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By Colleen Wheeler | Friday, March 30, 2012

lynda.com Learning Path: Learning how to create electronic documents with InDesign

Although our content team is pleased to be able to bring our members a growing number of courses on a wide variety of subjects, we know that sometimes that vast breadth can be a little overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re focused on learning a specific new skill and don’t know where to start. By laying out a possible learning path, I’d like to help turn what I like to call “the benevolent fire hose of lynda.com information” into a gentle shower of useful knowledge you can use to meet your focused learning goal. (And if you have ideas about specific topics that you could use a little guidance on, please share them in the comments.)

Today’s learning path focuses on learning how to use InDesign to create a document destined for electronic distribution. No matter where you stand in reaction to the “Print is Dead” meme, it’s clear that knowing how to create electronic documents is a strong and arguably critical professional survival skill. This week, I propose a path through the lynda.com library that takes you from your established print layout skills into creating documents for the electronic age, whether you’re a novice at laying out books, or a seasoned InDesign professional. If you’ve got some InDesign knowledge in your pack, you can skip to the signpost along the way that best suits your learning and experience.

1. Starting from scratch: I need to learn InDesign. 

If you’ve never used InDesign at all, or you’ve merely poked at it because it came with your installation of the Adobe Creative Suite, then the first thing you’ll need is a working education on how to use the layout program in general. Our library provides two useful options at this stage, and your ideal choice depends on whether you’re the type who wants to move forward with the basic accomplishment of making your first InDesign document, or whether you would rather establish a strong foundation in all the features the application provides.

  • If you’re the ‘get going quickly’ type, then I’d recommend Up & Running with InDesign. In this brief course, Deke McClelland will give you a quick overview of how to use InDesign to set text and graphics on the page, after which you can move on to more specialized training.
  • If you’re an ‘I first need to know how everything works before I get going’ kind of person, then InDesign Essential Training is your best starting point. Essential Training courses are designed to give you a foundational overview of a product from a real-world perspective, and David Blatner takes you systematically through each of the key activities involved in creating InDesign documents.

2. Catching up: I have basic InDesign knowledge, but I haven’t been able to keep up with recent feature advances. 

Sometimes you have an established workflow inside an application, but you haven’t had the bandwidth to keep up with new tools that might make your work more efficient. This is particularly true if you’ve used InDesign for basic print-destined documents and you haven’t yet considered what you might need for electronic publishing. Both InDesign CS5 and CS5.5 have upgraded features that can help in this particular scenario.

To see what I mean, check out chapter 5, Enhanced production for Cross-Media, from ourInDesign CS5 New Features course. If you’re not a member and want to test drive the course, try this movie, Creating documents with interactive features, which gives a nice overview of the new interactive features.

Meanwhile, the InDesign CS5.5 product upgrade was almost exclusively centered around moving your content to electronic output. In our InDesign CS5.5 New Features course, James Fritz explains how all those new electronic-output features work.

3. Transitioning to interactivity: I’ve used InDesign, but only for print.

If you’re familiar with creating static print-bound documents in InDesign and would like an overview of all the built-in features for creating interactive documents, then our InDesign CS5: Interactive Documents and Presentationscourse can help you get your electronic-age bearings. The course provides a tour of digital publishing trends, showing real-world examples of what can be achieved with InDesign. There are several start-to-finish projects examples, such as creating a presentation with transitions and animations, and building an interactive microsite, so you can see interactivity in action first-hand.

Of course, one of the easiest transitions from print-to-electronic is the creation of an interactive PDF. The PDF format will hold all your carefully constructed layout in place, while providing you with opportunities to add links, movies, sounds and other dynamic features to your document. Although the course was recorded using the CS4 version of InDesign InDesign CS4: 10 Things to Know About Interactive PDFs, has a great deal of handy, and immediatly relative, information on how to avoid common PDF pitfalls, and includes some tricks for making eye-catching documents as efficiently as possible.

4. Moving to electronic publishing: I’m confident working in InDesign, but the transition to EPUB is mysterious.

Once you move to ebooks, your formatting generally must succumb (at least to some extent) to the will of the ebook reader your audience will be using. InDesign to EPUB, Kindle, and iPad from Anne-Marie Concepcion will help you understand how the software you already know for print can be used to create content for the key distribution channels in the emerging ebook market. This course comes in three versions, each specialized for a version of InDesign. The clip below (How dow and INDD file become an EPUB File? from chapter two of the course) explains the ebook conversion process:

5. Creating beauty: I want to create an ebook that honors my design.

Maybe you’re familiar with creating ebooks, but you’re frustrated by the single-column flowable display that wreaks havoc on your design. In our most sophisticated ePublishing title, Anne-Marie Concepcion shows you how to create a specialized fixed-layout book that has the image and text control of a PDF, but can be used in ebook products for one of the most popular distribution services, the Apple iBookstore. Here’s an excerpt from the course that explains the difference between fixed and flowable InDesign documents:

Are there other tasks you’d like to be guided through in the lynda.com library? What sorts of learning paths would you like to see created? Please share your thoughts below, and I’ll be back next week with another lyndaPath through the lush, dense forest of training. This is a great chance to not only request navigational help, but also to reveal to our content team what courses they should be thinking about adding to our ever expanding library.

Interested in more? • All lynda.com InDesign courses

Suggested courses to watch next:InDesign Essential TrainingUp & Running with InDesign• InDesign CS5: Interactive Documents and PresentationsInDesign to EPUB, Kindle, and iPad

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