6 Replies Latest reply on Apr 16, 2014 4:16 PM by Nick Bewley

    Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements

    Nick Bewley

      I want to create re-usable elements in indesign that have master properties (parent > child), so that when you edit the master the children inherit the changes.

       

      I have been trying to solve this using the "Content Collector" tool and have had some success. Some  changes are not being reflected in the child document, however. For example, I have created a container box and put type and images inside it. I grouped the container, type, and image into one object and put it inside the content collector, then placed the grouped object into a new document. I then moved the image a few pixels to the left inside of the containing box, but that change was not reflected in the child documents.

       

      I need a method in indesign where I can create elements (a group of type, images, and containing boxes) from a master document, apply them to child documents, and then have changes to the parent elements be reflected in the corresponding child elements in other documents. What is the solution? Thanks for your ideas!

        • 1. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
          Steve Werner Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          The parent-child linking of the Content Collector or the Edit > Place and Link was not designed for the interactions you're creating. The grouping action creates a much more complex object to try to track. Good luck in finding another solution!

          • 2. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
            Nick Bewley Level 1

            Hi Steve,

             

            Thanks for your response. Is there any way in the Adobe suite to accomplish this?

             

            Given that a large part of design today is technology-based, relying on creating re-usable elements and then applying them to many different application views, there is a huge need for this type of functionality. In the same way that a front-end developer can change the margin for a container in the their master css stylesheet (.less, .sass) and have it reflected on numerous elements throughout an entire application, we as designers should be able to accomplish this task easily. We should not have to find the same container in 30 different files in order to nudge an image 5 pixels left. There is no reason that this should not be achievable by using the content collector (other than the dev time).

             

            Hopefully there is a workaround inside the Adobe CC Suite, but otherwise this is something that should be on the dev radar.

             

             

            Thanks,

            Nick Bewley

            • 3. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
              John Mensinger Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              Nick Bewley wrote:

               

              Is there any way in the Adobe suite to accomplish this?

               

              The functionality to you want isn't impossible using InDesign, but it can get risky as you nest linked content within linked content, etc.

               

              Picking up on your description of the failed scheme, what if the "container" was just a (custom-sized, if necessary) page?

               

              Position your image and text on an InDesign page, rather than in a frame. (To crop, position unwanted portions of the image outside the page boundary...much like you would with a frame.) Save as .indd. Use and resuse by placing said .indd in other .indd's. Edit original .indd...in any conceivable way...all placed instances respond.

               

              Meticulously managed, it can work.

              • 4. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
                Nick Bewley Level 1

                Does anyone else agree that this functionality should be added to the Adobe CC Suite? No wonder  so many other tools are gaining prominence in the UI / UX Design community given these limitations.. The problem with other tools, though, is that they lack robust visual design capabilities. We simply need to bring Adobe products more in line with the production workflow of front-end dev by allowing the capacity for global design changes (i.e. a stylesheet) whose changes are reflected in child documents. Then we can modify elements in order to accommodate for different informational contexts and have the changes reflected in other previously-designed modules. The functionality I am suggesting is really not too dissimilar from the Content Collector tool, but as I have discovered this tool has  limitations.

                • 5. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
                  John Mensinger Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  Nick Bewley wrote:

                   

                  Does anyone else agree that this functionality should be added to the Adobe CC Suite?

                   

                  Well, I thought I had demonstrated that it is there. As you discovered, the Content Collector method only truly works at the individual object level. However, with the ability to Place InDesign files within InDesign files, the only relevant limit is your own discipline. As I mentioned, nesting linked content 3 or 4 levels deep can get perilous with respect to long-term file management and user group discipline, but the desired functionality you decribed is covered well before it goes that far. Did you try it?

