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InDesign users to be extinct like "lead" users, CSS coauthor cries!

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joeclark
This topic was imported from the Typophile platform

A YouTube video of a presentation at Google by Håkon Lie and Michael Day has Lie declaring that InDesign users, particularly at newspapers, will soon be so passé they will be more comparable to the old guys who moved “lead” type.

The context is the ability of Prince, a software application, to output a “typeset” PDF from HTML+CSS. (Lie was coauthor of the original CSS spec.) While that claimed capacity was covered in an article I read, then and now my response is “I’ll be the judge of that.” The presenters’ insistence that HTML-CSS-Prince handles “most” requirements (more than 80%) will, I suspect, be antithetical to the real typographers who read this forum. I think we spend rather a lot of time on that other 20%.

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James Arboghast

Uh, yepp. We spend way too much time on that 20% CSS doesn't handle particularly well. Sorting out formatting problems in webpages designed with CSS has long been a major time waster for me. It's just plain deadline-threatening. CSS's failings are typical of the developmental bungling the W3C are reknown for. The fact I'd rather have a new biro should tell you everything. Also try: eating glass.

Thanks for the link Joe :^)

j a m e s

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aluminum

"will soon be so passé"

Well, I didn't hear him say 'will soon be', so, I would have to say that I think it's certainly plausible that at some point, yea, this will be the way to go...especially for publishing entities that need to publish massive amounts of content to multiple media.

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aluminum

"The guys at the W3C always say the cutest things when they pull their heads out of their asses long enough to talk."

No matter how evil some folks think the W3C is, I'll take them any day over 'standards' dictated by Adobe and Microsoft.

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James Arboghast

I don't think they're evil Darrel, but misguided, and compromised by the commercial interests which decide what directions the steering committee recommends. That committee is made up of professionals from Mightgosoft and Abode, and the W3C itself is funded by massive contributions from them and other software companies involved in the business of making crummy software.

I'm equally critical of the 'standards' pushed by MS and Adobe. Their software blows goats. What WC3 delivers is seldom any better. But I hope you're right in saying this is the way to go---provided CSS can be made to deliver what we need it to. Proliferation of multiple media publishing should drive it closer.

j a m e s

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aluminum

Watching the video, I get the impression that Prince is really a print-based 'browser' so-to-speak. In other words, it's a product that actually supports the CSS features that make print design a lot easier that most current browsers either ignore or mess up.

So, that's probably a good thing.

No doubt that the W3C is influenced by corporate entities. I still find that better than just having corporate entities state the standard (not that microsoft and aobobe don't already do that...). ;0)

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James Arboghast

A print-based browser, yes. That's what it looks like. If it's dedicated to print it might end up handling that medium properly as the de facto standard for CSS, leaving online browsers to catch up.

No doubt that the W3C is influenced by corporate entities. I still find that better than just having corporate entities state the standard (not that microsoft and aobobe don’t already do that...

Beyond question, yes.

j a m e s

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Ralf H.

I like that CSS will get more and more of those features, but I don't get the general point of that talk. They claim that they have invented the perfect way of automatic typesetting, whereas in Word or InDesign there are those sad people doing point and click to get the job done. Haven't they heard that every text and layout application uses stylesheets? And with much better results ...

And about web fonts: I like the fact that they try to push it, but Larabie/Steffmann fonts as the future of web and print? OMG!

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James Arboghast

And about web fonts: I like the fact that they try to push it, but Larabie/Steffmann fonts as the future of web and print? OMG!

Ah, they're just hedging for the popular angle, something contentious to make people read it. Or maybe they're on a bum steer. I wouldn't take it too seriously.

j a m e s

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aluminum

"but I don’t get the general point of that talk."

I think it was just to show off a particular technology...one that would (in theory) reduce the workload of a publisher that needs to accommodate multiple mediums. Instead of typesetting it for print, then formatting it for the web, you'd do it once, for both mediums, via HTML and CSS.

I think it's definitely more of a 'in theory' thing right now, but I can definitely see hos there is some appeal to this down the road for high volume publishers (such as the newspaper they used in the example in the beginning).

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pattyfab

Until the web starts to allow more finesse and control across browsers and platforms, it's hard to imagine one application that can handle both the precision required for print design and the flexibility required by the web.

That said, I know nothing about css. But I do know that for a lot of designers, code is fairly anti-intuitive to work with. I have a background in print (hence Quark, InDesign) and can fumble my way through Dreamweaver because it's aimed at users like me who need to actually see something rather than just write code, but when it comes to html, I leave that to the programmers.

