© Ugur Akinci
I’ve been studying structured-authoring and DITA for some time with an eye towards publishing technical documents on mobile platforms like iPad and iPhone. I always thought that was the natural way to re-purpose and adapt my FrameMaker documents for the digital media.
Recently, however, I became aware of another possibility as I started to study the amazing new capabilities offered by Adobe InDesign 5.5. All you need to do to realize the possibilities is to make a small mental shift and start thinking a “document” as yet another “ebook“.
The overall advantage of writing and designing our technical documents in InDesign is obvious: no other authoring tool can generate a document with the visual sophistication and splendor that InDesign can. When it comes to aesthetics (the weak belly of DITA), all other applications finish a distant second.
Secondly, by using InDesign, we not only can continue to publish our technical documents as PDF files but also as dynamically adjusted HTML pages for the Internet, as well as for the iPad and iPhone. And we can do that without learning a single line of XML or developing any complicated schemas etc. thanks to InDesign’s visual GUI which is developed for graphic designers and not engineers.
The ability to publish as HTML takes care of our help file requirements to a large extent (even though I expect to have compatibility issues if the help file is going to be hooked up to the software product through API and respond to F1-key inquiries).
ID automatically adjusts the page layout depending on the mobile platform on which the tech document is viewed. It even takes care of the vertical and horizontal orientations in which a tablet can be viewed. It resizes the images automatically and anchors them to any text block you like.
ID, just like any single-sourcing application worth its salt, also makes “versioning” possible. That is, you can create one copy (version) of a document for PDF output while create other versions for iPad and iPhone.
Here are some screen shots from a great Adobe InDesign video tutorial that illustrates some of these possibilities:
(Click to enlarge the images)
Here is the original document in InDesign’s “print design” editing screen:
Here is a look at another page in the same document/ebook:
This is how the same page looks in the iPhone output of the same document/ebook:
Notice how the 4-column print-layout is automatically adjusted to a single column for the iPhone. No coding, no schemas, no tagging. All on auto.
Here is another page that is re-sized automatically (including the photo) for the single-column phone layout.
The same photo in HORIZONTAL (Landscape) orientation:
The switch from vertical to horizontal happens automatically, thanks to the InDesign 5.5.
This (below) is the iPad version of the same document/ebook, generated automatically by InDesign:
The page has a VIDEO embedded in it (yes, InDesign 5.5 can do that too). When you click, you can watch it either in VERTICAL or HORIZONTAL orientations:
These are all some of the reasons why I say the new and improved InDesign 5.5 is really worth a closer look for our technical documents since “mobile” is truly the mantra of the future.