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Manipulating Items

Once you've created a page element (item) such as a picture box or a line, what can you do with it? A lot. In this section I talk about how to move, rotate, skew, resize, reshape, lock, duplicate, suppress the printout of, and delete items. Remember that I'm talking only about the items themselves here, so you often need to select the items with the Item tool to make most of these changes.

Moving Items

You can move a page element in several ways. First, if you're an interactive type, you can select the Item tool, then click on the object and drag it. Or, if you have the Content tool selected, you can get the Item tool temporarily by holding down the Command (Ctrl) key, which lets you move an item, too. (However, note that if you have more than one object selected, Command-dragging or Ctrl-dragging with the Content tool moves a single item in the group, not the whole group.)

The second method for moving an item is by changing its origin coordinates in the Measurements palette or the Modify dialog box. I find this method especially useful if I need to move the item a specific amount. For example, let's say I have a text box with its origin at 1 inch across and 1 inch down. If I want to move the text box horizontally 18 picas, I change the Origin Across coordinate in the Measurements palette to "1"+18p", then press Enter. The box automatically moves over.

A third method for moving items is by selecting them and pressing the Arrow keys on the keyboard. Each time you press an Arrow key, the item moves one point in that direction. Holding down the Option (Alt) key when you press an Arrow key moves the item 0.1 point.

Resizing and Reshaping Items

Resizing an object means changing its width and height, while reshaping it may involve moving points around, like turning a rectangle into a triangle. Both are easy to do, but how you go about doing it depends on the type of object you have selected. (Resizing and reshaping a group of items are special-case scenarios that I cover in "Modifying Grouped Objects," later in this chapter.)

Resizing boxes. The most basic shapes are the non-Bézier boxes, like the rectangle and the oval. To resize these, you once again have a choice between using QuarkXPress's interactive click-and-drag style or working in measurements.

  • Resizing by Dragging. To resize by clicking and dragging, you place the screen cursor over one of the box's handles. Boxes have eight handles (one on each side, one on each corner) that you can drag to resize. Dragging a side handle resizes the box in one direction—horizontally or vertically. Dragging a corner handle resizes the box in two directions (horizontally and vertically). Of course, as I discussed earlier in this chapter, if the shape is a Bézier box, you need to turn off Edit Shape (in the Edit submenu under the Item menu) to see these handles.Also, note that XPress lets you "flip" a box, resulting in a mirror of the original, by dragging one of the side handles across the box and past the opposite handle (see "Tip: Flipping Shapes Around," earlier in this chapter).
  • Resizing by the Numbers. The second method of resizing and reshaping boxes is by changing their height and width values. These values are located in both the Modify dialog box and the Measurements palette. Unless you're a wizard at math, it's difficult to keep an object's aspect (width-to-height) ratio this way (see "Tip: Proportional Resizing by the Numbers," below). Instead, this is a great way to make a box exactly the size you want it. For example, if you want an 8-by-10-inch picture box, you can draw one to any size you'd like, then change its width and height coordinates to 8 inches and 10 inches.

Bézier boxes and lines. I discussed editing Bézier lines and boxes earlier in this chapter. The one thing I want to reemphasize is to pay attention to the Edit Shape feature (in the Shape submenu, under the Item menu; or toggle it on and off with Shift-F4, or F10 in Windows). When this is on, you can edit the individual Bézier points, control handles, and segments. When it's off, you can only change the overall size (height and width) of the item.

Lines. Most people define lines by their two endpoints (I'm only referring to straight lines with two endpoints, including those made with the Diagonal Text Path tool). However, QuarkXPress can define any line in four different ways. Each line description is called a mode, and it shows up in both the Modify dialog box and the Measurements palette (see Figure 3-47). The four modes are as follows.

  • Endpoints. This mode describes the line by two sets of coordinates, x1, y1 and x2, y2. In the Modify dialog box, these are called the First Across and First Down, or the Last Across and Last Down.
  • Left Point. In Left Point mode, QuarkXPress describes a line by three values: its endpoint (from wherever you started the line when dragging is its first point), its length, and its angle. An angle of zero degrees is always a horizontal line; as the angle increases, the line rotates counterclockwise, so that 45 degrees is a diagonal up and to the right, and 90 degrees is vertical.
  • Right Point. QuarkXPress uses the same three values for the Right Point mode, except that it uses the coordinate of the last point on the line (wherever you let go of the mouse button).
  • Midpoint. The fourth mode, Midpoint, defines lines by their length and angle based on the coordinate of the center point. That is, if a line is 2 inches long, QuarkXPress draws the line 1 inch out on either side from the midpoint, at the specified angle.

Figure 3-47 Line modes

You can define a line while in one mode, modify it in another, and move it with another.