Back in the day, typesetting was done by typesetters, design by designers. The Mac changed all that, now most designers I know do their own typesetting (for better or worse). If the software gets too far removed from the physical act of designing, you'll start to partition things off again. I work with web programmers when I need to get a site done, but I'm not going to want to hire out for my typesetting.

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aluminum

"Until the web starts to allow more finesse and control across browsers and platforms, it’s hard to imagine one application that can handle both the precision required for print design and the flexibility required by the web."

Well, I think that's the intent of this particular application.

"But I do know that for a lot of designers, code is fairly anti-intuitive to work with. "

CSS isn't really more complicated than understanding proper styles in XPress or Indesign.

Getting CSS to work PROPERLY in browsers takes some work, but the appeal of this Prince application is that it seems to fully support CSS *as intended*. Which is rare, unfortunately.

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John Hudson

The presenters’ insistence that HTML-CSS-Prince handles “most” requirements (more than 80%) will, I suspect, be antithetical to the real typographers who read this forum. I think we spend rather a lot of time on that other 20%.

True, but that doesn't necessarily influence the dominance of production tools and workflows. Quark Xpress managed to grab most of the page layout market for a long time while supporting somewhat less than 80% of typographic sophistication; indeed, so much less that Dean Allen used to call it anti-typographic.

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Dan Gayle

What I think the non-coders are missing is that a lot of the design we are doing now IS XML-based, or approaching it. For instance, although not a design program, Microsoft Word now uses XML.

XHTML and CSS is XML, so we shouldn't be too far off from having a design program that can automatically spit it out properly encoded text. No programming required.

The issue is having a comprehensive enough CSS specification that covers more than the 80% of what we're talking about. IF, and it's a big if, we can get the specification to reach at least the level of sophistication of say, Pagemaker, that's a lot of design that can be accomplished.

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joeclark

Yeah, but you’re doing it wrong if you start with styled text in an unpublished format (like MS Word, Quark, or InDesign) and then try to output to HTML. Your result will be tag soup and will be unusable on any modern site.

I have had more-than-satisfactory results with a workflow of valid HTML → MS Word → InDesign → tagged PDF. I start with and end up with published, accessible formats, and one of the intermediate formats lets me twiddle with typography and page layout to my heart’s content. (It bothers me that InDesign cannot simply inhale a valid [X]HTML file directly.)

I feel I am reasonably informed on the topic and I am pretty sure that even Prince would not do what I want. Typesetting a single page that varies its number of columns is punishingly difficult in CSS yet readily achieved in InDesign, for example. Then there are the issues of ligature substitution, swash characters, and real H&J. (Hyphenation is rather glossed over in the video; it’s viewed as being present or absent. I would like to know how I prevent a word from being hyphenated in Prince, for example.)

Even if John is right, the baseline has been raised. For Prince to achieve 80% of InDesign is a much taller order than PageMaker’s achieving 80% of whatever came before it. (And if that was 80% of the crapola CompuGraphic photosetters I worked on, well, how hard was that?)


Joe Clark
http://joeclark.org/

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russellm

Am I wrong, or are there not plenty of newspapers and magazines still using their own custom developed page layout systems designed to coordinate out put with invoicing systems for ad space? Something Quark and Indesign didn't do before, and something I don't quite see CSS handling. The applications I know best are for making signs, and they can track inventory, billable hours, etc. and spit out an invoice when you are done. I imagine a newspaper publisher would expect nothing less. Does CSS do that and if it does, is it still a cascading style sheet?

Also, I hear so many 80% / 20% rules lately... "80% of your problems are caused by 20% of your (whatever)", "80% of you profits come from 20% of your customers (or products, or ideas)", and so on... It just seems to me that if you are going to pick a number and say "up to this point is good and you don't really need the rest", then, don't pick 80%. (82.5% is better. ;o) These rules almost always make it seem as though it's the 20% that you really want.

-=®=-

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Dan Gayle

The CCI system used at the Seattle Times is exactly such a system. It was originally designed to aid the layout of time-intensive, text and ad heavy publications like phone books. It was and is not a typographically advanced system, no ligatures I'm afraid. It handles the bulk of the design work though, since ads constitute the bulk of a paper.

For graphically intense pages without ads, like our Entertainment and Arts Page 1, we use InDesign and Illustrator because we need more control over that final 17.5%

And don't even begin to talk about classified advertising, because my head will explode.

Will CSS handle this? Perhaps a sophisticated enough CSS spec could handle the layout of a dimestore novel respectably, but something as complex as a multi-page newspaper needs to not only be well specified, but also brutally error-free and as steady as a rock.

Which we all know web design/xhtml/css to NOT be. (See Exhibit A, Internet Explorer, any version.)

