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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Item Creation Tools

The name of the QuarkXPress game is page layout, so we'd better start laying out some pages. There are five kinds of items you can put on your page: text box, picture box, contentless box, lines, and text paths. I spend much of the rest of the book discussing how to put content inside these objects and what to do with it once it's there, so I'd better spend some time now exploring the items themselves, how to make them, and how to edit them for your needs.

In this section, I discuss the various tools you can use to create page items. There are more tools than ever in this version of the program, so many that the folks at Quark decided to hide some of them inside popout menus in the Tool palette (see Figure 3-2, as well as "Palettes," in Chapter 2, QuarkXPress Basics, for more information on how to move these tools in and out of the popout menus).


Figure 3-2 The item creation Tool paletteToolslist of alltools

Note that because the Bézier drawing tools have their own set of problems and solutions, I'm going to hold off on discussing them until the next section.

Making Boxes

In earlier versions of XPress, when you wanted a box, you had to clearly specify what kind of box it was—a text box or a picture box—and you had to pick a different tool to create each. And that was it; there was no switching once you had drawn the box. What's more, there were a slew of tools for making different-shaped picture boxes and only one (rectangular) for making text boxes.

But life is better now. XPress offers all the same tools for both text boxes and picture boxes, and although you still have to pick one or the other when drawing a box on your page, you can switch it from picture to text and back again. There's even a new kind of box, called a contentless box, which I talk about in just a little bit.

Creating a box is simple: Choose one of the box tools from the Tool palette, and then click and drag on your page. You can see exactly how large your box is by watching the width and height values on the Measurements palette. Note that you can keep the box square (or circular, if you're using the Oval Text Box tool or the Oval Picture Box tool) by holding down the Shift key while dragging.

All boxes—as items—have a number of basic attributes that you can display and change.

  • Position on the page
  • Size (height and width)
  • Background Color
  • Corner Radius
  • Box angle and skew
  • Suppress Printout
  • Frame size and Style

Of course, text boxes and picture boxes each have a few of their own characteristics, as well, and the Measurements palette and Modify dialog box both change to accommodate these differences.

  • Columns (text box only)
  • Text inset (text box only)
  • Text angle and skew (text box only)
  • Picture angle and skew (picture box only)
  • Suppress Picture Printout (picture box only)

Let's take a quick look at some of these box attributes. I don't cover them all in this section, but don't worry: I cover them all by the time the chapter is through.

(There are several other items in the Modify dialog box and the Measurements palette, too—for instance, the scale of pictures, text runaround, and so on. I hold off discussing these until later in the book, mostly in Chapter 6, Type and Typography, Chapter 9, Pictures, and Chapter 11, Where Text Meets Graphics.)

Position and size. All boxes are positioned by their upper-left corner. This point is called their origin. The first two fields in the Modify dialog box and the Measurements palette are Origin Across and Origin Down. However, unless your box is rectangular, the origin is not necessarily where you think it is because the origin is based on the box's bounding box—the smallest rectangle that could completely enclose the item (see Figure 3-4).


Figure 3-4 Bounding box and position

Note that if you've rotated the box, it still thinks of the original upper-left corner as its origin. So if you rotate 90 degrees counterclockwise, the lower-left corner (formerly the upper-left corner) is still the origin point.

The size of the box is then specified by its width and height (the distances to the right and down from the origin). These values, too, are calculated from the item's bounding box.

Background color. Every picture and text box has a background color, or can have a background set to None. Any background color other than None and White can be set to a specific tint. Note that zero percent of a color is not transparent; it's opaque white.

A box can also have a blend of two colors in its background (I discuss creating, editing, and applying colors and blends in Chapter 12, Color). Both background colors and blends are specified in the Modify dialog box.

Corner Radius. The Corner Radius attribute is applicable to all boxes except those made with the Bézier tools (which I discuss later in this chapter). The Corner Radius feature in the Modify dialog box lets you set how rounded the corners should be (see Figure 3-5). (On the Beveled Corner box tools, it sets the size of the bevels.) In fact, because you can turn a rectangular box into a rounded-corner box just by setting its Corner Radius, I think there's little reason to ever use the Rounded Corner box tools.


