Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

Edit any PDF in Quark with PDF2DTP

It’s one of those design nightmares – a client comes to you with a PDF and wants it amending, but you don’t have any of the original source files! Short of manually converting the PDF one page at a time or recreating the entire document (all the while mentally editing an image of your client’s head into a vicious animal attack), what can you do?

Markzware, creator of tons of plug-ins for Quark, think they have the answer with PDF2DTP. This new plug-in, or ‘XTension’, lets you easily import an entire multipage PDF into QuarkXPress 9, converting the whole thing into an editable Quark file. Then you can simply make your edits with familiar tools and export it back out to hand to your client as a new PDF.

How well does it work?

Have a look at the PDF2DTP XTension for QuarkXPress 9 in action and get the full word from Markzware in the video at the bottom. It’s already getting rave reviews from designers for its conversion speed and accuracy – Paul Ramos, a publishing professional at Difusao Cultural enthused, “PDF2DTP is fantastic! I tried it on a PDF for a book that had 524 pages, and it took less than five minutes to make the total conversion. It even isolated the images in separate files.”

Our resident Quark expert Priya Saggar reckons PDF2DTP will be a very welcome addition to designers’ toolbelts. “This is going to take a lot of tedious work out of converting PDFs to make minor edits, or quickly recovering a document when all you’ve got left is the PDF,” she said. “It does usually retail for £179 but, for a limited time, you can get it free with every QuarkXPress 9 purchase or upgrade. PDF2DTP comes as an electronic download for either Mac or Windows – all you need to do is register your Quark and fill in the online redemption form.”

You can also get more info by calling our team on 03332 409 306 and emailing sales@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Adobe Creative Week 2012: Our design team’s thoughts

Our design team spend most of their waking hours toiling over Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Premiere Pro and Dreamweaver, so we thought it would be a good idea for us to check in with some of Adobe Creative Week 2012’s online seminars and see what other creatives were up to.

With the UK economy still idling in recession, big themes up for discussion were how creativity could help push growth, the decline of print, constrained budgets and changing skill sets. Adobe also showcased their new Touch apps for Apple’s iPad, Creative Cloud and Creative Suite 6. Here’s Liana, Ed and Paul’s thoughts on the week’s hotly contested debates…

Day 1: Creative Industry Overview

The overarching question to kick off Creative Week was ‘Can creativity help drive the UK out of recession?’, and the results showed the viewers had a pretty sunny outlook, 88% of them voting ‘Yes’. One of the themes touched on was creativity in education, and whether we were failing the younger generation by not giving art and creative subjects enough credibility.

Designer Liana Jackson wasn’t so sure it was such a big hindrance: “While gaining basic skills in maths and science is necessary, I’ve never felt like I wasn’t able to pursue a career in design because art wasn’t ‘credible’. I suppose it can be seen more as a hobby than an actual job, and I think more people are trying to get into creative roles now, and earning money doing jobs for people because they ‘kind of know’ what they’re doing. This can lead to a lot of pants design out there and a lot of qualified designers out of a job.”

With the rising use of mobile devices in the classroom (Adobe showed an interesting case study from Ravensbourne College), students are getting far more collaborative and diverse design skills. Whether this new crop of creativity can provide the stimulus the UK needs for economic growth remains to be seen.

Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud

Throughout Creative Week, Adobe evangelists were showcasing their latest products with in-depth video tutorials, which are all handily uploaded to the Adobe Creative Week site to watch back at your leisure. Of particular interest to our iPad expert Ed Reisner were the new Adobe Touch apps and Creative Cloud, as presented by Rufus Deuchler (Senior Worldwide Design Evangelist at Adobe Systems – @rufusd on Twitter).

“While Apple have been pushing their cloud services for a while, it’s great that you can now ‘work in the cloud’ with Adobe,” he said. “Creative Cloud also lets you download and manage desktop apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign or the Touch tablet apps such as Kuler and Proto, a bit like Apple’s App Store. Interestingly, you can also download an app for a specific time period. This would be useful if you’ve taken on a contractor for a month or two, and only need a Photoshop licence for that time.”

Ed also thought Adobe’s six Touch apps – Photoshop, Kuler, Proto, Collage, Ideas and Debut – would be really useful for designers on the move: “Each of the Touch apps is designed specifically for multitouch use, and as they integrate with Creative Cloud, will let you work on initial concepts and save them while you’re out of the office.

