Mailbag: What about those crazy symbols that keep appearing in my text?

I haven’t pulled out the mail bag in a while. Let’s see what readers have on their minds these days:

Let’s start with a text from Tammy in Minnesota

Kevin, we need your help!

We just received 20 files saved in the PDF/A standard. Our preflight won’t even work with them. Can we trust a PDF/A file?

I haven’t been to Minnesota in a long time, so I went the extra mile for Tammy.

I asked her to email the two files to me, so I could look at them. At first glance everything seemed OK with the files. Having been around this block a few times, I knew better than to trust a first glance.

You see, the PDF/A standard is meant for files that are going to be archived, not printed. So there’s a pretty good chance that the files will cause a problem when placed on a newspaper page.

To be sure Tammy didn’t have problems with her files, I opened them in Photoshop at a resolution of 1000, saved them as EPS files, then ran them through Acrobat Distiller using my normal settings, but with one difference. I changed the downsampling for both color and gray images to 600 (they were originally set for 200) for images above 600.

I wrote back to Tammy and explained that from a glance her files seemed OK, but that I was sending new files that were guaranteed to work. A few minutes later, I received an email that the original files caused the InDesign file to “go crazy.” She wanted to know how I fixed the files.

Well, Tammy, now you know.

From Walt in Kentucky

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for a great presentation in Lexington over the weekend. Now I need your opinion. We end up having to do a lot of “work arounds” because our software is several years old. Would you recommend replacing with Macs or changing over to the more affordable PCs to run new versions of the Creative Suite? Or is it feasible to upgrade the software on our older Macs and replace the graphic designer’s Power PC G5?

Walt, we’ve known each other for a long time and you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

Stick with the Macs. I have no problems with groups that decide to use PCs to produce their publications. It’s their money and their newspapers. However, when it’s my money, or when a trusted colleague asks my opinion, I’m going to shoot straight with him. Stick with the Mac. In the long run, you will save a lot more money, stress and time than you will ever save with “cheaper computers” on the front end.

From Karen in Indiana

We just got new Macs for our office. I’m not a designer, but I do have CS3 at home on my MacBook Pro. I’m trying to figure out upgrades. While reading forums online last night, a light bulb flashed above my head, “Kevin will know!”

Here are my questions for you:

Can I upgrade my computer to CS4 to match our graphic artist’s computer? Can I stay on CS3 and share files with a CS4 user? Should we upgrade everybody to Apple’s Lion operating system and upgrade us all to CS5.5? Should we leave well enough alone? Thanks for sharing your expertise. I’m not reading any more stuff. I’ll go with your recommendation.

Wow, that was a lot of questions, Karen.

But there seemed to be a compliment in there, so I’ll do my best to answer them all. First, it will be a disaster if you use different versions of Adobe Creative Suite and you share files on a regular basis. It’s possible, but a pain. So, if you share files very often, you all need to be on the same version.

The only version being sold now is CS 5.5 (CS 6 may be out by the time some readers read this) and Adobe doesn’t sell older versions of its software, which means you can’t upgrade to CS4 because it’s not being sold. So if you want to transfer files between computers on a regular basis, it would be best if you were both on the same version of Creative Suite.

As far as Lion goes, it’s fine. All operating systems are problematic when they first come out, but the driver issues and bugs are generally cleaned up after a few months. I’ve written about how to set up your PDF printer driver in Lion, so you can create PDF files the way you always have. Other than possibly needing a new printer or scanner driver, that should take care of most of your Lion issues.

From Carla in Tennessee

Hi Kevin, When we lay out our newspaper, all of our stories are in “text only.” When they are placed on our pages the apostrophes, dashes, quotation marks, etc. are left off. Most of these articles are from older versions of Microsoft Word. Can you tell us what can be causing this problem, and is there a solution other than updating the rest of the computers?

There’s an easy fix for this, Carla.

When you go to place a text file on the page, click on the “Show Import Options” box in InDesign’s Place dialogue box (after selecting the text file to place).

You will see a new window appear with options for text files. This allows you to tell InDesign if the text file was created on a Windows-based computer or a Mac. Set this correctly and the disappearing glyphs will appear as they should.

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