Laying Out

Permit me to begin with an ex cathedra pronouncement: Word processing applications tend to be abominable tools for designing pages. They demonstrate a strong commitment to certain generic assumptions about text manipulation that derive from typewriting constraints. As a result, casual users (even expert users, most of the time) prepare documents whose line length extends beyond what readers ordinarily find comfortable, with more lines per page than is ideal, and so on. Word-processor pages shout that they were indeed produced with a word processor, whereas readers cope better with ordinary book-sized pages and type.
 
I’ve been trying for years to wrestle my word processing applications and page-layout apps into a functional relationship with the pages I want to produce. In each case there’s some residual glitch, a feature of a book page that the word application won’t produce (multiple independent headers, for instance, such that one can deploy page numbers and running heads on the same page), or a feature of text that the page app resists (I have InDesign 2.0, which refuses footnotes). Apple’s print engine does something wonky with PDFs that doubles the margin size, so that you can’t mount an end run around the word processor’s shortcomings by print-command trickery. And the whole process is fraught with complexity; I can readily sympathize with everyone who doesn’t bother trying to out-manipulate the constraints of the medium.
 
Of course, that won’t stop me. Of me it is written in the Book of Life, “He devoted hours and hours of his life to making better-designed pages for his students (and other readers).” I’ve wangled a prototype out of NeoOffice (the current version of which is so much better than its earlier iterations that I’m amazed); I’ll keep trying to make it work in Pages and Mellel. There’s not much point in pounding away at InDesign since I only have version 2.0, which doesn’t support footnotes (and I can’t afford the more up-to-date versions). If anyone’s interested, I can post the NeoOffice sample — and I’ll keep working on the others.

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2 Responses to Laying Out

  1. Pingback: Akma » Stromateis du Jour

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