Show me the way to... Document Layout

Good day.

Having read one too many threads where the issue of laying out books gets some lines, I'm now interested in learning the basics of document layout.

Taking into account that I'm a TOTAL N00B, what books and online resources on the subject would you recommend? Also, any good & cheap software?

Thanks.
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Comments

  • Read in this order:

    The Non-designer's Design Book and The Non-designers Type Book by Robin Williams

    One-Minute Designer by Roger C. Parker

    The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

    The first three are for beginners, but experienced designers will do well to read them. The Bringhurst book is one of my favorite books, and I would take it to a desert island along with Dogs in the Vinyard and Tropic of Cancer.

    If you can afford it, try to get a copy of InDesign as soon as possible. There are open-source alternatives, but they just aren't as good, and sometimes are lacking what I consider pretty basic features.

    There are SOOOO many online resources. I really dig Smashing Magazine for all things design related.
  • Posted By: Brennen ReeceThe Non-designer's Design BookandThe Non-designers Type Bookby Robin Williams
    Seconded. I haven't read the others but these are really good.
  • As well as reading books, keep an eye on printed stuff that's close to whatever you want to publish. Note what looks good and what they do with their fonts, margins, headings and so forth.

    My experience is that manuals were OK, but didn't really make sense until I'd looked at real-world layout in the vein of the things I wanted to do.

    Graham
  • Steal shamelessly from stuff you like. And practice design work all the time, on little shit that doesn't ultimately matter. Me, I design covers and logos and sample layout for every game design idea I have, even ones that'll never be finished. Getting better mostly involves doing layout, not just reading stuff.
  • edited July 2009
    Hey, thanks for the bibliography. I'm checking Amazon right now.

    About the software, though, InDesign's price is a little steep for me. I know it's held in high regard but, as I just entered the checking-what's-this-all-about phase, I can't justify (or make!) that expense. Maybe with time... and a good discount.

    So, what are the second best, cheaper alternatives?

    Thanks.

    EDIT: So I found The Non-Designer's Type Book 2e (2005) and The Non-Designer's Design Book 2e (2003) and 3e (2008). Also, what seems as a combo of both previous titles, The Non-Designer's Design & Type Books (2007). Recommendations?
  • Here is a list of InDesign alternatives.

    Scribus is the front runner of freebies. I haven't used it for around a year, but being an experienced ID user, I felt a bit constrained.
  • Here's a link posted recently that might be useful:
    50 Totally Free Lessons in Graphic Design Theory
  • You can actually do fairly decent layout in most word processors, including OpenOffice and MS Word. Judd and I actually have a yet-unmet challenge between us to layout a game in Word. Honestly, the next best thing to InDesign might be LaTeX, but it's a royal pain to use and hard to fiddle with because it involves coding your text. If I'd ruled out InDesign and LaTeX, honestly, I think I would use Word (for the Mac, because it's better). InDesign is really the only competitor in this category because it's that good at what it does (well, and because Adobe merged with Macromedia).
  • Thanks for the help. At one point I tried to install Lyx on my PC but couldn't make it work.

    About the books in the bottom of my previous post, do you recommend individual books or the combo?
  • Posted By: TorquemadaAbout the books in the bottom of my previous post, do you recommend individual books or the combo?
    I'd go with the combo if it saves money. I doubt there's much new information in the revised editions. There might be information about technology, but the main point of those books is to teach fundamentals that have been widely practiced for well over half a century.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: Jonathan WaltonYou can actually do fairly decent layout in most word processors, including OpenOffice and MS Word.
    I thought about mentioning that as well. I don't know if I'd recommend this path to a beginner, though. It's much more difficult and frustrating than using a layout program.
  • edited July 2009
    You can get free trials of both InDesign and the still-used-in-some-corners-slightly-friendlier-and-cheaper Quark XPress if you want to set aside some time to learn and experiment.
  • The problem with using a text editor is that it teaches you wrong habits, though. I totally would use Word myself if I had to (and especially if the work happened to be especially congruant with the assumptions Word makes) - but a beginner using Word would be prone to learning the wrong lessons from its peculiar ways of doing things.

