shortcut. Back in our first year of business – which, by the way would be 25 years ago next month – we were reading a software manual (yes, we did that in those days) and came across the sentence: “Remember: Control-J stands for help!” It struck us as so foolish we still remember it (and we remember that it was in the seminal word processor, WordStar). So create your own phrase to remember shortcuts that have no alliterative mnemonic or association to help hang onto. One I’ve created is a bit cumbersome but it has helped me learn a keyboard shortcut that I use all the time. The keyboard shortcut to toggle typographical quotes is Ctrl+Alt+Shift+’. That’s quite a shortcut! I toggle typographical quotes many times a day, sometimes many times in an hour and I struggled to learn this command, so I’ve created this foolish memory aid: “To toggle my quotes, I’ll need to lose control and alter my shifts.” Foolish, meaningless, but I was able to remember it. Remembering it leads to using it which leads to auto-pilot, finger-memory desktop publishing.

So how do you learn what the commands are?

Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts

Click on Keyboard Shortcuts from the Edit menu and you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Keyboard Shortcuts

The drop down menu from the Product Area mirrors the menus at the top of the InDesign screen, so you can find keyboard shortcuts associated with each menu item. The lower part of the screen shows the keyboard command associated with the menu command. This image shows that Export is accomplished with the keyboard command Ctrl + E.

Download the List

See the “Show Set…” button in the above image? When you click on it, it will open a complete list of the keyboard shortcuts in *.txt file in Notepad. That file looks like this:

A List of Keyboard Shortcuts

It’s not pretty, but it can be quite helpful. It identifies all the commands available through the top menu row of InDesign and provides the shortcut associated with the command (if there is one). You can search through the document (using the FIND command in Notepad) for specific InDesign commands, or save the file to Word or Excel and make it more useful. Once in Word or Excel you can sort the data in a way that is meaningful to you.

Yes, it takes a little work to learn the shortcuts, but learning them will save you lots of time in when working on that hot deadline project. Don’t forget to download our TIPCards with the most commonly used keyboard shortcuts.

While writing a post about Adobe Indesign keyboard shortcuts, it occurred to us that a second InDesign TIPCard would be in order. Our newest TIPCard provides shortcuts for file opening, saving, and document setup as well as general editing shortcuts.

Click below to download a TIPCard that puts these shortcuts at your fingerTIPs.

InDesign Keyboard Shortcuts TIPCard

Watch for tomorrow’s blog with tips for learning and using InDesign keyboard shortcuts.

Creating interlocking letters in InDesign is easy – if you know the secret of the Paste Into command. We’re here to give you the secret.

We’re going to use our initial, DDP, to go from bland text on top of each other to pizzazz interlocking text.

Step 1 – Type the text in three text blocks and properly align them. They will overlap one another but not be interlocking. Our goal is to turn the overlapping letters into interlocking letters.

Step 1 in creating interlocking text in InDesign.

Step 1 – Type the text into 3 separate text blocks and align them properly. Notice that they are overlapping, but not interlocking.

Step 2 – With the Selection Tool, select the red D. We’re going to paste a portion of the red D over the green D.

Step 3 – Copy the letter to the clipboard (^C). You can’t paste it if you haven’t copied it. This is the step I am most likely to forget because I’m already thinking about step 4.

Step 4 – With the Rectangle Tool, draw a small rectangle over the area of the red letter that you want to be on top of the green letter. The blue bounding box in the image below shows the rectangle I’ve drawn.

Step 4 of creating interlocking text in InDesign. The blue square shows the rectangle drawn to indicate where you want the red D to appear on top of the green D.

Step 4 – Draw a rectangle where you want the red D to appear on top of the green D.

Step 5 – With the rectangle you just created still selected, from the Edit menu select Paste Into (^-alt-V). Voila! You have now interlocked the two Ds. You’re half done.

Step 5 of creating interlocking text in InDesign. We have interlocked the first two letters.

Step 5 – After pasting the red D into the rectangle, the two Ds are interlocked.

Step 6 – Repeat Steps 2 through 5 to interlock the D and the P. Here’s the finished product:

After repeating the process we have created interlocking text in InDesign.

Step 6 – Finished – fully interlocked letters!

Easy, easy, easy when you know how. Now go have fun with it!

(By the way – the embossed effect on the letters were also created in InDesign.)

Easy BlocksMany of you might remember Maggie Timmons. She was our office manager for a few years awhile back. She left us to return to the family business – a great tourist attraction and hobby shop in Marblehead. Check out Train-O-Rama when you’re in the area. Or make a special trip. It’s worth the visit. (They have  Ohio’s largest operating multi-gauge model railroad display that’s open to the public.)
Maggie still helps us out occasionally and she’s frequently sending me tips she comes across in her tech reading. Here’s two helpful tips for Win 8.

Add a Start Button
I recently purchased a new laptop. New equipment always brings joy and frustration. In this case, that came in the way of Windows 8. I knew in advance that there would be a huge learning curve to Win 8, but don’t mind a challenge in working with technology. One of the first challenges was to NOT have the start menu as in Win 7 & XP. It was driving me crazy. Then I read about a program that runs on Win 8 and provides a kind of start button complete with customizable menu. It works great! You can download it for free here or here.