“Photoshop Touch gives you control of some basic Photoshop commands, but also lets you add comments so you can collaboratively review ideas with colleagues and clients. The Ideas app is great for sketching out concepts, letting you draw intuitively with touch gestures as vector paths, ready to scale up in Illustrator when you’re back at your desktop computer. Of all Adobe’s Touch apps, the most interesting is probably Proto, which integrates with Dreamweaver to let you create basic websites on the fly. You can be with a client and sketch out ideas on your iPad as you’re talking, using multitouch gestures to put in headers, tabs and more.”

Day 2: Design and Publishing

The decline of print media is no big news, so it was heartening to see that 69% of people surveyed on Day 2 thought that print could survive the digital revolution. Jeremy Leslie from the magCulture blog said that having both print and digital “gives us the option to pick and choose the right solution for the project in hand”, while Future Publishing’s digital Editor-in-Chief Mike Goldsmith enthused that “digital technology gives you permission to fail”, as it’s so much easier to rectify mistakes and make amends.

“Digital media can reach people far quicker than print, and with platforms like Twitter, it’s changed how we read and consume content,” said Liana. “But they reminded viewers that the challenge is still engaging that person to want to follow a link and read on.

“Design, like fashion, is also cyclical, and Adobe brought up the good example of InDesign’s first introduction, and people moving over from Quark. Everyone learned to use new tools like drop shadow, but then it became so ubiquitous that it fell out of favour, only to come back when it started being seen as different and original again,” she added.

Tutorials for Day 2 focused on Adobe’s big three apps for design and publishing – Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator – as well as newcomer Muse, which lets you do WYSIWYG web design without lines and lines of code. Check out the videos on the Adobe Creative Week site.

We’ve been using Creative Suite 6 for a while now, and our videographer Tom has also put together his own handy tutorials for Photoshop’s Content-Aware and text extrusion tools, and Image Trace in Illustrator, which you can see over at our YouTube channel.

Day 3: Film and video

‘Do smaller budgets make for more original ideas?’ Last year, the BBC spent 13% less on TV, and ITV spent 21% less (2011 compared to 2010), yet revenue went up for both. Pressure and expectation from above to do more with fewer resources and less technology can force creatives to think differently, seemed to be the reasoning.

One new avenue which has helped is social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter which, former BBC social media expert Marc Goodchild reckons, “brings producers closer to their audience”.

Liana agreed that social media is now a key part of creativity: “As Marc said, YouTube allows you to test your work and fine tune it before the final cut, decreasing risk and making it as good as it can be. It’s also great for talent scouts and HR managers looking to hire people. Pilots used to be secretive and for a specialised audience, but now they’re expected to be seen by lots of people, thus giving more constructive feedback.

“The panellists also discussed how Twitter is now a valid source of openly eavesdropping – people aren’t afraid to give their opinion because they aren’t talking to your face. There are also enough people to get a rounded, calculated result, from a different range of expertise and backgrounds.”

Day 4: Web and mobile

Cross-disciplinary skills are all well and good, but the fourth day of Creative Week asked – ‘Should you be a Jack of all trades instead of a master of one?’. A very talented 64% said designers should be skilled in newer processes like app design in addition to traditional skills.

With the ways people consume media changing, and clients wanting to be at the forefront of that change, keeping up to date with technology has never been so important. Just as a coder needs a basic grasp of design, designers should have an understanding of coding, they said.

Adobe demoed a great new resource – The Expressive Web – showcasing CSS3, HTML5 and content aware pages. As Ed mentioned above, there’s also the new Touch app Proto. Proto lets you create a website wireframe directly on your tablet device, preview in on the tablet and then export it out to the Creative Cloud where you can then start fleshing the website out in Dreamweaver.

Day 5: Photography and Imaging

The last day’s topic was bound to cause a bit of controversy – ‘Is digital imaging all tech and no talent?’. Any designer worth their salt knows that software is a brilliant addition to photography, but it can’t make a great photo on its own, and an overwhelming 70% agreed that ‘No’, you need talent too.

It was said that Photoshop gives you the opportunity to experiment using techniques and ideas without massive costs – for example award-winning photographer Timothy Allen (BBC’s Human Planet) argued that it was much more cost-effective to use the Tilt-shift feature in Photoshop than it was to buy new lenses to shoot with to achieve the same effect.

