Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Networking: Physical vs Virtual

I understand that like myself most readers of this blog are small businesses or individual users. I've learnt the hard way that you can't sort out all your technical needs on your own. You should build a supporting network – physical, not just virtual. Professional people physically close to you.
It is simply not possible to know all technical elements. If you try your end product suffers.

I live and work in deep countryside. Nearest house is a mile away, nearest small town with an electronics shop is 6 miles away. And nearest Apple Centre is an hour's drive. But even if you are in a large city, I think the tips below are relevant.

So try this:
  • for printing services find small or medium size professional print shop, close to you geographically and preferably not part of a huge chain. You need to be able to deal with the same people face to face, get them interested in your project and excited about breaking new ground with new software or new creative possibilities. If you deal with large printing businesses with massive print-runs you often can't get that level of attention, quite often you have to deal with a different person each time you take your work for printing;
  • have your printer use the same version of software that you use. My printer was using Acrobat 5 when I was using Acrobat 8, for example. It took us some time to realize that there could be a problem there. Layers technology was introduced with version 6 and it makes a big difference;
  • synchronize your Acrobat settings with your printers;
  • find a good computer service company, preferably a small specialised business, so you personally know technicians who will work with you, develop good working and personal relationship with them so when crisis comes they will go out of their way to help you;
  • have technicians check your workflow, system and settings, they may find something you 'd missed;
  • ask them to prepare a set of pre-press Acrobat settings and set your Distiller to use them as default. Save settings separately for back-up;
  • if you are happy with your computer technicians, sign-up for a long term support/service so that you can call them on the phone or have them come and fine tune your machine;
  • take notes describing your problem step by step so you could recreate it for a technician to see where the stumbling point is and find solution;
  • take notes when you find a solution. My office is plastered with stickies where I scribble down ideas and solutions.
It is simply not possible to know and master all the technical elements of your hardware and software. If you try, your end product would suffer.

Pages cost 1/10 of Quark (79 euros/dollars vs 770 euros/dollars), even less if you count Pages as a separate program (79/3 = 26 euros/dollars). And far easier to use. Even after all upgrades to make Pages run smoothly (RAM should be 1Gb or higher etc.) it makes economic sense to stick with iWork.

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