I am stunned. Let me explain.
I have been using Illustrator since version 6 or so to mock up web pages, it is my wireframing tool of choice. The two biggest defects have always been a lack multi-page support and no way to underline text.
The workaround for the former was to either create a giant canvas and use page tiling (good for printing), use a different file for each page (good for linking into InDesign), or use layers (good for sharing items across pages in the same position, e.g., a navigation bar). I use a mixture of layers and files depending on my needs.
Not being able to underline was always the real issue. I realize it is not typographically “correct” because it actually means italics, but thanks to Mosaic that ship has sailed. Plus, why does Adobe allow underlining in InDesign and Photoshop but not Illustrator? This is inexplicable to me.
The workarounds for underlining were unappealing at best. The hardest solution was to manually place a 1pt line under the text you want underlined. The problem of course, if you change the copy, you need to change the line. To say this is a pain is one hell of an understatement. The easier solution was to use a different color and leave it at that, alas this (obviously) didn’t work when printing in black and white, but it was the easiest (and the one that I always used).
There are a few other workarounds that I’ve investigated but discarded. For example, I found a plug-in that automagically adds the 1pt strokes to selected text objects, but it doesn’t work in Illustrator CS and costs $25, so forget that. Plus, it doesn’t solve the editing text problem. At a previous job someone created a font that looked like Verdana and had the underlining as part of the design. But it was buggy, resulted in postscript errors, and didn’t work for sharing files with other people who didn’t have the font.
But forget the workarounds. Problem solved. Well, it is still a workaround, but it at least a clean one.
It turns out that Illustrator does support underlining, but doesn’t provide a command to do it. Is this like disabling the blink tag in HTML to prevent people from making bad pages? Adobe doesn’t want people to underline text out of some desire to improve design?
Enough background—time for the solution.
It turns out that if you paste underlined text from Photoshop into Illustrator the underlining comes with it. You can use the eyedropper to apply the text properties, including underlining to other text objects.
But this is where it starts getting good, with Illustrator CS, Adobe introduced character styles. You can then define a style for underline that you can then apply to other objects with one click. Plus, if you can make the style just underline, and not color, typeface, size, bold, italics, etc. Just a clean, one-click “make underline” button. Clicking the “no character style” style will remove the underline, without altering any other text properties.
To get you started, I’ve created an Illustrator file with just the style. Just open the Character Styles palette, click the little triangle and select “Load character styles…”, select the supplied Illustrator file, and you’re good to go!
Download the file: Underline text in Illustrator.
Update: Douglas Bowman improved on my solution by deleting a bunch of other text properties that I neglected to remove. Now it longer applies kerning, case, tracking, etc. The file has been updated for your downloading pleasure. Take that, Adobe.
Update #2: Doug points out an issue, but has a workaround for the workaround. I’ll let him explain it:
I discovered that within a bounded text box, the underline gets it’s color from the first character in that text box, not the character the style is applied to. And yes, that’s specific: the first character. Second character and on doesn’t matter or have any effect. So if you have underlined text that’s a different color than the first word (character) in that paragraph, you can create a space as the first character, set it’s horizontal scale to 1% or any percentage that stays unnoticeable, and give the space the color you want the underline within that paragraph to be. Fun, huh?
Update #3: Yet another update. Doug has done a great job of documenting the whole underlining trick.
I’m have been lamenting (here and here) the lack of a good solution for an MP3s on my home stereo. I want an MP3 player in a stereo component with a giant hard drive, outputs to a TV for the interface, and uses a hand-held remote for navigating large MP3 collections. It needs an optical drive for ripping CDs and WiFi for streaming from other computers on the network.
I have considered cobbling a solution together using an old g3 laptop, a 250gb external drive, video out to my TV, and stereo out to my stereo, with maybe a cordless mouse to navigate iTunes. But at the cost of $800, it seems like too much to pay for a hack, even if it would allow me to put ~500 CDs into deep storage.
