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Tools of the Trade

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Have you noticed that we typically identify people's professions by the tools they use? I have only to mention some tool, and a vocation comes to mind: A hammer and nails. A cold stethoscope. A blackboard and chalk. A printing press. We don't think of a hairdresser as standing around waving his arms but, rather, wielding a pair of scissors or a razor.

Every trade has a toolbox with which they must make a living, and you and I are no different. Our toolbox is our computer—or, more specifically, QuarkXPress—and the tools inside are the subject of this chapter. Like all tools, these take some time to learn, and it's not until you really start using them regularly that you begin to learn their secrets.

In the last chapter I primarily talked about QuarkXPress's general interface: this does this, that does that. Now my emphasis shifts toward the practical. Let's look at each tool on the Tool palette in turn.

Items and Contents

If you only learn one thing from this chapter, it should be the difference between items and contents. This is a concept that some people find difficult to understand, but it is really pretty simple. Moreover, the concept of items and contents is central to working efficiently in QuarkXPress.

Let's take it from the beginning. In order to put text on a page, you must place it in a text box. To put a graphic image on a page, you must place it in a picture box. Text boxes act as a sort of corral that holds all the words. There's almost no way a word can get outside the bounds of a text box. Picture boxes act as a sort of window through which you can see a picture. In both cases, the content of the box is different from the box itself.

Boxes are items. What goes inside them is content. Similarly, a line is an item, and the text you place on it is content. You can modify either one, but you need to use the correct tool at the correct time.

Item tool. The Item tool (or "Pointer tool"; though sometimes it's called by its technical name: "the pointy-thingy"; see Figure 3-1) is the first tool on the Tool palette. It's used for selecting and moving items (picture and text boxes, rules, and so on). You can use the Item tool by either choosing it from the Tool palette or by holding down the Command (Ctrl) key while any other tool is selected (though you can't select or work with multiple items with this Command key trick). I discuss all the things you can do with items later in this chapter, in "Manipulating Items."


Figure 3-1 The Item and Content tools

Content tool. The second tool on the Tool palette is the Content tool (sometimes called the "Hand tool"). This tool is used for adding, deleting, or modifying the contents of a text or picture box or a text path. Note that its palette icon consists of a text-insertion mark and a hand. When you have selected this tool from the Tool palette, XPress turns the cursor into one of these icons, depending on what sort of box you have highlighted (as we see in Chapter 9, Pictures, the hand is for moving images around in a picture box).

Selecting Items

The most basic action you can take with a page item in QuarkXPress is to select it. Once again: To select and modify an item itself, you generally need to use the Item tool. To select and modify the contents of a picture or text box, you need to use the Content tool.

You can select more than one item at a time with either the Item or the Content tool. However, the Content tool acts just like the Item tool when you have two or more items selected (the cursor even changes to the Item tool cursor). There are two ways to select more than one item on your page: Shift-clicking and dragging a marquee.

Shift-click. You can select multiple items by Shift-clicking on them with either the Item or Content tool. If you have more than one item selected and you want to deselect one, you can Shift-click on it again (Shift-clicking acts as a toggle for selecting and deselecting).

Marquee. If you drag with the Item tool, you can select more than one item in one fell swoop. This is called dragging a marquee because QuarkXPress shows you a dotted line around the area that you're dragging over. Every picture box, text box, and line that falls within this marqueed area gets selected, even if the marquee only touches it slightly.

I love the ability to drag a marquee out with the Item tool in order to select multiple objects. It's fast, it's effective, and it picks up everything in its path. However, sometimes it even picks up things you don't want it to pick up. For example, let's say you have an automatic text box on your page and then place some picture boxes on it. If you drag a marquee across the page to select the picture boxes, chances are you'll select the text box, too. You may not notice this at first, but if you group the selection or start dragging it off into a library or someplace else, you'll be taking the text box along for the ride. This spells havoc (press Command/Ctrl-Z to undo the last action).

So, just a quick lesson from people who've been there: Watch out for what you select and group. And if you do select more than you want, remember that you can deselect items by holding down the Shift key and clicking on them.

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