One of my customers’ favorite aspects of Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite is how new features appear every 6 weeks or so. This rapid pace of development means that the DPS team can respond to customer requests for new functions in the Overlay Creator and the Folio Producer parts of the solution. One of the recent changes was the addition of what are known as Nested Overlays.
Nested Overlays allow you to combine multiple overlays into one object. For instance, you can now include a buttons, videos or a Pan and Zoom Overlay in your slide show. This is very handy when trying to create an interactive slide show like you see on popular news sites: there’s a photo with some text under it and six dots along the bottom, and when you touch a dot or swipe across the image, it takes you to the image or video that’s in the slide show.
I have heard from customers that while this seems to work on the desktop Content Viewer, it often fails on the iPad. I was surprised, so I did some investigating and here’s what I learned.
When you build a slide show, you need to create a Multi-State Object, or MSO. This MSO is a container for all of the different slides you want to present, with each state in the MSO representing a slide. Inside of each state, you can include DPS overlays. In my example, I have three slides in my slide show, so I have three states in my MSO. On the second slide, I have a Pan and Zoom Overlay, because the text is too big to fit in the space I’ve allowed. When I preview on the desktop, this works as expected. When I preview on the iPad, however, it doesn’t work.
The solution is easy, and I came upon it after following some of my own advice. When I first began teaching about interactive features in InDesign CS5, I exhorted my students to “think like a developer!” This meant that they needed to start naming their design elements if they wanted to have a productive relationship with the Flash developer who would take their comps/projects and turn them into full-fledged apps. This reduced guesswork and established a workflow that fostered collaboration between the two. Until InDesign CS5, designers all worked in Photoshop and sent layered PSDs with layer comps and written instructions to the developers, who chopped them up and added interactivity. This Photoshop-centric is still prevalent today, and it is fraught with errors in communication. I promote the idea of using InDesign as an interactive comping tool, however, and make judicious use of the layers panel to name my design elements. The key here is how InDesign names objects when you don’t.
By default, InDesign names all of its objects with the name of the primitive surrounded by brackets, like <rectangle> or <graphic frame>. If you place a graphic, the name becomes <nameofthisgraphic.psd> or whatever the graphic’s file name is. If you type some text, the first few words of the text frame become the name of the object, plus those surrounding brackets. It turns out that these names look suspiciously like HTML tags, but as tags, they have no meaning. I think (and I expect to get either some dope slaps or back slaps for this) that the webkit part of the iPad Content Viewer gets confused when it sees these names in the nested overlays. If you change the name of the overlay from InDesign’s default to something without brackets, your overlay will work as you expect.
In my example, I drew a box and pasted my text into it in order to make the Pan and Zoom overlay. InDesign named the box <graphic frame>. We can see this in the Layers panel. One of the great features of the Layers Panel is that we can use it not only to reorder the objects within a layer, but we can also use it to change the names of the objects. When I change the name to More Than Professors and update my folio, my overlay works as expected. It is not necessary to adhere to a strict Action Script naming convention, which would have a name like moreThanProfessors. The Content Viewer doesn’t seem to be bothered by spaces in the name, but if you’re going to be working with a Flash developer, then you should consider talking with them about how they want objects to be named.
Changing times require changing workflows. For interactive design and DPS specifically, it is time for designers and developers to share best practices. While naming conventions have never been a concern of a print designer, they are critical for a developer. In InDesign, these two worlds collide, and the collaborative workflow I have been preaching for the last two years is now paying off.