Tech Talk: New software for designers, builders

New versions of two programs by Adobe are providing builders and designers with better tools for marketing and document handling. The programs are InDesign, a print publishing program, and Acrobat, which simplifies document distribution.
Version 2.0 is the first release of InDesign that trumps the print publishing category leader, QuarkXPress, and Adobe’s own PageMaker. PageMaker was the pioneer program, but Quark overtook it. Adobe counterattacked with InDesign. Other competitors in the category, Microsoft Publisher and Corel’s Ventura, have lesser capabilities.
With the release of InDesign 2.0, the architecture firm of Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, headquartered in St. Louis, decided it was time to consolidate its page layout software. Previously, the firm had been preparing its marketing and presentation materials with a mixture of PageMaker, Microsoft Word, and Quark on Windows and Macintosh computers.
HOK intends to use InDesign exclusively, says Barbara Cronn, senior associate for the firm. PageMaker and Quark are being phased out. Microsoft Word will continue to be used for word processing.
The conversion to InDesign has been well received within HOK.
“InDesign has more capabilities and fewer limitations,” Cronn says. “We’re able to create larger and more complex documents with a nicer interface.”
The decision to standardize on InDesign was not reached lightly. HOK encouraged in-house proponents of both Quark and PageMaker to make their cases, but a consensus emerged that InDesign was superior and likely to extend its lead.
Proposals are now being pulled together entirely in InDesign, says Trip Boswell, a graphic designer.
“Almost every project we work on is assembled into an 11×17-inch booklet with a combination of plans, elevations, sketches, and words,” Boswell says. “InDesign smoothes the process.”
He praised InDesign’s intuitive interface, its integration with other Adobe products such as Photoshop and Illustrator, and its ability to run seamlessly on both Macintosh and Windows computers. Boswell runs InDesign on a Macintosh, although HOK develops most of its marketing materials on Windows-based computers.
“With InDesign, I can work in one document without making subfiles for logos, transparency effects, shapes, and forms,” Boswell says. “When I bring in Autocad files, I usually run it through encapsulated PostScript (EPS) to give me better control over line weights.”
InDesign costs $699 for a single user or $169 to upgrade from the previous version.
With Acrobat 6.0 Professional, Adobe addresses the building industry directly. This well-known program converts almost any computer document into a Portable Document Format known by the PDF suffix it attaches to a filename. PDF files can be viewed on almost any computer exactly as the files were created — regardless of differences in computer manufacturer, size, and resolution of monitor or operating system. PDF even works on mobile devices such as the Palm, Pocket PC, and Symbian operating systems.
Acrobat and PDF have become the worldwide standard for users to share documents with formatted text and
graphics.
The genius of the concept is that Adobe gives away the program to read PDF files — Adobe Reader, previously called Acrobat Reader. That’s right: free. There are no catches or gimmicks. Adobe makes its money by selling the program that creates the files. In the past 10 years, Adobe has given away more than 500 million copies of Reader. If you don’t have it, you need it. Just go to www.adobe.com and click on the icon that says Get Adobe Reader.
Some people get their first look at Portable Document Files from federal forms and publications. Anyone still working with hard copies of income tax documents is missing an eye-popping experience. The documents, which are posted on the IRS Web site in PDF format, can be downloaded quickly any time and are easy to search for exactly the fragment of information you need. What’s the current mileage reimbursement rate? The search tool will find the answer faster than thumbing through piles of manuals.
Adobe sees in the building industry a huge market for forms and documents, according to Randy Swineford, senior product marketing manager for Acrobat. A study by the company shows that it is not unusual for members of the building team to spend as much as $40,000 just for reprographic services, including plans, specifications, drawing markups, transmittals, review tracking, express delivery and as-builts.
With Version 6 of Acrobat, all those functions can be accomplished electronically. For example, Acrobat Pro enables one-button creation of large-format Autocad files with all the layers intact. Previous versions of Acrobat could convert Autocad files to PDF but it took several steps. In PDF, drawings can be combined with documents in other file formats and marked up using Acrobat’s commenting tools without disturbing the original file content.
When the project is completed, Acrobat saves it efficiently because PDF is a normally compressed format.
Acrobat Pro is full of other gee-whiz features. Searchable text is no longer a big deal with electronic files, but with Acrobat, even the vectors in a CAD file are searchable. Moreover, the new version can read a text file out loud through a sound card, and it sounds almost human. Anyone who is vision-impaired will find the feature a godsend.
Adobe also has strengthened Acrobat’s ability to manage documents such as contracts, change orders, and forms in Version 6.
Adobe offers four levels of pricing for Acrobat. The one most relevant to builders and designers is Acrobat Professional Version 6.0 for $449 or $149 as an upgrade from the previous version. Adobe offers a free, 30-day trial copy. Go to www.adobe.com/products/acrobatpro/tryout.html.
Once you discover what Acrobat can do, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

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