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elliot100

Sure, this is using proper CSS, but XML/SGML + stylesheets have been used for print for years. Recall being interviewed for a job of this kind in 1996. Technical publisher stored all their content in XML, used stylesheets to output to various paper formats, CDRom, later web.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML_Professional_Publisher_%28XPP%29

As a half and half designer/coder, it is an increasing frustration that stylesheets in Quark/Indesign only go so far - you can't instantly rework a document from A4 to US letter, or make all 1st level headings within the 'further information' section of the page blue using stylesheets alone.

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aluminum

"For instance, although not a design program, Microsoft Word now uses XML."

As does InDesign, actually.

Ultimately, it'd be nice to see a company like Adobe embrace a product like this and incorporate it into their own DTP apps.

However, knowing MS and Adobe, they don't really like those open standards and prefer to keep to themselves. ;o)

(To be fair, I think Adobe has been a bit better in this regard than MS has)

"No programming required."

Well, for the record, CSS as it is now isn't really programming. It's just learning a bit of syntax. Really no different than learning prepress terms, or how to bind a book, etc. Just another publishing medium.

"I feel I am reasonably informed on the topic and I am pretty sure that even Prince would not do what I want. Typesetting a single page that varies its number of columns is punishingly difficult in CSS yet readily achieved in InDesign, for example."

Joe, have you used Prince yet? I haven't, but if you do, I'd love your opinion. I agree that for a web browser, using CSS for varying columns is a huge PITA at the moment. Prince, however, seems to actually support CSS-3 fully, which DOES allow for columnar layouts. One example: http://developer.mozilla.org/en/docs/CSS3_Columns

I agree, this is not a replacement for InDesign now. I am thrilled by the potential it has down the road, though.

"I know best are for making signs, and they can track inventory, billable hours, etc. and spit out an invoice when you are done. I imagine a newspaper publisher would expect nothing less. Does CSS do that and if it does, is it still a cascading style sheet?"

I have no answer for that (though would love to hear one). But, to add to the topic, it seems as if most successful papers are moving a lot of their ad revenue towards their online existence as advertiser depend less and less on the print medium for advertising. So this may very well become a nice addition to, rather than replacement of, current systems. It's been a decade since I've worked in a paper, though (which, at the time, was MS Word, cut and pasted into XPress [and then printed, cut, and waxed onto the keylines...those were the days...] and then cut and pasted into a primitive HTML editor where we published each article manually onto a static HTML site.)

"Which we all know web design/xhtml/css to NOT be. (See Exhibit A, Internet Explorer, any version.)"

Again, Prince isn't a web browser. It's a HTML/XML to PDF renderer. The appeal is that it does support a much fuller set of the CSS spec (especially for print) than any current web browser.

"Sure, this is using proper CSS, but XML/SGML + stylesheets have been used for print for years."

Excellent point. Doesn't Framemaker also use SGML or a subset thereof?

I think the idea, though, is that everyone touches HTML/XML these days, if not a fuller SGML subset. So this product probably hits a few more of the pragmatic buzzwords out there.

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AchillesG

At some point there was something called XSL-FO (formatting objects) flying around, with the express purpose of producing fully formatted paginated documents and PDFs from XML.
Does anyone know what happened to that?

"Excellent point. Doesn’t Framemaker also use SGML or a subset thereof?"
Last time I used Framemaker (admittedly, a few years ago) it worked quite well with XML (although it had to translate it into its own native markup). The most impressive thing about Framemaker was its very powerful stylesheet system to which nothing I've seen comes close.

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Dan Gayle

(I believe) We used Framemaker for for classified ads in one of the local papers I worked for. They would output their fully marked-up text, about 12 pages of classifieds, and we would input that into Pagemaker. We had style substitutions set up, so all we had to do was let it flow, ad display ads, then tweak to fit.

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Joe Pemberton

Google is barking up an interesting tree, but it's still the wrong one. What I would much rather see is a tool like InDesign that can actually output usable HTML/CSS! Why use CSS for typesetting? Back Asswards.

Outputting a typeset PDF deserves a (one handed golf clap) applause. But getting a decent layout application that works flawlessly is a whole other thing. Writing CSS still requires a developer to sit down and write code. We've gone miles beyond hand-writing Post Script, but we're not there close with HTML/CSS editors. We're 10 years out from the time the original WYSIWYG editors came out (NetObjects, GoLive) and still no serious web developers worth their salt use (or admit to using) WYSIWYG tools because they introduce too much error and require hand-coding. (Modern browser suckage is as much to blame as the people behind Dreamweaver.)

(I realize the term WYSIWYG is probably also passé... but you get my drift.)

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