                   

                  Other thoughts your comments spurred: The CSS analogy you presented makes the point, but there is no true analogy there. A line of CSS controls one characteristic of an object (class). The power lies in the ability to assign that class to other objects. What you say you want from InDesign is considerably more complex. It may bear mentioning that the original application intent of InDesign had its basis in print production functionality, whereas your mindset seems clearly one more geared toward less tangible modes of deployment. With repsect to features which facilitate create-once/publish-many content, group collaboration, and workflow automation for the development of printed pages (and PDF), InDesign is unmatched.

                  • 6. Re: Content Collector : Creating ReUsable Elements
                    Nick Bewley Level 1

                    John Mensinger wrote:

                     

                    Other thoughts your comments spurred: The CSS analogy you presented makes the point, but there is no true analogy there. A line of CSS controls one characteristic of an object (class). The power lies in the ability to assign that class.

                     

                    Thanks for your comments John. I think your understanding of CSS is outdated, however. For example, with the advent of CSS preprocessors such as .less and .sass, developers are offered the opportunity to utilize mixins  to change global properties more efficiently (http://www.sitepoint.com/a-comprehensive-introduction-to-less-mixins/). A container mixin, for example, might define border-radius, background-color, margins and padding. A developer could use this mixin as a global style for all containers, or could combine this mixin with a type mixin, for example, in order to create a more robust element with which to manipulate an object's characteristics from a single location. To reference my example above, our dev team is using a single mixin to control the properties of a container, its associated  imagery, and its type style all in a single css definition. In the same way that changing a part of that definition affects every instance of that object, a designer such as myself should be able to change the properties for all instances of a child element in one location.

                    It may bear mentioning that the original application intent of InDesign had its basis in print production functionality, whereas your mindset seems clearly one more geared toward less tangible modes of deployment. With repsect to features which facilitate create-once/publish-many content, group collaboration, and workflow automation for the development of printed pages, (and PDF), InDesign is unmatched.

                     

                    Thanks, I understand that as well. In fact, that was the source of my initial engagement with InDesign and my love for it came from its ability to manipulate printed objects. However, while I realize that InDesign was created as a print production tool, at this point it is clear that is not its sole intention. When one creates a new document in InDesign, they are asked whether they are creating a print, web, or digital publishing object. One is given the ability to create Interactive pdf's with rollover states, transitions, etc.. So it is clear that the tool is not  solely a print production tool at this point in its life cycle. InDesign outmatches competing products in creating layouts, grids, object styles, typography, etc (application-wide design structures), which is why I use it in my UI / UX design. What I am suggesting is that the PM's at Adobe consider including functionality that would better enable application, UI, UX, and web designers to produce re-usable, re-purposable assets in order to facilitate the process of designing for technology. In reality, the only thing missing from the Content Collector tool is allowing grouped objects to maintain their relationship to other objects within said group.

                    Well, I thought I had demonstrated that it is there. As you discovered, the Content Collector method only truly works at the individual object level. However, with the ability to Place InDesign files within InDesign files, the only relevant limit is your own discipline. As I mentioned, nesting linked content 3 or 4 levels deep can get perilous with respect to long-term file management and user group discipline, but the desired functionality you decribed is covered well before it goes that far. Did you try it?

                     

                    Yes, we could do that, but it will be clunky to develop a workflow that will accommodate this in the current CC environment. What I want to do is create a master document with a robust grid system, then use this grid to create elements. Then I want to take those elements and place them into layouts for our different application modules. Now, imagine I have a master document with 30 elements inside it. When placing this master document into the child document, trying to find the specific element I am using in that instance will take unnecessary time, and like I said, is quite clunky. Rather, it would be much more feasible to accomplish this workflow with the Content Collector tool with a few slight modifications to its functionality. In fact, I think that it would make the tool more readily accomplish Adobe's goal for it, stated as such:

                     

                         "Replicating content across various pages is no easy task; copy-pasting can be cumbersome and time consuming. Use linked content features to manage multiple versions of content. You can place and link content within the same document or even across different documents."

                     

                    What I am suggesting here is that Adobe can make this tool more effectively accomplish this task. If anyone knows a PM at Adobe please refer them to me at nbewley[at]crosscap.com.