Archive for September, 2008

A Magic Wand for Selecting Text in Adobe Illustrator (KELSO)

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Warning, contains spoilers for my NACIS Practicle Cartography Day presentation in Missoula, Montana. Countdown: less than 10 days!

I have been developing a plugin / script for Adobe Illustrator to make it easier to select type in Illustrator by  attributes like font family, style, size, and fill color. I hope to release this as a commercial plugin for designers and cartographers first quarter 2009. If you would like to beta test this plugin for me, please send me an email at

What is this tool and why would you use it?

  1. A magic wand for clicking on text and selecting like-styled text
  2. A non-modal eye dropper tool for copying font attributes and pasting them onto other text objects without directly eye dropping (like Freehand’s copy and past attributes).
  3. Menu items for Select > Type > Same font, same style, same size, same font color, overprinting, etc
  4. A pro version of the Find Fonts dialog already in Illustrator that does find / replacing in locked and hidden layers, or only in the active layer, sublayer, or window view.

Developing the plugin has taken a lot longer than I expected to implement all the basic and advanced features but I am now 90% complete with the script version, which is over 8,000 lines of code or a 300 page book! Once I return from vacation in October, I will start working on the plugin version which will entail completely translating the script from JavaScript into C in XCode on the Mac and Visual Studio on the PC.

Turning the script into a plugin will bring several benefits:

  • Speed: much faster execution
  • Work with 1,000s of type objects / characters, not 100s
  • Menu items that can be assigned keyboard shortcuts
  • Can be recorded with Actions for automating routine tasks
  • New tool: magic wand for text and non-modal eyedropper for text font appearances

Example uses:

  • Selection:
    • Find all other type objects with same font – View video
    • Find all other type objects with same type size – View video
    • Find all other type objects with same character fill color
  • Applying / creating character styles:
    • Cartographer: ArcMap text imported to Illustrator >> have plugin apply matching style or create new styles that match each of the implicate styles
    • Designer: Quickly comp out a design and select all matching text with certain font attributes with the new Text magic wand tool and make them styles. Great for deadline projects.
  • Find and Replace fonts on hidden and locked layers

Demonstration videos:

Selecting by Font Color – Basic
Including exactly the same color, pattern, swatch, same color mode, by character and by object.
View video – 7.8 megs

Selecting by Font Color – Advanced
Including selecting type object NOT a color and overprints, replacing with knockout.
View video – 17.2 megs

Changing Alignment and Registration of Type
Includes limiting to just point, area, or line type objects
View video – 11.0 megs

Why Change the Registration for Point Type?
To scale type size when it is registered to a townspot or other graphic element.
View video – 1.1 meg

Finding Scope
Limit your selection to active layer, sublayer, current view, selection, artboard/page, and document.
View video – 20 megs

Finding by Text Content
Find all type that has the “River” or “Road” or “Street” in it and then change those text range’s attributes. Options include Is, Starts, Ends, and more.
View video – 13.5 megs

Replacing by Text Contents
With exact phrase or add to the end or beginning of the matched text.
View video – 9.3 megs

Simplified Interface
This dialog is similar to what’d you see for the planned “magic wand” for type tool settings. Thanks to Tom for this suggestion!
View video
– 7.6 megs

The Words They Used (NY Times)

Monday, September 29th, 2008

[Editor’s note: Continuing my blogging catch-up, this graphic from the NY Times on Sept. 4th integrates graduated circles with tag clouds (word clouds) that also include frequency numbers. This approach takes up more space, but I think makes it more readable. Below the main “cloud” is a breakdown by speaker with columns with tags and another set of mini graduated circles in rows. Important to note: this is rate per 25,000 words spoken, not the actual frequencies.

Seeing this graphic again and thinking of the first Presidential debate between Obama and McCain last week, I am reminded that these tag clouds are only appropriate when the content sample is large / long enough to allow themes to manifest and that categories can be just as appropriate as individual key words.]

