Continuing to Slay Master Pages

If you have a great memory, or a thirst for knowledge about InDesign Master pages, then hold onto your wooden stakes, cause I’ve got even more to say on the subject of master pages. Oh yes, more to master here, folks.

If you remember the last time I wrote about master pages, then you remember that I basically explained what should go on the master page, how I would suggest linking and grouping items to make them easier to override on your local pages later, and other bits like that.

But now that we’ve got a decent handle on our opening spread (aka “the first two facing pages of your document”) we’re going to get jiggy with the file and start looking at the other pages that will come. Rarely would I ever recommend that all of the pages for your book exist in one file. However, I also wouldn’t suggest that you have every spread in its own document. This means you’re likely going to have a document that has the first two spreads rarely look like the rest of the pages in your document. This means that you’ll likely want more than one set of master pages.

But, oh and here is where it starts to get pointy, even though the bulk of the elements on this opening spread will be different than the bulk of the elements on the second spread, there are probably at least a few things that you want to have appear in the same position on every page. You could copy the repeating items on one set of master pages and paste them in place on the other master pages. But, anytime something happens more than once, that’s the opportunity to introduce streamlining into your files. Streamlining saves you time. And as you can tell from my lack of posts on the soon-to-be-famous Michael Rankin’s wonderful blog, I’ve been all about not spending time lately.

Here’s a shot of the master pages from the previous post so you can see how few elements that are on the spread.

Template Outlines

The designer has given you the design you’ll need for the rest of the pages in this document. It has even fewer elements. If you compare, you can see that in fact, most of the elements are repeated. Ooooh! You know what that means? You’re going to be so streamlined, that you’ll need to put brakes on your mouse so you don’t work too fast.

Second spread

Second sprea

The right (recto) page looks exactly the same in both screenshots. The left (verso) page looks mostly the same. Except the second shot doesn’t have a title and the main text box matches the size and relative placement of that on the recto page. If all of the pages in your document are going to look like either the first screenshot, or the second screenshot, then we’ve got the option to actually create 3 master pages that will make everything we do so much easier.

Wait? What!? If we’re streamlining this, why would I add another master page? Well because this third master page (which I’ve been in the habit of calling the Z-Master, simply because I like the letter Z and feel sorry that it doesn’t get used more often) will contain all of the elements that appear on every page in your book. The A-Master page will contain all of these items, and all of the items that are different from B-Master. And the B-Master will follow suit.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here is what your Z-Master will look like.



Almost exactly the same, right? Now what I’m going to do, is base my A-Master and my B-Master on my Z-Master.

To do this I’m going to go to my A-Master and select the title boxes and the verso text box. I’m going to cut them to the clipboard. Now I’m going to make sure that the recto and verso of the A-Master page are selected in the Pages pane and I’m going to choose “Master Options for A-Master” from the palette’s dropdown menu. I’ll get this window:

If you haven’t used that “based on” function before, I suggest you give it a whirl. Now all of the items on your page are duplicated, so simply Select All and then delete. An exact replica of what was on your page before should remain. Try to click on something. You can’t, can you? You know why?

Cause this page element doesn’t exist on this master page. It exists on the Z-Master page. Much the same way that items that are on a master page are not easily selectable on the local page, items that are on a Z-Master can’t be selected easily on the A-Master or B-Master. This means that any change you make to the items that live on the Z-Master will be reflected in every, single, page of your document. One change, affects the entire document. One change. Get it? See the streamlining now?

While you’re still on your A-Master page, Paste In Place the items from your clipboard. The title boxes and text box will appear. You can select these, change them, and those changes will only appear on the local pages that are based on your A-Master.

Here’s a great example of how this can save you tons of time. Say you’ve got a 30 page document and the footer for the document contains the chapter title on the recto and the unit title on the left. Just as you’re *this* close to making the final pdfs, the editor emails you frantically saying that all of the unit and chapter titles have to change. In a previous, less-efficient life, this would mean that you’d have to spend hours and hours copying and pasting those new titles into every page. With this new Z-Master, you have to make the change once per document. Glorious, glorious streamlining.

One other example that directly affects this example is this. We know that the background colors are going to change depending on the type of story the page will contain. If we’ve got a 30 page nonfiction selection and you need the background to be blue, all you have to do is apply your Object Style for the background to the one box on the Z-Master page and every page in your document gets populated. And when you “Insert Pages”, your 30-page document will look something like this in your pages pane.

It took an extra 3 minutes to create that Z-Master and base your A and B Master pages on it. But what you’ve done, by streamlining, is saved yourself potential hours of frustration. And saving time is always easier than saving the world.


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