Time is a precious, and anything that can save it is of interest to me. This is a follow up to the keyboard shortcuts post from a few weeks ago. In that post, we discussed one of the quickest ways to become more efficient when using computer software in general. In this post, I wanted to go into detail about one specific InDesign command that has made putting together presentations so much quicker. In a normal Design Development package (including plans, elevations, sections, furniture/finish selections, and renderings) it isn't uncommon to use up to five different programs to create content. Because of this, constant jumping from program to program is necessary, and if done poorly, can eat up a lot of time. An extra few seconds here or there really do add up over the course of an entire hour, or even day.
Before we get into the tip, it is necessary to explain what I use each program for in regards to content creation and management. With very few exceptions, InDesign is my personal preference for compiling presentations. This will come as no surprise to most designers as it is the most well equipped program for the task. That being said, I have met a few rare people who use PowerPoint (cringe) for marketing purposes, despite it being incredibly clunky and hard to customize. In contrast, InDesign is by far the best program for formatting, cropping, aligning and organizing images on a page. It is also the only Adobe program that is designed to handle multi page documents. Overall, InDesign is at it's best as a layout software, but is not where I create or render artwork.
For color coded floor plans and single page finish boards, I prefer Illustrator. A lot can be done in InDesign, but it is much less precise and doesn't yield as high of a quality image. It is also better suited for making patterns, and creating vectors. In addition, any PDF can be opened in Illustrator to be edited. This means that you can open up a floor plan and all the linework with be live and changeable. That way you can edit, delete, or extend anything you need to and re-save the PDF. You can also use Illustrator files in an InDesign file and it will behave like a PDF. This is especially helpful when you are in the process of color coding a floor plan and someone else is working in the InDesign file. Instead of re-exporting the PDF every time you save, the link will update automatically in the presentation.
The only thing I really use Photoshop for is to edit and add lighting effects to renderings or photos. Sometimes there isn't enough time to get a V-Ray rendering perfect, so I cheat with Photoshop. Same thing with finish photos. Digital scans rarely look like the real thing so using Photoshop to adjust the Brightness or Saturation is helpful. Another thing I use it for is to get rid of the backgrounds on photos. In general, I prefer the backgrounds of my furniture photos to be white like this:
Most manufacturers have clean photos on their website, but every once in a while you will find one like this (below) where the background is slightly off white or straight up dark and looks different than all the other images on the page. To fix this, I white out the background.
So why am I telling you all this? Because flipping from InDesign to Illustrator to edit plans, and InDesign to Photoshop to edit photos takes a lot of time. To open a file in a specific program the two most common options are to:
- Open the program, select File > Open and located the specific file you want in your browser. Depending on what your company's file structure is like, this can be a real task. In our office to get to a specific link I have to follow this thread: Projects > #### Project Name > Design > Design Packages > Design Package Name and Date > Links. That's six folders to go through to get to the photo I want to change. While I fully support this level of organization, it does take quite a bit of time.
- Find the file in the browser and click on it, which will launch the corresponding program according to it's file extension. For example, "dwg" files will open in CAD, and "skb" files will open in Sketchup.
Let's say that a presentation has 50 pages, each with 6 linked elements on it, half of which need editing of some sort. That's 125 files. That means you will be clicking "File > Open" 125 times. And that's no way to live.
The much better and much, much faster way is open all files directly out of InDesign. My dear friends, let me introduce you to the "Edit With" command if you don't know it already. Simply right click on the image or PDF you want to edit (or find it in the "Links" list, as shown below) and hover over "Edit With" and select the program you want to use in the drop down menu. It's that easy.
Doing this allows you to skip searching for the photo entirely, and makes toggling between programs way easier. Also, if you accidentally forgot to rename a photo, it means that you don't have to search for " adj-adkfdaud567.jpeg" in a list of 120 similarly named files. In fact, you don't have to look for the name at all, because as long as it is in your InDesign, you can do it in a single step.
Despite the long explanation, remembering this quick trick is well worth it. Whittling what used to take 8 steps down to 1 is an achievement in my book, and one worth sharing. The first time I watched a coworker do this, I felt like Keanu Reeves:
Hopefully this little trick is as helpful to you as it was to me!