The words that speakers used at the two political conventions show the themes that the parties have highlighted. Republican speakers have talked about reform and character far more frequently than the Democrats. And Republicans were more likely to talk about businesses and taxes, while Democrats were more likely to mention jobs or the economy.

View original at full size at . . .

Graphic by MATTHEW ERICSON/The New York Times.

Cities at Night World Tour (NASA) – Part 1

Monday, September 29th, 2008

One of my projects while at National Geographic Maps was creating an “Earth at Night” art side for the 2004 World political map supplement for the Magazine. I used a gridded 1-km resolution product from NASA and NOAA via the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program satellites to accomplish this and the result was beautiful and I often see the poster displayed around town.

The International Space Station “expedition 6” astronauts have developed a new product by photographing out the station’s windows over hundreds of nights. Full color between 10 and 60 meter resolution. A barn-door tracker mounted camera helps cancel the orbital movement which would otherwise make the images blurry.

They have produced a video highlighting this new dataset with commentary featuring many world cities.

View video (will open large file in new window, be prepared for wait.)

I include their full blog post on that below. Thanks Pat!

Cities at Night (NASA) – Part 2

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Reprinted from NASA. Original publication date: April 22, 2008.

by Cindy Evans & Will Stefanov • design by Robert Simmon

To an observer in space, humanity’s footprints on the surface of the Earth are large and varied. They include the regular patterns of irrigated cropland, straight lines of roads and railways running across continents, reservoirs on river systems, and the cement rectangles of ports and seawalls along coastlines. But what about humanity’s signature footprint—cities? By day, cities viewed from space can blend into the countryside, or appear as gray smudges, depending on the style of development and size of the urban area.

The British Isles at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

Looking east from a location southwest of Ireland, an astronaut took this nighttime panorama of population centers in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Image ISS016-E-27034 was taken on February 1, 2008, using a 28 mm lens.

Chicago by day, from the International Space Station.

Chicago, Illinois, is home to roughly three million people, but the wider metropolitan area includes nearly 10 million. By day (top), the cement-colored urban center of the city blends almost imperceptibly into the gray-green colors of suburbs and then farmland. By night (lower), the region’s ten million people cannot be missed. ISS007-E-16747 (top) was taken on October 8, 2003, with a 50 mm lens. ISS007-E-16525 (bottom) was taken on October 7, 2003, with a 50 mm lens.

Chicago by night, from the International Space Station.

At night however, city lights present the space observer spectacular evidence of our existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment.

A few years ago, NASA and NOAA joined forces to present the first world map of the nighttime Earth using 9 months of data collected by the DMSP (Defense Meteorological Satellite Program) satellite from an altitude of 830 kilometers (1 kilometer is 0.62 miles) above Earth. That “Night Lights” map, widely distributed on the Internet, helped many people visualize the world’s distribution of people and cities.

Astronauts circling the Earth have the wonderful vantage point of observing the nighttime Earth from 350-400 kilometers above the surface, taking in whole regions at once. Onboard cameras and a bit of experimentation allow astronauts to take highly detailed images of our cities at night and share them with the rest of us.

Port of Long Beach at night. Photograph from the International Space Station.

Orange sodium vapor lights illuminate the port facilities of Long Beach, California, supporting the round-the-clock operations of one of the world’s busiest commercial cargo ports. Image ISS016-E-27162 was taken on February 4, 2008, using the 400 mm lens, providing superior resolution.

But taking pictures in the dark is difficult at best, made even more difficult by the fact that the International Space Station moves more than 7 kilometers per second (15,659 miles per hour) relative to Earth’s surface. With daylight illumination, an onboard camera can be set to take an image with an exposure time of just 1/500 of a second. With the Earth’s surface in darkness, night images of cities require much longer exposure times. As the Space Station (or Space Shuttle) flies over Earth, however, the city the astronaut is trying to photograph will move across the camera’s field of view while the shutter is open—a recipe for blurry images. The longer the exposure, the more motion blurring there will be.