It is only a matter of time before a good solution become available. Windows Media-Edition isn’t the answer, nor are the countless solutions for streaming from a desktop computer to the stereo because I have a laptop that isn’t always at home.
Enter the iBox.
The latest rumor is that Apple is going to produce a device to connect to home theaters, it includes a SuperDrive, a 160gb hard drive, video/audio out, a (physical) remote control, and more. It sounds like the perfect device for me which likely means that there is very little chance of it coming to pass.
Alas, MacRumors isn’t impressed with the likelihood of this rumor.
Well, it has been more than a month since I have updated this site—I’m sure all four of my readers have been quite disappointed with my posting performance. I blame it on the month of December. It is now January, and there are no more gifts to procure, New Year’s parties to throw, family to entertain, or trips to take. In short, I’m out of excuses.
It occurred to me that I hadn’t updated this site with my whereabouts. I am in Australia for a couple of weeks to visit Jeni’s family, as well as to do some wedding venue research… I’ll be back in a week and a half.
United, a company near and dear to my heart, is entering the budget airline fray with a new brand called “Ted”. An article in Business 2.0 describes the crazy guerilla marketing that United did in Denver.
Meet Ted is the silly site that they came up with to support the marketing efforts. I thought I had typed in the URL incorrectly at first, but no, that is indeed the real McCoy.
Michael Beirut of Pentagram did the naming, which is half of UNI-TED. Get it? I like it.
Three days before my 18th birthday, I received a package from Gillette. It said “Happy 18th Birthday!”, and it turned out to be a Gillette Sensor razor. All stalking aside, I was always impressed with this bit of marketing. Even more-so because I’ve been using this same razor for more than 11 years, buying refills along the way. A very effective mailing.
Today in the mail I received another package from Gillette, this time a Mach 3 Turbo razor. How stupid is that name by the way? About as ugly as the design, it turns out. Anyway, it didn’t coincide with my birthday, but I bet I’ll end up using it anyway.
This technique of giving the core product away, with the hope of covering the cost with the consumer buying refills is old hat. From the recent past, ink jet printers and Polaroid cameras spring to mind. The difference of course, is giving away the core product for free or for cheap. In this example, free wins out. I will probably never buy a razor in my life, but Gillette will have a lifetime worth of revenue from the blades.
I will never buy a cheap Polaroid or Ink Jet, because I don’t place enough the value on them to pay out even that small amount. But, if Poloroid wants to ship me a free camera or two, they may pick up another customer.
On the way home from work this Halloween, the hordes of people in costumes walking the streets inspired me. Luckily, I had saved one from college for such a “costume emergency”.
I lacked the necessary accessories, but thankfully though out the night people supplied them for me.
I’ve been meaning to come up with a separate blog for interesting links that I like but don’t have much to say about, similar to Jason Kottke or Todd Dominey. However, I couldn’t find a way to easily fit it into my blog template (a cop out, I know), but then I thought it might be more fun to actually push the content to people. Thus a mailing list.
I’m calling it NO COMMENT and it will focus on what I like, primarily, design, typography, architecture, NYC, gadgets, and photography. The frequency will initially be daily, unless there’s nothing good on the web (yeah right), or I don’t have the inclination (more likely).
I will also create an RSS feed shortly for those that are interested.
If you’re interested, drop me a line. Use that cute little mail icon in the navigation bar above.
Phantom Research Foundation is a collection of artists, designers, and musicians. That’s all well and good, but they have a beautiful Flash site. I’d go as far to say that it has the best navigation I’ve ever seen. Stunning. The site is designed by Gizma, which also has a great little Flash site. Small and simple, but great feedback and interaction.
John Friksson has a pretty nice portfolio site, notable for its retro use of horizontal scrolling. I feel like it is 1998 again. The work is pretty good too.
