Computer ArtsFeature

Sharpen your design skills, part two

Get more from the software you use every day as three more top creatives share their favourite tricks and techniques for working faster and smarter

Flash with Paul Wyatt
Paul has been working with Flash for the last ten years. He's created Flash websites and creative for L'Oral, Virgin Media, Sony BMG and Talkback Thames. See www.paulwyatt.co.uk

25 Create a master document
If you're working on a lengthy online campaign over a number of weeks, compile a master Flash document of animation styles. You could include set timeline styles for bringing in text or using fades and transitions. This way you can refer back to your master document to find out how an effect was accomplished.

26 Reuse rather than rebuild
Provided your Flash Symbols have unique names, you should have no problem copying and pasting them from the library of one FLA to another. This is a real time-saver.

27 Don't cut - drag
When you have to move a keyframe animation from one part of the timeline to another, don't right-click and copy the frames to paste them somewhere else. This will create additional unwanted frames at the end of the timeline. Simply click the first keyframe and drag to the next. Then select the first keyframe and drag the keyframed animation to where you need it.

28 Get assistance from Illustrator
Sometimes storyboards created in Illustrator CS3 can be a huge help to a Flash designer. Instead of having to recreate type treatments with Flash's less sophisticated type tools, simply copy them in Illustrator and then paste them into your Flash document.

29 Avoid chug
Beware of creating all-singing, all-dancing Flash animations that fly on your all-powerful studio set-up but chug on the average home system. A good tip is to stagger the animations rather than have each movement begin at the same time. Because the animations are slightly offset, there will be less of a drag or chug on the end animation on a slower system.

30 Check for publishing problems
Publish Settings can get really messed up when moving FLA files around or sending them to somebody else to work on. For example, if the Publish Settings are looking for your desktop to output a Flash file, this isn't going to work when the FLA has been sent to somebody else. Always check the Publishing Settings when you've been sent a file and change them to your local machine.

Paul's Flash power tip
31 Don't animate out

When animating banners using type that whooshes in then whooshes out to be replaced by new text, save some time. Simply right-click and Insert a blank keyframe to remove the type. Now, on the same frame on a new layer, have the new text whoosh in. The transition is so quick that the viewer is under the impression that the first set of type has been animated out - rather than just vanishing.

32 Pad out scenes with duplicates
If you only have time to create a few graphic Symbols but need to pad out a scene, duplicate existing MovieClips and use Flash's tints and filter effects to give them a more customised, less uniform look.

33 Preview MovieClips in real time
When adding a MovieClip to the timeline, you can't preview it on the timeline itself. Solve this problem in the Flash library - click the 'i' button and change the Symbol Properties to 'Graphic'. When a MovieClip, disguised as a graphic symbol, is placed on the timeline and the timeline is scrubbed across, you will see the animation within the graphic symbol animate.

34 Be a hero
Keep a memory stick containing reusable snippets of useful ActionScript. Get into the habit of taking this resource with you to work or to any freelance assignments.

35 Make asset management easier
When you import a file and it already exists with the same name in the Flash library, a dialog will ask if you want to replace the original file with the new one. Take advantage of this when updating image files. Rather than importing and then embedding into a MovieClip, simply replace the images by naming them the same as the original files in the library. The file will be overwritten and will take on all the Flash properties the original had.

36 Know your Script
Make it a golden rule to check the version of ActionScript used in any files you could end up sharing. Not everyone is fully up to date.


Dreamweaver with Karl Hodge
Karl is a consultant who's been writing Dreamweaver tutorials since version 1. He runs content consultancy Copysmith and is a partner in usability agency UXNorth. See www.spodgod.com

37 Switch editors
Now that Photoshop ships with Dreamweaver in CS3, I've made it my default image editor instead of Fireworks. Press Ctrl/Cmd+U to open Preferences, then make Photoshop the primary editor in the File Types/Editors section.

38 Format faster
When editing Dreamweaver text, cycle through paragraph styles by selecting your content then hitting Ctrl/Cmd plus a number from 0 to 6. The corresponding heading style from H1 to H6 will be applied.

39 Check your links
Make sure that there are no orphan links in your site before you put it online. Go to Sites>CheckLinksSitewide. A list of pages will appear in the Results palette at the bottom of the application. You can rightclick on individual files to check individual pages and links, and fix them if necessary. The Results palette also lets you run Validation and Browser checks.

40 Take control of supporting files
In Code View, you can right-click on local file paths and choose to open the contents in Dreamweaver. I find this especially handy when I want to work manually on a linked, external CSS file.

41 Create links quickly
You can create links to existing pages quickly in Dreamweaver using the Sites palette. Highlight the text you want to use for the link, then hold down Shift. Drag and drop the selection to the target filename.

42 Create snippets
Snippets are blocks of code - HTML, JavaScript or CSS - that you can reuse over and over. A quick way to build up a library is to highlight favourite sections of code in a document, right-click to bring up the context-sensitive menu and choose Create New Snippet. Give the snippet a name and choose OK. Now it's ready to drag into place whenever you need it.

43 Refresh and replace
Find and Replace is one of Dreamweaver's most powerful, least-heralded features, and I regularly use it for converting old templates or updating sites. You can change content, parameters or even specific tags. Press Cmd/Ctrl+F to bring up Find and Replace. Select Entire Current Local Site from the Find In menu. Select the target content or code type from the Search drop-down. Finally, open the Action drop-down and make your changes.

