gX goes PDF

Written by Nick Shinn on July 16, 2004

Canadian computer graphics magazine Graphic Exchange has switched to landscape format and launched a rich-media PDF doppelganger, a world first.

Now subscribers can read the big old print version for high-res, and also download the PDF version that lets one explore VR images, play videos, and follow Web links.

Key to the feasibility of the format is the seamless way the PDF opens up full-screen, without displaying the Acrobat interface, and the way that Quicktime runs “in document” without its own separate window.

In full-screen mode on a large monitor, and without the usual peripheral clutter, the basic layout’s four columns of type works surprisingly well.

There are a few custom navigation controls, but it’s mostly intuitive, and familiar key commands such as “page down” are functional.

Clicking on web links, however, takes one out of the document and into a standard browser display.

The PDF comes in several flavors, from the “deluxe” stand-alone 92mb option, to a smaller file that streams in video content, to a still smaller version for pre-Acrobat 6 and dial-up speed.

Canadian type designer Nick Shinn, R.G.D. grew up in Barton-le-Clay, England, and now lives in Orangeville, Ontario. He went into the font business full time in 1998 with Shinntype. He has written for magazines such as Eye and Codex, and spoken at the ATypI, TypeCon, TYPO Berlin and TYPO San Francisco conferences.


  1. Hrant says:

    Killer move!
    The best of luck to them.

    There’s a problem though:
    Readability’s too low.
    Electra’s gotta go.


  2. mGee says:

    Atrocious design and typography. I also can’t stand when something takes over my screen.

  3. No comment on the design, but I actually prefer viewing this full-screen, even though normally I don’t like web sites and such that do that.

    When I first looked at it, I downloaded the low-end version and viewed it in Apple’s Preview app in a window. I couldn’t make the window big enough to view it well, what with the menu bar and window elements taking up screen real estate. When I viewed it in Acrobat, and it went full-screen, I just thought, oh–now I can see it.

    I also thought that integrating the multimedia elements worked well. If this was a print publication, there would be some text saying “go to our website/CD-ROM to see this video.” Being able to just click on a picture and have the video play in the same spot is much more direct.

  4. nick shinn says:

    Mgee, you just have to get used to “Command l” as the toggle for use when viewing PDFs — it makes the monitor more of an e-book, and less of a desktop.

    Hrant, I agree with you about Electra — the fat horizontal stroke on the “g” is a real blotch on my monitor. I don’t find the type in the PDF version of InDesign magazine any better — but of course I am viewing through the blurry haze of OS X.

    I had suggested to the publisher of GX that he use Base for the text type, but he wanted to stick with Electra, which has been used in the print version for a while, and has a very “classy” high-res look to it.

  5. Hrant says:

    There is a nice compromise though – and I offered my services to them to do it: use Electra for the print edition; make a uniwidth version of Electra that’s more open and larger on the body; use that for the PDFs. You strike a better balance between style and function, with virtually no extra effort to make the PDF edition – just switch the font (the linebreaks don’t change).


  6. Dan Brill says:

    My addendum to these comments:

    I have had exactly one complaint about the readability of the type…(thank you, Hrant). However, I am open to exploring the idea of a modified Electra. It was my position that if I wanted to maintain the same feel and look as the print version, which in my opinion is a key component of the overall publishing model, then changing the font for the screen version was not an option. On my LaCie monitor it is as readable as any other font. On a 15″ laptop, it is also quite readable.

    As Nick points out, Command-L escapes from Full Screen mode; however, we also included a tool (the double-headed arrow) in our navigation bar which does this. Full screen presentation is a remarkably effective way to create a very different experience than viewing within the confines of a browser window, and becomes especially impressive when looking at something like the 360-degree VR panorama of Time Square by Jook Leung.

    As for Mgee’s “atrocious design and typography”…if this is what you call “atrocious”, it doesn’t leave you a lot of room to describe something ~truly~ atrocious, does it?

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