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Typography in FreeHand

Part 1 of an ongoing series by MXDJ's FreeHand Editor

Type, text, copy, words, and (ugh!) even print - whatever you call it, it's the art and science of typography. FreeHand has an extremely robust text-handling feature set. It's easy to learn, and quite flexible and tough enough for anything from business cards to Web pages to small newsletters.

FreeHand's Text Handling
When Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator were first introduced, I chose FreeHand simply because of its stronger text handling. The gap has narrowed over the last 15 years or so, but I'm still happier with the way FreeHand handles text. Here's how it works:

Text Block Basics
There are two ways to get text into FreeHand: import it or input it. Importing is as simple as choosing File > Import and navigating to the text file. The only necessity is that the text be in Rich Text Format (RTF). I use Microsoft Word for my major text-inputting software, and after I've finished the typing, it's a matter of saving it as an RTF file. Other forms of text cannot be imported; however, you can copy-and-paste or drag-and-drop text from many programs. For instance, text copied or dragged from Word retains its formatting, but Adobe InDesign brings in the words and loses all formatting.

The other way to get text into FreeHand is to enter it yourself. The first time you attempt to use the Text tool may be a bit intimidating, but you'll soon get over any anxiety. To begin with, when you click the Text tool on the document, you can start typing right away. By default, FreeHand creates what is called an Auto-expanding text block. That means that you can type from now until your fingers are tired, and the line of text will continue until you press Enter or Return, starting a new line. If you have a particular space you want to fill with text, then instead of clicking the page, click and drag the Text cursor diagonally to declare the limits of the text block. When you release the mouse, the cursor will be blinking at the top left corner of the text block. When your text reaches the right-hand limit of the text block, the text automatically pops down to the next line (see Figure 1).

Hopefully it shows in the figure, but it's readily apparent onscreen that auto-expanding text blocks have hollow handles in the midpoints of the right and bottom borders; fixed-size text blocks have solid handles. Double-click either of the two handles to switch from fixed-size to auto-expanding or back (do not drag the center handles - see further). Ultimately, you'll be typing away and won't see any more characters on the screen. That's because you've hit the bottom of a fixed-size text block. The text has been entered and exists, but it has overflowed, as indicated by the link box icon at the bottom right of the text block. The overflow icon is a large dot inside the link box. When you see that icon, you have at least four choices: change the size of the font, change the size of the text block, continue the text flow into a new text block, or (shudder) ask to have the text edited.

Assuming that you can't get the text edited, the font is too small to suit you already, and there's no room to expand the box, then your only course of action is to continue the text to another text block elsewhere on the page, or to another page. To do so, select the Text tool by pressing the "T" key on your keyboard and drag a new text block. If you see a "t" appear in a text block, then you already have the Text tool selected. At any rate, create a new text block where you want the text to continue. Then press the "P" key to select the Pointer tool; select the original text block, and click and drag from the link box icon to a spot inside the new text block. The text will flow automatically into the new block. A new icon appears in the box at the bottom right of the text block - a two-way arrow, and a curvy line indicating the connection to the next linked block or path in the document.

An important feature is that you can flow the text from a text block to a path as well another text block. FreeHand doesn't care. You can link as many text blocks and paths as you want, but use a little foresight, please, because a linked text block works fine until you want to convert all the text to paths. You'll be told that you can't do that. So for that or any other reason you want to break a link, you have a few steps to take.

If you want the text to abruptly end at the first block, click the Pointer tool in the link box and drag to an empty space on the page. Any overflowing text is still there - you just can't see it, and neither can anyone else. You're left with an overfilled text block and an empty text block. The scary part about that is if you or someone else changes the size of the font or the dimensions of the text block at a later time, that overflowing text may appear, or some of the original text will disappear. On the other hand, you can simply delete a linked text block. If it was the last linked block, text will continue to overflow, or if it was in the middle of several linked blocks, text will pass to the next text block or path in the link.

When you want to preserve the text in a linked text block, but cancel the linking, cut all the text from the linked block. The overflow icon should disappear. Paste the cut text into the empty text block.

Perhaps you've created a text block that isn't the right size. What do you do then? You can change the size of any text block by dragging any of the corner handles of the text block. If you drag a center handle, you will increase or decrease the spacing between the letters (vertical handle), or lines of text (horizontal handles). To move a text block, use the pointer tool to select the text block, and move it as you would any object in FreeHand.

If you're the type of artist who likes to pre-plan a layout, you can create several empty text blocks and link them. It's a useful setup for a template. Then, at a later time, you import text, placing it in the first text block in the link. The text will flow through your document like a paycheck through my hands in a computer store.

Duplicating Text Blocks
Sometimes you need to use the exact text, or you need a new text block that has the same formatting as an existing text block. Select the text block with the Pointer tool, hold down the Option/Alt key, and drag a copy of the text block to another location.

More Text Block Help
You can add a fill color and/or a stroke to any text block. You might find that useful from time to time. Just select the text block with the Pointer tool and apply the attributes. If you haven't made any modifications, the text could abut the sides, top, and bottom of the text block. You can fix that in the Object panel, which will be explained later. The benefit of having a text block with color and a border is that you can change its size and shape without adjusting a separate object and realigning text - you only have one object to contend with instead of a text block and a block of color.