44 Edit CSS the speedy way
Right-click an element in the Tag Selector at the bottom of the document window and a menu pops up. You can use this to quickly add CSS class or ID parameters to HTML objects.

45 Begin again
Layouts created in Dreamweaver can break for reasons that are difficult to fathom. When time's at a premium, it's sometimes quicker to start over from scratch. You can preserve your <body> attributes, <head> definitions and embedded styles if you simply select the <body> tag from the Tag Selector across the bottom of the document window and press Delete. You'll instantly get a blank canvas with all your previous page preferences still intact.

46 Move styles
Dreamweaver CS3 adds styles you create to the page you're working on, embedding them in the head section of the document. You can cut and paste them to an external style sheet, but it's quicker to select the styles in Code View, right-click and choose Move Styles from the menu. You'll be prompted to pick the style sheet you want to add the code to.

Karl's Dreamweaver power tip
47 Resize images on the fly

Dreamweaver's Fireworks integration makes it possible to resize page elements and furniture on the fly. Select an image and drag the selection handles. When the image is the desired size, choose Commands>OptimizeImage, or right-click and select Optimize. The image will be updated using Fireworks' graphics engine and the optimised version displayed in Dreamweaver. You can also specify an alternate source image using the contextual menu when you right-click.


InDesign by Susannah Hall
An Adobe-certified InDesign expert, Susannah remembers life before Macs and uses her experience to offer training and consultancy. Contact her at susannah@susannahhall.org

48 Turn colours into swatches
It's handy to be able to quickly create colours using the Colour palette, but it leaves you without a record of the colour in the Swatches palette - so you have to use the Eyedropper tool or recreate the colour when you want to apply it to other objects. A quick way to add colours you've used in a document to the Swatches palette is to choose Add Unnamed Colours from the options in the Swatches palette menu.

49 Avoid strange fonts
If you ever open a document and find InDesign is asking for an impossible font such as Times 65 Bold or Zapf Dingbats Italic, you probably have a Character Style that has only the font style and not the font family defined. You'll need to use Find Font to replace the font, then check your Character Styles to correct this.

50 Control paragraph spacing
Stop using paragraph returns to add space between paragraphs and use Space Before/Space After in the Paragraph controls instead. You'll find it much easier to specify the amount of space you want between a series of paragraphs.

51 Build a versatile library
As well as using libraries to store objects you reuse often, consider setting one up temporarily if you are moving a lot of elements around in your document. To speed up the process, assign a keyboard shortcut for Library: Add Item and Library: Place Item(s) under the Panels section of the Keyboard Shortcut dialog.

52 Embed frequently used pictures
Many images are too large, but consider embedding small and medium-sized images in templates and documents you reuse regularly. Remember that networks can handle much larger files more reliably than they could a few years ago, and they are easy to update - just unembed them and Link to the latest version of the files before embedding them again.

Susannah's InDesign power tip
53 Set up shortcuts

You can set up some very useful keyboard shortcuts in the 'Product Area: Views, Navigation' section of the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog. Setting a shortcut for Toggle Keyboard Focus in Control Panel enables you to define how you jump into the Control Panel so you can tab through the different options. You can also define a shortcut for switching between Character and Paragraph options in the Control Panel.

54 Make quicker calculations
Instead of scribbling your mathematical calculations on scraps of paper, use the X/Y and W/H coordinates fields to carry them out. For example, if you want a frame to be half its present width, place the cursor at the end of the Width value in the Control Panel and type '/2'. When you press the Return key, InDesign will calculate a new width of half the original value.

55 Link text the fast way
To quickly link text over several frames, hold Alt/Opt when you click on the link box in the bottom-right corner of the first frame. Keep the key held down and you can just click on each frame that you want the text to flow into.

56 Work smarter with layers
If you are copying and pasting lots of objects between pages or documents, make sure you have Paste Remembers Layers switched on in the Layers palette menu. That way you don't have to worry about selecting the right layer before you paste.

57 Tighten word spacing
If you are creating a narrow column of ranged-left text, tighten the word spacing using Justification from the Paragraph palette menu. Simply reduce the percentage of the Desired value. Conversely you can increase the value for text across a wide measure.

58 Position guides perfectly
Instead of dragging a guide to its correct position, drag it out and drop it anywhere in the document. As long as it's still selected you can type the coordinate in the Control Panel to position it precisely.

59 Take control of your output
InDesign gives you a great deal of control over the final file you send for output. For example, you can define a slug area and place an information box containing such details as the document's filename, its creation date and proof number inside it. When you go to File>Print, under the Marks and Bleed section, you can choose to print this slug area. Additionally, when exporting a PDF, there are a number of default PDF settings, but customising your own is extremely straightforward. For instance, when you use the Smallest File Size PDF Preset, you may find your pictures become blurred around sharp edges. To help minimise this effect go into the Compression section of the settings and change the JPEG quality from Low to Medium or High. Finally, don't forget to check the resolution of your pictures before sending them to print with File>Preflight.

60 Stay informed
Don't neglect the value of the Info palette. For example, if you highlight some text the palette will tell you how many characters, words, lines and paragraphs it has. Very useful.

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