Adobe Bridge Tricks for Designers

October 4, 2005 - 2:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

I confess, like a lot of graphic designers, I've been a little underwhelmed with Adobe Bridge, the free file management hub application that comes with every CS2 program. Until recently, my feelings ran along the line of "Are you kidding me? Yet another program to learn? Forget it. Let the full-time Photoshop geeks figure it out. I have publications to design."

But I have seen the light, thanks to Branislav Milic. His seminar on Adobe Bridge at the recent Creative Suite Conference in London clearly showed how useful it can be to the average designer — indeed, he barely mentioned Photoshop at all. (Branislav is an articulate, opinionated, highly-skilled designer, refreshingly cranky and great fun to listen to, and is one of the top Adobe trainers and presenters in Europe.)

Here are a few Bridge tips gleaned from my own explorations as well as Branislav's seminar.

View InDesign File Info
You might have already heard that you can select an InDesign file in Bridge and see a list of fonts and color swatches used in it. You might have tried it out and said … Where?

Two things: First, it only works with ID files saved in CS2 format. Second, once you've selected a CS2 .indd file in Bridge's thumbnails panel, you need to scroll down in the Metadata panel (lower left), past File Properties, past IPTC Core, to get to the Fonts and Swatches panels. If the panels are empty, wait a few seconds for Bridge to catch up and gather the information.

Preview Individual Pages
Which two programs in the Adobe Creative Suite support multiple-page files? Acrobat and InDesign. Does Bridge create thumbnails for each page so you can see them? Yes, for Acrobat. Sort of, for InDesign.

You can select a PDF in Bridge and see thumbnails of the individual pages it contains by using the Page Selection scroll bar in the Preview area (center left). If you switch to Filmstrip view, you can also use the Page Selection scroll bar under the PDF in the main panel, and in Slideshow view (Command/Ctrl-L), you can use the right and left arrow keys on your keyboard (bet you didn't know that). This works for PDFs created with any version of Acrobat or PDF Maker Thingie.

But select a multiple-page InDesign file in Bridge, and all you can see is a preview of its first page (assuming it's a CS2 file saved with the Preview box enabled — files saved in earlier versions don't even have a thumbnail, just the InDesign logo). However, Branislav said he discovered "an hour before the presentation" that if you save an ID CS2 layout as a *template* (file extension .indt) in ID's Save As dialog box, then Bridge allows you to page through the file in the Preview panel, just as with a PDF.

If your workflow relies on InDesign CS2 templates, using Bridge to page through them is a great way for users to figure out which template to use from a folder full of similarly-named files. (Double-click the file's thumbnail in Bridge to open it up in InDesign.) It would be great if the Finder or Windows Explorer let you do this, wouldn't it?

Speed the Plow
One reason Bridge can seem slow … okay, *is* slow … is that every time you open a folder in it for the first time, Bridge has to build a cache file containing up-to-date thumbnails, metadata and file info data for the folder's contents. Branislav suggested that in the morning, "before you go make zee coffee," get Bridge to build its caches in advance.

To do this, open Bridge and select a parent folder (like "Projects" or "Photos" or whatever folder contains the bulk of your work) in the Favorites or Folder pane. Then choose Tools > Cache > Build Cache for Subfolders from the main menu. Go make zee coffee or check zee e-mail while Bridge goes to work. Now when you open your commonly-used folders in Bridge, all the thumbnails are there, instantly.

Note: The cache files take up a fair amount of room, so make sure you have plenty of hard drive space to hold them.

Reveal Image Metadata in CS2 Apps
Whenever you select an image in Bridge, you can see all the default metadata it contains in the Metadata and Keywords panels (lower left in the default Bridge window), as well as in the (XMP) File Info dialog box (right-click on the image thumbnail and choose File Info, or choose File > File Info).

Many of these fields are editable, allowing you add your own descriptions, keywords, and other info. Bridge lets you run searches of your file assets using metadata content as a criterion, and to save those searches as Collections.

Did you know you can access a placed image's metadata in InDesign and Illustrator too?

In InDesign CS2, select an imported image and choose File Info from the Info or Links palette menu. (Choosing File > File Info from the main menubar will just give you the metadata for the InDesign file itself, not for the selected image.) In Illustrator CS2 you can choose the same File Info command from Illy's own Links palette, even if the image is embedded. In either case, the same large XMP dialog box opens, revealing the image's resolution, pixel dimension, ICC profile, digital camera settings, keywords, favorite Simpsons character, and so on.

If only you could reveal that info in InDy's and Illy's Place dialog boxes, allowing you to find the image with the right keywords or resolution before you import it, you'd be all set. Oh wait, since you can use Bridge to Place files (File > Place) or drag and drop them into your files, I guess that's covered.

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