Selecting Text
So far we've only been concerned with the text block. "What about text?" you say. If you currently have the Pointer tool selected, double-click the pointer inside the text block to activate the Text tool (sometimes it brings up the Transform handles, which is very irritating - if that happens, choose the Text tool from the menu). To select text to edit or enter new text, click anywhere in the text block that's appropriate. If you double-click a word, only that entire word will be selected. Triple-click anywhere in a paragraph to select the entire paragraph. If you want to select all the text in the block, choose Select All (Cmd+A or Ctrl+A). If you've used the Pointer tool to select a text block and you Select All, all objects on the page will be selected. If you have the Text tool selected and the cursor placed in a linked text block, choosing Select All will highlight all the text in the entire link, across all blocks and paths.

Changing Text Fill Color and Adding Strokes
By default, all text in FreeHand has a black fill. If your text is live, you can change the fill color in the Object panel > Text Fill Color, in the Swatches panel, or from the swatches in the Tools panel. You can also use the Eyedropper tool to drag a color from anywhere in your document. If the text block is selected, then all of the text will be changed to the new color. If you've used the Text tool to select text, only the selected text will be modified. If you use a font with a particular color and size often, drag a block of that text onto the Styles panel and give the style a name. Then you can apply the formatting in a snap. A stroke can be added to text at any time by selecting Add Stroke in the Object panel, choosing a color from the Swatches panel (dragging it to the Stroke box in that panel), or choosing a color from the Stroke color well in the Tools panel. The default is a black, 1-point stroke. Note that the stroke will straddle the letterform's outline - half of the stroke will be outside the letter, and half of the stroke will encroach on the inside of the letterform. In my book, that's not acceptable, but you've got your own books... To apply a non-encroaching stroke, clone the non-stroked text block and hide (View > Hide Selection) the clone. Then select the original text block, apply the stroke, and choose View > Show All. Group the two text blocks to prevent misalignment. You can also apply any vector or bitmap effects to text, but it's generally not a good idea to attack body copy with bitmap effects.

When you've converted text to paths, you'll be frustrated in your first attempts to change the fill color. The "why" notwithstanding, here's the "how:" you must first Subselect the text. I find it easiest to have a keyboard shortcut, but you can use the Subselect tool to drag a selection marquee around the text. Then you can change the color in the usual manner. It's convenient to remember that by default, text is black and set to overprint. Therefore, when you convert black text to paths, the resulting objects are still set to overprint. You probably don't want that, so you should change the text fill color prior to conversion, or you must Subselect the objects, go to the Object panel, choose the fill color item, and deselect Overprint. Believe me, it's quicker to change the color first.

Formatting Text
Select the entire text block, or use the Text tool to select the text you want to change. If you have the Text toolbar on the monitor, you can make general formatting decisions such as font, size, leading, alignment, and style there. The style that's referred to is plain, bold, ital, and bold ital - not the text style you set up for the company masthead. For other formatting, you need the Object panel (see Figure 2).

Whether you have a text block or a portion of text selected, the default text window appears. Once there, you can modify font, style, size, alignment, leading, baseline shift, kerning, and the curiously named "Edit..." button. Use Edit when you want to input the Ragged Width and Flush Zone (see Figure 3). A Ragged Width setting of 100% is justified text. That means that in a given line of text, if there is a five-letter word, it will be stretched completely across the text block. If you leave the setting at zero, you'll have "normal" word/letter spacing. At a setting of 75%, the Flush Zone will full-justify the last line in a paragraph that is at least 75% the width of the column. If you don't want that full-justified last line, put a high number in this field - I have mine defaulted to 99%. The No Effect button is a drop-down menu that allows you to add shadow, underscore, and the usual DTP formatting. The button in the figure named "+Normal T..." is the "real" Styles menu, and if you have custom styles, you can select them from here instead of going to the Styles panel.

Paragraph Controls
When text is selected, the Object panel has five buttons running down the left side. We've just discussed the default button; the next one down has paragraph settings as shown in Figure 4.

As you can see, you can still change the font color and add strokes or effects, but now you can add (or remove) space before or after paragraphs, indent the entire paragraph from the left or right, or indent the first line. The more sensitive typophiles among us can have our punctuation hang outside the text block to appease our esthetic tastes, and if you don't check the Hyphenate box, FreeHand will not hyphenate your copy. The Edit button determines the hyphenation language, how many consecutive hyphens can be used, whether to skip capitalized words, and an override of hyphenation for a given section.