    If InDesign and Quark (my two first picks, in that order) are too expensive and their month-long trials too short, then my recommendations are Scribus and probably LaTeX. Scribus is perfectly serviceable if you have the patience to deal with its bullshit. It also works like a layout program, basically, so using it teaches you the best practices in a way using Word won't. LaTeX is again a bit different in paradigm, so it doesn't have that teaching benefit.
  • Here are some bits of random advice that I find new designers overlook:

    Use a grid if you want your work to look professional. Use a baseline grid if you want your work to look really professional.

    Research the relationships between line length and leading.

    Use typefaces that have been around for at least 50 years. Some of the best ones have been around for 100, 200, or more.

    Learn about the golden section, the fibonacci series, and the modulor.

    Kerning.

    Draw thumbnails first.

    Never use more than 2 typefaces on a page.

    Most people use the word "font" when they mean "typeface." Learn the difference.

    There's a reason you have such a weird variety of type sizes in that drop-down. It's called a scale. It's that way for a reason, and you should respect it.

    Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity.
  • Serif PagePlus is probably the highest-rated low-cost DTP package. Go on Amazon and search for "serif pageplus design" to see if there are any good deals on design software bundles. (v13 or 'X3' is current, but you could get by fine with a slightly older one.)

    It's probably not as good as Indesign but it's one hell of a lot cheaper.
  • This thread has been very educational, thanks all for the info, links, and thoughts!
  • Posted By: Tim GraySerif PagePlus is probably the highest-rated low-cost DTP package. Go on Amazon and search for "serif pageplus design" to see if there are any good deals on design software bundles. (v13 or 'X3' is current, but you could get by fine with a slightly older one.)

    It's probably not as good as Indesign but it's one hell of a lot cheaper.
    Serif PagePlus SE is available free from the Free Serif Software website. You can also get PagePlus v9 from the same site for $10.
  • Something my professors taught me in school was to lay out a page with simple rectangles for text so you don't get caught up in the actual text too soon. I still do it today for some complex projects.
  • Well, I've just ordered the first three books. If my curiosity survives the reading, I'll get the fourth.

    I'll let you know if my poor brain manages to cope with the new information. If it doesn't, I might send some S.O.S. signals so don't stray too far away.

    Thanks for all the help.
  • Have a student friend buy you a copy of InDesign on their student discount. Also, write to Adobe and ask them to include automatic page references in the next version of InDesign. (I have CS2, it's not there, but it's the only feature I've felt lacking.)
  • Things I do:

    Avoid starting a new subheading more than 3/4 of the way down a column. Never start a new heading more than 1/2way down a column. Inserting small amounts of white space at the bottoms so things are easier to read is more acceptable to me than just pour and print. Nothing irks me more than reading a book where a new section starts an inch from the bottom of the right hand page, and the bulk of the content requires a page turn. If it's the same subject matter, get it on the same page.

    Slide pictures to the outside edges of the book. Left page, pictures are heavier and sink. Right page, pictures are lighter and float. I find this is a more natural reading experience.

    When possible alternate placement of images so there's less of an obvious pattern. If all your illustrations are in the bottom left corner of each page it's going to look like a record skipping.

    Never use any gray sidebar/callout boxes that are more than 20% gray.

    If necessary, rewrite your headings and subheadings so they only take up one line. If necessary, two-lines is OK, but three or more never is. I think this instinct for finding shorter synonyms comes from my time as a newspaper editor.

    Where possible, edit text to remove extraneous words or find shorter synonyms in order to remove widows and orphans, rather than just adjusting the tracking. There are always extraneous words and letters. For example, never use the word utilize. It means the same thing as use and use is more than 50% smaller (and far less pompous).
  • ^ Yes, yes, yes, everything Michael just said, yes.
  • One thing that might be useful is to show those hidden characters in any programme you are using.
    Spotting extra spaces or paragraphs straight away will save you some headaches.
  • Michael, that's wonderful. Do let us have any more tips.