Stockholm Design Lab is a Swedish design firm with a pretty nice, but simple, site. No big deal I thought, until I noticed that they did the identity for SAS airlines (including their aircraft exterior design), packaging for IKEA, and branding work for Sony Ericsson. In short, some pretty impressive clients. I’m very jealous.
To continue a trend of talking about ancient applications as if they were new…
I installed NetNewsWire a while ago, liked it, but stopped using it for some reason. On a whim, I thought I’d give it another spin and I have to say I don’t know how I lived without it.
For those that don’t know, NetNewsWire uses RSS which Mark Pilgrim, in his article, What is RSS? describes as:
RSS is a format for syndicating news and the content of news-like sites, including major news sites like Wired, news-oriented community sites like Slashdot, and personal weblogs.
What this means is that you can subscribe to just about any weblog or news site and in your newsreader you get a subject line and excerpt of articles on the Web. You can then click on the items of interest to go the site to finish the article.
What is really great about this is that it behaves like a UseNet newsreader or a mail client. You are notified of updates to sites and it keeps track of what you’ve already read. I’ve found that I’ve been following 40-50 sites on a somewhat regular basis and much of that time is wasted on going to a site that hasn’t been updated or scanning something that I’m not interested in. This is a great timesaver.
The question is whether I will end up monitoring more sites in the same amount of time or the same number of sites in half the time. This is much the same question that arises with TiVo. You either watch more/better TV or you watch less, but better TV. Either way, you get better content. The same with RSS.
Despite Microsoft’s (completely valid) reputation of forcing bloatware down consumer’s throats, I have to say Excel is a damn fine application. While I don’t keep track of all the competing products out there, nor do I have a clue which, if any, of its features are original to Excel, I (cringe) credit Microsoft.
I realize that I’m talking about the original “killer app” for computers and this musing is probably 20 years too late. But in addition to all of the basic functionality that has been around since VisiCalc, three things make it a great application for me despite its bloated ways, rather than just a necessary one.
There are probably a ton of other features that could be cool if I knew about them. But this is Excel we’re talking about, I can’t wade through all the bloat.
As is the case for just about any musing I write, I end up doing a google search on the topic at hand. Today’s search reveals Spreadsheet History, which includes a factoid that I was not aware of—Excel was first developed for the Mac 512k in 1984 and later ported to the PC. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
Apple continues to amaze. Check out their latest iPod commerical. Totally different from their previous documentary style commercials of people on a white background. That style was instantly ripped off by another music service which we won’t name.
This commercial is the exact opposite. Apple did the same thing when the colorful iMacs starting to get copied, they switched their product line to white and silver. No one can touch their design style.
Incidentally, the song is “Hey Mama” by Black Eyed Peas. You can grab it from the iTunes Music Store here.
With the baseball playoffs upon us, I was chatting with my friend Chris and he is beyond angry at the stupidity of baseball announcers. What they pass off as wisdom leaves a lot to be desired. Not only do they rely on clichés, but they basically lie. “That pitch was high and inside” (actually, it was low and outside) or “
And the onscreen graphics aren’t making up for them. Being able to see the game in the first place is fantastic, but beyond that, there’s really not much being offered in the way of information. The broadcast is so devoid of intelligent analysis that I find that I watch the game with my laptop pointed to ESPN or Baseball Reference for my statistics needs. For commentary I rely on a site like Baseball Primer. Of course, you have a bunch of idiots there too, but at least you sometimes get something valuable.
It seems like the real opportunity is onscreen information design. A great first step was showing the status of the game at the times. Every broadcast of baseball now shows the score, runners on base, number of outs, inning, count, and the speed of the last pitch, all on the top of each screen. Some are better than others (Fox’s is best), but at least the information is there. Unfortunately, it means that where the old announcers had to relay that information to you, now that don’t, so instead of dead air they instead spout nonsense. Oh well, such is the price of progress.
Getting status is great, but what we really need is insight.
