Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
June 9, 2005 5:06 AM   Subscribe

The pdf manifestos over at Change This are gorgeous! How are they doing it?

I'd love to create something similar yet simpler for articles I write on my own site.
What tools do you think they are using? Word? Powerpoint? Pagemaker? HTML? How do they embed the commands (print, save, magnify) and navigation (home, next, back)?
I have word, I have powerpoint, and rudimentary html skills and also the ability to print to create PDF's. I think I also have access to pagemaker, but I have no idea how to use it.
Help Obi Wan(s)!
posted by willmize to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The first step is to hire a good graphic designer. All the other stuff will come from that.

I would guess that they probably use InDesign to lay these out, and then export them as pdfs.
posted by alball at 5:49 AM on June 9, 2005

I poked inside the file and found this:
/Creator (Adobe InDesign CS \(3.0.1\))
/Author (Chris Houchens)
/Producer (Adobe PDF Library 6.0)

So InDesign is the app he used with built-in PDF export.
As for the navigation, those are just plain in-document links. The full screen mode is a document open action, the others are other actions attached to links.
posted by plinth at 5:54 AM on June 9, 2005

You can do a lot with a PDF when you load it into Acrobat (the full one, not the reader). You can lay it out in the tool of your choice (from the PDF information, it looks like they used InDesign CS), and then add all those buttons, navigation, full-screen trigger, etc in Acrobat. InDesign may be more tightly integrated with Acrobat, and some of that functionality may be built-in, but I'm not sure.

As an aside, for the ultra-techies, features like this can be also done in LATEX.
posted by zsazsa at 5:59 AM on June 9, 2005

Of course, if you decide to emulate their PDFs, please don't also emulate their decision to automatically maximize the display of the PDFs as soon as they're opened in Acrobat. It's abhorrent to feel that your content is so important that it gives you the right to reset display prefs chosen by the user; it's sad that something this nice (the ChangeThis) presentations are marred by something this simple.
posted by delfuego at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2005

They look a lot like the subscriber PDFs I get from Before & After magazine. I wonder if the two share some designers?
posted by patgas at 7:06 AM on June 9, 2005

A side note ... if you're looking for someone to do something similar, you might do well to look for a "typesetter with a good design sense," rather than a "graphic designer." Might be tougher to find, but might be cheaper.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:11 AM on June 9, 2005

Best answer: Their blog has an entry about how they designed the PDFs to be read on screen. PDFZone's ChangeThis Builds PDFs to Succeed Onscreen has more details:
ChangeThis authors are provided an MS Word template with stylesheets developed by the team. Once completed and returned, the text is saved to Rich Text Format, then imported into an Adobe InDesign template that directly mapps [sic] the Word stylesheets. Minor manual tweaking in Acrobat is the final step.
According to their Who's Who, the designer is Phoebe Espiritu. She's a former design director for AOL.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:30 AM on June 9, 2005

delfuego writes "Of course, if you decide to emulate their PDFs, please don't also emulate their decision to automatically maximize the display of the PDFs as soon as they're opened in Acrobat."

Please follow this advice, the automatic maximize no window control "feature" is pretty evil. Anyone know if I can diable this ability in Acrobat reader? I can see it throwing my father for a real loop.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on June 9, 2005

I was just about to say that I've seen this exact layout before, down to the color scheme (design pirates!), until I realized the original document I saw was from here. Whoops.

And yeah, InDesign rocks. But I've found that importing Word documents tends to mangle the styles, or at least, give me a hundred default styles that I'm not interested in, but that were embedded with the default document but never used.

The way InDesign handles styles (paragraph and character) is simply, wonderfully marvelous. Provided you've got enough screen real estate. :)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:44 AM on June 9, 2005

Mitheral: You probably already knew that Ctrl+L (or Cmd+L for Macs) ends the full screen mode, but I'm not sure how to disable it in advance.
posted by grouse at 10:21 AM on June 9, 2005

I know Phoebe - great designer - and I'll alert her to this thread.
posted by mark7570 at 10:46 AM on June 9, 2005

Almost looks like something done with the beamer LaTeX class.
posted by fatllama at 12:47 PM on June 9, 2005

grouse writes "Mitheral: You probably already knew that Ctrl+L (or Cmd+L for Macs) ends the full screen mode"

Thanks grouse, I didn't know that. Sure going to make supporting this over the phone easier if it comes up rather than trying to figure out where/what the unfullscreen link is (assuming the control freak artist put one in).
posted by Mitheral at 4:03 PM on June 9, 2005

If you like the look, but don't have the graphic design skillz, Apple's Pages has quite a bit of style and a bunch of very classy templates. It outputs to PDF, too.
posted by trevyn at 4:13 PM on June 9, 2005

Help Obi Wan(s)!

Sorry - I got nothin'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:25 PM on June 9, 2005

For those pissed off with the full-screen takeover, consider using Foxit as your PDF reader. As a bonus, it loads up in about 1/10th of the time Acrobat takes. Free.
posted by blag at 6:16 PM on June 9, 2005

Check out the Large Format PDF entry at this site for some information on doing something similar, though with a little less panache.
posted by yclipse at 8:20 PM on June 9, 2005

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