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Tools of the Trade

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Guides and Rulers

When you are working on your layout, you usually have rulers on the top and left side of the window. This not only gives you a perspective on where you are on the page, but it's a great visual aid in selecting coordinates. Let's say you want to change the size of a picture box by dragging a corner handle. If you're visually inclined, you may not want to bother with referring to the Measurements palette while you drag. Instead, if you watch the rulers, you'll see that gray lines show the left, right, top, and bottom edges as the box moves.


You can turn the rulers on and off by selecting Show or Hide Rulers from the View menu, or by pressing Command-R (Ctrl-R). The only time you really need to turn the rulers off, though, is when you want to get a slightly larger view of the page. Otherwise, just leave them on.

You can specify which measurement system you want to use for your rulers in the Preferences dialog box (from the Edit menu, or press Command-Option-Shift-Y or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Y). The vertical and horizontal rulers don't have to use the same measurement system. For example, you can set Horizontal Measure to inches and Vertical Measure to picas. That would just confuse me, so I generally keep both the same (I always use picas).

The values you choose in the Preferences dialog box are not only used on the rulers, but also throughout the Measurements palette and Modify dialog box. For example, if you change the Vertical Measure to ciceros, then every vertical measurement shows up in ciceros and points. You can still type in measurements using other units—see Table 2-2 in Chapter 2, QuarkXPress Basics—but QuarkXPress always converts them.

Item Coordinates. If you're using facing pages or multipage spreads, the ruler can measure from the upper-left corner of each page in the spread or from the upper-left corner of the whole spread. For instance, let's say you have two letter-size pages in a facing spread (like in a magazine). If you set the Item Coordinates popup menu in the Preferences dialog box to Page (the default value when you install QuarkXPress), the horizontal ruler goes from zero to 8.5 inches on the left page, and then starts at zero again for the right page.

If you change Item Coordinates to Spread, the horizontal ruler stretches across the entire spread, beginning with zero and ending with 17 inches (two times 8.5). I almost always leave this control set to Page, but every now and again I change it to Spread, so that I can measure where objects sit across the spread.

Adjusting the rulers. You can change more than just the measurements you see in the rulers and how far the measurements reach; you can also change where the rulers measure from. Typically, the zero points of the horizontal and vertical rulers begin at the upper-left corner of the page or spread. But you can move the origin—called the "zero, zero point"—of the rulers by clicking in the little square area where the rulers meet and dragging to where you want the origin to be.

There are two great reasons to use this feature. First, this is how you control what prints out when you're manually tiling a document (see Chapter 13, Printing). Second, you might need to measure a number of objects from some point on the page that's not the upper-left corner. For instance, you can set the ruler origins to the bottom-left corner instead, so that the measurements run up the page instead of down.

When you're ready to reset the ruler origins, click that same little white box at the juncture of the rulers just once. The zero points are set back to where they started.

Visual accuracy. Rulers are visually accurate. That means, when a box or a rule looks like it is directly over a tick mark in the ruler, it really is. For example, if you want to visually place a box at the 2-inch mark (as opposed to using the Measurements palette), you can follow the gray lines in the rulers as you drag the box. When the gray line is over the 2-inch mark, the box is truly at 2 inches, even when you're at a view of other than 100 percent, or if you've changed the Points/Inch value. Note that if you have Inches Decimal selected as your vertical or horizontal measurement in the Preferences dialog box, you get 20 tick marks in each inch (each is 0.05 inch); if you select Inches, the rulers only have 16 tick marks (each is 0.0625 inch).

This might not seem like a big deal, but in some earlier versions, you could never really be sure unless you checked the Measurements palette or the Modify dialog box. It might have been at 1.998 or 2.01 inches.


Figure 3-68 Tolbert, JeffThe portable ruler


Back in the good old days, before we all started laying out pages by sitting in front of little plastic boxes, no one worked without guides. We had blueline guides on paste-up boards, straightedge guides on drafting tables for making sure we were aligning items correctly, and transparent rulers to ensure that we were measuring type and rules correctly. I certainly didn't throw away any of that stuff when I bought my computer—they still come in handy pretty often. However, QuarkXPress gives me all those tools electronically.

You can add a vertical or a horizontal guide to your page by clicking one of the rulers and dragging onto the page.

Guides don't print, so it doesn't matter where you place them on your page. However, you may want to adjust the guides to fall in front of or behind opaque text or picture boxes. You can do this by changing the Guides setting in the Preferences dialog box. Your two choices are Behind and In Front (I always leave this setting on the latter).

Once you've placed a guide on your page, you can move it by clicking the guide and dragging it to where you want it. Note that if you have the Content tool selected, you have to click in an area where there are no other items in order to move a guide. Otherwise, XPress doesn't know if you're clicking on the guide or the contents of a box. Alternately, you can switch to the Item tool, or hold down the Command or Ctrl key (to get the Item tool temporarily). With the Item tool, you can always grab and move it.

The Measurements palette displays the coordinate of where the guide is while the guide is moving (unfortunately, once you let go of the guide, there is no way to find out where it sits on the page (the measurement) without "grabbing" it again—and probably moving, too).

To remove a guide from your page, grab it and drag it out of the window. That means you can drag it back into either ruler, or off to the right or bottom of the window, whichever is closest to where your cursor is at the time.

Snap to Guides

One of the most important values of guides is that page items can snap to them. All guides have this feature, including margin and column guides (I'll talk more about those in Chapter 4, Building a Document). You can turn Snap to Guides on and off by selecting it in the View menu. For example, if you have five picture boxes that you want to align, you can pull out a guide to the position you want it, and—if Snap to Guides is enabled in the View menu—as the picture boxes are moved next to the guides, they snap to that exact spot.

On the other hand, there are times when you probably want to disable Snap to Guides—so just select it again from the View menu, or use the Shift-F7 shortcut. For example, if you are working with a box or a line that is very close to a column guide, it may snap to the guide when you don't want it to. Just turn off Snap to Guides. Generally, however, I leave this feature on.

The distance at which a guide pulls an item in, snapping it to the guide position, is determined by a control in the Preferences dialog box (Command-Shift-Option-Y or Ctrl-Alt-Shift-Y). The default value is 6 points.

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