Senior designer Paul Shillabeer thought the rise of ‘iPhoneography’ and photo-sharing sites was having a very real effect on the industry. “More amateurs and professionals are using apps and iPhones to create imagery,” he said. “This movement is getting bigger and is very accessible to all levels of photographer from pros to casual snappers. Erin Moroney [of the UK Young Photographers’ Alliance] also noted that photo stock libraries are finding it hard to compete and cannot command the high price tags they used to because people are sourcing images from so many other sources – a very similar image to what a client’s looking for could easily be found on Flickr.”

– A good taster of the current state of the design and media industries, Adobe’s Creative Week 2012 managed to wrap up all the big questions about the changing face of digital creativity. If you missed any of the debates and tutorials, you can catch up on demand here.

You can find out more about Adobe Creative Suite 6 and our full range of design tools at our site, or by calling our team on 03332 409 306 or emailing CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

HP or Epson: What’s the best draft printer?

Looking for a print solution for your drafting workflow? There are dozens of large format printers out there which will all produce good quality results, so we’ve pitched two of the top offerings from HP and Epson against each other so you can see what kind of printer is best for your needs…

HP DesignJet T790

HP are primarily known for producing technical CAD printers for use in architectural, engineering, surveying and construction environments. Their 44″ DesignJet T790 is a plug-and-play large format printer which combines high-speed results with intuitive use. The real stand-out points here are the ability to easily create print-ready PDFs with the optional AutoCAD plug-in and the collaborative aspect of HP’s exclusive ePrint & Share application. This free web-printing solution allows you to select, print and share files directly from the colour touchscreen.

Epson Stylus Pro 9700

Epson’s range of photo and graphics printers have a heavy emphasis on print quality, and so are mainly used in the print for pay, production graphics, pre-press proofing and photographic sectors. They may seem a little over-qualified if you only need a printer that’s adept at producing 2D drafts, but if you’re working in an environment where you work with a range of designs and media, the flexibility of the 44″ Epson Stylus Pro 9700 could be what you need. ENERGY STAR-qualified, it also boasts plenty of eco-features such as a fixed printhead and low power consumption to boost your green credentials and keep printing costs down at the same time.

How they stack up

The stats you need to know, at a glance.

Printer HP DesignJet T790 Epson Stylus Pro 9700
Printhead HP Thermal Inkjet Epson Micro Piezo TFP Variable-sized Droplet Technology
Max resolution 2400x1200dpi 1440x1440dpi (special line mode)
No. colours/cartridges Six cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey) Four colours, five cartridges (C, M, Y, Photo Black and Matte Black), ten ink channels
Nozzles 2,112 nozzles per colour, 12,672 nozzles 720 nozzles per colour, 3,600 nozzles
Minimum droplet size 6-9pl 3.5pl
Max print speed 50m^2/h 50m^2/h
Best quality print speed 2.8m^2/h 4.2m^2/h
Paper thickness 60 to 328g/m^2 up to 0.8mm 0.08 to 1.5mm
Memory 8GB 256MB
Power consumption 120W 85W
Warranty One year onsite ex printhead One year onsite inc printhead

The verdict

In terms of initial cost, there’s little to separate the two printers (both have an RRP of around £3000), but the Epson does just edge the HP in terms of consumables, with printheads included in the guarantee and ink costing nearly half per ml. The real decider should be what you want your printer to achieve – for a dedicated drafting printer, you may be better off with the quicker, more accurate Epson 9700 and its collaborative tools, but if you need your printer to do more flexible colour design work, the HP T790 could clinch it for you.

To find out more about large format printing, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email CAD@Jigsaw24.com. For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

Rendering in Revit Architecture 2009 with Mental Ray

With the new release of Revit Architecture 2009 came a lot of excitement, due largely to the inclusion of Mental Images’ Mental Ray in place of AccuRender for the Revit rendering engine. But how does Mental Ray perform in Revit, and what exactly does it add to your workflow.

As an avid 3ds Max user, I was keen to address the question or how Revit’s Mental Ray compares to that of the one in 3ds Max. So, I did a little testing and can safely say that, in my opinion, it fares very well; it has all the Pro Materials from 3ds Max (so the setting up of objects for rendering is very straight-forward), lights are a breeze, and all the photometric or IES light data contained in your Revit Light will be used in rendering calculations in Revit.