Teach Explorer 10 to Work Like Explorer 9
The next challenge that required outside help involved Internet Explorer 10 that comes pre-loaded with Windows 8. As I was trying to accomplish a task on a website, I found that the site wouldn’t display the information that I needed to edit. I did an online chat with the site administrator and he directed me to “teach” Explorer 10 to work like Explorer 9. It worked like a charm!

Here’s how: In Explorer 10, press the F12 key and change the “browser mode” to Explorer 9. So easy! But not if you don’t know about it. You’re welcome!

By guest blogger Maggie Timmons

Microsoft® Excel® has tremendous power to sort data that goes beyond alphabetically or numerically. This short video tutorial shows how to take advantage of Excel’s built-in sorting capability or go beyond that capability by creating your own custom sorting list. Learn how to sort your data the way you want to view or present it. Watch the tutorial by clicking on the video below or use this link to view the tutorial in YouTube.

Adobe Photoshop Toolbar with Gradient Tool HighlightedOne of the most popular special effects for photos is creating an image that fades away along one or more edges. There are a number of ways to create faded edges in Photoshop, but one of the easiest is to use the Gradient tool. This tutorial shows how to use the tool in Photoshop 5.1, but you’ll find similar commands in earlier and later versions.

Select the Gradient tool from the toolbar (see image at the left) or just press G. (Yep, pressing the “G” key really brings up the menu – it’s that easy!) Activating the Gradient tool causes the tool settings bar to appear just under your main menu bar at the top of the screen. (If you don’t see the tool settings below, check further down in the blog. The image may appear in different locations depending on how your device reflows data.)

Adobe Photoshop Gradient Toolbar

There are a lot of things to play with in the Gradient settings bar, but hang with me and we’ll get this faded edge thing done. Then you can go back and explore all you like.

Before we get into the settings of the Gradient tool, you’ll want to make sure that your Foreground color is set to white. That’s because the Gradient preset that we’re going to use is a called Foreground to Transparent. Assuming that the page that you’ll be putting your image on is white, you’ll need a white Foreground to get the effect to work. If your page is a different color, set your Foreground color accordingly. And you’ll also want to have an image open. For the purposes of this tutorial, open any photo, either color or black & white.

Now, let’s go back up to the Gradient tool settings toolbar. Starting at the left edge of the toolbar, there are two drop down boxes. You’ll want the second one, which is wider than the first. This second drop down has the list of default preset gradients. Click on that second drop down to open it.

This brings up a nice array of preset gradients. We’re going to stick with one of the presets in this collection, but you should know that by clicking on the flyout arrow, you open a new menu that lets add additional sets of gradients to this Preset menu, alter existing gradients, or create and save your own — none of which we will be doing for this very easy special effect tutorial.

Hovering your mouse over any of the gradient presets will cause a label to appear giving you the name of the gradient. The one that we want is the second one in the top row (at least in my setup). It’s called Foreground to Transparent. That’s how you know for sure you’ve got the right one selected.

Note: It’s possible you have the hover clues turned off on your setup. If that’s the case, you can be sure you’ve selected the correct preset by right clicking on the preset and then selecting the option “Rename Gradient”. The name of the gradient will appear. It should say Foreground to Transparent. If it doesn’t, go through the process with a different preset until you find the one you’re looking for.

When you’ve found Foreground to Transparent, click on it. It will bring up a dialog box with the default settings for that preset. We’re not going to alter any of the default settings. They should read the following:

Name: Foreground to Transparent, Gradient Type: Solid, and Smoothness: 100%.

Click on OK to load that tool with those settings.

To apply the gradient that you’ve selected, click and drag your mouse across your image. To constrain your line to a perfect vertical, horizontal, or 45° angle, hold down the Shift key as you click and drag.

You can always use the Undo command (Ctrl-Z) to undo your last action. You’ll be using Undo a lot while you’re learning to use this effect – you’ll want to practice with creating different kinds of fades.

Here’s what this Gradient preset does. The place where you start to draw your line with the Gradient tool will be 100% opaque white (or whatever color you’ve made your foreground color). This whiteness (or other color) will fade to transparent along the entire length of the line that you draw with the tool, ending at 100% transparent at the point where you stop drawing the line. Where you start and stop the line will create different variations of the fading effect.

Original image

If you begin drawing outside of the edge of your photo, you won’t achieve a full “fade to white” effect in your photo. You’ll still have a discernible edge on the photo because the place where the gradient is 100% white is outside the edge of the image.

If you begin drawing well inside the edges of your image, you’ll white out everything from the place where you started your line to the edge of the image. This is fine if you want to use this tool to crop your edge while it creates the transparency blend, but for most purposes this will be too much.

Starting your line inside the border of your photos somewhat close to the edge and extending your line toward the center of your photo will give you the kind of effect that we most normally see for a faded edge. The length of the line that you draw will determine how gradually or abruptly the effect is applied.

Faded image

Experiment with drawing your line from different starting point, for different distances, and at different angles. You can do some really nice stuff with this simple preset tool. For the sample shown above, I started my gradient inside the photo, very close to the left , and extended it about two-thirds of the way across the photo.

Once you get your edge the way you want it, you may still not be done. That’s because you can drag more gradient lines to create the effect on other edges of the same image. Do it from all four sides to create a full vignette effect.

If this tip for creating faded edges in Photoshop has been helpful, use the links below to share it with friends.