For instance, Chris pointed me to a bit of analysis about the Red Sox/Yankees series (go Yanks!) and wanted this level of insight from the broadcasters. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, broadcasters being what they are. I want this information onscreen, so I can get my own insight. Let the broadcasters continue to tell their “jokes”, my TV will be on mute.
The real advance is when top-notch information design, like this example from the Boston Globe, can be incorporated into broadcasts. Actually, as a first step, I’d be thrilled with this level of information design in newspapers and on ESPN.com. For a sport absolutely drowning in statistics and numbers, no one presents them well.
Of course, long term, being able to interact with the broadcast itself will be even better. For example, mute the broadcasters, listen to the crowd, and be able to selectively call up information for the current batter. For example, how has he hit on the road? What is the scouting report on him? Has he faced this pitcher?
But you have to walk before you can run. Announcers? Shut up.
A few links have been cluttering up my inbox:
With the baseball playoffs upon us and my beloved Yankees in the thick of things, I thought it appropriate to dig up Malcolm Gladwell’s story The Art of Failure where he outlines the difference between choking and panicking. It is a great read.
Plenty of people are choking in the postseason and I found Gladwell’s explanation interesting—choking is thinking too much. And of course, Yogi Berra was there first when he said “You can’t think and hit at the same time.”
A posting over at 37 Signals’ Signal vs. Noise brought to my attention two interesting spam related services: Mailinator and Spam Gourmet. Both perform essentially the same service—they allow you to easily create disposable email addresses.
While both are useful, I find that I just don’t sign up for obvious spam generating sites anymore making this service of questionable value to me. That said, I do get a ton of spam, but they are for email addresses that are “already out there” and ones that I don’t want to give up. Caution with new sites then doesn’t serve me any purpose since I’m already getting about 50+ spams a day on addresses that I’m stuck with for the rest of time.
But that’s where Apple’s Mail client comes in. I have been really careful to never mark legitimate but unwanted email as junk. I would say it has a 95% success rate for flagging spam, and I’ve only had one false positive to date. While the three or so spams that make it through are annoying, they aren’t annoying enough to cause me to come up with a whole new solution.
Though presumably this problem is going to get worse. If the number of spams increases tenfold and the accuracy remains the same, I’m looking at 30 or so in my inbox. That is unacceptable. This makes me want to try SpamSieve, which judging by this interview over at Daring Fireball with Michael Tsai, is much better than Apple Mail.
The arms race continues…
The new Neal Stephenson book, Quicksilver, is out. I went to Amazon to check it out and noticed something that I’ve been wondering about for a while. Who is the #1 reviewer? I had seen those badges for Top 100, top 500, etc., but never #1.
Turns out it is Harriet Klausner.
She has 5616 reviews posted. Is she getting paid by Amazon? Can anyone read that many books? Why would anyone put up that many reviews? After quickly glancing through her reviews, I noticed that most are 5 stars with an occasional 4 star review thrown in there. Interestingly, they all follow the same three paragraph structure. Whether Amazon is compensating her or not, I know this, she is not much of a critic.
There is a glowing review today of the new Soldier’s Field in the New York Times [registration required].
The idea that it looks like a UFO crash landed on an ancient ruin has some merit, but on the whole I think it looks interesting. It is certainly different, I’m getting really tired of the “retro” mall-parks. At least it is honest about being old and new. I hate it when people make something look old when it isn’t.
My attitude is this: if you’re going to renovate an old and classic design, what do you do? You basically have three options: make it look identical to the old one, make it completely different, or tear it down and start over. But you’re going to be hated no matter what, so it is a lose-lose.
The first is not an option. You can not go back to the past. Trying to extend without change isn’t possible. The latter, in short, sucks. It seems to me, the best bet is to create something new that incorporates the old.
That said, will it stand the test of time? I’m not sure, but I appreciate the risk.
For some background on the project a quick search revealed Solder Field.net, a nice summary from archidose.org, a discussion with some photos, a materials provider with photos, and an article about the construction which claims the process was almost “paperless”.