Don Pettit assembling the barn door tracker aboard the International Space Station.

Don Pettit built and installed a “barn-door tracker” to enable him to take nighttime photographs from the International Space Station. Astronauts use the tracker to keep a camera steady during long exposures while the station moves above the Earth’s surface. Image ISS006-E-44299 was taken on April 5, 2003.

In late 2002 and early 2003, astronaut Don Pettit, part of International Space Station Expedition 6, spent some time accumulating spare parts from around the space station, and constructed a device called a barn-door tracker. A barn-door tracker is a camera mount commonly used by astronomers and photographers on the ground to capture images of stars and planets in the night sky. The camera is mounted on a hinged platform that can be moved very slowly and precisely (by turning a knob). On the ground, the device allows photographers to compensate for the rotation of the Earth relative to the stars. In space, it allows astronauts to compensate for the movement of the Space Station relative to the Earth below. The careful coordination keeps the targeted city in the same position in the camera’s field of view during the long exposure, even though both the station and Earth’s surface are moving.

Pettit’s tracker and nighttime photography techniques produced hundreds of images of cities from around the world that had estimated resolutions (level of detail) of about 60 meters. Since then, a few other crew members have been able to successfully master night photography techniques. In late 2007 through early 2008, Expedition 16 Flight Engineer Dan Tani acquired a number of striking images of cities at night, including some exciting images taken with the longer, 400 mm lens, producing images with an estimated ground resolution of less than 10 meters.

Astronaut Dan Tani on an EVA during the Expedition 16 International Space Station mission.

Dan Tani, recently aboard the International Space Station as a member of Expedition 16, extended Don Pettit’s techniques for photographing city lights. He has taken nighttime photographs with a resolution of better than 10 meters (about the length of a bus) using a 400 mm lens. Image ISS016-E-026454 was taken on January 30, 2008.

Recently, Don Pettit assembled a sequence of several of the most striking images of city lights at night into an animated “world tour” [high-resolution (126 MB MPEG), web-resolution (39 MB QuickTime)] of cities at night (script). This video, produced entirely by Pettit, takes you on a quick trip comparing cities from different regions, all viewed from the International Space Station.

From a geographic perspective, cities at night tell different stories about a region. City lights provide sharp boundaries that delineate the densest concentrations of people, a characteristic that has been used to assess the effect of urbanization on Earth’s ecosystems. The increased detail of city lights available from astronaut photography can help refine urban boundaries defined from satellite data. Transportation corridors and major commercial development, such as ports, shopping centers, and cultural icons—like the Las Vegas strip—jump out of the landscape.

Las Vegas strip at night, from the International Space Station.

The “Vegas Strip” of casinos and hotels—reputed to be the brightest spot on Earth—stands out in the center of this image due to both its brightness and its diversity of light colors. Image ISS016-E-27168 was taken on February 4, 2008, using the 400 mm lens.

In many cities, neighborhoods of different generations can be distinguished by the lighting color and patterns along their streets. In many North American cities, older neighborhoods have less regular street patterns and light green mercury vapor lighting, while newer cities, especially in the western United States, have street patterns aligned to the compass directions and use orange sodium vapor lighting. The major Denver street patterns are rectilinear, aligned north-south and east-west.

Denver at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

The streets of Denver, Colorado, are aligned with the cardinal directions. Image ISS016-E-26150 was taken on January 31, 2008, with an 85 mm lens.

Cities from different regions of the Earth are also identified by differences in their nighttime lights. Japanese cities glow a cooler blue-green than other regions of the world. Newer developments along the shore of Tokyo Bay are characterized by orange sodium vapor lamps, while the majority of the urban area has light green mercury vapor lamps.

Tokyo at night. Photograph from the International Space Station.

Like many Japanese cities, the night lights of Tokyo, Japan, have a blue-green glow that comes from mercury vapor lighting. Image ISS016-E-27586 was taken on February 5, 2008.