Figure 3-5 Corner Radius defines how rounded the corners are

Besides, and to be frank, rounded-corner boxes are one of the most obvious giveaways that you created your document using a Macintosh or Windows machine. Some of the all-time worst designs that have come off of a desktop computer use rounded-corner picture boxes. I really dislike them. But, then again, it's your design, and you can do what you like with it.

Columns. While the previous several items were applicable to all boxes, the Columns attribute is text-box-specific. Text boxes can be divided into a maximum of 30 columns. Each column's size is determined by the size of the gutter (blank space) between columns. You can set the gutter width only in the Modify dialog box, although you can set the number of columns in either this dialog box or the Measurements palette.

Note that you cannot have columns with negative widths: the number of columns you can have is determined by the gutter width. For example, if your gutter width is 1 pica and your text box is 20 picas wide, you cannot have more than 20 columns; however, that many columns would leave no room for text.

Text Inset. The last attribute particular to text boxes is Text Inset. The Text Inset value determines how far your text is placed inside the four sides of the text box. For example, a Text Inset value of zero places the text right up against the side of the text box. A text inset value of "3cm" places the text no closer than 3 centimeters from the side of the box.

The default setting for text inset used to be 1 point because the folks at Quark noticed that text set flush against the side of a box is hard to read. Fortunately, Quark's engineers came to their senses in version 6 and changed the default value to zero points (so the edge of the text is at the same place as the edge of the box). You can change this default setting for your text boxes to zero or any other value (see "Changing Defaults," in Chapter 2, QuarkXPress Basics). Or you can do it a box at a time in the Modify dialog box.

Note that you can now also specify the Text Inset value for each of the four sides rather than simply one value for all sides. To change the text inset on a side-by-side basis, turn on the Multiple Insets checkbox.

Changing Box Type

As I mentioned earlier, you can change a picture box into a text box and vice versa. The trick is the Content submenu (under the Item menu or in the context-sensitive menu). This submenu offers three choices when you have a box selected: Text, Picture, and None. Text and Picture are self-explanatory, though you should note that if there's something in your box (some text or a picture), changing the box type deletes it. The None setting leads us to a feature that first appeared in XPress 4: the contentless box.

Contentless boxes. It took 10 years for the engineers at Quark to figure out that we sometimes put boxes on our pages not to contain text or a graphic, but just for the sake of a background color (sometimes known as a tint build). In the past, you had to use a picture box or a text box to do this, with annoying side effects: Empty picture boxes display a big "X" in them; and text boxes, when covered by other boxes, display an overset mark, even if there's no text in them to overset.

Fortunately, QuarkXPress offers contentless boxes, which you can use just for this purpose. To get a contentless box, select a picture or a text box and choose None from the Content submenu (under the Item menu).

Unfortunately, while there used to be a way to get contentless box tools in the Tool palette—in version 4, you could open the Tool tab of the Preferences dialog box and Command-click (Ctrl-click) on the Default Tool Palette button—this feature disappeared in versions 5 and 6.

Lines and Arrows

The Tool palette contains four tools to draw lines and arrows on your page. To be precise, you really only draw lines, but those lines can be styled in several fashions, and they can have arrowheads and tailfeathers. You can create a line with any thickness between 0.001 point and 864 points (that's a pretty thick line—more than 11 inches thick), at any angle, and apply various styles and colors to it. Like boxes, you can view and change these attributes in the Modify dialog box and—for some—the Measurements palette.

Two of the tools are based on Bézier curves, and I discuss them in "Bézier Boxes and Lines," later in this chapter. The other two tools are the Diagonal Line tool and the Orthogonal Line tool.

Diagonal Line tool. The Diagonal Line tool can make a line at any angle. If you hold down the Shift key while dragging out the line, you can constrain the line to 45 or 90 degrees. Don't worry if the line looks jaggy on-screen; that will smooth out when the file is printed.

