Tag Archives: DIY Automation Tools

The Problem with PowerPoint and InDesign-based Content Automation (The “Save As” Phenomenon)

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The Problem with PowerPoint and InDesign-based Content Automation (The “Save As” Phenomenon)

Recently, I wrote an article about why automating within desktop publishing environments can be a bad idea. When I talk about desktop publishing environments, I’m referring to programs like InDesign, PowerPoint, or Quark for content automation. If you’re looking for a way to effectively scale your literature production, you simply must say goodbye to your desktop defaults. And, I’ll tell you why.

This topic is front-of-mind for me today, following a meeting with a prospective client last week.  This client described their frustration with their current automation solution. They told me a story about how their automation provider is currently supporting their suite of about 50 documents using about 50 InDesign templates.  Even the client recognizes that this is a problem and knows that if the templates were being shared properly as shared entities then there should be, at most, eight of them for this catalog of documents. Fewer templates allow changes to be made centrally, without needing to apply a change 50 different times.

I smiled in sympathy as they told me about this problem. This is precisely the issue with automation solutions that are based on desktop publishing applications.  This client articulated the issue even more simply and perfectly than I have in my past musings on the topic.

If a Microsoft or Adobe desktop publishing application is being used as the foundation of the automation solution, that system is then dependent on that desktop publishing tool, as well as the people who use the tool.  It’s easy to overlook or dismiss this reality. People really love these programs, and understandably so. They are familiar, intuitive and your collateral is probably already designed in one of these formats. But, the hard truth is that almost always leads to bad long-term results in a commercial document production environment. This is due to what we call the “Save As Phenomenon”. (more…)

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