This is the Macintosh version of this document.

This part of the course explains the place of InDesign (and DTP applications in general) and Electronic PrePress developments in modern publishing practice.
This course will give you an understanding of the production stages of a publication, from manuscript selection or commission to offset lithography as today's printing technique. You are familiar with design, markup, typesetting and layout in the traditional cut-and-paste method, as well as in their electronic shape.

1. Publishing with the help of electronic means versus electronic publishing

In publishing computers are used for a wide range of tasks:

  • matters editorial: wordprocessors
  • production: DTP/EPP applications
  • office and management tasks: wordprocessing, spreadsheets, database and communication programs

For the present purpose we will skip the last-mentioned field. We will start by making a distinction between conventional publishing with the help of electronic means and electronic publishing.
Publishing with the aid of electronic means uses the computer as a tool to aid conventional, paper-based publishing activities. Electronic publishing, by contrast, comprises media such as CD-ROMs (the postcode book, the Woordenboek Nederlandse Taal) CD's (magazines on disk) and eBooks. It also includes publishing on the Internet, when information is made available on servers, especially through the World Wide Web). Other modes of electronic publication are online databases, e.g. of articles that can be consulted for a fee.
These topics are discussed in an advanced course on Electronic texts and Publishing, which is offered by Book and Publishing Studies almost every year. This present InDesign course concentrates on publishing with the help of electronic means, and on Electronic PrePress in particular.

2. Electronic PrePress

The main method of book production today consists of Electronic PrePress. Whenever computers are used to aid in the production of conventional paper-based books and periodicals we talk of Electronic PrePress. Note that Electronic PrePress does not comprise non-production activities--accounting, databases and such general business applications--but it refers to wordprocessing, editing, design, layout and typesetting: everything that happens with a text on its way from the author to the printing press to be turned into a book.
In a way, Electronic PrePress is where all nineteenth and twentieth-century technical developments which are discussed in From Copy to Book, have led to. The early nineteenth century saw the last phase of the wooden hand press, which was replaced by the iron press. The application of steam power literally set things in motion: mechanization, industrialization, and specialization took place in all branches of trade and industry, including the book trade. Cilindrical platen and pressure principles, together with the possibilities of endless paper from a web, resulted in the development and success of the rotary press. Letterpress printing, which for ages had been the dominant technique, slowly made way for offset lithography. Next offset lithography was combined with the photographic process of making printing plates from black & white originals (so-called artwork or CRC: camera-ready copy). Then Electronic PrePress makes its entrance.

The use of the computer in Electronic PrePress has sufficient advantages to have become established practice everywhere. For comparison, the traditional production method without electronic means is schematically explained here. This schematic representation is explained in more detail below.

3. The traditional cut-and-paste method

In the traditional cut-and-paste method the artwork for a book (the CRC, camera-ready copy) used to be made as follows.
The text/manuscript was marked up carefully by a mark-up editor, who followed the specifications laid down by the designer. The text went to the typesetter to be set according to the specifications provided. The typesetter produced long galleys of phototypesetting. A layout artist cut up and pasted the galleys onto sheets of grid paper (grid paper is printed with light blue help lines indicating page size, type page, columns, position of headers, footers, folios). The completed product was photographically transferred onto the printing plate.
In this conventional method to prepare camera-ready copy for offset printing, one of the most difficult aspects is fitting text into the pre-designed basic page layout (the grid). The text had to be typeset first. Then, the typeset galleys had to be cut to pages. In this stage, also called page layout, widows and orphans occurred. In fact, pages had a fixed number of lines, and a new paragraph might occur at an inconvenient moment, resulting in incomplete lines at the top or bottom of the page. Often last-minute editing was necessary, requiring expensive typesetting corrections. Any such late corrections, moreover, might show up in printing as a result of slight differences in toning (the intensity of black lettering on the white page).

4. EPP in design, mark up, layout and typesetting

Computers have now taken over from the traditional cut-and-paste method of making the black and white (and colour) artwork used for offset printing. This process (including the problematic page layout) was changed by EPP in one major respect: the text can be manipulated on screen before the printing plates or films are made, saving time and money. Often widows and orphans can even be got rid of by making small adjustments in leading or kerning. Cheap page proofs can then be produced on almost any printer. Thus any necessary editing and changes in layout can be done before the publication is transferred to plate or film.

When the entire production process takes place electronically, this is what happens at each of the stages of Electronic PrePress.
In the writing stage the text is digitalized. Either wordprocessing or scanning takes place to produce the "manuscript". Most likely it is the author who delivers the digitalized manuscript. In a sense this comprises the typesetting: each character is assigned its place to form words, lines and pages.
Next the text file is handed over to be edited by the responsible editor.
This could theoretically be done directly on screen, without the text ever being printed out as hard copy. In practice this is rarely done, as electronic editing suffers from the major drawback that changes cannot easily be made visible. This means that there is no record of changes made, and it is difficult for author and editor to discuss them. This is important enough in the normal run of things, but especially if disagreements occur.
The design stage may take place entirely in a layout program, in the grid, template or stylesheet function. Usually a designer does initial sketches on paper.
Layout is the process of pouring the definitive text, which has been marked up with style specifications according to the design, into the mould of the template, and making up the publication page by page, or rather spread by spread. This involves looking at such things as page numbers, widows and orphans, tables and illustrations.
In the last stage, the file of made-up text is processed by a sort of sophisticated printer, also called a typesetter (not to be confused with the craftsman wielding the composing stick). This typesetting machine produces the camera-ready-copy (CRC), from which printing plates for offset printing are then made in the conventional manner.

When working with InDesign, the following tasks are often combined:

  • design
  • mark up
  • layout
  • typesetting/CRC production

The most substantial of these are design and layout. To conclude with, these tasks are discussed in more detail below.
The designer is responsible for all decisions that affect the visual representation of the text. That is to say that he decides on such matters as the paper to be used, type of binding, typeface(s), page size, margins, use and placement of illustrations, and so on. The designer's plan is then realized by the layout artist in the process of laying out the actual pages. Design is abstract, to be made concrete when text is poured into the empty mould.
Layout is a more mechanical job than design, since the designer will have laid down the ground rules to be followed. Nevertheless, a good feeling for typography will still be essential. The designer may, for instance, have designed a grid allowing for a number of possible ways to place illustrations, and the editor may have indicated where the actual illustrations are to appear in the text (a process known as keying in the illustrations), but it is the layout artist who makes the practical decisions involved in preparing each double-page spread. (Pages are always designed and made up as double-page spreads, for the obvious reason that that is how the book's user will encounter them.)

Now that you have finished the InDesign course, you can practice and test your InDesign skills by means of an assignment which combines most of what you have learnt during the course. Unlike the course parts, the assignment contains no blow-by-blow directions, explanations or instructions on InDesign skills. Remember that the Index to this course may be helpful when you are looking for an explanation of specific functions or of particular terms. For more guidance on InDesign you may use the book in the Press Room reference library:

  • Mark Witkowski and Trish Boyle, The Adobe InDesign Guide: From Concept to Production, Hayden Books, Indiana, 1999.

The course is concluded with an InDesign test in the Macintosh computer room, which may contain more theoretical InDesign questions. During the test you are not allowed to use any handbooks or this hypertext course.