Master the art of naming masters

I have just finished working on a little magazine about Shakespearean literature. 48 pages, all in one file.

In the world of magazines, recent years have witnessed an explosion of small-circulation startups. There’s no need for big offices or permanent staff. All that’s required is enough money to cover the three big ‘P’s (print-paper-postage), and then hire a freelance sub-editor to throw the publication together on press day.

Powerful computers are more affordable than ever, so small publishers can happily buy one to sit in a corner, waiting for a freelancer to come in and use it once a week, fortnight or whatever.

This in turn has seen the rise of the single-project publication. Traditionally, magazines are built up from a number of QuarkXPress files, but with just one person dealing with an entire publication, and armed with a powerful computer stuffed with memory, it’s increasingly common to work on a single file that contains all the pages of the entire issue.

An unfortunate side-effect is that instead of working on a range of template documents, I end up working on a single QuarkXPress project into which the original designer has crammed a dozen or more master pages to cover every eventuality. Naturally, these are named ‘A-Master A’, ‘B-Master B’, ‘C-Master C’ and so on. The only way to determine what each master page is for is to open them one by one.

MastersDesigners have forgotten that you can rename master pages to something more helpful.

For example, if ‘D-Master D’ is the template for news pages, why not name it ‘NEW-News spread’? If ‘F-Master F’ is the back page containing sports coverage, why not call it ‘SBP-Sports back page’?

It’s not rocket science, nor is it difficult to do: just click on a master page’s name in the Page Layout palette and type something else in its place. The convention is three characters and a hyphen followed by a descriptive name, like this: ‘ABC-This is my custom master page name’.

A master page by any other name would seem twice as sweet.