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What kind of software is usually used to create cheatsheets like this one?


How do you get nice boxes and typography? I notice alot of cheat sheets looks similar.

I don't think this can be made with Word or usual word processing software.

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just by looking it i'd say it was created with the new MS office.. just a guess though –  JT.WK Dec 21 '09 at 1:31
If only there was a way to click on a URL and automatically go there... –  sblair Dec 21 '09 at 1:38
it actually can be done with Word, tho i don't know that it's the easiest tool to use. –  quack quixote Feb 27 '10 at 19:24
@sblair: There is, it's called Linkify, FF-AddOn. –  Bobby Jul 7 '10 at 10:41

6 Answers 6

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The type of software that you're looking for is usually referred to as "page layout" or "desktop publishing" software.

If you want to learn more, take a look at the following computer programs:

Page Layout: Adobe InDesign, Quark QuarkXPress, Microsoft Publisher

Illustration: Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, ACDSee Canvas, Xara Xtreme

Word Processing: Microsoft Word, OpenOffice

All of the above can create visual layouts, but there is a wide range of feature differences among them.

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and PDF generation from any of these is possible, either via builtin function, PDF plugin, or an old trick of printing-to-file with a postscript printer driver (and then converting the PS to PDF). –  quack quixote Feb 27 '10 at 19:24

There is various ways to go about doing this.

  • You can create an image (with Adobe Photoshop for example) and convert it to a PDF, or create designs and import them into your PDF document while you're creating it with acrobat or similar.

  • You can create a website and convert it to PDF

  • In Newer versions of Office and the OpenOffice.org suite, most of the applications have the ability to export directly to PDF. You could do the design in almost any of the applications in these suites with your method of choice, then export it as a PDF.

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You can do it fairly easily in excel. Just reduce the size of each cell to a little square. Than you can easly make boxes of various sizes by merging whichever cells you want. This way everything stays well aligned, and you can add text from excel.

Converting it to pdf afterwards is just a matter of using a decent converter. I recommend cutepdfwriter.

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Newer versions of excel can export directly to PDF :) –  John T Dec 21 '09 at 2:17

Looking through the PDF, I saw the line:

5 0 obj<</CreationDate(D:20090226225734Z)/Author(Gareth)/Creator(PScript5.dll Version 5.2)/Pro
ducer(Acrobat Distiller 7.0 \(Windows\))/ModDate(D:20090226225734Z)/Title(BlueprintCSS_v.0.8_c

so technically the creator is Adobe Acrobat Distiller...

Which does suggest that it probably wasn't prepared by anything in MS Office. Adobe InDesign is my guess.

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The Most obvious Choice would be Desktop Publishing (DTP) Software, that is what print professionals tend to use for such tasks. Programs like Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress and Microsoft Publisher focus on the task of grouping the text on the page, drawing boxes around it, and on the general typography. Joe Internet has linked the most important ones already.

There is one more worth noting, and that is TeX. TeX (or one of it's popular derivatives/extensions, like LaTeX) produce professional output on par with the commercial DTP packages, but are completely free and open sourced. The trade of is that they aren't using a visual composition method, using them is more like programming, or writing HTML, though there are graphical editors available. There is no one TeX site, just Google for LaTeX.

Office Word Processors (Word, Open Office) and Graphics Software (Photoshop, Corel Draw, Illustrator, The Gimp) work too, though you won't have as much control over typography. Advantage of Word Processors is that most people have one installed already, and with Graphics software the advatage is better control over the graphical side of the product (diagrams, images and such).

The bottom line is there is no one choice for this task, experiment and use what works best for you.

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For this job I'd usually head for OmniGraffle. It's not what the software was designed to do, but it will do a good job with the built in tables, intelligent snapping etc. and it is very easy to pick up if you don't have to create lots of cheat sheets. It is Mac OS X and iPad only though.

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