For example, let's say you draw a line someplace on your page. You then find you want to rotate it slightly. You have the choice to rotate the line from its left point, right point, or midpoint by selecting the proper mode from the Measurements palette or the Modify dialog box, then changing the line's rotation value. If you want to move just the left point of the line by 3 points (and leave the other point stationary), you can switch to Endpoints mode and alter the x2, x2 coordinate.

To resize a line by a given percentage, you can multiply its length by the percentage. If you want a line to be 120 percent as long, just multiply the length value in the Measurements palette or Modify dialog box by 1.2. To make it half as long, multiply by 0.5 or divide by two.

Rotating Items

You can rotate an item numerically using the Modify dialog box or the Measurements palette, or by eye with the Rotation tool (the third item in the Tool palette). Note that positive rotation values rotate the object counterclockwise; negative values rotate it clockwise (this is arguably counterintuitive). Most objects are rotated from their center. This center may not be where you think it is, however, because the center is defined as the middle of the object's bounding box.

Lines are the main exception when it comes to the center of rotation. Lines rotate differently depending on their Mode (see "Lines," above). For example, if a line is in Left Point mode when you specify a rotation, the line rotates around the first endpoint.

If you are more visually minded, you can rotate items using the Rotation tool.

  1. Select a page item.
  2. Choose the Rotation tool from the Tool palette.
  3. Click where you want the center of rotation, but don't let the mouse button go yet.
  4. Drag the Rotation tool. As you drag, the object is rotated in the direction you drag. The farther from the center of rotation you drag, the more precise the rotation can be.

I rarely use this tool in a production setting, but that's just my bias. It may suit you well. However, it's significantly harder to control the rotation by using the tool rather than by entering a specific value.

Skewing Items

QuarkXPress lets you skew boxes and their contents. As I discuss in Chapter 9, Pictures, skewing is the same as rotating the vertical axis and not the horizontal one. If you skew a text box or a picture box, the text or picture within the box is skewed to the same angle. You can skew a box by typing a value into the Skew field on the Box tab of the Modify dialog box (it only lets you enter values between -75 and 75 degrees). Enter a positive number to skew the box and its contents to the right; a negative number skews them to the left.

If you need to spice up your afternoon, you can skew the contents of a box separately from the box itself (you can find Text Skew on the Text tab and Picture Skew on the Picture tab of the Modify dialog box).

Skewing boxes isn't something you need to do every day, but by combining QuarkXPress's ability to skew and rotate text boxes, you can create some interesting effects, like a three-dimensional cube with angled text on each side (see Figure 3-48).


Figure 3-48 Box skew

Flipping Out

It used to be that if you wanted to flip a picture or text along the vertical or horizontal axis—so that you could mirror it on facing pages, for instance— you had to dive into a graphics program, flip the image, save it as a picture, then bring it into your QuarkXPress document.

Well, no longer. Just select the object, then go to the Style menu and choose Flip Vertical or Flip Horizontal. Note that you have to use the Content tool to do this, as this is actually mirroring the contents of the box rather than the box itself. Not only does this command let you flip pictures and text, but flipped text remains fully editable (to do this, you have to practice reading the newspaper in the mirror).

You can also use the icons for flipping contents in the Measurements palette (see Figure 3-49). The top icon controls horizontal flipping; the lower one controls vertical flipping.


Figure 3-49 Flip Horizontal and Vertical

Locking Items

There are times when you want an item to stay how and where it is. For example, if you've painstakingly placed multiple text boxes on your page, you may not want someone else who will be working on your page to move or resize them accidentally. You can lock any page item down to its spot, making it invulnerable to being moved or resized with the Item tool. Just select the item with either the Item or the Content tool and choose Lock from the Item menu (or press Command-L or Ctrl-L).

If an item is locked, the Item tool cursor turns into a padlock when passed over it. You cannot move it by clicking and dragging either the item or its control handles. I find this feature especially helpful when I'm working on a complex page and don't want an accidental click here or a drag there to ruin my work.

However, just because you lock something does not mean that it won't move or change. If you select the box with the Item tool and your cat jumps onto your keyboard, pressing one of the Arrow keys, the box moves. If you use the Space/Align feature, QuarkXPress ignores the Locked status and moves the object (this really bugs me). And you can easily change the coordinate of the item's origin or its height or width in the Measurements palette . . . that changes the item, too. You can even delete locked items. The only thing that Lock stops you from doing is dragging the box.

Oh yes, you can also always change the contents of an item; locking only affects the item, not the contents within.

To unlock an item, select it and press Command-L (Ctrl-L) again (or choose Unlock from the Item menu).

