Day 17: Printable Planner Kit – ETP-style Editable Source

Day 17: Printable Planner Kit – ETP-style Editable Source

Editable ETP Source I recently read that Apple is not afraid of cannibalizing its own sales. This was the nudge behind today’s product-of-the-day: a printable planner kit that is allows advanced users to create Emergent Task Planner variants for their own use.

Although Apple doesn’t fear cannibalization, they do have more resources than I to battle the hordes of counterfeiters and credit-stealers that inhabit my fertile imagination. Why would I willingly provide the keys to some of my most popular tools?

I really don’t have a good business case for doing this, but I probably am less at-risk than I think. The feeling that someone will deliberately rip-me-off fills me with rage, but I don’t know if this will happen. I like to believe that people are largely good, and perhaps making some source available will create opportunities as yet unimagined. I’m willing to run this experiment for a month and see what happens. The truth is: my design work has always been vulnerable, the way every artist’s work is vulnerable. Ideas are easy to copy, and they are not protected under copyright or patent. Only specific implementations are protected, at least here in the United States. The work doesn’t stop with having the idea, after all. The idea is the easiest part! It’s the execution, engineering, refinement, and experience that gets us over the hump in the long run. In my case, the long-term play is to be recognized as the SOURCE of ideas, not a provider of a specific commodity. Or so I tell myself…this product still makes me nervous! But I will explore its ramifications…there, it’s up:

I’m providing a modified version of the full-size Emergent Task Planner that uses the DejaVu and Chunk fonts, which can be redistributed. Otherwise, you’d need to buy a license of Proxima Nova Condensed for $250. The templates are available currently only in US Letter Color, but I will be adding Black and White and A4 sizes to the package at a later date.

For editing, you’ll need a vector illustration program. Adobe Illustrator, the ubiquitous commercial package, that retails for $599 by itself or $19/month. If you’re a student, you can get it for significantly less using available educational discounts. For the totally free option, use Inkscape, the open-source vector editing program. Both formats are included in the download.

When it’s time to create PDF files, you can give CutePDF Writer a try on Windows; Macintoshes should be able to generate PDFs already through the built-in printing system. If you have money to burn, buy yourself a license of Acrobat.

Now for the hard part: learning how to use these programs.

They’re not simple to learn, so unless you are motivated to spend many hours learning how to use them, I don’t recommend purchasing the template pack.

Here’s a quick preview of Illustrator:

Illustrator Editing Screen And of Inkscape:

Inkscape Editing Screen You’ve been warned! Now…I’m curious to see what happens, if anything. On a side note, it took about 6 hours to pull this all together…most of it spent nailing down how Inkscape works (which I don’t use at all), fonts, thinking about licensing, and uploading a package to gumroad.

Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2014

I am challenging myself to create a new product every day for the month of February 2013. The Challenge Page lists all the products in one place. Check it out!


  1. Shannon Garcia 11 years ago

    Way cool! If/when I think if a specific kind of form to make I will pick this up… then it could match my dailies.

  2. Federico Figueredo 11 years ago

    This is exactly the kind of thing that can become useful for designers. I’ve always found that reverse engineering a good product is a great way to understand many of the decisions that went into its making.

    I want to support this but price is a concern (in particular because I don’t think I’ll use it.) For now, I’m going to share this with the designers (some of them in training) I know in hopes I fetching you a few more prospects.

    Keep up the good work Dave… it’s a little embarrasing that you can churn these out faster than I can keep up with the blog posts, but I’ll deal ;)

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 11 years ago

    Federico: That’s an interesting application…I didn’t think of that! The reason it’s priced high is because it’s THE ACTUAL DESIGN of the ETP (minus fonts), for people who want to go that extra step in adapting it. It makes me very uncomfortable (which is why I’m trying it to see what happens).

    What I CAN make at a lower price point is just a “forms design 101” template, for designers who want to learn some basic setup. That can be another product-of-the-day…thanks for the feedback!

    I will probably take this product down after the month.

  4. Federico Figueredo 11 years ago

    Dave: Oh no no… that is not what I meant.

    Considering you’re giving for what amounts to the price of a little more than an hour of design work and taking into account this is unlikely to sell as many copies as the regular ETPs I think the pricing is just fine. It’s just more that what I can pay for something I don’t think I’ll use right now :)

    Having said that I think your “forms design 101” idea is extremely interesting. One question that comes to mind is: do you know how much of your readership is comprised by designers/designers-to-be? Is there any way to find how valuable these folks are as potential customers?

