InDesign Forensics: What Your Editor Knows about You

One of the dirty little secrets here in dekeVille is that the some of the files for the One-on-One series have been around for a long long time. Oh, not that Deke hasn’t rewritten things a neurotic number of times (he has. . . he has because he cares, and. . . because he’s mildly insane) or that we haven’t converted the files to whatever the current version of InDesign (we have, we have because we need to practice with the new stuff anyway). But many of these files were like houses taken down to the foundation during rennovation gone amok, but then rebuilt on that same foundation (only to realize the foundation needed to be fortified).

We realize our files are old when InDesign starts going haywire, and in our case, text wrap has been one of those telltale areas where the cracks start to show. In fact, last year, Deke and I were complaining to Michael Ninness (InDesign PM at Adobe) about how they’d taken out the ability to see custom text wrap frames, and he’s all, “We did not. What are you mildly insane people talking about?”

So, we sent off the file, and the upshot was, it was, like, a CS3 document that started out life as an InDesign 2.0 file. Myke and his team didn’t really have a solution for our problem (well, cut-and-repaste helped) other than to say congratulations on submitting the creakiest legacy files ever observed in the wild, but he did show me this cool trick for seeing your document’s history. Simple, just open the file, hold down the Command (Ctrl) key, and choose InDesign > About InDesign (or the Windows equivalent, you know the drill) and you get this scarily revealing window (shown here with the info for one of my current projects).

The window shows you which plug-ins you are relying upon and gives you a heads up for any that might be missing. It also tells you which version you are working in and a bunch of other mysterious technical sounding stuff. But the real (and somewhat scary) thing it gives you is the Document History, which actually tells you everytime the dang thing’s been Saved As.

So, quite innocently, I recommend to authors to Save As so to keep file size under control. But with this new tool, I can find out when they were actually doing enough work to warrant a Save As. In Mikkel’s case, he was clearly telling the truth (and it turns out we at O’Reilly like to reuse files, because “chapter” has been in exsistence since 2006, two years before we Mikkel signed his contract.) Forensics, people, not just for Photoshop anymore.

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