    Graham
  • Not necessarily all layout related -- some of this is typography and grammar -- but these are more things I personally look out for. Some of this also assumes InDesign or Pagemaker. YMMV.

    Let the layout application do the work for you. When you pour text in don't separate each paragraph with a space, and don't indent with tabs or spaces. You'll get much more out of your app if you use the features it has available instead of trying to do it yourself. Learn to use Character styles and Paragraph styles. They will save you hours of agony.

    If you're importing from MS Word don't expect everything to translate perfectly. You might be better served just writing in plain text and doing ALL the formatting in InDesign or whatnot.

    Avoid any temptation to type ALL CAPS headlines when doing the initial writing (or, worse, to MiX CaPS). Again, your layout program can handle that for you, and if you do ALL CAPS then ALL CAPS are going to show in the Table of Contents and you don't want that, especially if you later change your mind and want the headings to be Small Caps, or only Initial Caps.

    Do your covers in a separate file, even if you're only doing a PDF.

    Be consistent with things like lists. If you're using a colon, stick with colons; don't have dashes later, and then close parens still later.
    1: This
    2- Then this
    3) Then this

    Likewise, if you boldface certain words in lists or tables, ALWAYS boldface them. Don't get lazy halfway through.

    I'm going to guess that many designers get their copy proofed BEFORE layout, but since I personally like to edit words to fix layout (as opposed to adjusting tracking - see above), I personally like to get editors to edit AFTER the layout is done, or at least pretty far along. This also helps you catch things like consistency of boldfacing and italicizing and the like, which you wouldn't necessarily catch in a txt file.

    When you think you're all done, search for things like double-dashes, m-dashes, n-dashes, ellipses, curly quotes, and so on, both in their fancy variants and their ascii variants. For example, if you're prone to ellipses, also do a search for ... and . . . so you can properly replace those. Consistency goes a long way towards a clean presentation.

    Do not pay anyone to make you a barcode from an ISBN. There are ways to make your own for free online. It's just a bunch of black lines of varying thickness; paying someone $100 or more for this service is crazy talk.

    Do not indent the first line of paragraphs any more than you need to. The default tendency is to make these indents way too deep.

    Also, while it takes more work, it's more acceptable to NOT indent the first paragraph in a new section. Paragraphs are indented so you can easily tell them apart, but you don't need to tell the first paragraph from the one before it because there isn't any. This generally requires manual labor, creating a new style without the indent and then going through and fixing each first paragraph. This is something most people won't notice though. I didn't do it for HELLAS; I did do it for Vox.

    Commas and periods inside quotation marks. If you insist on putting them outside like a crazy European, be consistent about it.

    If you're going to break a rule, break it. Make it obvious. If for example you're going to NOT line up boxes with headlines, then make sure they're not just a tenth of an inch off; make it obvious that you're intentionally not lining it up. Etc.

    Lists of things should almost always be at least one column more than your main body text. So if your book is mostly two columns, and you get to a long list of skills with short descriptions, it's a good bet you should switch to 3 columns.

    Numbers lower than 10 are written out. Numbers 10 or higher use numerals.

    Players are the people playing the game. Characters are the imaginary people in the game. Players do not enter the dungeon, kill monsters, and cast spells. Characters do. Characters do not roll dice, make decisions or talk with the GM. Players do. Don't ever write "When the player attacks his opponent with a melee weapon..." because that's ridiculous unless you're LARPing. Likewise, never write "If he hits, the character rolls 2d6 for damage..." because that's equally ridiculous unless your characters are carrying around dice.

    Do not ever adjust your leading so your book gains more pages. That didn't fool your English teacher, and it's not going to fool anyone now, and if you're printing a book the extra pages are going to cost you money anyway. So just don't.

    Do the Table of Contents second last. Doing it before is a waste of time because you're going to move something.

    Do the Index last. See above. Though if your book has fewer than 100 pages then I personally don't think you need an index.

    Fewer than = you can count it. Less than = you can't count it. "Ten items or fewer."

