First we work

There will be two posts in quick succession here. The second is more fun and has cooler pictures. This is the first. It involves computers, although work does get accomplished.

I called tech support for a status check on the problems about which the technician had mostly used words like weird and hosed. Of course, I got a different person. She said she’d e-mail the technician who on Tuesday had been a great person to have as an ally in working on a difficult problem but had ultimately decided that he needed to consult with some other folks. End of call.

Continuing to act as if everything will be fine

Then I moved the book project along, doing tasks that could be completed despite misbehaving software:

  • List all the images in the book: drawings, photographs, charts—anything that will be included in the form of a graphics file. There are 212 images.
  • On the list, in a spreadsheet, record the page number and position, type of image (photograph, drawing, or vector file from Illustrator), subject of image, size in layout (measured in picas and points, horizontal x vertical), and relationship between current and final image sizes (as a percentage).

The jobs I did were only possible because I had, indeed, completed the book layout at the beginning of last weekend, so I did know which pages the images would be on. The pictures get final names that are based on the positions: 119a and 119b, for example, are the first and second images on page 119.

The computer glitches mean that the text components of the final layout are no longer in the right positions—close, but not quite. Therefore, we can’t do any proofreading or, obviously, indexing. The images have not been affected by what’s happening in electronic randomland.

After sorting my spreadsheet by image type, I made a smaller list that included only the photos, in order by page number. There are 55 photos. Then, working within the "hosed" file, I could:

  • Locate each photograph in turn, open it in Photoshop, convert it from RGB (computer) to CMYK (print) mode, resize at the correct percentage, and resave it with what will be its final name (like 119a-cable.psd). The names tell position and offer a quick, but not definitive, descriptor.
  • Put each newly converted, sized, and named image in a new folder.
  • Return to the book file and relink that image’s frame to the new version of the image.
  • Double-check the sizing of the image within the frame (InDesign CS2 does this image-exchange bit much better than InDesign 2 did; I used to have to correct the replacement image within the frame to 100% every time, and now it comes in at or close to the right size).
  • Confirm that the image ID box on the page (which will be removed before printing) contains the correct information for the next phase of its processing.

Here’s old image ID for two photographs on a single page:


In the manuscript, these were images 24 and 25. On the preliminary layout, they were 29a and 29b. I don’t try to give them final names too early or they get renamed frequently and time gets wasted. When I named these 29a and 29b, I thought I had a final layout; it changed later. FPO means "for position only," or "BEWARE! DON’T SEND THIS TO PRESS THIS WAY!"

Once the images have been sized correctly, the percentage information can go away. And these guys are now on page 27. So now the image IDs in the file look like this:


The only things we need to keep track of now are the final ID number and the size to which the photo will be cropped (along with the printout that shows where to crop to). Technically, the box should still say FPO, but at this stage in the game the fact that there’s a box still on the page means that the image is still FPO, but I take off the indicator because it’s the real image that’s in place. It just hasn’t been through its final massaging.

This represents enormous progress. It also should have happened at least six months ago, but I’m not thinking about that. I’m just thinking, "What can I accomplish next?"

Here’s the answer:

  • Print the list of photos.
  • With hard copy in hand, go through the electronic book file again and triple-check the frame sizing of the images (which will determine where they are cropped).
  • Correct three or four typographical or measurement errors on the list.
  • Print the list, as well as one copy of each page that contains a photograph, and clip these hard copies together.
  • Move a copy of the photo folder to the "share" drive on the computer.

And call it good. My daughter will convert the images to grayscale, tweak them so they look good, crop them to their frame sizes or silhouette them (remove the background so it looks like the main subject floats on the page), and give them back to me. She’ll use the hard copies to keep track of her progress and to give her an idea of what the images will look like in the final. It doesn’t matter right now that the text has shifted around; the shapes of all the elements on the page are still the same.

Essentially, she waves her magic wands over them repeatedly and with skills I don’t have and then returns them to me.

When I finished this set of jobs, the images were ready for her to enchant.

Photoshop only crashed once, and that was when I was closing it at the end of this work.

It’s best not to be totally passive when tech support is dumfounded, too

Yes, I hope and trust that tech support will come up with answers. While they’re working away, though, I know that I’m the person to whom this job is currently most important and it would be good if I thought of what I’ll do if they can’t fix things. Something other than falling on my wool combs or moving to an uninhabited island with no electronic devices or mail delivery.

If we can’t fix this file, I’ll need to make another one that looks like this one is supposed to but works okay. With the right tools, I could probably accomplish that job within four to six weeks. (As long as the software doesn’t mess up my new version, too; I’ve already rebuilt the file from scratch once, but that was more than six months ago.)

The way I figure it, for this new rebuild I will need to remove all paragraph and character styles from the text and then from the book file without disturbing the formatting that’s in place. In other words, make it so Paragraph A still looks the same but its associated style (the software assignment that makes it look that way) goes away. Then I’ll need to build a new style sheet and apply all the styles. Ideally, the new styles will look like the old ones but will not go berserk.

To do that, I need a list of the styles—names and specifications—so I can do the rebuilding. InDesign should be able to generate and print such a list for me, but it can’t.

By chance and good fortune, just last week one of the blogs I read published information on how to do this exact thing.

I downloaded, installed, and ran the script. It works.

For each paragraph style I have a chunk of information that looks like this:


I have my style sheet. It’s about 89 pages long, but there’s information in there I don’t need so I can trim it down by about half.

I sure hope I don’t have to use this information, but it might help me save the job if nothing else does.


  1. Preserve some portion of sanity by leaving town (see next post).
  2. Think ahead to next step that’s possible while tech support solves computer problem: working on the next set of images, either the vector files (easier) or the drawings (farthest behind schedule).

5 thoughts on “First we work”

  1. Wow, your InDesign problems have me tearing MY hair out! What a nightmare to have such a weird problem hosing your files 😉 I hope tech support can actually help you. Have you tried installing a new copy of the software, i.e not re-installing, but an actual new copy (I think Adobe should give you a new copy if they can’t make your old one work)? Or are you trying to avoid having to do that…

    Seriously, I really love posts like these because I learn so much. For example I just learned how you organize your images in a document. At first I thought “geez, why does she go to all that work to position, name, rename, list out, double check etc. all of the images” and then it slowly dawned on me… hmmm… that’s actually a pretty smart system! (sometimes the old lightbulb takes a while to get up to full bright). And then again, I learned about that great InDesign blog which I’m now subscribed to. And I also learned about that cool style sheet script, which I haven’t needed yet but may need any day now.

    Thanks Deb, you’re an inspiration!

  2. OMG, I hope you got the helpful tech guy’s name & extension? Have you asked Adobe to supply you with a new (hopefully) bug-free disk? Maybe that’s the answer if you kept re-installing from the original disks. Perhaps those are messed up?

    You’re so smart I’m sure you already thought of these questions…

    Sending you happy working computer software vibes…

  3. Oh, thank you thank you thank you for the link to that script! I’ve been looking for something similar.

    I don’t have the ID issue that you do (mine is the Mac version) but ID in CS3 still does weird layout things that have me scratching my head. I don’t remember having these issues with ID in CS2.

  4. Whoa, I had no idea that formatting for printing was so complex. I mean, I knew from your issues that it was complicated, but I see it’s actually COMPLICATED FER REAL.

    And I’d always assumed the spelling was dumbfounded, but I see that’s only an alternate spelling.

  5. This post explains the screaming I thought I heard the other day. (wry, wry g>Deb, dear heart, I am now planning an appropriately insane celebration WHEN you get this book out the door!

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