Suppress Printout and Suppress Picture Printout

If you turn on Suppress Printout (in the Modify dialog box) for any object on your page, QuarkXPress won't print that object. Ever. Period. This is helpful when you want nonprinting notes to be placed in your layout, or for setting runaround objects that affect your text but don't print out on your final page. (However, just because the object doesn't print doesn't mean the text runaround goes away; see Chapter 11, Where Text Meets Graphics.)

When you have a picture box selected, the Modify dialog box also offers a second checkbox: Suppress Picture Printout. If you check this one, it keeps the picture from printing, but the box itself still prints. The difference? If the picture has a frame around it, the frame prints and the picture doesn't.

Duplicating Items

When I stand around watching over their shoulders as people work, one of the most common suggestions I make is to use the Duplicate and Step and Repeat features more often. If you need to make two text boxes, it's rarely worth the trouble to draw both of them; just make one and then duplicate it. There are three ways to duplicate a page element: Copy and Paste it, Duplicate it, or use Step and Repeat.

Copy and Paste. Selecting an item, copying it, and pasting it (Command-C and Command-V or Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V) is the most common way people learn to duplicate objects, though it's not always the most efficient or precise way. Many people get confused when they Copy and Paste picture and text boxes, because they don't use the correct tools. Remember that you should use the Item tool when working with items (boxes, lines, and text paths), and the Content tool when working with the contents of boxes or text paths. If you have the Content tool selected and you try to copy a text box, you only copy text. Copying with the Item tool actually copies the text box. (See "Tip: Copy the Opposite," below.)

When you Paste a page item, the program places it in the middle of your screen or as close as it can get it on whatever spread you're currently on (however, see "Tip: Paste in Place," below). This little detail has been known to trip up even advanced users of XPress, because the page you're looking at is not always the page you're currently on. If even only a little sliver of the previous spread is touching the upper-left corner of the document window (where the two rulers meet), Pasting places the object on that spread, not the one that takes up most of your screen.

Duplicate. Choosing Duplicate from the Item menu (or pressing Command-D or Ctrl-D) duplicates whatever item(s) you have selected. The default setting for Duplicate is to offset the duplicate item ¼ inch down and to the right from the original object, but Duplicate always uses whatever horizontal and vertical offsets you last used in Step and Repeat.

Step and Repeat. The Step and Repeat feature can best be described as a powerhouse, and I wish every program had it. The Step and Repeat command (under the Item menu, or press Command-Option-D or Ctrl-Alt-D) lets you select one or more objects and duplicate them with specific horizontal and vertical offsets as many times as you like.

For example, if you want 35 vertical lines, each 9 points away from each other across the page, draw one line and then choose Step and Repeat from the Item menu. In the Step and Repeat dialog box, enter "34" in the Repeat Count field (you already have the first one made), "9pt" in the Horizontal Offset field, and "0" in the Vertical Offset field. After you use Step and Repeat, you can press Command-Z (Ctrl-Z) to Undo all of the duplications.

Both Duplicate and Step and Repeat have certain limitations. First, you cannot duplicate an item so that any part of it falls off the pasteboard. If you are working with constrained items (see "Constraining," below), you cannot duplicate them so that any of the copies would fall outside of the constraining box. And while any items you duplicate from within a constrained group become part of that constrained group, note that duplicating an item from a set of grouped objects does not result in the copy being part of the group.

Super Step and Repeat. What started out as a frivolous little free XTension that you could download from the Quark Web site is now a frivolous little XTension that comes bundled with XPress. The Super Step and Repeat feature in the Item menu (which appears when the XTension of the same name is active), not only offsets duplicate objects, but skews, scales, and rotates the duplicates, too. I'm sure that someone, somewhere is somehow using this XTension in money-making ways, but I just turn this XTension off so I'm not tempted to sit around playing with it rather than getting my work done.

Deleting Items

As I suggested above, there is a difference between deleting the contents of a picture or text box and deleting the box itself. When the contents of a box (such as a picture or text) are deleted, the box still remains. When the box itself is deleted, everything goes. There are three basic ways to delete a page item.

  • I think the easiest way to delete a page item is to select it (with either the Item or Content tool) and press Command-K (Ctrl-K). This is the same as selecting Delete from the Item menu.
  • The second-easiest way to delete an item is to select it with the Item tool and press the Delete key on your keyboard. Remember that if you use the Content tool, you delete the text or picture rather than the box.
  • A third way to delete an item is to select it with the Item tool and select Cut or Clear from the Edit menu. Of course, cutting it actually saves the item on the Clipboard so that you can place it somewhere else later.

The only one of these methods that works for deleting a single item from a group is Command-K (Ctrl-K). That's because to remove this kind of page item, you must first select it with the Content tool (or else you end up deleting the entire group).

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