On Being a Desktop Publisher
As many of you probably know, this wasn’t really the job I was looking for. I enjoy layout and typography as much as the next word nerd, but for nearly five years now I’ve considered myself to be primarily an editor. The field of editing is where my greatest strengths lie. I was hoping that I could be both a desktop publisher and an editor in this position, but so far it hasn’t happened.
So far, all I’ve done is convert some files, enter some changes to forms and manuals, and start laying out a new manual in InDesign. InDesign is a great program—I like it much better than Quark—but it’s made me accutely aware of something: I miss FrameMaker. Now that was a great program. I could do things so much quicker if I were using FrameMaker.
While working at Independent Study, we never learned how to use its full potential (they didn’t even let us touch the master pages), but I still remember the awesome power of variables and templates that could be reapplied to an existing document. I’m in the middle of updating a couple dozen forms at work, and if I could just make the changes to a template and then apply that to all of them, I’d be done ten times quicker.
Sure, InDesign is a spiffy program, but FrameMaker would automate a lot of the work that I’m doing manually. The strange thing, though, is that they could have automated a lot more with InDesign at my job. They have a couple dozen course manuals and several dozen forms, yet there are no templates for anything; every new document was created by taking an old one and changing the guts. None of the course manual files have been put into book files, and it looks like all the tables of contents were created by hand.
The thing that’s driven me the nuttiest, though, is the way all the current documents have been laid out. It looks like there’s been minimum reliance on guides and quite a bit of reliance on aligning things by hand. Images have been inserted haphazardly instead of anchored into the text flow, so then the text has been wrapped around the images using hard returns. Lots of stuff has been aligned using spaces instead of tabs. All of this probably means nothing to those of you not familiar with layout and typography, but it’s been giving me heart palpitations.
This isn’t my dream job, and I don’t know I want to stay here indefinitely, but in the mean time I’ve got plenty of stuff to fix.