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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: HTML 4 for Dummies, Fourth Edition
Publisher: For Dummies
Authors: Ed Tittel, Natanya Pitts, Ed Tittel
Rating: 1/5
Customer opinion - 1 stars out of 5
Beware of spam below!

Notice 1)how all three reviews below were posted on practically the same day and there hasn't been another review since. 2)how all three reviews say pretty much the same thing...nothing! And 3)how all three reviewers gave it 5 stars. The "helpful" ratings were even spammed. Or maybe I'm wrong....naaaah

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: PDF Hacks
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Sid Steward
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
The good and the bad

I have a love-hate relationship with PDF files. They are incredibly useful tools that solve lots of problems. They are unmatched for when you need to get your document turned into paper at the local print shop; you no longer have to figure out what file formats they handle at the shop, or worry about Windows to Mac conversions. As a webmaster, I also know they are the fastest way to have a version of your web pages that you know can be printed out with no problems. And of course they excel at what they were first designed to be -- a platform-independent electronic document that can be easily shared and viewed by anybody with a computer.

As a webmaster, I also see how PDFs are misused -- as a way of whacking together a website on the cheap, taking some documents that weren't necessarily designed to be viewed online and quickly and cheaply stick them up, whether that makes for a good user experience or not.

PDF Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools by Sid Steward illustrates both sides. These hacks include a number of highly useful ones that I immediately started to use daily. On the other hand, some of them also go to great lengths to get a PDF to do something that is probably better done in some other format -- such as HTML.

Let's concentrate first on how this book can help you. Like the other books in O'Reilly's Hacks series, it's divided up into sections. Here they are "Consuming PDF", "Managing a Collection", "Authoring and Self-Publishing: Hacking Outside the PDF", "Creating PDF and Other Editions", "Manipulating PDF Files", "Dynamic PDF", and "Scripting and Programming Acrobat". To get full value from this book, you have to be more than just a consumer of PDFs, using the Acrobat Reader or browser plug-ins. You'll need to be a producer too, most likely with the full Adobe Acrobat package (either Standard or Professional.)

Almost right away, I learned something in the Consuming PDF section that helped. Hacks 4 and 5 talk about Adobe plug-ins, where you find them, and how you can manage them to speed up Acrobat's start up process. Hack #5, on how to manage profiles, was the first of many hacks that relied on a script or add-in of some sort. In this case it was a batch file that you would use to call Acrobat.

If you create PDFs, you'll want to check out Hack 24, which explains the difference between smart, dumb, and clever documents. (This isn't some red state/blue state thing -- a document is smart if it uses tags to help define its content.). Hack 29 talks about how you can create either print-on-demand or e-books using Acrobat, if you want to get into the self-publishing business. And Hack 41 is a good explanation of the compatibility and incompatibility problems you get from moving between different versions of Acrobat. As a webmaster, I'm always looking for ways to save bandwidth, and Hack 60 shows how you can optimize, or refry, Acrobat files to make them smaller.

The final section of the book covers some fairly advanced topics, things that really do deserve to be called hacks. These include integrating tools like Perl, PHP or Java with Acrobat, controlling Acrobat with scripts, or using the Acrobat Software Development Kit.

On the other hand, there were a number of sections that made me think of the "If you are a hammer, every problem looks like a nail" saying. While you can create HTML front ends for PDFs, or use PDF forms for data collection, there's probably other solutions that may work better -- such as HTML front ends for HTML pages, or HTML forms. But the section at least shows the breadth of Acrobat's usefulness.

Even if you are someone, like me, that thinks Acrobat PDFs have a clearly defined but limited role, you will still find lots of tips in this book. If you are looking to maximize your investment in Adobe Acrobat, you'll find even more.


Product: Book - Paperback
Title: InDesign for QuarkXPress Users
Publisher: Peachpit Press
Authors: David Blatner, Christopher Smith, Steve Werner
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Time to Make the Switch

I too was terrified to make the switch from Quark to InDesign. I consider myself to be a Quark "power user" and was so comfortable in the program that I found it scary to leave. I recently saw David speak at the Digial Design Conference in Seattle and I felt assured that the time had come to make the switch - or become a technological dinosaur. So after seeing David speak I purchased the book myself to "test the waters." WOW. I was amazed by the things that InDesign allows me to do - such as dealing with transparency issues and no longer needing to save files as EPS to place in a layout program.

Keeping files in their native Photoshop or Illustrator layered format is PHENOMENOL. I saw live examples of the types of files I would use and the book gives detailed information on making the switch. It just makes sense - it's like the people who still use PageMaker?! Either catch up with technology or find yourself in the same job in 10 years. I can never imagine going back to Quark, and this book is my tour guide (and bible) to life in the new digital world.

Oh, and never again will I have to hold down the return key for an hour to update my images. Life is good.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: The Photoshop Elements 3 Book for Digital Photographers (Voices That Matter)
Publisher: New Riders Press
Authors: Scott Kelby
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Well Worth the price!!!

I am a casual photographer. I only take photos for fun and for memories sake so I was concerned that this book would be way over my head, but it wasn't. I found this book to be easy to read and to follow. I have never used Photoshop before, but I found myself editting my photos correctly the first time using this book. I have pictures from years ago that I counted as being ruined that I was able to restore within a few hours. If you buy the Photo Elements Software and you are like me the casual user, I would highly recommend buying this book. Its well worth the price.