    There will always be a typo.
  • Posted By: Colin_Fredericks Also, write to Adobe and ask them to include automatic page references in the next version of InDesign. (I have CS2, it's not there, but it's the only feature I've felt lacking.)
    It's there in CS4 now. So sweet. Along with table styles from CS3, it's really what I used to be missing.

    Also, everything Michael writes is great. Except that there always should be an index (beyond twenty or so pages). :)
  • Tell me of these automatic page references... I am intrigued.
  • You can use Microsoft Word to learn the basics of document layout if you are only concerned about good practices with managing text, and even then, you'll have to work around some of Word's defaults and "features". Do not attempt to learn document layout involving any kind of graphics/pictures, or even floating text boxes, because Word cannot do any of that well, if it even manages to do it correctly, and all you will learn is how to force Word to do something approximating what you want, you won't learn any practical skill that can be used in a proper document layout program. (All right, you might learn a little something about getting a decent-looking document, but it is not worth the time it will take to get what you want, if you're serious about doing document layout.)

    If you're on a Mac, you might look at Pages, part of Apple's iWork suite, as it offers a document layout mode separate from its word processing mode. However, I have not yet worked with the layout mode of Pages, so I cannot say how well it works (but I bet it's better than Word).
  • Daniel: Works like in LaTeX; you define an anchor and then can point at it, and when the anchor moves, the page reference updates automatically. Actually I don't remember the correct terminology for it, I haven't been using CS4 much at all yet, but I know it's there.
  • I've never used LaTeX, so this is all new to me. :P
  • Technically, if you have it (and not Quark or inDesign), Publisher is far better than Word for this sort of thing.

    It's not nearly as good as any pro application, but given the choice between Word and Pub... I'd take Pub.
  • Posted By: philarosIf you're on a Mac, you might look at Pages, part of Apple's iWork suite, as it offers a document layout mode separate from its word processing mode. However, I have not yet worked with the layout mode of Pages, so I cannot say how well it works (but I bet it's better than Word).
    Up until the final two drafts, I did Vox in Pages. It did just about everything I needed it to do, and I could have done a finished product with it, no sweat. Three things made me switch.

    1) I needed to do some global adjustments to my page dimensions, and that was screwing everything up royally. At that point it was easier for me to just switch over to InDesign and fix it all there, more easily, so I did.

    1a) Working with Pages took me about 1.5 times as long as working with InDesign, but I initially did it just to see if it could be done. And it could.

    2) Apparently, PDFs output from Pages are marked as such, and Lulu (and possibly other POD printers) won't accept or process PDFs that come from Pages.

    3) Pages has no capacity to do Indexing whatsoever.
  • I've used Pages for some layout stuff - it's more like Publisher than Word, except that unlike Publisher, it's pretty awesome.

    But really, get InDesign if you can at all justify it. And if you're selling your stuff, keep this in mind: it costs a lot up front, but you can get it back on your taxes, if you're in the U.S.
  • First off I want to say this thread is full of win and awesome links - love the 50 Totally Free Lessons.

    Second, as a slight tangent, what would you all recomend if you just wanted to design your own character sheets?

    - Colin
  • Posted By: Selene Tan
    Serif PagePlus SE is available free from theFree Serif Softwarewebsite. You can also get PagePlus v9 from the same site for $10.
    This is true, and I used to say so. However, those versions have fallen quite a way behind the current release, and you can get something with a more recent version in it for not much more ($50-80 at Amazon), so I think you're probably better doing that. On the other hand PP9 is a perfectly capable DTP package (but don't rely in the built-in PDF creation). I suspect SE is based on v8, but I'm not sure now.
  • For character sheets and such, consider a vector graphics program, such as the free Inkscape. Those are superior to layout programs when it comes to arranging many discrete units in a graphic design, as opposed to having to deal with many pages.
  • Thanks Eero! I will check out Inkscape tonight. The less said about my previous attempts using Word the better :)

    - Colin
  • edited July 2009
    Cool stuff; one nit:
    Posted By: aeoniteNumbers lower than 10 are written out. Numbers 10 or higher use numerals.
    This is a sort of obsolete rule hanging over from print journalism, and it's incomplete.

