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The best way to make fractions…EVER!

I just got back from the New York InDesign User Group meeting, and I saw the greatest product for ANYONE who needs to format loads of fractions in their documents. This includes all cookbooks, hardware instructions, documentation, and fashion catalogs.

Dan Rodney, a brilliant scripter, has created a series of scripts that does much more than any fraction product out there. Don’t believe me? Go to:
http://danrodney.com/scripts/properfraction.html

and check out his proper fraction script product.

Dan has two products. The free one works just like Quark’s Make Fractions command. You select the fraction, and then apply the script. That’s fine for someone who has a limited amount of fractions to process.

But the professional product, the one he created for a major publisher, runs through a document, a story, a selection, or selected frames. It has controls that allows you to automatically format single digit fractions, double (or triple)-digit ones, OpenType, fractions with digits before, and more.

Even better, Dan is more than just a scripter, he is a real designer who has the designer’s eye to adjust weight, baseline, kerning, and a host of other attributes to make the fractions look good.

I can’t express how excited I am about this product. Go to Dan’s web site and check out the videos he’s created that show how the product works.

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19 Comments on “The best way to make fractions…EVER!

  1. I use his free script. Nice. But I still shake my head at why making fractions isn’t a built in feature? How on earth are we still hunting down scripts and whatnot? Really stupid after years and years of upgrades.

  2. That is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Truly truly awesome. Previously I was applying two searches and applying two character styles Fractions High and Fractions Low. This is much better and quicker and cooooool.

    Thanks

  3. It’s a great script indeed, so thanks! But Eugene, as for being “the most amazing thing I have ever seen” — that might perhaps be *slightly* hyperbolic? ;-)

    I don’t very often have urgent fraction needs, but seeing how this script dealt with getting decent-looking fraction in fonts which don’t have fractions solved a much more important headache for me: small caps in fonts which don’t have them. His script adds a very subtle stroke to “fatten” the shrunken-down characters — and it turns out this works well for making fake small caps, too. And I kick myself for not having tried it myself! It’s a bit fiddly, as one must make a fattened character style for each type size and also apply a subtle baseline shift, to compensate for the characters also being fattened below the baseline — but it works. And I now, for the first time, can use small caps in my beloved Myriad font — and all others which lack small caps! (Why Slimbach & Twombly still haven’t yet added small caps for Myriad remains a Mystery.)

  4. Although I do have a fraction script in my Indy script folder (no idea where I got it) that seems to work, I’ve never used it for prodution, when I need fractions, I just use the glyphs from a font that has them, most Open Type fonts do.

  5. Well, Eugene, I at least *hoped* you weren’t dissing the Moon Landing and the sequencing of the human genome. :-)

    Yes, OpenType fonts with true fractions — and true small caps — are lovely and of course The Only Real Way To Do This Properly. Except in a pinch. And we poor designers are constantly pinched.

  6. Ahhh, but not all OpenType fonts are clever enough to work for all types of fractions.

    Warnock Pro will convert 1/2 and 1/4 to fractions given the OpenType command. But it won’t handle 1/5 or 5/6.

    Dan’s Proper Fractions script DOES work for many OpenType fonts that are too weak to handle the fractions you need.

  7. totally worthwhile. i tried doing some scripting for indesign awhile ago but never really got it down. if you consider the time it takes to make something like this work AND make it presentable it is no small feet. don’t know how many scripts/extensions/plugings i’ve gotten that look like total junk.

    lets not forget the incredible amount of time this can save.

    well worth the price for the pro version

  8. Wa,

    Ordinarily I agree with much of what you write, but this time I think you’re off base. (American baseball term.)

    I don’t know how much you have gone into the documentation and videos for the Pro product, but it way beyond any mere script. And rivals the DTP cross-reference plug-in for complete functionality.

    Couple of points you may have missed:

    There is total customization for over 20 different aspects of how a fraction should look. This includes custom kerning for every single combination of digits next to the slash. So a 1/2 is customized differently than a 1/3, 2/3, 3/4, etc.

    There are settings for any typeface. So fonts that need a thicket amount of stroking can be saved as one preset while a different font can be saved as something else.

    And there are controls so that you can find/change all the fractions in a single typeface in a story, and then run another pass for fractions in a different typeface.

    Dan has done some very nifty things for OpenType fonts that don’t support fractions. (Something that Adobe doesn’t even warn you about.)

    I suppose it’s a question of usefullness. Anyone working with cookbooks will adore this product. Anyone who doesn’t won’t necessarily feel the same as I do.

  9. Sandee, thanks so much for posting about Dan’s new Pro version of the script. I had forgotten all about it!

    FWIW we did talk about his original Proper Fraction script at length way back in Podcast 29 with a link to the script in Show Notes. I agree that it’s a work of beauty and I use it myself quite a bit. The Pro version sounds even juicier … wish I could’ve seen him present!

    Remember that we have a PDF people can download showing the various levels of built-in fraction ability in the OpenType fonts that ship with InDesign: InDesign Secrets Guide to OpenType Fractions (from the Tutorials page).

  10. Hi Sandee,

    I bow my head, I took a further look and this is, indeed, a great script. Guess worth the money when you need this on a day to day (or even week to week) basis. I was just looking at ‘value for money’ compared to other third party solutions. DTPtools are VERY competetive with prizing so it may not be the right prize to compare.

  11. hello,
    As a type designer I have to deal with fractions, too. I build all my fonts with all automatic fraction (if you select OpenType>fractions) for all combinations like 194/458
    If you have to deal a lot with fraktions, maybe you need to upgrade you fonts? You will easily find a type designer to build a proper OpenType font (and also draw correct smal caps) from you custom typefaces.

  12. Hi there,

    interesting to read, but honestly, if you ever want to built fractions in a more professional way with nearly unlimited possibilities you should invest a little bit more an try InMath! I do math publications for years and THAT is the best way EVER…

    Greetings from Germany (sorry for my English)

    Ilona.

  13. Hi ilona,

    Yes InMath is fantastic, but that expresses equations and not fractions as you’d read in text. Like 3/4 or 6/8, for example. It puts

    3
    - + 100 = 101.5
    2

    While it’s fantastic and does a lot of the work for you for mathematical equations etc., it’s not exactly the same as what this product does.

  14. Adobe should give Dan Rodney a million bucks and make this script part of the next InDesign upgrade! Great stuff!

  15. I love this script, but I have a caution for users. The script applies a stroke to the numbers to make them heavier. But if you change the color of the fraction, you have to remember to change the stroke color separately (or you’ll end up with a really skinny number that is outlined in a different color than the text).

    Also, be careful not to run the script twice on the same text, or your fractions will become microscopic.

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