The Mental Ray interface is a lot more streamlined compared to the Max version, with simpler controls and a more user-friendly, less menu-intensive feel. Although this does restrict some of the finer settings available in 3ds Max, it makes picking up and producing good quality images – even for the complete beginner – very simple. As a general rule of thumb I’d say that Mental Ray in Revit achieves about 80% of the image quality in 20% of the time you’d expect from 3ds Max.

Getting into the interface

The render dialogue is easy to find and is represented by a teapot icon in the bottom toolbar when in your perspective view.

Once the dialogue window has loaded, first impressions are very good: endless drop downs and menus within menus are defiantly a thing of the past, with all options sensibly labelled making for quick and easy adjustments.

Even without going under the hood or into any of the custom quality settingsgood quality renders can quickly be achieved by simply choosing from the listed pre-sets on this screen.

The Quality pre-sets (i.e. those dictating how good your image will look) include options for draft, low, medium, high and best. From what I’ve seen and played with I don’t think you’d want to be showing customers renders with anything less than the medium setting. The draft and low settings are great, though, for quick test renders, making sure that your lighting is correct and ensuring that the overall composition of your image is right before waiting for the higher quality renders.

A nice feature from this dialogue is the ‘region’ tick box, which allows you to specifically render a user-defined area of your scene. This is an excellent time-saver when assigning materials to your design because it allows you to quickly produce renders with the ‘best’ quality setting in order to see how objects are going to look textured without having to wait for your whole image to render.

Looking under the hood of the Quality settings takes you to a customisable screen for tweaking your settings. Again, hats off to Autodesk: these options areextremely easy to use, with a nice interface explaining what each option does and a simple slider adjustment to make any changes. If I had one complaint it would be that it’s too easy to make changes! There have been a couple of times when I’ve become ‘slider happy’, maxing out all the settings but then realising that I’m going to have to wait a week for the image to render.

For those of you familiar with Mental Ray in 3ds Max and Viz, all the usual options for Anti-aliasingReflectionsShadows etc. are here, so if you know what you’re doing then you can play to your heart’s content. For the average user, though, I think the ‘high’ and ‘best’ options will provide more than enough realism without having to worry about these settings.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Revit Architecture 2009 now includes the Mental Ray Pro-Materials. For those unaware, the Pro-Material library was officially introduced with 3ds Max 2009 and provides fast access to pre-set materials that are ready for rendering in Mental Ray. Again the user interface is spot on, with easy-to-use modification options and thumbnails depicting how the material will look when rendered, thus giving you the best possible insight to how your objects will look. The Pro-Material library is extensive and really does make texturing a design very quick and simple.

– Materials Library (below)

– Render Appearance Library (below)

The realism in any render is usually down to two factors: light and shadows. It’s incredible how a 3D-looking scene can be made photorealistic with the effective use of lights and subtle inclusion of shadows. As we’ve discussed, setting up lights for rendering is extremely straightforward; all Revit Light data is available to the Mental Ray engine, so if you are using photometric or IES data the lights in your scene can be visualised as they would be in the real world. Again, lighting settings are pre-set driven in Revit 2009 with 6 available options; 3 for exterior lighting and 3 for interior. Below, we’ve depicted the lighting of a simple room with a large curtain wall and a floor lamp to show the effect of the different pre-sets.

Exterior: Sun only

Exterior: Sun and Artificial

Exterior: Artificial only

Interior: Sun only

Interior: Sun and Artificial

Interior: Artificial only

All of these work very well, and once again the pre-sets reduce the learning curve needed to get good quality renders.

Summary

The industry feedback we at Jigsaw have received so far is very good, and I’m personally very impressed with the Mental Ray inclusion. Customers I have spoken to have all been blown away with the ease and quality with which renders can be set up. One firm has even said that they no longer need to outsource their visualisation but instead can save the money and get all their images produced from Revit in-house!

I think it’s great that Autodesk is extending its traditional media and entertainment products into the architectural space. As we all know, average 3D renders are no longer cutting it with customers, so in order to get those bid-winning presentations technology from the film, TV and game industries needs to be utilised. At a time when a growing number of dedicated visualisation firms are being set up, Autodesk’s introduction of Mental Ray into Revit has opened up to its customers the possibility of good quality, in-house visualisation. Who could ask for more?!

Visit Jigsaw24 for a range of professional CAD solutions, and call 03332 409 306 or email CAD@jigsaw24.com if you have any related question.