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InDesigning Your Desktop

Preparing for next week’s InDesign Conference has me going slightly batty, seeing the world through InDesign-colored glasses. I get in my car and think I should choose File > New Trip… Option-click the windshield wipers to spray the blue stuff. Take a wrong turn, Cmd+Z. Lock the doors for Car > Save.

If only there were Save As… Format: 1968 Mustang.

Till I get that Mustang, I’ll have to settle for using ID in other novel ways. Here’s one. Sometimes when I do a presentation, I make a new desktop picture with the title of the session and my contact info. What better tool for the job than InDesign? CS4 has document presets perfect for the job.

Prior to CS4, pixels are not a measure that ID understands for a document dimensions, but all you need to do is get the width to height ratio right.* If you want a desktop that’s 1024 x 768, make your ID document 1.3 x as wide as it is tall. Or even simpler, just make it 10.24 inches x 7.68 inches. Make sure any Photoshop images you place into that document are RGB and have adequate resolution. Then design your heart out. Leave some empty space for the menu bar, the Dock, and other icons you know are going to be on your screen. When you’re done, export the page as a JPEG with resolution 100 ppi. Voila, a 1024 x 768 image, ready for desktopping. If you’re using those CS4 page sizes, export at 72 ppi.

For extra credit, use ID to make a screensaver. On the Mac, save your ID JPEGs into an iPhoto album. Then select a slideshow of that album as your screensaver.

Gives a whole new meaning to the term, “Desktop Publishing.”

* Truthfully, you don’t have to use the right ratio. If you’re re-purposing an existing document to be a desktop, just export it as is and crop it in Photoshop. If you’re downsampling, you’ll probably get the best results with Bicubic Sharper.

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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11 Comments on “InDesigning Your Desktop

  1. I’ve often wished there was a real-life:
    Workspace > Clean Kitchen
    Workspace > Me at 20 But Knowing What I Know Now

    or even just a Revert command would be cool …

  2. Option #54b: Take a screen capture of your whole screen while InDesign is running, and then make that your desktop image. Then, even when InDesign isn’t running, it will look like it is. (Better option: Do this on a colleague’s computer to drive them batty.)

    It’s going to be a fun conference this week folks! We’ll report “live from the show floor,” if we hear anything particularly exciting.

  3. Just for a moment, I sometimes think I can ?undo? real life actions, such as things I?ve written on paper.

    I also see blue guidelines sometimes when I shut my eyes, although this is more imaginary than actually seeing it.

  4. Let me see if I remember this, about a year ago I emailed David Blatner asking about pixels in InDesign and I think this was the math, if my memory serves me correct.

    1pt = 1/72 inch

    72 dpi image: 1 point = 1 pixel

    Make a document 1024 x 768 pt and export at 72 dpi

    Your image is now 1024 x 768 px

    Think that’s right?

  5. Per Arne Flatberg and Eugene-

    Excellent point. You folks are just too sharp. I can’t slip anything past you people! : )

  6. Mike, it wasn’t me, it was David that pointed that out, I was very impressed with the conversion calculation, something that had never dawned on me before, yet so simple.

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