Border cities like Ciudad Juaréz, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas, illustrate different city patterns side-by-side, suggesting cultural influences on the development and growth of cities and infrastructure. Ciudad Juaréz, supports at least 1,300,000 people. On the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, El Paso is marked by the brightly-lit Interstate Highway I-10 that cuts across the city. Although the area of El Paso, with an estimated population of slightly more than 600,000 is roughly on the order of the area of built-up Ciudad Juaréz, the density of settlement evidenced by the distribution of lights, is much less.

El Paso, Texas and Juaréz Mexico at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

More densely populated Ciudad Juaréz, Mexico, is separated from El Paso, Texas, by the Rio Grande. Image ISS006-E-44123 was taken on April 7, 2003, with an 85 mm lens.

The rapid growth in Jiddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia can be mapped from the lighting patterns, and the road connecting them stands out as a bright string in the surrounding dark desert.

Mecca and Jidah at night. Photograph taken from the International Space Station.

What’s next? Earth is becoming an urban planet. As more and more people move to cities, and the surrounding rural and suburban areas are increasingly developed, the pattern of lights in cities around the world will change. Individual city footprints will coalesce into ever larger bright blobs. More roads will connect those cities to form an illuminated, lace-like web on the habitable parts of the continents. Nighttime photographs from astronauts on upcoming missions will document these changes, providing dramatic illustrations for the continuing story of humanity’s footprints on the Earth.

Astronaut photographs are provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment, and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The images in this article have been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Text and captions by Cynthia A. Evans and William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.

Jeans World Map (Vlad Studio)

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Looking for a busy desktop picture / wallpaper to impress the coworkers? Try this map art from Vlad Studio featuring a denim fabric and selected country boundaries stitched in. Many sizes and resolutions for a variety of displays including dual monitors. Thanks Curt!

Download from Vlad Studio . . .

The Debt Trap (NY Times)

Monday, September 29th, 2008

The New York Times has a great collection of interactive graphics and other multimedia and articles explaining the background of the financial crisis. This package was put together before this last fortnight’s market tourmoil, but still a good read.

Topics include:

Home Equity Loans

Rise of Credit Spreads Worldwide Outside US

Debt Hitting Home Across Classes and Ages

Calculator to Determine Your Personal Debt Load and How it Compares with Average

View the Debt Trap at . . .

MAP: Tropical Storm Hanna (Kelso)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: I produced this mashup in real time for The Washington Post a couple weekend’s ago when Hurricane Hanna blew into the DC area as a tropical storm. This mashup was the main graphic lead on the homepage for a couple hours. A week later, the Houston Chronicle pulled off a similar exercise for Gustov.]

View and interact with the original on

legendThis mashup tracked flooding, road closures, major power outages, and other storm related events across the Washington, D.C. metro area on Saturday, Sept. 6.

The live map was last updated at 7:05 pm. and shows conditions at that time. No further updates will be provided.

Follow Hurricane Hanna at Capital Weather Gang blog. View flooding status of regional rivers from USGS.

SOURCES: Staff reports; Power outages: PEPCO, BGE, SMECO and Dominion; Road conditions:, Maryland CHART, Fairfax. Interactive by Nathaniel V. Kelso and Dita Smith -The Washington Post.

First published Sept. 6, 2008. Last updated Sept. 6, 2008 at 7:05 p.m.

Don’t Assume North is Up! (Kelso)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

When the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was destroyed (read more) with a car bomb on my Saturday work shift (Sept. 20, 2008), killing dozens, I had to scramble to find source material locating the hotel in the downtown government district.

Problem was, none of the maps I found matched what I was seeing in Google Maps satellite view! It turns out Pakistani cartographers have a convention to rotate the orientation of these map so their capital’s streets are horizontal and vertical rather than at ~30° off north. This might maximize scale to the printable area, but most of the maps didn’t even have a north arrow!

The BBC had a custom map up before The Washington Post, but at least ours is “north up”.