    It's usually "Numbers lower than 10 are written out unless there is a number higher than 9 also in the sentence." (Paraphrase from Chicago Manual of Style).

    For game rules, however, I use a simpler method that I think it more worthwhile:
    * Use numerals for any numbers that represent a value (e.g. a stat, a roll-under percentage value, etc) or quantity of a unit of measure (e.g. feet, inches, minutes).
    * Spell out numbers when it isn't a quantity like above (e.g. "A game for up to twenty players.")

    This practice makes it easier to scan a page for that key value you needed or that example ability write-up or what-have-you, while less meaningful numbers fade into the text.
    -----

    Some of mine:
    * Learn to type out em dashes (for parenthetical asides—like this one—within a sentence) and en dashes (for ranges of numbers; “5–10 inches”) and ellipses (use sparingly: …). Every OS has its own shortcuts (Mac and Linux are smart about it, but I can't recall theirs ATM), but Windows uses ASCII codes ON THE NUMPAD plus the Alt key (hold down Alt while typing the whole string of numbers):
    em dash: Alt+0151 —
    en dash: Alt+0150 –
    ellipses: Alt+0133 …

    * If your layout program doesn't use “Smart Quotes” (which are usually fucking dumb--like using curly for inches) then learn those keyboard shortcuts. On Windows:
    open double quote: Alt+0147 “
    close double quote: Alt+0148 ”
    open single quote: Alt+0145 ‘
    close single quote: Alt+1046 ’
    (I usually do this as part of a final editing pass, because it’s such a pain in the ass during normal writing. Search & replace is your FRIEND, so long as you don’t ever click Replace All—there be dragons.)

    * The only time you use single quotes is for quotes within quotes: And then Mary said, “That bitch just kept screaming, ‘YOU WHORE!’ at me any time I tried to talk to her.” I have ON OCCASION used them when I use a word that means something ‘approximate’ to what I mean—but that’s really a lazy way of avoiding rewriting to get the actual term. Still, it distinguishes a ‘sorta’ use of a term from an actual “quote” of something.

    * Styles, styles, styles. Use them, learn them, come up with clever and memorable naming schemes that let you select them by keyboard with a hotkey (for the application’s Select Styles drop-down menu) and a couple of letters. You also want to use styles because a lot of apps do cross-referencing (i.e. page references) to style names; and most TOCs are built using the Heading Styles (or whatever Styles you designate—LOTS of cool tricks for that, like specialty tables of contents for skills or sub-TOCs for particular sections).

    * Do initial template design with random letters (“Ipsum Lorem” text), so you don't get too focused on line breaks and such. It also keeps the text ‘gray’ so that you focus more on the overall page appearance than the way that a particular text block flows. Some layout apps can generate Ipsum Lorem text for you, but here's a cool site I found with a quick Googling: http://www.lipsum.com/

    * You really can never have too much whitespace. Until you have too much and it looms like a void into which text goes to die.

    * Try to make every page unique in appearance: position of headings as text flows, varied positions for artwork and sidebars and callouts, even different headers and footers or margin art or tabs for each chapter (which is a BITCH in many apps). Nothing helps scanability and reference as much as that; and nothing makes it more frustrating to find “that page” than every page looking the same.

    * If you actually do callouts for artwork (e.g. a sample character sheet with significant fields or regions highlighted and labeled) then (a) come up with your own style for lines, arrowheads (or not), bounding boxes, and type face and size, (b) use it consistently, and (c) do the actual callouts with the layout app’s drawing tools, NOT in an outside art app. Why (c)? Well, for one, screen readers for the vision impaired can read that text but can't read ‘baked in’ text in a PNG or TIF file. For two, you can tweak the art and reload the file and it will automagically use the tweaked art, and then you can easily rearrange any callouts that you might have to move. (Yes, you can do that in the art app, but it’s a best Practice to use the layout app, as you're DOCUMENTING with the layout, and you might want to keep the base art unmolested to be use elsewhere—no need to two copies in sync.)

