Master Pages

I’ve talked about the need to place folios on the page. (That’s the technical name for page numbers, remember?) That’s a different number on every page, and doing that by hand is … not what you want to do. (Me neither, actually.) Running heads can change within the book, and keeping that all straight is also a problem (and quite thankless.)

Another issue to consider is any decorative elements you want to add to chapter beginnings. Your readers are looking for a repeated and consistent clue as to what the text means – and the critical point is that it is consistent. So when you add graphical elements, they need to be absolutely the same every time they crop up.

How do you automate the placement of folios and running heads? How do you make sure that your chapter beginnings are absolutely identical in layout? Well, good publishing design programs have a solution, and it’s called the Master Page.

In both of the design programs that I’m familiar with, you can set up several Master Pages and assign each page in your project to have the design of a particular Master Page (in PagePlusX9, you can assign several Master Pages to one page, which I haven’t experimented with.)

On one Master Page, you can set up your folios and running heads – set up a text box at the top of the page (nicely above the text block), and use the markers to insert the page number where you want it. Add the variables for Book Title or Chapter Title in the appropriate place (this is where paragraph styles really get a work out). When a page in the book is assigned a Master Page, the text and variables in the Master Page are added to the page in the precise location the Master Page dictates – and the variables are evaluated. You get the proper page number. You also get the last set of text that was tagged with the Chapter Title Style, placed in the running head, and styled with the Running Head Style – all automatic and without your further intervention.

The baseline grid, paragraph styles, and master pages are the main reasons you’ll want to spring for high-end publishing software. Yes, these programs have amazing color reproduction capabilities, and for some people, that’s helpful. On the other hand, we’re dealing with black and white text – and the use of Master Pages is an amazing timesaver.


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