The Washington Post:


Google Maps Satellite view:

Continuing Illustrator CS4 Coverage (Mordy Golding+)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

[Editor’s note: Mordy Golding has comprehensive coverage of what Illustrator CS4 means for you. Mordy used to work at Adobe and is still dialed in. He also has video tutorials showing off these features over at Layers magazine has additional coverage showing off the artboards (multiple pages) in action. As I mentioned yesterday, come to Missoula and learn more from the Adobe reps who will be at the NACIS PCD session. If you have not updated since CS2, this is your upgrade.

My top improvements:

  1. Text on Path now fixed like in pre-CS. Have beautiful map labels, again!
  2. Appearance panel more like Freehand: edit attributes directly instead of in 5 different panels!
  3. Isolation Mode works on most objects.
  4. Multiple “artboards” or pages; more flexible but also vexing.

Now for the longer feature summary…]

Republished in vastly abbreviated form in part from Real World Illustrator. Posted there Sept. 22, 2008.


Multiple Artboards. The number one feature request of all time, multiple artboards have finally arrived in Illustrator. Notice the phrase is multiple artboards, not multiple pages.

Blob Brush. Illustrator sports a new brush, named “Blob”. Based on the Calligraphic brush, the Blob brush is pressure sensitive, allowing you to draw expressive artwork with variable thick and thins.


Common Adobe User Interface. Illustrator CS3 featured a new user interface, but apparently it was just a stepping stone to get to what is now truly a common user interface for Adobe applications.

Gradients. There are several major enhancements to gradients in this release. At the top of the list is a long-time request – transparency support. Each gradient stop now has an opacity slider (similar to the Alpha value in Flash).

Clipping Masks. One of the biggest complaints about the masking features in Illustrator has been that when artwork is clipped, you can still select that artwork—even if it isn’t visible. In Illustrator CS4, masked artwork is now truly hidden—from view and from your selection tool. However, this new functionality is only in place for clipping masks, not for layer clipping masks.

Appearance panel 1. A long-standing feature request has been to add eyeballs to the Appearance panel, to allow users to hide or show effects without having to necessarily delete them.

Appearance panel 2. You can now edit and apply attributes and effects directly through the Appearance panel. That means you can change fill and stroke colors, change stroke weights and dashes, add and edit effects, and more, all directly from the Appearance panel. [Ed: Even when the objects only share 1 common attribute, that attribute will be shown and editable.]

Graphic Styles. Two key enhancements here: Graphic Styles can now be added, in a non-destructive way, to objects. Meaning you can now cumulatively apply multiple graphic styles, and each one is simply added to the graphic, rather than replacing the existing attributes. In addition, graphic styles can be created “headless”, meaning a style can contain just an effect and no fill or stroke attributes.


Smart Guides. Remember back when Smart Guides was introduced? Remember how quickly you turned them off? In the past, Smart Guides were more of a nuisance than otherwise. That’s changed now. Smart Guides are more refined.

Snapping Behavior. This is a big little thing that no one will talk about. When Smart Guides are turned on, Illustrator has the ability to snap OBJECTS to each other.

Isolation Mode. [Ed: CS4 allows almost any object to be isolated with a double click. Truly amazing!]

Alignment. Defining key objects is now simple and clear, and small modifications to the align functions make errors appear less frequently. Basically, the Align functions are now much easier to understand and use.

Bleed. Yes, you read that correctly. In addition to multiple artboard support, you can also specify bleed for your documents.

Pathfinder. Now, in CS4, applying a shape mode with Pathfinder creates an expanded shape, and you need to use the Option (Alt) key to create a live compound shape.

Text on Path Issues. Cartographers complained bitterly since Illustrator CS was released that text on a path looked horrible. Kerning and typesetting along a path got a significant downgrade when the new text engine appeared. Now, in CS4, text on a path looks great.

Improved tablet support.

Drag Images from Web Browser directly into Document.

Filter Menu. The Filter menu is now gone. Anything that used to be in that menu has either been moved out or relocated [ed- and been made a live effect].

Enhanced TIFF file format support.