    * Use PNG or TIF files of no less than a quarter of the target printer’s resolution; ideally use the same resolution. Use PNG for vector art (compresses much smaller in the PDF, and remains somewhat machine-readable) and TIF for raster art. As much as possible without surrender, get raster vector art from artists--it scales infinitely (with mixed success at extremes, depending on how the strokes and fills are made). If you must use TIFs for raster art, be sure to use ones with compressed, smaller Preview Art embedded—your layout app won’t gag as much, which it WILL if you have hundreds of megabytes of artwork open in a file at one time.

    * Import Art Files by Reference. DO NOT actually embed them into your layout app’s source files. Most professional apps do this by default; most cheaper apps (and M$ shit) does embedding by default (and people wonder why Word crashes on them so much!).

    I could ramble on, but I imagine I'll start to repeat others in this thread and advice on nearly any How To Layout web site (like the one linked above).

    HTH;
    David
  • So can someone enlighten me as to how to use text anchors and page refs?
  • Posted By: David ArtmanIt's usually "Numbers lower than 10 are written outunless there is a number higher than 9 also in the sentence." (Paraphrase from Chicago Manual of Style).

    For game rules, however, I use a simpler method that I think it more worthwhile:
    * Use numerals for any numbers that represent a value (e.g. a stat, a roll-under percentage value, etc) or quantity of a unit of measure (e.g. feet, inches, minutes).
    * Spell out numbers when it isn't a quantity like above (e.g. "A game for up to twenty players.")

    This practice makes it easier to scan a page for that key value you needed or that example ability write-up or what-have-you, while less meaningful numbers fade into the text.
    All quite true, and I guess I do that too without thinking about it (i.e., I don't have people rolling fiveDsix anywhere). Helpful clarification. Do this, not what I said.
  • Daniel: Not at my own computer right now, sorry. Will see if I can get anything going in a couple of days unless anybody else has answered by then.
  • Posted By: DanielSolisSo can someone enlighten me as to how to use text anchors and page refs?
    Ask, and you shall receive: http://tv.adobe.com/#vi+f1582v1857
  • Late to the conversation, but it's been a great read. Some tips I knew, most I did not.

    And to the OP, it's been suggested to get a student to pick you up a copy of InDesign... do it! I used it at work for some projects and bought myself a copy shortly after, it's just that nice to use. My student copy was $199 (for CS2). It's still an investment for a program, but even without doing anything major at home, it was still worth every penny.
  • edited July 2009
    Posted By: DanielSolisSo can someone enlighten me as to how to use text anchors and page refs?
    I'll try to be brief (in case you, neither, can see that video):

    Most Pro apps will make anchors on every heading. Most also allow you to place one arbitrarily (e.g. where you define a term that's not does in a definition list or as a heading). In fact, every time you see a # symbol in a URL, it's a reference to an manual anchor, because (most) HTML editors DO NOT make anchors for every heading, to cut down on file size in case NONE of the headings are ever cross-referenced. (And you know the tag for making a hyperlink in HTML is the A tag, right... guess what the A stands for. ;) )

    A cross-reference is an active element in your document that isn't resolved into "real" text until the book is saved or printed (although many apps do live updating in real time). A cross-reference (xref) is a bit of underlying code that says, "Put this particular information about this particular anchor here."

    So, an xref can display anything from just the page number ("See the definition of "fubar" on page XXX") to a full reference to a heading ("See "Understanding Fubar" on page YYY in Chapter ZZZ"). (In those example, the bold text is generated by the app.)

    Finally, in many apps, you can define "Xref Styles" which are basically a way to consistently provide some (or all) of the preamble and relational text (i.e. the stuff in red in those examples) using the Style as a template. Often, those are defined using special characters like these example Xref Styles:
    PageOnly = "page &pagnumonly;"
    FullXref = "&heading; on page &pagenumonly; in &chapname;"

    So you can just drop the Style you want at that point, aim it at the heading anchor (or manually created anchor), and let the app do the rest, every time your book pages reflow. This is also how a Table of Contents, Table of Figures, Index, and other auto-generated lists are done: a specially-formatted array of information built up from the many anchors that are automatically "hidden" in the book code by most Styles (Headings, Captions, Definition Term, etc).

