Part 3: Handling grouped illustrations
This is the third in a series of articles I’m dedicating to conversion of print publications to EPUB. The first article covered handling of content order, the second looked at controlling break points in EPUBs. I was going to dedicate the third article on text-formatting, but have decided to return to the topic of graphics for this one. I’ve written a little on how Adobe InDesign CS5 handles image quality during EPUB conversion.
One of the things I’ve not yet covered is how we can handle illustrations, such as info graphics, that are partially constructed in Adobe InDesign. I spot these types of grouped illustrations in quite a few publications created in InDesign, often in books destined for the education market. The problem with these types of graphics is that both export to EPUB based on Page Layout and XML Structure ignore the grouping of the objects. Something that David Blatner also pointed out in a recent article on XML structure vs Page Layout. Let’s take a look at what happens to this type of InDesign content during EPUB creation, and how we can fix things.
Ok, so what’s the issue with these grouped graphics and EPUB creation from InDesign? Let’s take a look.
Below is a little cartoon type illustration, consisting of an Illustrator drawing (graphic), speech bubble shapes drawn in InDesign (unassigned objects), and two overlapping text frames. All of the illustration components have been grouped together (Object > Group) so that the illustration can be easily moved around the page for layout purposes as a single grouped object.
Whether you turn this into an inline graphic and use Page Layout as a content order source, or work with XML structure, the outcome will be similar when we export this page to EPUB from InDesign.
InDesign handles a grouped object as if it is not grouped at all… Any unassigned objects — the speech bubbles — are ignored during EPUB export. The text and graphic frames are handled as if they are individual objects. What we end up with is an illustration that has been totally broken apart, with some components missing.
Not a pretty sight right?
Luckily there is an extremely easy way to fix this! Without having to redraw your artwork in Illustrator.
A little bit of magic = a fix…
The trick to turning this InDesign graphic into something that can still be edited in InDesign AND generates the intended appearance of the illustration in the EPUB is found in a fantastically clever plug-in that Martinho da Gloria of Automatication wrote for InDesign called Layout Zone. He has made this plug-in freely available. (Thanks you Martinho!).
Download and install this plug-in (the CS4/CS5 version). Once you’ve installed the plug-in:
- Select the group with the Selection tool.
- Choose Edit > Layout Zone > Assign Zone.
Note: At the time of writing Layout Zone does not support Inline Groups. So if you are using a Page Layout order for your EPUBs, you’ll need to unanchor the group first, then Assign the layout zone, and re-anchor it afterwards.
- The Save As dialog appears.
What Layout Zone is going to do is generate a brand new InDesign document from the selected group. So you’ll need to give your InDesign illustration a name 😉
- Once you click Save, Layout Zone the Assign Zone Options dialog appears.
- Under Save, select Selection.
- Under Ignore, select Locked Objects (and any other Locked object types that might exist in your document).
- My graphic doesn’t need to deal with Hanging Ascenders/Descenders so I Ignore those.
- Bleed is also not an issues, so I leave the default values set to 0.
- Click OK.
Layout Zone now performs its magic… replacing your previous artwork with a link to the InDesign file it has just created.
oooh, how cool this is… Yes, I’m jumping up and down a little here!!!
If you need to edit the text in the speech bubbles or other parts of the illustration, simply choose Edit With > Adobe InDesign CS5 from the Links panel menu… this launches the illustration InDesign document you saved earlier in InDesign. Make the changes, save and close this file… and you’ll return to an updated version in the InDesign document that is going to be EPUBed (as that a word?).
All you need to do now is either turn this graphic into an inline/anchored object or assign its proper location in the Structure panel… and next time you Export to EPUB… (File > Export for > EPUB…), the result will make you much happier.
How’s that for a magical solution to the ‘how to get grouped illustrations into EPUB’-problem? I ‘heart’ it 🙂 (I just can’t help myself… my ‘little geeky’-part is still jumping up and down with excitement)…