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  • Raphaël Freeman

The Typesetter’s Dream Setup

When I started my own typesetting firm 15 years ago it was in my bedroom of a small apartment that I shared with a friend. I had a Pentium III and a 15" monitor and another friend very kindly lent me a green iMac for any work that had to be done on a Mac.

I had started with the philosophy that I had learned when I was working in England 10 years earlier that first determine the best software to typeset with, then saw what platform it ran on. We were using Ventura running on GEM, PageMaker on Windows and Quark on Mac.

Fast forward 2017 and for me, there is only one piece of software in the game and that is of course InDesign. However, my typesetting process actually starts in Microsoft Word. It is here that I can clean up the document and apply paragraph and character styles more efficiently. The ability to record macros plus the little talked about reveal formatting feature in the extended styles panel in Word for Windows are invaluable.

Interesting that this process hasn’t changed much from the Wordperfect 5.1 for DOC and Ventura for GEM workflow of 1992.

Which then brings me to my platform of choice. It’s funny that as a person that has an iPhone Plus, iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Apple Watch, that as a creative professional, I’m based on Windows 10. This for one basic reason: The reveal formatting feature isn’t available on Word for Mac.

I do have a Mac for typesetting digital books in the iBook format, but for my main typesetting for print books, it’s on my PC that I do most of my work.

So how does one build the ideal typesetting setup? Ultimately it comes down to the display. Not the memory, nor the processor. I even put in the latest SSD technology recently, but in terms of work efficiency it’s all about the display. Or rather…displays.

When I started out, I had only had one monitor.

When I started my new firm, I called up a software company to inquire about buying Photoshop. It was clear that I was buying Quark for my layout needs. At the end of the line, was a woman that I had worked with in the past. Shlomit said to me, “Raphaël, many years ago you advised everybody in the graphics studio where I worked to move from Freehand to Quark. I’m going to repay you for that excellent advice: Buy InDesign.” I hadn’t even heard of it. I purchased InDesign 1.5 ME. Never looked back.

But I digress.

So I was typesetting this job, or rather making corrections to this book that a friend no longer wanted to do, in Ventura. The problem was that zooming in and out on Ventura was a very cumbersome process. That was my excuse for buying a larger screen and purchased the Sony 20" monitor. It was very expensive. It was so heavy that it required two people to lift it. But I was hooked. Having a second screen was a revelation. Not just a large screen (for those days) but a second screen.

Over the years, my computer sprouted more displays. At one point a client came into my office in my bedroom and asked me why I have 3 displays. I explained, “well I don’t have room for four…”

I have a bigger desk now. I no longer work out of my bedroom.

So is there a limit? Actually yes. My current setup is 3 vertical 24" monitors and one horizontal 30". I actually rotated my 30" as an experiment to see if this would be better. But it was too tall. My ideal would be a monitor the height of 24" vertical and the width of a 30" but they just don’t make them like that. As it is, I have to make sure the ratio is 1920 × 1200 rather than 1920 × 1080. The latter being better for watching movies rather than typesetting although watching movies on the 30" is pretty awesome too…

If you have a book that needs typesetting, then please feel free get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.

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