Mac Lover and Graphics Expert Shares Her Views
This week, Stephen
Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Kate Binder.
Kate is a longtime Mac
lover and graphics expert who works from her home in New Hampshire.
She has written articles on graphics, publishing, and photography
for magazines including Publish, PEI, and Desktop Publishers
Journal. Kate is also the author of several books, including The
Complete Idiot's Guide to Mac OS X and Easy Adobe Photoshop 6, and
coauthor of books including Microsoft Office: Mac v.X Inside Out,
SVG for Designers, and Get Creative: The Digital Photo Idea Book. To
those interested in a successful career as a computer book writer,
Kate recommends acquiring several retired racing greyhounds (find
out more at
www.adopt-a-greyhound.org) -- she finds her five greyhounds
Amongst her latest book
credits is “Easy Mac OS X, v10.3 Panther.”
Q: Kate, as a
well-respected Mac and graphics authority, we are fortunate to have
you with us to do this interview—thank you!
A: It’s a living—and it’s
so much better when using Macs.
Q: Can you give us a
history of how you got into this field?
A: It’s a long saga, but
suffice it to say I saved my pennies and saved my dimes and bought a
Mac IIsi in 1991. My father was a computer engineer, and he raised
us kids to appreciate many of the early Apple models—including an
Apple II+ he built himself. But the Mac, to me, was where the stars
aligned. After witnessing what I thought was sheer beauty in the way
early versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXPress and laser
printers worked together, I haven’t looked back.
Q: Can you describe your
work with Publish, PEI, and Desktop Publishers Journal?
A: I try to bring a voice
to these publications—and to my books—that readers can't always
find. I do write a lot of articles and software books, but my prime
source of income is layout and production of books, e-books, and
magazines. I’m right there in the trenches with my readers using
these tools to make a living, just like them. I’m not in an ivory
tower, I don’t rewrite the manual—I just share my best advice from
actually using the tools in the clearest, most concise way I can.
Q: What are your top five
tips for digital photo work?
A: 1) Don’t try to make a
silk purse from a sow’s ear—if someone gives you a junky image to
start with, give it back!
2) Get organized and
think about your system before you start, if it’s possible. If you
can’t do it in advance of the project, take the time out needed to
do it right.
3) Creative restraint
typically turns out less gaudy work—unless you’re a true genius.
4) Never be constrained
by software defaults—always experiment with settings until you find
what works for your image.
5) Either use a color
management system, or accept that what you see onscreen is not the
same as what you'll get when you print or what others will see on
their screens—and learn to work within that limitation.
Q: What three Adobe
secrets can you share that only you know?
A: Well, I doubt there
truly are any Adobe secrets that only I know—but I do have a few
things to say about the company's products.
1) If you're having trouble getting an Illustrator graphic to print
or PostScript correctly, backsave it to an earlier version.
2) FrameMaker rules—and
more people need to know that! I can't put into words how much I
love FrameMaker for its power, even though its interface is awful.
3) Finally, although I
would never violate an NDA, I can say that Adobe's beta software
invariably has splash screen graphics that are way cooler than the
final "real" artwork.
Q: Can you detail your
current work and favorite projects?
A: Quilting Arts is a
magazine for lovers of embellished quilting—that's crazy quilting
for us lesser mortals. I don't quilt, but I do the electronic
production of each quarterly issue. Working with the magazine's
stunning photography, showing the exquisite work of the various
artisans, really inspires me in my own work. At the moment, I'm also
doing a technical edit of a book on—yes, you guessed it—an Adobe
product, as well as page composition of books on networking and
human resource education. Some of my favorite projects are the work
I do for Houghton Mifflin creating ebooks of titles on their
nonfiction trade list, because I get to keep the printed books.
Q: What five tips can you
provide from your Max OS X book?
A: 1) Use Sherlock! It's
a great way to search for a lot of things in a little space. You
don't have to know what Web sites list phone numbers or offer image
searches—Sherlock knows and lets you just take care of business.
2) Check out the extra
functions you can access in Address Book by clicking the "home" or
"work" label next to each address or other information snippet. For
example, you can get the URL of a map showing the selected address,
How cool is that?
3) Don't forget your
Mac's password—you can reset it using the system software CDs that
came with the Mac if you have to, but best not to.
4) If you think something
you do on your Mac could be easier if the system worked differently,
you're probably right. Go to
http://www.versiontracker.com and do a quick search, and odds
are you'll find just the third-party utility you need. And add-on
software is much less likely to cause conflicts and crashes in Mac
OS X than in earlier versions of the Mac OS.
5) Back up your files.