Offset path fixed. Illustrator CS3 “featured” a well-documented issue with the Offset Path command, where extra anchor points were unnecessarily added. This issue is fixed in CS4.


Separation Preview.

Color Blindness Proofing. [Ed-like Color Oracle but real time in Illustrator. I still need to compare results.]

FXG Support. I’ll talk a lot more about this in the coming days, but FXG (Flex Exchange Graphic) is a new file format that can be used with Adobe’s much-anticipated Thermo application.

Gesture Support. [Ed-on newer Apple laptops.]

New Templates and Content. First, the templates have been updated to take advantage of multiple artboards. Also, Adobe has commissioned some GREAT artists who have not only created sample files, but who have also included PDF documents showing HOW they created the sample files.

Online Services. Three specific things come to CS4: Connect Now is a service that allows you to share your screen with others, and is basically a Lite version of Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro. Kuler, Adobe’s community built around color. Finally, each CS4 application now features a Search field directly in the user interface, allowing you to search Adobe’s help files, but more importantly, other articles on the web as well. Adobe actually licensed Google technology for this, and you can almost think of it as Google for Adobe products.

Continue reading the much more indepth review over at Real World Illustrator . . .

Adobe brings multiple artboards to Illustrator (Macworld)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

[Here’s the scoop on the CS4 version of Illustrator. Tune into today’s screencast, view the product sheet, promo videos, or attend the Adobe session at the NACIS PCD mapping conference in Missoula to learn more and see the new application in action. Bottom line: if you’ve been stuck on CS2, now is the time to upgrade, especially for closet Freehand users! Republished from]

By Jim Dalrymple, Sep 22, 2008.

Among the applications updated in Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 is Illustrator, the company’s oldest software application. While a lot of effort was put into further integration between Illustrator and the other CS4 apps, Adobe also focused on several new features for the latest version of its illustration application.

Among those additions is the ability to have multiple artboards. This allows designers to have work areas of varying sizes, all within the same document. That eliminates the need for page tiling.

You can arrange up to 100 artboards any way you want—tiled, overlapping or freeform. Artboards can be exports as a single multipage PDF or as a series of numbered pages.

Illustrator CS4 also introduces transparency in gradients. Because of Illustrator’s integration with other CS4 apps, any transparency in gradients that you make in the drawing application can also be used in Photoshop Extended, Flash Professional, InDesign, and Fireworks.

David Macy, Illustrator’s senior product manager, describes the new Blob Brush tool as “a new way to do vector painting.” The Blob Brush allows you to sketch objects without worrying about overlaps—it will merge your paths into a single selectable object.

The new Blob Brush tool in Illustrator CS4 merges paths into a single selectable object, letting users sketch away.

Adobe says it improved the isolation mode in this release, adding support for more object types including compound paths, gradient mesh objects, images, and clipping masks. This mode also features selectable breadcrumbs, so you can easily see an icon in the breadcrumb trail of what you are working on. Icons in the breadcrumb trail represent the Layer, Group, Symbol, Path, or Image.

Designers now have the ability to edit object characteristics from within the Appearance panel. The new panel shows attributes for single and multiple objects—such as fill or stroke color—that can be edited by clicking on the attribute. Illustratos can even make edits that are shared among objects.

Illustrator has a new option called Same Appearance that will allow you to choose objects in your artwork that have certain attributes in common. With similar objects selected, you can edit attributes of the objects from the Appearance panel all at once.

Adobe Illustrator CS4 will ship in October for $599. Owners of Illustrator CS3, Illustrator CS2, or Illustrator CS can upgrade to Adobe Illustrator CS4 for $199. Adobe is also offering owners of FreeHand 9, 10, or MX, and owners of CorelDRAW an option to purchase Illustrator. Those users can switch to Illustrator CS4 for $199.

Illustrator is part of the Creative Suite 4 Design Premium ($1799), Web Premium ($1699), Production Premium ($1699), and the Creative Suite 4 Master Collection ($2499).