In my past two executive positions that I held it was required of me to wear (at least) two hats: one of the “manager” and one as a productive member of staff. So it’s natural for me in my relatively new role as a publisher to also continue to be productive as a book designer and typesetter. In fact just to make things more interesting, I also typeset for other clients.

However my blog post is really nothing to do with my job but rather a technological dilemma that a typesetter (and perhaps a person in another profession) faces when traveling. You see my computer setup is very powerful i7 PC with 16GB RAM and the obligatory SSD, but today, laptops can be as powerful as desktops. The real problem are the displays. You see as a typesetter you need a lot of screen real estate and there’s no way I can pack three 24″ monitors into a suitcase (especially as I prefer to travel with a carry-on only).

The second problem is my software and data. I am not dealing with little Word files that are a few KB but rather massive 50MB and up graphic files.

So my first dilemma was how to deal with my computer setup. I knew I had access to a PC with one 24″ monitor (no, not quite the resolution that I wanted but close enough) but for typesetting the absolute minimum is two displays.

I knew I had a fast internet connection with wifi so my first thought was that I should remotely access my machine. However the connection from the UK to Israel was fine for doing corrections although somewhat cumbersome.

So it was time for plan B.

Recently software has moved to the “cloud” and Adobe is no exception. People don’t quite know what Adobe Creative Cloud is, but apart from the unclear name it’s actually rather marvelous.

I logged into my account on the PC in England and downloaded the creative cloud app onto the computer. From there I chose the software that I needed and then switched on both file and font synchronization. I would like to say that 15 minutes later I was working but despite a 50 Mbit download connection it took quite a while (a day or so) for all the software, and in particular, for all my files to sync.

However, once it all synced I had my entire software library and files in England. Remember I was syncing the files and software which meant that the software, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat were installed locally and the files were copied locally too. You don’t want to be working on a 50MB file that is being accessed on the internet.

My next job was Microsoft Office. I had recently subscribed to Office 365. Now here Microsoft does an amazing job. When I chose to install my software it was extremely fast. You see they install the core code that is needed for the software to run and then in the background the rest of code is downloaded. What this basically meant was that Word was running almost instantly. Now I confess that I’m an Outlook user. I know people swear by gmail, but I like the full version of outlook. Each to their own I guess. Office 365 gives you a 25 GB mailbox (they also give you free version of Outlook, Word and Excel for iPhone but curiously not for iPad but I digress) so I just synced that and my entire office and email was now locally synced. Some of my files are on SkyDrive and some are on Dropbox for various reasons beyond the scope of this post but it was trivial syncing them too.

Yes I had a whole bunch of scripts for InDesign that I needed to login remotely to grab them but on the whole I managed to transfer my entire office with a few clicks of the mouse and a lot of waiting.

Fortunately, when I get back to Israel all my files will be back in sync immediately.

I then had to deal with a second screen. I was flying with my iPad and with a piece of software called Air Display, I turned my iPad into a second screen. On an iPad 3rd generation it’s incredibly slow, but I disabled retina and it was good enough to move the full PC version of Acrobat on that the iPad screen or use it for my InDesign Panels.

I have to say it was an excellent compromise. Next time it will be faster since the all the files will still be synced, but honestly it was an excellent way to keep working and stick to some pretty hairy deadlines. I have to say that people have complained a lot about companies like Adobe and Microsoft moving to subscription-based services, but this has made something that was quite impossible to do only a year ago, a straightforward process.

Last time I flew I called up my local cellphone provider and got a deal but it was quite expensive. In fact for a trip for more than a week it’s really bad. I also found that I used data a lot more since I wasn’t at home with wifi the whole time.

I was smarter this time. I picked up a Lebara SIM card for £1.10 and added a package for a tenner. It’s actually very good value. I loaded up with 1GB of data and have the option of calling Israel both land lines and mobile for 5p a minute. However, armed with my iPhone with iMessage and FaceTime (particularly FaceTime Audio) I haven’t needed to pay for calls to Israel. My next top-up is going to be for unlimited internet…

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