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In this series, David Blatner and Anne-Marie Concepción, co-hosts of the web's top resource for InDesign tips and tricks, InDesignSecrets.com, share some hidden and sometimes surprising workflow tips that will make working in InDesign more efficient and more fun. The course covers built-in timesaving features such as Quick Apply and auto-expanding text, but also little-known tricks, such as using the eyedropper to copy and paste character and paragraph text attributes and making accurate selections by selecting through or even into objects.
New techniques will be added to the collection every other week, so check back early and often. Find more tips and tricks at indesignsecrets.com.
When you export a document to PDF and then put it on the Web or email it to somebody, you don't know if they might be visually handicapped, the person who is trying to read this. And in Reader or Acrobat or anything that reads a PDF, most people who have a visual impairment will use something called a screen reader to read aloud the PDF to them. One of the most obnoxious things about PDFs when you are trying to use a screen reader. Is that, very few people bother to add an Alt tag to the images.
An Alt tag means that when the screen reader is reading text, and it comes to an image. It doesn't just say, image. It says a description of what the image is. An alternative to the image. And, that is something that you as the designer needs to put that in. So, how do you add an Alt tag to an image? In InDesign, let's go to Normal mode. You simply select the image with the Selection tool. This is only available, by the way, in CS5.5 and 6. Otherwise, you would've had to do things with XML tags.
Just select the image and and then go to the Object menu, where you see this, Object Export Options. And here is where you can add Alt text. You see there's other things you can do to this selection. Right now we're concerned with Alt text. The default is that it will automatically add Alt text. When you export this to PDF, but it's going to do it from structure. What does that mean, from structure? It has to do with XML structure, and in lieu of any information or XML tags, what it actually does in reality is it uses the name of the file itself, so it would use this as the Alt tag.
Which is not really useful if you're trying to understand, what is this picture? Well let's override that and go to Object Export Options and in Alt Text Source we're going to say Custom and we're going to write something. Like here is a young female student. Who is smiling. Done. Now when we export this to PDF, that alt tag will be attached to this image. Let's test this out. I'm going to go to File > PDF > High Quality Print, and put it on the desktop.
We'll call it firstspread, because I'm not going to export the whole thing. And here you have to make sure that you've turned on Create Tagged PDF. It should be turned on by default, but always check to make sure it's turned on. And of course you want to view the PDF after exporting, and we only want pages one to two. Let's do a spread, and now it's open in Acrobat. Now, how can you see the Alt text? You need to open up the tags panel in Acrobat, and depending on the version of Acrobat you have, you might have to access it from the View menu or some other menu.
I'm in Acrobat 10, and I'm just going to go over to where all the panels are and then right-click in the panel wall and choose Tags. Remember we created a tagged PDF, and that's where the Alt text is stored. So there is a disclosure triangle, and let's twirl that open. And now we have all the individual stories in this two-page spread. And two images. Just like we have two images. This was the second image I believe. And, this is x object. Is that helpful? No. But you right-click on it. Go down to properties, there it is, Alternate Text.
So that's how you can tell if an image has Alt text in Acrobat 10, at least. Now, let's go back and talk about faster ways to add Alt tags. Let's take a look at this guy. We're going to select that image. Go to Object Export Options > From Structure. Notice that there are also other ways that you can pull this. If somebody had added some metadata to this image in Bridge or Lightroom. Or some other kind of image processing database. Then, InDesign can access that in this dialogue box.
That's what XMP is referring to. The metadata that's been saved with this image. So somebody added a title, or a description or a headline or maybe there's some other field that you can enter right here and it'll pull that all automatically. Let's see if they did. If I choose Description. They have a number in the description, I don't know if that's about. But nothing in Headline, nothing in Title. How about in any other image. Let's try another one. How about this one? Object > Object Export Options > From Structure, Title, got a number, Description, portrait of an architect by his desk.
That gives me hope. Actually I have opened up all these images in Bridge or at least located them all, and in Bridge is one of the ways where you can check to see if an image has metadata or not. So here I've got it selected and you can see a description an architect by his desk, young woman standing by her team, young designer showcasing her work and so on. As part of this workflow, the person, the photo editor or the person in charge of grabbing all the images from the photo shoot, when they process it. And they approve it for inclusion in any publication, they go through and they add information here in the metadata.
And this is an excellent workflow, because that means that you as a designer have a much easier job of it, of adding alternate text to all of your images. So you could go through, image by image, and just go to the Object Export Options, and choose Description, or whatever field they used. Or even better, you can use a free script from my friend, Marijan Tompa, and he created a script that is called Apply Alt from XMP, and I'll show you where you can download it in a bit, but let me show you how it works.
You simply double-click, and then it says, which field has the XMP information. And we know that in our workflow, the photo editor was adding it to the Description field. Some people might add it to the Headline field, and so on. If you wrote any custom Alt tags, then you'd want to leave this turned off. But we're going to go ahead and leave it turned on. Now just say OK. 22 images. Let's check one. Let's come here. Object > Object Export Options, and by the way, it's a good idea to assign a custom keyboard shortcut to this command, because you're going to be using it all the time, and there it is.
Caucasian male tattoo artist drawing tattoo on light table. The lesson here is that it's a good practice again to add Alt tags to all your images if you are going to be exporting this as a PDF for people to access and if you do a little prep work like installing Marijan's script and getting people to actually add meta data to the images. In Bridge or Lightroom before they get to you, and that makes your work all the more easier. Now how can you download his script? If you go to our site on indesignsecrets.com, and just search for batch apply XMP, you'll arrive at the post where I described how this works.
With a link to download the script, right there
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