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Best Practices for Paragraph Designer Settings

In this section, I review some FrameMaker Paragraph Designer Property techniques and the challenges they typically present in everyday tasks. Although I don't discuss each setting, I present you with the information you need to work through some of the trickier Designer Property features.

Working with As Is Checkboxes

FrameMaker's As Is setting is a tricky feature that can appear in Paragraph Designer check boxes. For example, if a check box setting is turned on and you want to turn it off, you would normally click the check box one time. Clicking the check box one time changes the setting to As Is, which is indicated by a grayed-out check box. You have to click the check box two times in order to change the selection to the state that you want (in this case, Off).

Examine a simple example of how mistakes happen with As Is. Suppose you have the Body paragraph tag set up with the Hyphenation setting turned on in Advanced properties, and you want to turn off Hyphenation for all paragraphs tagged with Body. If you were to click the Hyphenate setting one time and then click Update All Formats Tagged Body, it would have no effect because that selection is As Is, and it indicates that you are leaving Hyphenation in its current state. You must click two times on the check box to turn this selection to the Off position.

Basic Properties

Space Above and Below Pgf

This is a must-use feature in FrameMaker. If you are accustomed to pressing the Enter key on the keyboard to skip lines, switch to this method instead. Space Above adds a fixed space above the current paragraph. Space Below adds a fixed space below a paragraph.

Here's how spacing works in documents. If a paragraph that appears first includes 8pt space below, and the next paragraph includes 10pt above, the spacing is whichever is greatest—in this case, 10pt.

The best reason for staying away from pressing the Enter key to skip lines is that paragraph tags are used along with other FrameMaker features, such as variables, generated lists, and cross-references. If you press Enter to skip a line, that line is now an empty paragraph return with a paragraph tag name. If that same paragraph tag name is used in other features, you end up with lots of errors in documents.


If your generated lists are created with empty lines and accompanying page numbers, usually empty paragraph returns are the culprit. Stick with Space Above and Space Below.

Tab Stops

Many word processing applications use relative tab stops. Simply put, users can press the Tab key more than once to move text along repeating tab stops. FrameMaker uses absolute tab stops. The nth tab on a line moves to the nth tab stop. Therefore, if you hit the Tab key or include an automatic tab in paragraph text, the tab does not have a location to move to until you provide a tab location. To take this example a step further, if you were to hit the Tab key two times and set just one tab location, the second tab in paragraph text would have no location to move to.

Next Pgf Tag

This feature comes in handy, and saves you time if paragraphs formatted with one paragraph tag are always followed by another particular paragraph tag. Let's say that you use paragraph tag N1 to begin a numbered list. The next paragraph is tagged with N+, a paragraph tag that continues the numbered list with a counter in the Numbering property. Use the pull-down menu to set the Next Pgf Tag of N1 to N+. With your insertion cursor at the end of a line tagged with N1, press the Enter key to create a new paragraph, and it's automatically formatted with N+. If this feature is turned off, pressing the Enter key at the end of a line forces the next paragraph to the same paragraph tag.

Line Spacing

Line spacing determines the amount of space between lines within a paragraph. You can easily choose the default single, 1.5, or double-spacing available from the Line Spacing pull-down menu. With FrameMaker, you don't have to go with the default offerings; you can get any spacing you like. Rather than making a selection from the pull-down menu, select the line spacing field and just type the number you want for line spacing.

A good rule of thumb for line spacing is one or two points larger than the font size. As an example, for 12-point text, use a line spacing of 14-point.

If you ever wondered what the Fixed selection does for your paragraph text, wonder no more! It's an important feature that either fixes or not the amount of line spacing between paragraph lines, regardless of items within the line that don't fit within the normal line height.

Let's say that you include an inline math equation in paragraph text. If you turn on Fixed, the line with the math equation continues with the same line spacing as the other lines in the paragraph. This causes the math equation to appear crushed between two lines. With Fixed turned off, this same line allows for more line spacing to accommodate the math equation, as seen in Figure 3. If you include footnotes in paragraph text, you get the same line spacing results with Fixed turned on or off. Try it and see for yourself.

Figure 3 The result of the difference between paragraphs with Fixed turned on and off.


Widow/Orphan Lines

Have you dealt with widow or orphan lines in documents? If so, you're not alone. This happens when a couple of paragraph lines appear alone at the top or bottom of a page. The Widow/Orphan setting allows you to control the minimum number of lines that can appear on their own at the top or bottom of a page.

Here's how it works. Let's say a paragraph cannot fit entirely on a page. If you type the number 2 in the Widow/Orphan field, the bulk of the paragraph can appear on one page, with a minimum of two lines alone on the next page.

What happens if you don't want any widow/orphan lines at all? If you've ever tried to type 0 (zero) in the widow/orphan field, you already know that does not work. In FrameMaker, you must type a high number, such as 100, in that field. A high number provides the same effect as typing 0 (zero) in other applications.

Use this feature on a case-by-case basis. In other words, you don't want all paragraph text tagged with Body to have no widow/orphan lines. This may cause strange spacing throughout your document. Wait until you are near the final document production stage, and look for those culprit paragraphs with strangler lines that detract from the rhythm of the document. When you find one, just click in the paragraph, change the Widow/Orphan settings in the Paragraph Designer pagination property, and use the Apply To Selection button to fix it.

Table Cell

The Table Designer allows you to specify Default Cell Margins for each table. The Default Cell Margins refer to the space between text and the top, bottom, left, and right edge of the table cell.

If you want to change that spacing for one table cell or a series of table cells, but not the rest of the table cell, you must use the Paragraph Designer Table Cell property.

Here is a good example of how and why to use this feature. Let's say that you are working with a table that contains one heading row and four body rows with table cell margins set to 2 for top, bottom, left and right. What if you want just the heading cell margins set to 4 instead? If you change this setting in the Table Designer, the cell margin setting changes to 4 for all the cells in the table. This is where the Paragraph Designer comes in handy. Take a look at how to use it:

  1. Click one time in the heading cell of a table.

  2. Select Format, Paragraphs, Designer; or press Control+M. The Paragraph Designer for CellHeading is displayed.

  3. Click the Table Cell tab (Windows), or select Table Cell from the Properties pull-down menu. The Table Cell page appears.

  4. Select From Table Format Plus, and type 2 in the text field under Cell Margins for Top, Bottom, Left, Right. The Table Designer already has set the margins to 2. If you want the total margin space to be 4, you must subtract 2 from 4, and type the difference in the text field. If you want the spacing to be 6, you type 4 in the text field.

  5. Click Update All to update all paragraphs tagged with CellHeading, or click Apply To Selection if you just want to change selected table cells.

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