Orthogonal Line tool. For those of you who aren't in arm's reach of a dictionary, orthogonal means that the lines you draw with this tool can only be horizontal or vertical. This tool is somewhat redundant, given that you can make orthogonal lines easily with the Diagonal Line tool and the Shift key. However, I guess it's nice to have this option.

Line weight. I always use the word "weight" or "thickness" rather than "width," which is what QuarkXPress uses to describe lines. (When I talk about the width of horizontal lines, people often think I'm talking about length.) The line thickness is centered on the line. That is, if you specify a 6-point line, 3 points fall on one side of the line, and 3 points fall on the other side.

This value appears in three places: the Style menu, the Modify dialog box, and the Measurements palette. Even better, you can press Command-Shift-\ or Ctrl-Shift-\ (backslash) to bring up the Line Width field in the Modify dialog box. Table 3-1 shows several other ways to change a line's weight with keystrokes. (You can use the same keystrokes to specify type size.)

Table 3-1. Changing line weight

TO ...


Increase weight by preset amount

Command-Shift-period or Ctrl-Shift-period

Increase weight by one point

Command-Shift-Option-period or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-period

Decrease weight by preset amount

Command-Shift-comma or Ctrl-Shift-comma

Decrease weight by one point

Command-Shift-Option-comma or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-comma

Color and shade. You can set the line's color to any color in the document (see Chapter 12, Color), then tint it to any value from zero to 100 percent, in 0.1-percent increments (zero percent is white). These specifications are available in the Modify dialog box, the Colors palette, or the Style menu.

Style and endcaps. Lines don't have to be boring; spice them up with a new style, or add endcaps to turn them into arrows. You can choose one of 11 different line styles and one of six endcap combinations by selecting them from two popup menus in the Modify dialog box, the Style menu, or the Measurements palette (see Figure 3-6).


Figure 3-6 Line styles

Six of the line styles are stripes (multiple parallel lines) and four are dashes (lines with gaps). I discuss stripes and dashes, including how to make your own styles, in "Frames, Dashes, and Stripes," later in this chapter. For now, however, suffice it to say that when you specify a thicker line, the dash or stripe gets proportionally thicker, too (just as you'd expect).

Even though you have six endcap styles to choose from, the choice really comes down to either with arrowheads and tailfeathers, or without them. You can't edit the style of these endcaps, so you're stuck with what's built into the program.

Note that if you choose an arrowhead that points to the right, the arrowhead you get might point to the left. The reason is that the arrowhead style pointing to the right actually means "put an arrow at the end of the line." XPress remembers how you drew the line—where you first clicked is the beginning of the line, and where you let go of the mouse button is the end. (This is different from the way it worked in earlier versions.) If the arrow is pointing the wrong way, just select the opposite direction in the Arrowhead popup menu.

Text Paths

The ability to put text on a path is, for many people, alone worth the price to upgrade from version 3. In the past, you had to switch to an illustration program to create this effect, then save the text as a graphic, then import it into a picture box . . . and then if you wanted to edit it, you had to go back to the original program, and so on. Well, no longer!

QuarkXPress offers four text-path tools that appear and act almost identically to the four line tools that I just discussed. While the two Bézier text-path tools are the ones you will probably use the most often, I discuss those in the next section ("Bézier Boxes and Lines"). Let's start, instead, with the two simple text-path tools: the Diagonal Text Path tool and the Orthogonal Text Path tool. And then let's look at how you can customize the text on the path to get the effect you're looking for.

Drawing with the text-path tools. When you draw a path with a text-path tool, XPress immediately switches to the Content tool, letting you type along the line (see Figure 3-7). If you hold down the Shift key when you're drawing the path, the line is constrained to a horizontal, vertical, or 45-degree angle (which makes the Orthogonal Text Path tool a bit redundant).


Figure 3-7 Drawing with the text-path tools

If you want to edit the text on the path, watch the cursor carefully when you click or drag over the path. Depending on where you place the cursor, the cursor's appearance changes. If you put it directly over the line, you may get the Edit Segment cursor (I cover this in "Bézier Boxes and Lines," later in this chapter). Put it over an endpoint, you'll get the Move Point cursor. It's only over certain parts of the line that you see the Edit Text "I-beam" cursor.