And then back them up again. Oh, and did I mention—run a backup!
Q: Regarding your latest
book, what makes it different from the others?
A: It's part of the Easy
series, which I just love. My previous Easy book was Easy Adobe
Photoshop, and writing that one was a lot of fun, too. Easy books
work great for both complete novices and busy experts who just need
a quick refresher on a single task. You can see exactly what to do,
and what will happen in response, by just glancing at the screen
Q: Do you have any
humorous stories to share?
A: No, but I do have a
tip: If you have a dog that chews, keep him out of your office on
deadline days—the possibilities are endless. Picture pulverized
color proofs, software CDs, serial numbers, even your phone. Do I
speak from experience? That will have to stay between me and my
Q: What are your top
A: 1) My books,
2) Newsgroups, discussion
boards, and mailing lists—the Internet is just packed with people
who are ready to answer your questions within hours and offer you
everything from pithy debates to hand-holding advice. Be sure to
search the archives before you post, though, so you don't waste
people's time with questions that have been answered a zillion times
3) For Mac users,
is the single most useful Web site I can think of. It's the first
place I go when I want to know the latest Mac news, find out the
real scoop on a new system update, or learn about others'
experiences with a program or peripheral I'm thinking of buying.
4) Other great Mac
resources are MacFixit (www.macfixit.com),
and EveryMac (www.everymac.com).
5) Finally, when in
doubt, Google it (www.google.com).
Q: Can you tell us more
about the greyhounds?
A: Well, the most common
question people ask me and my freelance-writing husband Don about
the greyhounds is “How on earth did you end up with five of them?”
The short answer is "They're addictive."
First, we adopted Chance,
a large brindle male, because Don wanted a dog and I wouldn’t let
him get the miniature Schnauzer that he had in mind. Chance fit into
our house so well that we went back six weeks later and brought home
an elegant black female whom we named Vanity. When two dogs proved
to be not much more work than one, we decided to explore the world
of special needs greyhounds and adopted Rufus, an even blacker male,
who was incredibly shy and "spooky." He outgrew that with our help
and with that of Freddie, a puppyish little blonde waif who is the
jester of the pack.
Finally, we brought home
Ichiro, an old lady who went back to the farm as breeding stock
after her racing career. When she finally came up for adoption at
the age of 10, her options were pretty limited, so we figured we'd
take her and just enjoy the time she had left. More than three years
later, she's still hale and hearty—and we've realized that she's
doing us a favor by being our dog.
Greyhounds make fabulous
pets—they're easy, low-maintenance dogs with calm, mellow
temperaments. And they need homes after they're done with the racing
world. Of course, most people don't adopt five of them, as we've
done, but even one or two can really enhance your quality of life.
Anyone who wants to learn more can check out
www.adopt-a-greyhound.org—or, in northern New England,
http://www.gpstopdog.org (our local adoption group).
Q: What kind of computer
setup do you have?
A: I use a Power Mac G4
tower and a dual-USB iBook. I also have a low-end Dell, just for
those times when I need to test something in Windows—but I do all my
real work on one of my Macs. My home has a combination
wired/wireless network that enables us to share Internet and local
network access among my computers, my husband's computers, our TiVo,
and our backup server. I have to say, going wireless was one of the
best upgrades I've made to our setup. As for peripherals, I have an
Epson USB scanner and an Epson photo inkjet. But less and less of my
work involves paper these days—so Internet access is more and more
Q: If you were doing this
interview, what three questions would you ask of someone in your
position and what would be your answers?
Q1: If you had time to
write a novel about your writerly vocation, what would it be?
A:1) A screwball comedy a
la Hotel New Hampshire, about an old New England house populated
with two freelancers, five dogs, two cats, an infant—and a flaky
electrical system powering a furnace that works most of the time.
Q2: You’re a writer and a
technophile, and use the Internet intensively in your work and play.
I’ve heard you have strong feelings on the MP3 issue—do you come in
on the “everything should be free” side or the “industry is right”
side and why?
A2) I think stealing is
wrong, even if you think the people you're stealing from deserve to
be victimized. And I think that intellectual property deserves to be
treated like any other property—which means if you want it, you
should pay for it. Some artists, writers, musicians, and the like
can afford to give their work away—and that's their right. If they
need to pay the bills, though, they also have a right to ask a fair
price for what they produce.
Q3: What does the
software-hardware industry need to give graphic designers and
production people to make their lives easier and work more
A3) A QuarkXTension that
automatically FedExes your work to your clients, for starters.
Q: Kate, we appreciate
the time you spent in doing this interview—thank you!
A: My pleasure—thanks for