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For many years Web designers have been adding Alt Text to images and other graphics. Alt Text or alternate text is a brief text-based description of the subject captured in the photograph or illustration. This serves two main purposes. For people who have vision problems, screen readers can read back a description of what's in the image. The other reason is for Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Google and other search engines cannot index the meaning or content of the images. By providing Alt Text, it helps your document bubble to the top of search results. To add alternate text to an object, I'm going to select this image over here, and go to Object > Object Export Options.
My first option is format Alt Text which we're going to talk about. I can also add Tagged PDF information or Custom Rasterization options. But for now we're going to deal with Alt Text. For this image I can choose Custom, which will be text I'll be entering myself, as well as a few other options. But for now we're going to deal with Custom. In Custom I'm going to type in: A satellite photo of the San Francisco Peninsula on a beautiful summer day. Now that I've got this set, if I want to set this for another image, I don't have to close this dialog box and completely start over.
If I come over and select this image, the dialog box doesn't beep or do anything strange, because it's considered non-modal. It works like a gigantic panel, if you will. So it's really useful you're going to be working with a lot of images in your layout, you don't have to open and close this dialog nonstop. For this image I am going to choose the Source > From Structure. This is going to bring in this information for me. Well, this is coming from the XML structure of the layout. The reason you might have this inside your layout is for legacy documents. Prior to CS5.5, the only way to add Alt Text to content inside your layout would be from the Structure panel.
If you want to take a look at it you can go to View > Structure > Show Structure. Then when I open up my Root and my Article, I can see inside this figure over here that I've got the Alternate Text directly in here. This was a big pain to deal with. Luckily we don't have to deal with this anymore, but if you do have legacy documents, it can be useful to update that content. To close the Structure Pane I just double-click and it's gone. Going down to another page I'm going to select this image and go to my Object Export Options.
For this one, I want to deal with the XMP. XMP stands for Xtensible Metadata Platform, in other words, metadata. Now that's information you can add to your images or other content outside of InDesign from a product like Bridge. So I'm going to come over and choose XMP:Description. Now right now there is no XMP Description for this image. So I'm just going to click Done and go over to my Links panel and choose Reveal inside Bridge. Inside Bridge is going to select this image and I can go to my Metadata panel and find Description and anything I enter in here will update automatically inside my layout.
So I'm going to enter Portsmouth Square, 1851. When I click inside Bridge it's going to ask me do I want to apply this change to the image. I am going to hit Apply because I want it to be a permanent part of that image. Back inside InDesign it's going to tell me that there's a link that has modified because yes, it has; I've made a change to it. Even though it's not a visual change, it's a metadata change. So when I update that content and I go to my Object Export Options, it'll show up inside my Alt Text Source. Not only is this metadata useful for alt text, but you can also use this for the new Live Caption feature inside InDesign CS5 and 5.5.
Another option is if you're going to be using Custom Rasterization on text. For example, if I go back to the second page and I zoom in over here, I can see that this little caption is regular live text. Now if I want to rasterize this so this came into an export looking like a picture, to it, so it shows up looking exactly like this in Export to HTML or EPUB. Now I'm first going to copy this text to the Clipboard, and when I select this frame and go to Object Export Options, inside EPUB and HTML I can apply Custom Rasterization.
In this case I'm going to make it be a GIF. Now over in my Alt Text I am going to add Custom text to this, which I'm going to paste in the text that I copied to the Clipboard. That way upon export, this text would look exactly like this except for it would be a picture. But you would still be able to read the content via Screen Reader or Google for SEO purposes. We'll click Done. Let's take a look at this finished piece. We're going to go to File > Export and I'm going to export this to my Desktop. We'll call it alt-text.html.
We'll make sure we're using HTML. We're going to hit Save. The ordering should be based on the Article panel. We don't need to view it afterwards because we're going to open it up inside Dreamweaver instead of a browser, but under Advanced we want to choose No CSS. That way there's less code to look at inside the Code view. We're going to click OK. And after the export we're going to go to Dreamweaver and we'll go to File > Open, on our Desktop we'll grab the alt -text, and looking at our layout if I select one of their images we'll be able to see the alt text right inside here.
It also lists our alt text inside the Alt Description in the Properties panel. I'm going to go back inside InDesign because there's one more way we can deal with alt text. I'm going to make a brand-new document, and inside this document I'm going to bring in a Word file because we can bring an Alt Text from Word files too. I'm going to go to File > Place and I'm going to grab this word-alt-text file and just place it inside my layout. Now this Word document had an inline graphic. If I select this graphic and go to my Object > Object Export Options, we can see it says Alt Text Source Custom and this text came in here automatically.
Well, this came in here because inside Word someone added the Alt Text to that Word file. Only the PC version of Word can add alternate text to inline graphics. Let's take a look at how this is done. I am in the PC version of Microsoft Word. Now we're going to take a look at how we can add alternate text to an image. Unfortunately, this only works in the PC version of Word; it doesn't work inside the Mac version of Microsoft Word. I'm going to select this placed image and I'm going to right-click my mouse and choose Format Picture.
Inside the Format Picture dialog at the bottom there's a function called Alt Text. When I click on Alt Text, you'll see that we have a Title and Description inside the Alt Text dialog. I've already added some information in here, but if you didn't have anything added, this is where you would add it yourself. I'm going to click Close. Now that I have this added I could save the document and bring it back into InDesign CS 5.5, and I'd be able to access the metadata. When you place the Word file into InDesign CS5.5, hold down the Shift key so you can get the import options.
That way you can choose to include the image. If you don't have the image included, you're not going to see it at all. Try to get in the habit of adding Alt Text to your images when you first add them to your document. It may take an extra moment or two, but once it becomes a habit, you won't have to spend an eternity adding Alt Text to all of your images before or after you export.
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