The "Official" D*I*Y Planner Development Software

Illustrator, InDesign, OOo and TinderboxThe software used to produce the D*I*Y Planner is a source of continual confusion for newcomers to the project. I get at least two emails per week from people asking for "the OpenOffice.org files" so that they can use them to create their own variations, and similar questions and requests arise frequently in the comments of both DIYPlanner.com and my blog a million monkeys typing (where, confusingly, some people still go to download the outdated kits, despite plenty of pointers to this site).

I figured it was about time to "officially" declare the software and process used to produce the D*I*Y Planner, and share a few hints as to what the future holds for the project. I'm going to be a little technical here, so if you faint at the merest hint of anything more complicated than a word processor, you may not wish to continue reading.

First of all, let me say that I do love the OpenOffice.org Suite (often called just OpenOffice or OOo), especially version 2. The word processor, spreadsheet and presentation manager are quite nice, and serve my purposes well, but the drawing program --called, intuitively enough, Draw-- holds a special place of honour in regard to this project. Not only is the application completely free of charge, but it's cross-platform, allowing anybody in the world with Windows, Mac OS X or Linux to use it without financial or technological barriers. It's also quite easy for beginners to learn, and thus the perfect choice for the Widget Kit (a.k.a., WK), our still-in-development collection of graphical elements that people can use to create their own templates. Now that the Hipster PDA Edition is out the door, this is the next project in the assembly line. By time it's ready, it'll contain almost every major element from the D*I*Y Planner kits, complete with instructions, annotations for usage, and a version 3 look and feel. From there, we'll look at producing ways of integrating the 'Planner with (gasp!) digital information from websites or other applications.

But unfortunately, OOo Draw has a hard time coping with thousands of layers and graphical groups. With experimentation, I noticed that problems and slow-downs started to occur after a few hundred. This shouldn't post a problem for most people designing their own templates, and thus for the WK, but the hundreds of templates in the official D*I*Y Planner kits necessitate thousands of very complex layers, not to mention pin-point accuracy (which is still a minor, albeit only occasional, issue with OOo Draw). Therefore the main kits are actually constructed using Adobe Illustrator.

I should note at this point that the AI source files are not made available outside of the D*I*Y Planner team. In fact, only two people besides myself have even seen them. There's a long story behind this, but the gist of it is that several of the very early design files (which I did release to people) were used for commercial purposes without my consent. As I wish to keep control over the commercial usage of the 'Planner, I've chosen a license which allows everybody to download the kits and use them for personal and individual use, but not print them en masse for retail, nor slap their own logo on the forms for promotional purposes. True, people can download the WK and use it to create their own derivative forms (and that's the point of the project), but without the full AI sources, most companies would rather just create their own designs from scratch than copy what I've done.

The next piece of software is Adobe InDesign, which is used solely to create the PDF files containing the AI forms. I simply copy and paste the designs from Illustrator to InDesign, set a few parameters, and do an export. (Of course, if one uses the WK, OOo Draw has an excellent native PDF export, and so InDesign is completely unnecessary.) A similar use is reserved for Photoshop, into which I copy the AI forms for exporting as PNGs for the Hipster PDA graphics version.

Last but not least, I need some way of easily tracking my ideas, template suggestions, bug reports, tester feedback, work-in-process site documents, burgeoning articles, and the thousand other things that need to be sifted, sorted and studied for the continuation of the project. It needs to be digital because there's a lot of pasting from emails and comments, and at any time, there's many hundreds of pages to tote. For that, I use Eastgate's Tinderbox in both map and explorer views to lay out and process all the bits and pieces. (Obligatory disclaimer: Eastgate is a sponsor on this site, but I'd still rave about Tinderbox and recommend it regardless.) Especially handy are the non-intrusive text editor, the many views that enable one to picture the data in myriad ways, the ability to connect and clone notes, the soft-linked file attachments, prototypes (pre-defined note structures), and the nifty agents that allow finding and processing of notes based upon user-defined criteria. I only use a tenth of the power of this "swiss army knife" personal content manager, but it's ample for my needs. I keep a few Tinderbox files on a USB thumb drive and carry them with me from laptop to desktop and back. The bad news is that it's currently only available for Macs, but a Windows version is in development.

And that's it, for the client-side software used in the project. A short list, to be certain, but I try not to complicate matters unduly when there's a lot of work to be done (no matter how much I want to play). I hope this answers most of those lingering questions about the project's software, but if you have any others, please feel free to ask them here.

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How do you find OOo on the Mac

I gather that you use a Mac? How do you find OOo on the Mac? I mean, it uses its own, very limited range of fonts, and uses a completely different form of menus and keyboard shortcuts? Did you find this transition difficult? I would love to dump Office, as I need to upgrade to 2004 for Unicode support, but have been wanting to go to OOo or NeoOffice, but some things just don't seem right to me, and I was wondering how others do it. What are your thoughts, in particular in regard to fonts. TIA

-Jon

OOo on the Mac

OOo 2.0.x is a major leap forward, and I had no trouble installing the fonts I needed (especially the DiyP's "Blue Highway" font). It's not quite as speedy as MS Office, and it does use X11, but for the cost and functional benefits (mainly the inclusion of Draw), it's perfect for me. I haven't needed to use MS Office for a *long* time now.

I haven't used the new alpha of NeoOffice based upon OOo 2.x, but I generally wouldn't trust my productivity to an alpha piece of software anyway. If you're a stickler for the OSX look and feel (as opposed to X11), and you don't mind taking the occasional risk with your data, it's certainly worth a shot. The older NeoOffice based on OOo 1.x is great for word processing and spreadsheets, but the Draw engine is extremely buggy and rather primitive compared to OOo2.

all my best,
dj

How do you find OOo on the Mac

Oh wow. How _do_ you install fonts into OOo? I couldn't figure it out. The only instructions I found were for Unix commandline tools, and none of them worked for me in xterm... TIA

-Jon

Fonts in OOo2 Mac

Honestly, I seem to remember there was a user-friendly way to do it (you'll have to google around), but seeing I'm a UNIX guy from way back, I just jump into the X11 xterm, change to the OOo2 program directory (probably
cd /Applications/OpenOffice.org 2.0.app/Contents/openoffice.org2.0/program
), and run the spadmin program ("./spadmin &"). From there I can manage the fonts easily.

Anyone know of a more Mac-like way, off the top of their heads?

all my best,
dj

Ha! 2.0.2 actually works!

Ha! 2.0.2 actually works! Apparently, they've been attempting to build in font support, and they succeeded with ver. .0.2. Well, in any case, I've got fonts! Thanks for the help... (Maybe because I had installed Fondu before the update...)

-Jon