    On that note, auto-generated Indexes are basically built up out of a special type of hidden anchor which not only contains a location name (some arbitrary, wacky, but unique string of text) but ALSO contains other useful indexing information not the least of which is the term being indexed, but which can also include a subordinate term (e.g. "fubar, understanding") or even formatting (e.g. "fubar, defined") or other, orthogonal references, completing an entry like this one:

    fubar
       defined XXX
       understanding YYY
       see also "snafu"
  • Thanks for the video and for that explanation! I'm gonna give it a shot when I'm laying out my game. That would've been a lifesaver on so many past projects.
  • edited August 2009
    Thanks to everybody for your responses.

    I've read both Mrs. Williams' books and I'm almost done with One-Minute Designer. It's been pretty interesting so far and I'm already trying to correct some of my most glaring vices. Also, the idea that made me open this thread is getting less fuzzy as I read on. Someday soon it might even get promoted to "project".

    Also, thanks for the links. I've skimmed most of them and I'll get back to them as soon as I finish the offline reading.
    Posted By: EryopsAnd to the OP, it's been suggested to get a student to pick you up a copy of InDesign... do it!
    You know? The more I read, the more I feel inclined to get InDesign (specially that way). But now that I've decided, I found out that my PC doesn't meet the minimum hardware requirements, so I need to spend money on hardware before getting that piece of software. Meanwhile, I'll just have to use a program my poor PC can run and start my practices by laying out/mangling some of the stuff I've translated.

    BTW, where do you get your typefaces? Any recommendation?
  • Posted By: TorquemadaBTW, where do you get your typefaces? Any recommendation?
    Good fonts are expensive, but worth the money. You can buy "starter" packs of the classics from Linotype, Adobe, etc.

    Stay away from the free font sites unless you really know what you're doing.

    Smashing Magazine has some really good links to free fonts. You can trust their taste.
  • Excuse me,

    if using newsprint paper, what would be a good serif choice for body text?
  • Some additions:

    The Mac shortcuts omitted from the reply above:

    em dash: option-shift -
    en dash: option -
    ellipses: option ;
    open double quote: option [
    close double quote: option-shift [
    open single quote: option ]
    close single quote: option-shift ]

    And some others:

    trademark: option 2
    registered trademark: option r
    copyright: option g
    dagger: option t
    umlauted charaters: option u, then one of e, E, i, I, o, O, u, U, y, Y
    grave characters: option `, then one of a, A, e, E, i, I, o, O, u, U
    acute characters: option e, then one of a, A, e, E, i, I, o, O, u, U
    circumflex characters: option i, then one of a, A, e, E, i, I, o, O, u, U
    tilde characters: option n, then one of a, A, n, N, o, O

    Also, some beginners make their first layout page and think that it "looks weird", that there is something a bit off about it. When this happens, most of the time, the reason is that they are using two spaces between sentences, a holdover from the non-proportional spacing of the typewriter which is still taught as gospel. Do a find/replace to turn two spaces into one space, and "weird" will be replaced with "that's better".

    Also, there are some scripts you can use to make InDesign pre-CS4 do cross-references without too much pain.

    I second the comment about "styles, styles, styles". This is the most important technical thing for you to start using right away.

    Another thing that is useful is to try to exactly mimic the style of a published book. As an example, I tried to make an Exalted fan-product look like White-Wolf's style. (Sort of. Since it would largely be printed out, I nixed their use of greyish page backgrounds. Also, it has a useful index, which most WW products don't.) Good practice.
  • I highly recommend that last point as well. When I was an intern at my ad agency, I learned everything I know about layout from re-sizing or editing existing ads, brochures and magazines. I got my start in game layout by deconstructing Hackmaster supplements and making free PDFs for Unknown Armies using graphics donated by Mr. Stolze himself.

    Torquemada, here's a list of the 10 most popular newspaper typefaces.
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