Paragraph Rules
Paragraph rules have nothing to do with proper grammar. They are horizontal straight lines that follow a paragraph. Use them to separate lines of text in a subhead or block of text pulled from a page to draw the reader into the article ("pull quote" as shown in Figure 5). But it's really handy if you're making a table and want horizontal rules between rows of text. I think it's probably one of the most convoluted areas of working with text in FreeHand, so I'll explain it in detail. If you select a text block, the paragraph rules will apply to all paragraphs in the block. If you select a single paragraph, then the rules only apply to that particular paragraph. When the selection is made, use the drop-down menu to select Center or Paragraph. Center will align the rule in the center of the paragraph; Paragraph will align the rule according to the paragraph alignment you have set, that is, centered, justified, flush left or right. Depending on the next few settings you make, justified may amount to "centered." When you've made your selection, you will notice that absolutely nothing has happened to your text. It's pretty disappointing. But here's where the convolution comes in: select the Text Block item in the Object panel (shown in Image 6), and click the Add Stroke button. The rule will appear in your text, and you can change the weight and color just as you can any stroke. But wait, there's more! You'll see that there's also a shiny new border around your text block. That's probably not what you were expecting. So re-select the Text Block menu item, and deselect the Display Border check box at the bottom of the panel. That deletes the rule surrounding the text block and leaves you with your paragraph rules. You're not stuck with the results you see, however. Just select the Text object in the Object panel, and click on the Paragraph button again. Drag down to Edit to bring up the Paragraph Rule Width box (Figure 7). Here you can choose to shorten the width of the paragraph rule by entering a percentage, and you can decide whether that percentage is of the entire column, or the last line in the paragraph.

I know, you're all excited now, and can't wait to use paragraph rules, but keep at least one other thing in mind: you lose the rules when you convert to paths, and you may get an unexpected extra blank line in the text block when you copy an auto-expanded text block into Fireworks. Converting the text block to fixed-width and widening the text block a few points before copying the text will correct the situation.

Paragraph Spacing
Paragraph spacing attributes are shown in Figure 8. With this section selected, you can customize the word and letter spacing for any text you have selected. The default settings are good for 99% of the work you'll probably do, but when you have to stretch or shrink a word, sentence, or paragraph so it will fit better into a layout, you have a lot of control. The problem you may have is one of legibility with extreme settings. At that point, you may be moved to enter a percentage in the field that will compress or expand the letters themselves.

Sometimes, a setting of 98% is enough to squeeze a dangling word or two up into the paragraph so the layout fits perfectly. The "Keep lines together" setting prevents widows and orphans - short lines of text at the top or bottom of columns - from occurring. If you enter a number such as 3 in this field, you won't have any single or two-line paragraphs beginning or ending columns. A check mark in Selected Words will keep the words you have selected on one line, regardless of the gaping hole that may be left in the line above it.

Managing Columns of Text
When you need to work with columns, you can either divide your page into columns and gutters by dragging guidelines across the page, or you can simply click the Columns button to bring up the panel shown in Figure 9. In the first text field on the left, enter the number of columns you want. Directly beneath that field, the height of the column you have selected will be shown, you can enter a fixed height for the column. Up to the right top again, enter a number for the gutter space, and use the Rules menu to place vertical rules in the gutter between columns. In the bottom half of this panel, you can cut the columns vertically, adding numbers of rows within the column(s), adjusting the gutter space, determining the width, and adding a horizontal rule. When using rules, Inset provides a break between columns or rows, whereas Full Height or Full Width go the full length or width of the text (see Figure 10). These rules only appear in gutters, not around the text block, and they are created in exactly the same manner as the paragraph rules described above. The two choices for Flow determine how your text reads between columns and rows.

Column Adjustments
The last setting you have in the text area is Column Adjust (see Figure 11). This only has an effect if you are using the multiple column aspect of the Object panel - it doesn't work if you have text in multiple columns, whether the text is linked or not. Figure 12 shows how FreeHand attempts to flush or balance the bottoms of the columns. It can only work with what it's got, so some blocks of text will work better than others, depending on many factors from the font's size and weight, column width, size of words, numbers of paragraphs, and more.

The bottom two text blocks are clones of the top block. The purple shapes indicate how much space is empty from the baseline of the last line of text to the bottom of the column rule. Thin red lines show how baselines compare from column to column. The top row of text is not adjusted in any way. The middle row has been adjusted with the Balance option, which attempts to equalize the number of lines in each column. Since multiple columns have been utilized, there is no option to use an auto-expanding text block. Therefore, the height of the text block is determined by the size you've created, and shown by the height of the column rules. The bottom row of text has been modified with Modify Leading, which has added fractional leading between lines in order to bottom them out. Notice how the leading has increased in the last column so that lines of text do not align with the other columns.

More Typography Next Month
There's a lot to be learned about FreeHand's text handling capabilities. Next month we'll get into tabs, handling text from Illustrator documents, text to paths, text inside and outside objects, and a few other text tricks.

More Stories By Ron Rockwell

Illustrator, designer, author, and Team Macromedia member Ron Rockwell lives and works with his wife, Yvonne, in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Ron is MXDJ's FreeHand editor and the author of FreeHand 10 f/x & Design, and he co-authored Studio MX Bible and the Digital Photography Bible. Ron has just introduced a "Casual FreeHand" course available at www.brainstormer.org.
He has Web sites at www.nidus-corp.com and www.brainstormer.org.

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