November 1, 2004 / InDesign / Winter 2004

InDesign in the Trenches

Written by Idea File Staff

Learning new skills takes time, patience and practice. And so it is with Adobe InDesign. For anyone who has used design software before, just sit down, work with it, and soon it will become second nature.

Michigan yearbook representative Anthony Perez gives advisers a great comparison for learning InDesign.

“It’s like buying a new house. You can’t get up and walk around in the dark without the lights for a while. You have to get comfortable and get to know it. It’s all the same thing, just in a different place,” Perez said.

Many resources are available for learning InDesign — tutorials on CD, Walsworth’s Desktop Publishing Guide and At A Glance cards. Plus there are summer workshops, visits from your Walsworth yearbook representative, and, when questions arise that need answers now, Computer Support.

Many advisers learn to use software the same way Crystal Kazmierski did. The yearbook adviser at Arrowhead Christian Academy, Redlands, Calif., does not like to read manuals. She just wants to sit in front of the computer and figure it out herself.

“A lot of what I’ve learned I’ve learned from my students,” she said. “It’s an adventure. There’s great latitude for creativity. Once you learn the keystrokes and shortcuts, it’s OK.”

For the 2002-2003 school year, Christoph Sisson, adviser at Holland High School, Holland, Mich., had a few training lessons from Perez, his Walsworth yearbook representative. Then he and his students learned together. He also called Computer Support a lot.

He said his students learned the tricks fast, so they could get used to using the software quickly.

How to learn it
So forget the manual? No. Just remember where you put it, and know that the manual also is located onscreen under Help. Now you are ready to join the many advisers and their students who just sit in front of the computer and figure out how to use InDesign.

Traci Williams, a first-year adviser from Dyer County High School, Newbern, Tenn., does not have lesson plans for teaching her students. She said some of her students are far more advanced than others, and they share what they learn.

Bryan Quick’s students do the same. “If a student comes up with something I don’t know, he or she will teach the class,” said Quick, the co-adviser at James Wood High School, Winchester, Va. “It’s the same with all software. You have to have an open mind and not think you know more than the students.”

Quick has been reviewing the tools with his students and then having them practice by doing different activities.

Sisson, in his second year with InDesign, Sisson, incorporates the activities into a larger lesson in which he paires his 24 students.

“I’ve developed a series of lessons that helps students investigate and master a set of skills. They write a story with a photo of their partner that epitomizes their personality,” Sisson said.

He asks for specific things in the assignments, like placing digital images, text wrapping and learning how to write.

Anita Chagolla, yearbook adviser at Clement Middle School, Redlands, Calif., is using InDesign for the first time this year. She has found it easier to teach because she does not have to teach Photoshop. Her students use InDesign and Walsworth Enhancements to get photos on the pages.

“I wouldn’t go back.” Chagolla said of PageMaker, but advised, “Learn InDesign while you have the luxury of time. Most advisers don’t have time to look through manuals.”

Niki Holmes, yearbook adviser at Annandale High School, Annandale, Va., switched for the 2002-2003 year when she had no returning editors.

“If we were going to be teaching them a program from scratch, it didn’t matter if it was PageMaker or InDesign,” Holmes said.

With input from the editors who were leaving, InDesign was selected in the spring of 2002 to be used in the 2002-2003 school year. Holmes said her yearbook representative, Rhonda Shoop, showed them the ‘glitz and glamour’ of InDesign, but that is not what finally sold Holmes on the product.

“My graduating editor was able to put it in context,” Holmes said. “That was really positive and practical.”

She said her students worked with InDesign in the spring and during a summer workshop. Then they had time to digest the information before starting school in the fall, which made them more prepared to use it.

Holmes said she thought there was a steeper learning curve with InDesign, but once the students understood the basics, they could learn the rest.

“It’s like anything, you get used to it,” Sisson said.

When to switch
The best time to start working with InDesign is when one yearbook is finalized and before work begins on the next one. Hopefully, as an adviser, you have control over the timing.

At Holland High School, the InDesign purchase was approved in August 2002. The software arrived a few weeks later and installation of the software and the Enhancements moved slowly. It was first installed on two computers so the designers could work on templates. Then the rest of the staff had access two weeks before deadline. It was a stressful beginning to that school year for Sisson and his staff. This year has gone more smoothly.

Quick’s students used the software only to prepare ads last spring. No one wanted to switch last year, including his co-adviser, Linda Milburn. But this year, he did not install PageMaker on the computers, forcing everyone to learn InDesign. Now they are glad they did.

So is Kazmierski, who introduced her students to it in spring 2002.

“We went into it thinking we have PageMaker to fall back on. After three weeks we knew there was no turning back,” Kazmierski said. “I’m an InDesign evangelist.”

If you are still considering whether to start using InDesign, remember that support is available for you. In addition to workshops and other help your yearbook representative can provide, Walsworth’s partnership with Adobe gives the company access to the programs that can teach InDesign.

Like driving a car, you just have to get behind the wheel and do it.

Differences Keep Life Interesting
Differences exist between InDesign and PageMaker. Many of the differences are distinct advantages over PageMaker. Some of them are just differences. Advisers and Walsworth yearbook representatives offered their opinions on what they like and how to use InDesign.

There are shortcuts — learn them. “If there is an easier way of doing things, find it,” said Crystal Kazmierski, adviser at Arrowhead Christian Academy, Redlands Calif.

Create your own shortcuts. Bryan Quick, adviser at James Wood High School, Winchester, Va., said if you are familiar with shortcuts from other software, you can create the same shortcuts on InDesign, making fewer things to remember.

For schools that do not have Adobe Photoshop, InDesign can do many of the same creative functions. It also meshes with Photoshop when needed.

All advisers mentioned the creative effects — using the eyedropper to apply a color or style, coloring from the inside or outside, feathering, applying transparencies, gradients and drop shadows, advanced masking, and typing on a path. “Like anything, restraint is the key,” Kazmierski said.

Text boxes can be resized automatically. In InDesign, you can draw a text block and place text, then convert it to three columns if you like.

You can create graphics from headlines. “Let’s say you had a quote from a coach, you have it in the text, you can create an outline, then wrap text around it,” Kirk Maddox, Walsworth yearbook representative, said.

Terminology differences exist between PageMaker and InDesign. For example, in InDesign it is called ‘paste in place,’ versus ‘power paste’ in PageMaker.

Fewer computer freezes occur, and less material is lost with InDesign.

InDesign has unlimited undo and revert.

Spell check will run on every open document.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.