Everything you ever wanted to know about “Box Tools” in the Scripts menu

It looks like a scroll, it’s in the menu bar, and you’ve probably never used it.

If you use a Macintosh, it’s about time you realize how many hours of work this feature will save you — and could have been saving you since QuarkXPress 4. You’re gonna love this once you realize all the things these scripts can do. I want to compare the Scripts menu in Quark 4, 5 and 6 to the Scripts menu in Quark 7 and 8, just to show that you could have been doing these things years ago. As I explored this menu, I literally cried — I couldn’t believe I never tried to see what this cryptic little menu does. This strange white parchment at the right side of the menu bar could have saved me many late nights in Quark. In my next few entries I’d like to show you how to use each one. Commander Riker, let’s begin with the Box Tools. Engage!

A short digression to set the stage…

When a movie is released, certain scenes never make it to the final cut. The scenes that tell the story and guide the plot are the ones that survive. It’s usually the scenes that really enhance the story that end up on the cutting room floor. Programs are no different. When a newer version of a program is released, the programmers try to include all the new feature requests that users want (I would like to think.) Certain requests that would enhance the program are not always added to the actual program, because of time or resources, and they are then added as scripts. If a script is successful, it can only hope to one day make it into the Directors Cut (Quark 8.)

Take for example the Jabba the Hutt scene of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope. Lucas didn’t have enough time or money to include it in the movie (program) the way he wanted so he waited till a later release. (Click here to see what I mean.) What I think about updating movies vs. updating programs is for another blog…

Here’s what Quark left on the cutting room floor…

The Box Tools Scripts Menu in Quark 4, 5 and 6.

The Box Tools Scripts Menu in Quark 7 and 8.

You will notice that there were many more scripts in Quark 4, 5 and 6. The reason why they are not there in Quark 7 and 8 is because those functions were added to the program itself.

Add Crop Marks

This is a great and necessary feature for anyone whose printer has ever asked for crop marks. Instead of manually drawing crop marks for the printer, you can use this feature — which has been around since Quark 4!

Let’s say you need to print an ad with crop marks. Just select the outside box of your ad, then choose Scripts> Box Tools> Add Crop Marks.

Adding Crop Marks to a box.

Center Box on Page

This little gem of a script disappeared in QuarkXPress 7 after Quark added “Item Relative” and Page Relative” to the alignment options in the Item> Space/Align menu, and in the Measurements palette.

If you have an item in Quark 4, 5 or 6 that you need to center on the page, you can choose Script > Box Tools> Center Box on Page.

Here is the script at work in Quark 6.

Ever since Quark 7 you can find the command right in the Measurements palette. And I may add that Quark had this command NINE YEARS before InDesign CS3 did.

Here is the menu command in Quark 8.

Drop Shadow

This one is pretty basic, though I admit it would have been helpful to know about. Before QuarkXPress 7, you needed a commercial XTension called Shadowcaster to get a true drop shadow effect. Quark 7 and above have built-in drop shadow effects, but if you want to try Shadowcaster in Quark 7, you can get it for free at: http://labs.quark.com/projects.aspx.

Here are the Drop Shadow options in the Measurements palette.

In Quark 4, 5 or 6, you could apply this script to all your selected boxes, including Picture Boxes, Text Boxes or None Boxes. When it runs, the script asks you for offset amounts, and whether or not to Overprint the shadow.

The first Drop Shadow script window.

The second Drop Shadow script window.

The third Drop Shadow script window.

The final drop shadow.

It wasn’t much: it was a black box offset with a 30% shade. There was no feather back then, but it was still a huge timesaver.

Easy Banner

For at least one full year of my life, I created car ads for newspapers in Quark. Day after day, I would insert new cars where old cars once existed. I would constantly be asked by sales people to insert a banner in the top left corner of the ad that read “New” or a price of “$2000.” Then there were the real estate ads. These images needed descriptions such as “Just Listed” or “Priced to Sell.” At first I would always hand draw each banner with the pen tool. At print time, these quick solutions never lined up the way I wanted. I eventually drew them correctly and save them as items in a Library, which made my job easier. However, I still needed to resize them, and depending on the layout they sometimes looked disproportionate. Then, there I was again editing the banner with the pen tool. If I had known this script existed in Quark 4, 5 and 6, I wouldn’t have told anyone. I would have let everyone think I was the Banner Master.

Banner Master pointing to his work.

Easy Banner is located under Scripts> Box Tools> Easy Banner. It literally makes a banner for you!

The first window asks you “What should the Banner say?” The banner really doesn’t say anything. Since this banner is for print, the question should be “What should the Banner read? But I’m just splitting hairs…

The second window asks you to “Select a Text Color.” Do it.

The third window asks you to “Select a Box Color.” Do this also.

Then a whole lot of really quick magical things happen. A shape is created, text is added, its suddenly rotated, and then it is clipped to the shape of the picture box! Amazing! Use as needed…

Make Caption Box

These last two scripts still have a home in Quark 7 and 8. If you work for any kind of publication where you are constantly making caption boxes under photos, you need to know this exists. Instead of making a text box under each box, then somehow getting the caption, I’ve got a nice little workflow for you. Select the image that needs the caption. Choose Scripts> Box> Tools> Make Caption Box.

Here’s where you can enter the caption.

The empty caption window appears. Now here’s a good idea… If you have photographers who are saving the photos for you somewhere on the server and giving you a separate text file or Word document for the captions, stop doing that. Once the photographer is done making their masterpiece in Photoshop, have them go to File > File Info in Photoshop and type or copy the caption into the Description section.

Now you can use Bridge to locate the photo you need and even drag and drop that image onto your Quark page in Quark 8. When you need the caption info, simply right click the image in Bridge and choose File Info. You will see the same File Info they inserted in Photoshop.

You can right-click a photo in Bridge to get file info.

The Bridge File Info Window.

Copy this Info and paste it into the empty caption window.

The placed caption.

You have no control over the size of the caption‘s text box (although you could alter the script). So, why not make yourself an Item Style in Quark 8 and apply it once the box is created? Then apply a paragraph style as needed. Or… since the caption text is automatically assigned the “Normal” paragraph style, you could change your Normal style to whatever you want the captions to look like. You could also potentially redefine the preferences of the text box tool before you use the script, to control the runaround of the caption box.

Shrink or Grow at Center

I actually could have used this one for a couple of the posts I’ve made at PlanetQuark.com. Here is the most perfect example I can think of: let’s say that you normally create a box to use as an outside frame, and then you create another box that is inset exactly 9 pt from this frame. The outside box could be any size, but the inside box is always 9 pt away from the edge of the outside box. Here‘s what to do: Copy your first box and Paste it in Place. (Edit> Paste In Place) Now use the Shrink script to shrink your box proportionately by 18 pt. You now have a box that is smaller and exactly 9 points away from the outside box.

Here is another example:

In this example I drew a box around the picture and the text. My goal is to create a larger box that surrounds the picture and text.

Draw a box around whatever you’d like to surround.

I gave the box a black frame. I then chose Scripts> Box Tools> Shrink or Grow at Center.

Enter the amount to Shrink or Grow.

If your box has a picture in it, there are all kinds of ways to scale it — I encourage you to try each one.

Scale it in whatever manner seems fit.

After I grew this box I sent it to the back and gave it a blue color.

The final result.

So there you have it… Those are the Box Tools scripts in Quark 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. I urge you to try these tools whenever you have a chance and try to fit them into your everyday workflow. They could really save you a lot of time. Just don’t tell your boss, and spend a little bit more time exploring Planet Quark for me…