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Working with Master Spreads in Adobe InDesign CS3

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Olav Martin Kvern and David Blatner explain how to use Master spreads (also called master pages), which are the background on which you lay out your publication’s pages.
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Working with Master Spreads

Master spreads (also called master pages) are the background on which you lay out your publication’s pages. When you assign a master spread to a document page, InDesign applies the margin and column settings of the master spread to the page. Any page items on the master spread also appear on the document page, on the layers they occupy on the master spread. Master page items cannot be edited on document pages unless you choose to override the items from the master pages (see “Overriding Master Items”).

You lay out master spreads using the same techniques you use to lay out document pages. Repeating page elements, such as page numbers, headers and footers, and background images, are all great candidates for master spread page items.

InDesign Is Not QuarkXPress

If you’re a long-time QuarkXPress user, you’re probably familiar with the technique of putting items on master pages to use as a “template” for document pages. Each time you create a new document page, you click on the master page items to copy them to the page.

While you can use this approach in InDesign, it does not work the same way as it does in QuarkXPress. Using the master page as a kind of alternative to the Clipboard just doesn’t work very well in InDesign, because master page items bear a different relationship to document pages than they do in QuarkXPress (in brief: the links between master page items and the overridden instances of those items is much tighter). If we need to store commonly-used, but not repeating, page items, we use InDesign snippets or the Library feature.

In general, you should put items on master pages that you do not expect to override on document pages. Because InDesign can flow text into the area defined by the margins (a feature QuarkXPress lacks), even master text frames are not needed.

Creating Master Spreads

To create a new master spread, use any of the following techniques:

Importing Master Spreads

You can also import master spreads from another InDesign document. To do this, choose Load Master Pages from the Pages panel menu. InDesign displays the Open A File dialog box. Locate and select an InDesign document, and click the OK button.

If the document includes master pages with the same name as master pages in the current document, InDesign displays the Load Master Pages Alert dialog box (see Figure 2-23). You can replace the existing master spreads, or rename the incoming master spreads.

If you re-import master spreads from the same document at a later date, InDesign will update the master spreads. This gives you a way to “synchronize” master spreads between documents without having to use the Book feature.

Basing One Master Spread on Another

Imagine that you produce a catalog, and that, over the course of a year, you produce seasonal issues of the catalog. The basic design elements—the section, margins, columns, and page numbering—remain the same throughout the year, but the colors used, and the page footers change with each issue. Do you have to create a new set of master spreads for each issue? Not when you have InDesign’s ability to base a master spread on another master spread, you don’t.

When you base a new master spread on an existing master spread, the new master inherits the properties of the existing master spread. We refer to the relationship between the original style and the new style as a “parent/child” relationship. Once you’ve applied a master spread to another master spread, you can add to it or work with (override) page elements on the pages of the “child” spread, just as you can from any document page (see “Overriding Master Items,” below).

Here’s how inheritance works: When you change any of the attributes defined by the “parent” spread, those changes appear in the “child” spread. When the attributes between a “child” spread and its “parent” spread differ, those attributes are controlled by the “child” spread. Take a look at the (somewhat overwrought) example in Figure 2-24 on the next page, and you’ll see what we mean.

You can base one master page on another by picking a master page from the Based on Master pop-up menu in the New Master dialog box. Or drag the parent master on top of the child master in the Pages panel.

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