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Getting to Know QuarkXPress Style Sheets

Although you've heard about them, you've probably never really been into style sheets. Yet you know some people who use them on every single document. Still, something inside you says, "Style sheets? Document formatting? Whoa! Save it for the big-time publishers!"

Perhaps you should reconsider. Surely you must realize by now that half the fun of desktop publishing is being able to automate some of the tasks that used to take so long. QuarkXPress makes setting up styles for your documents easy. Best of all, using style sheets saves you tons of time and helps you keep your formatting consistent throughout a document.

Style sheets are just about the best invention since the snooze alarm. They define basic specifications for your text: typefaces, type sizes, justification settings, and tab settings. If you select a paragraph and apply a style sheet to it, the paragraph automatically formats itself to the font and size specified in the style sheet. Even better, in QuarkXPress, you can apply styles to any text selection, not just whole paragraphs.

Just think of all the time automatic styling saves you. Instead of applying each attribute to text individually, you can just tell QuarkXPress that you want particular swaths of text to take on all the formatting attributes established in a style tag. Then — with one click of the mouse — you send QuarkXPress on its merry way to format your document quicker than you can take a sip of coffee.

Like many features of publishing, style sheets come with their own jargon, which would be helpful for you to know:

  • Style sheet: The group of formatting attributes (styles) in a document. It's called a sheet because, in times before electronic publishing, typesetters had typewritten sheets that listed the formatting attributes they had to apply to specific kinds of text, such as body copy and headlines. QuarkXPress treats style sheets as part of the document.
  • Style or style tag: These two terms refer to a group of formatting attributes that you apply to one or more paragraphs or to selected text. You name the group, or style, so that you can apply all the attributes to the document at once. For example, in text styled Body Text, you may indicate the typeface, type size, leading, and so on, as part of that Body Text style. The word tag means that you "tag" selected paragraphs or selected text with the style you want to apply. Because the word style also sometimes refers to a character attribute, such as italics or underline, many people use style tag to refer to the group of attributes. This distinction helps you avoid confusing the two meanings.

Styles work in two places: You can apply them to selected paragraphs or text in your QuarkXPress document, or to paragraphs (but not selected text) in the word processing text you plan to import.

Paragraph and character styles are not an either/or proposition. You can use both interchangeably:

  • The timesaving part about paragraph styles is that you apply them to whole paragraphs. For example, first-level heads might have a Header 1 style, captions a Caption style, bylines a Byline style, body text a Body Text style, and so on. Specifying a style for all paragraph types that you often use is a great idea. With a paragraph style, all the text in the paragraph receives the same settings: fonts, size, leading, alignment, hyphenation, and so on.
  • The beauty of the character styles feature is that you can ensure consistent typography throughout your document. A paragraph style does that for entire paragraphs, but documents often have pieces of text that always get the same formatting. For example, drop caps might always use a specific font and be compressed, or the first few words after a bullet might always appear bold and be in a different font. By creating a character style named Drop Cap with the settings for those specific characters, you can ensure that you always apply the correct settings.

To help you distinguish between paragraph and character styles, QuarkXPress precedes the names of styles with either a ¶ to indicate a paragraph style or an A to indicate a character style. You see these symbols in the Style Sheets dialog box, in the Append dialog box, and in the Style Sheets palette.

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