Once again, text on a path acts just like it's in a text box, so you can use all the text editing features that I discuss in Chapter 5, Word Processing, Chapter 6, Type and Typography, and Chapter 7, Copy Flow. In fact, when you select the text path with the Content tool, the Measurements palette appears almost exactly the same as it does with text boxes; with the Item tool, the palette appears as though you had a line selected.

Line width and style. By default, the text paths themselves have a thickness of Hairline and a color of None, which makes them invisible. The text on the path, of course, is a different matter. Every now and again, primarily for special effects, you'll want to change the line's style and weight (see Figure 3-8). You can do so with the same features as with normal lines: the Style menu, the Measurements palette, and the Modify dialog box.


Figure 3-8 Changing the line style on text paths

Text Orientation. Text paths have a special tab in the Modify dialog box that lets you specify text-path options (see Figure 3-9). The first control you have over text on a text path is the orientation of the text. There are four options, though I should note that none of these has any effect on text paths you create with the Diagonal or Orthogonal Text Path tool. They only affect Bézier text paths. In fact, you can't even convert a diagonal or orthogonal text path to a Bézier curve in order to use these; rather, you have to actually create a new path with the Bézier text-path tools.

  • Follow The Curve. The first, and default, setting for Text Orientation forces each character to rotate along the curve. What that means is that each character of text isn't actually curved, even if the path is a Bézier path, but the overall effect is that of a curve (see Figure 3-10). This is what most people want 95 percent of the time.

    Figure 3-9 Text-path options


    Figure 3-10 Text Orientation

  • Warp With The Curve. The second option (the one in the upper-right corner) warps the text along the curve, resulting in a quasi-three-dimensional effect. What XPress is really doing is both skewing and rotating each character based on the slope of the curve. First it rotates it along the curve (as in the last option) and then it skews it forward or backward so that the character remains upright. This is useful primarily for special effects.
  • Skew With The Curve. The third option (in the lower-left corner) skews each character based on the slope of the curve, but doesn't rotate it. The result is . . . well, strange at best. When the curve is sloping up to the right, XPress skews the text to the left; when the curve goes down to the right, XPress skews the text to the right; if your curve doubles back and heads to the left, the text is flipped and skewed. I bet someone out there has come up with a good use for this, but I haven't.
  • Stay Horizontal. The last option ensures that each character is not skewed or rotated as it makes its way along the path.

Text Alignment. The next control on the Text Path tab of the Modify dialog box is Text Alignment, which lets you specify what part of the text should align with what part of the path. For instance, the default setting is for the baseline of the text to align with the top of the line (see Figure 3-11). Of course, because the default line is only 0.25 point thick, there is very little difference between aligning to the top or the bottom of the line. If you make the line thicker, however, this makes a difference. (You can make the line thicker and still set the Color to None, making it invisible.)


Figure 3-11 Text Alignment

If you set the Align Text popup menu to Ascent, however, then XPress moves the text down so that the highest ascender in the typeface (like the top part of a lowercase "k") aligns with the line. You can also choose Center (which centers the font's lower-case characters—its x-height—on the line) or Descent (which aligns the lowest descender of the font—like the bottom part of a lowercase "y"—to the line).

Which setting you should choose depends entirely on your situation, the text, and the type of curve. I find that it's often worth testing two or three different settings here until I get the effect I like most (remember the Apply button so you don't have to keep leaving the dialog box each time you try a new setting).

Flip Text. The last control in the Modify dialog box that applies to text paths is Flip Text, which doesn't so much flip the text as much as it flips what XPress thinks of as the path. That is, when this is turned on, QuarkXPress starts the text from the last point on the path instead of the first, and the top and bottom sides of the path are reversed (see Figure 3-12). The result is usually a mirror image of the original—except that XPress doesn't mirror the text itself, only the text flow. I find that when I use Flip Text, I almost always have to adjust the Text Alignment settings to accommodate it.


Figure 3-12 Flip Text

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