Review: Free Style Flocker Plug-In Brings True Stylesheets to InDesign

PAGE 3: Review: Free Style Flocker Plug-In Brings True Stylesheets to InDesign

2006
May
11

The Bad Style Flocker doesn’t support InCopy, so editorial personnel, arguably those in greatest need of stylesheets and style organization, are stuck with the same old style palettes. This is surprising given that RogueSheep is comprised almost entirely of former Adobe InDesign and InCopy developers. Fortunately, because the Style Flocker palette only references styles rather […]

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The Bad

Style Flocker doesn’t support InCopy, so editorial personnel, arguably those in greatest need of stylesheets and style organization, are stuck with the same old style palettes. This is surprising given that RogueSheep is comprised almost entirely of former Adobe InDesign and InCopy developers. Fortunately, because the Style Flocker palette only references styles rather than containing its own, documents that employ it are still fully useable in InCopy. We didn’t even see the missing plug-in alert upon opening either assignments or the .INDD file itself in InCopy CS2.

While the total lack of InCopy support is disappointing, there’s another glaring omission in Style Flocker: You can’t create or edit styles with it.

RogueSheep claims that Style Flocker can replace InDesign’s Paragraph, Character, and Object Styles palettes. While that’s true in cases where the stylesheets are fixed and no new styles need be created, it doesn’t hold water while creating or editing styles. Style Flocker will allow unfettered organizational freedom and typical one-click application of styles, but to edit those styles or create new ones, you have to either go back to InDesign’s style palettes or use the even less convenient Style Options command from the Control Palette’s flyout menu. Double-clicking the style in the Style Flocker palette does nothing.

So, you can’t really replace any palettes with Style Flocker, but you can reclaim some screen real estate. With Style Flocker handling your style application and organization, you can group together (tab) the individual Paragraph, Character, and Object Styles palettes or even reduce their heights to a minimum. It isn’t fewer palettes, per se, but you aren’t required to give them as much space now.

Here’s a tip: Create multiple workspaces, one to employ when creating or editing styles and includes Style Flocker and the three style palettes, and another workspace for working with a fixed stylesheet, hiding InDesign’s styles palettes.

On the palete flyout menu is a Show Palette for Style Drag submenu, which you’ll likely never use. The menu opens any of InDesign’s own styles palettes, but it’s even less convenient than going to the Window menu. Moreover, InDesign work is style-intensive–you need to be able to create and edit styles on the fly. I predict you’ll find yourself ignoring the Show Palette for Style Drag menu and simply leaving the other palettes on screen somewhere.

Style Flocker also will not update itself to reflect newly created styles. They have to be manually added to the palette from the Add flyout menus or by dragging and dropping from InDesign’s styles palettes.

The Ugly

We discovered one bug while using Style Flocker on Windows. Resizing the width of the palette undesireably alters its height proportionately, as if the corner were being dragged instead of just the side. This happened within InDesign CS2 running on Windows XP Pro SP2 on two different test systems. Fortunately, it did not occur on any of our Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 systems.

Truly, this bug is as minor and inconsequential as it can be and still qualify for being called ugly. If you experience this behavior, set your width, then drag the bottom edge of the palette to set its height. The bug only occurs when dragging the side borders, not the top and bottom.

InDesign’s Workspaces do record and apply positioning and sizing to the Style Flocker palette, so update your usual workspace(s) after arranging this palette.

Wishlist

Naturally, I’d like to see Style Flocker updated to incorporate InCopy support, but there are some other features it should also have:

  • The ability to create styles. Like native style palettes, this should be a call to the New Style dialog depending on which of the three new style buttons a user clicks on. Newly created styles should be added to the correct area of InDesign (i.e. the respective native palette), and a reference instantly generated in Style Flocker.
  • Similarly, the ability to edit styles is crucial.
  • Being able to print out the contents of Style Flocker would be useful in building a printed style guide, but, even more useful would be…
  • Making Style Flocker’s palette contents an exportable XML file that can be shared with other Style Flocker users across the workgroup (independent of documents), and imported as page content into, say, an InDesign layout to be used as the basis for building a style guide manual (printed or PDF).
  • Ideally, Style Flocker would give the user the option of not only exporting or printing the list of flocks and style names and types, but also the actual style definitions themselves, pulling data from the style definition summary.
  • Color coding of flocks.
  • Import flocks from another document for rapid backwards, uh, flocking. Even with an XML export, importing flocks would have a benefit to productivity.
  • A MRU (Most Recently Used) list of styles similar to Microsoft Word’s Styles palette. Flocks are extremely convenient, but it would benefit designers of long, many-styled documents to have a quick list of their last 5-10 styles separate from the flocks lists.
  • A “Sort Alphabetically” toggle to temporarily impose a Quick Apply-like UI onto Style Flocker (effectively, Quick Apply inclusive of Object Styles).
  • Replace Quick Apply entirely by adding a keyboard shortcut to take focus into the Style Flocker palette, keyboard arrow or letter navigation to desired styles, and Enter/Return application of the highlighted style.

The Final Word

This kind of style unification and organization is overdue, and we should have seen it first from Adobe–just like layer sets, a History palette, and some other remarkably useful things you’ll see plug-in developers adding to InDesign over the next few months.

Despite the bad and the ugly, Style Flocker is a true must-have plug-in for anyone who works with more than a handful of styles. In fact, this review would have been published earlier in the day if I hadn’t been on the phone telling my clients and friends to go download Style Flocker. It’s already deployed across every system in my studio.

Style Flocker is so useful that, to be candid, I’m surprised RogueSheep is giving it away free. I would have happily paid $14.99-$19.99 for it. (Shh! Don’t tell RogueSheep!) I suggest you go get it before Jeff Argast and company wise up and slap a price tag on this one.

Style Flocker 1.0 is available as of today for InDesign CS and InDesign CS2 for Windows or Mac OS X, and is a free download for all. For more about RogueSheep’s products, read the Quark VS InDesign.com‘s reviews, or visit RogueSheep directly.

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