Locking Items vs Locking Layers

Robert Underwood’s advice on using Master Pages in QuarkXPress last week should be compulsory reading for anyone working on regular publications.

Especially important is his note towards the end to remind us that once you edit or even just move an item that originated from a Master Page, that item’s link back to the Master Page is forever broken (unless you Undo, of course). Robert suggests a number of workarounds, such as locking precious items on the Master Page so that you don’t inadvertently move them in your layout.

Again this is good advice. However, there are certain circumstances when when locking doesn’t quite do the trick.

For example, I work on a fortnightly publication that has a full-bleed graphic background (a hi-res TIFF, no less) that covers every page entirely. Text and pictures sit in front in tinted and framed boxes, and there are also various cut-outs that overlap into the text boxes and on top of other pictures. The full-bleed background, along with the folio and strap lines and other furniture, is part of the Master Page spread because these items are identical across every spread.

My first problem is that there are lots of overlapping items, and I often need to select multiple items to move them around together. One way to select multiple items is to Shift-click each item in turn, but this is really very difficult when they overlap each other.

It’s much easier to drag a marquee area over multiple items to select them, but this has the unfortunate side-effect of selecting the background graphic too. And if I do anything to this selection, I will inadvertently break the background graphic’s link back to the Master Page.

Well, I could lock the background graphic on the Master Page. Because it’s a picture and its precise crop is important, I would lock it twice in QuarkXPress 7: Item > Lock > Position and Item > Lock > Picture.

But doing this actually prevents me from using my usual drag-marquee technique for selecting multiple items in the layout itself. Why? Let’s take a look.

Here’s some little overlapping items I drew as an example. The yellow box at the back represents my full-bleed picture background, and it is locked. So when I’m using the Content tool, I drag a marquee area over all the items like so.

Locked Layers

The result is that I have now selected all the items, including the locked background box. Although I can’t edit the locked box – no worries there – nor can I edit anything else, because having one locked item in the selection effectively locks all the others.

Locked Layers

If I try to drag a marquee closer to the items I want to select (that is, starting the click-and-drag action inside the background box area rather than from outside), this doesn’t work either. All that happens is that the background box, although locked, becomes selected immediately and won’t let me select anything else.

Locked Layers

So here’s my solution: don’t lock the item in the Master Page. Instead, lock the ‘Default’ layer in your layout using the Layers palette, then put all your page items in a new layer above it. All items on your Master Page are put in the ‘Default’ layer as standard, so this is a quick way of locking all Master Page items in one go.

Locked Layers

Now when I drag a selection marquee across my layout, the background graphic item is ignored altogether as you can see.

Locked Layers

And only those items I want selected are selected.

Locked Layers

Of course, if I do want to edit an item that originated from the Master Page, I just unlock the ‘Default’ layer, make the change, then lock the layer again afterwards. As long as the whole layer is locked, QuarkXPress lets you work as if the items in that layer simply weren’t there.