    PS: What is it exactly that makes your uncomfortable?

  5. Warren 11 years ago

    Rather than purchase this, I spent an enjoyable evening last night in Illustrator CS3 hacking away on the DBG and tinkering with things. I have no Illustrator experience, but it was fun. I would love a “forms design 101” template.

    What version of Illustrator do I need to edit these templates?

  6. m ross 11 years ago

    why can’t you just put a version Google Docs for fans who don’t use Windows-ware?

  7. Author
    Dave Seah 11 years ago

    Federico: I think the market is quite small for form designers. For information graphics, though? Maybe a lot higher. However, that is something that I’m not sure can be readily taught without a couple hundred hours of course preparation to make it a compelling product, based on my past teaching experience. However, a form design kit template might work, but the very thought of it bothers me because there is so much tuning that goes into the making of a form. I’ll keep thinking about it, though. Perhaps there’s just a core set of insights that can be explained, and that’s doable.

    Regarding your PS question: I don’t really like the idea of people modifying my design work, that’s all. I’m also not sure that this package provides any utility to anyone other than another graphic designer who, theoretically, should be able to make their own form. I can imagine all kinds of nefarious uses from unscrupulous business people adapting it toward their own ends. Why make it easier for them? But that’s the kind of negative thinking that I’m trying to cure myself of, so that’s why I released this to see what would happen.

    This conversation is proof that it was worth doing. I think I see that a better product would be a form construction kit. That’s beyond product-of-the-day scope, but it could be a future product and market.

  8. Author
    Dave Seah 11 years ago

    warren: These requires CS4 or CS6, and InkScape whatever-the-current-version-is. I could save them as CS3 I suppose and upgrade the package. But I think it’s even more awesome that you dove in the DGB source and fooled around! Maybe that is the direction this should go…illustrator activity packs :)

    m ross: Google Docs has limited capabilities compared to Illustrator and even Inkscape, so it wouldn’t be the same. Illustrator and Inkscape are for the Mac too. And if you are a Linux user, Inkscape also runs on that.

  9. Paul Galliford 11 years ago

    Hi Dave, I’m really enjoying your challenge posts. Do you recommend any resources in particular for someone wanting to start learning Illustrator? Maybe one of your Illustrator activity packs could outline some basics?

  10. Author
    Dave Seah 11 years ago

    Paul: You might look into a place like, which will give you access to a lot of videos. It’s for pay, though. YouTube probably would give some similar options, but it takes some effort to weed-out the good videos from the bad.

    Illustrator is a pretty complex program, and I use a small subset of what it’s capable of. My training started with Freehand 4.0 in 1993, and involved learning how to draw shapes with the pen tool, making selections, and adjusting points. I moved to Illustrator sometime in 2005 when Freehand was killed, but what I learned from the basics carried over. I wonder if I can recreate the learning experience I went through. It would be terrible for anyone who wanted to master Illustrator to do actual illustration, but maybe it’s enough. Will have to think about that!

  11. Kevin O'Shea 11 years ago


    Sometimes, I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Or perhaps, in this case, my excessive exuberance overwhelmed my careful reading skills.

    I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw that you were selling Editable Source for your time/task management forms. I’m a lawyer, and I love the ETT, but as you know, (many, if not most) lawyers bill in 6 minute increments.

    And, although I’m appreciative of the effort you put in to create the 2013 Legal 6-Minute Time Tracker, the legal size paper and the font size reductions necessary to get it all on one page, don’t really work for me.

    I have been thinking of a simple modification of the ETT01 Color or ETT02 Wide Color that would adapt it for legal/6 minute use on an 8 x 11 page. (In my prior life, I used to design CD covers/inserts, so I thought I could do it.)

    So, when I saw that you were selling Editable Source, I bought a copy right away, not realizing I was buying the ETP, not the ETT. (Life lesson: read twice, click once.)

    Long story short, would you be inclined to sell an Editable Source version of the ETT? Or, perhaps, is this type of request better suited for one of your Live Design Form Customization Sessions

    Just wondering,


    PS. Keep up the good work.

  12. Steve 11 years ago

    I too would love to see a “Forms Design 101” template.