QuarkXPress 8: New Constraints for Old Constraints

There are so many helpful improvements in QuarkXPress 8 that this one slipped my eye — until now. Believe it or not, because of the way QuarkXPress 8 now lets you resize groups of items, it breathes new life into a Very Old Feature: items constrained within boxes.

For a quick explanation, see the story below, courtesy of X-Ray magazine. (This is an excerpt from “QuarkXPress 8: a Suite Response“.)

Responsible parenting

Looking back to QuarkXPress 1 and 2 (yes, I know, that’s way back — but stop it, it is not the stone age), the entire box concept was even more constraining — so to speak. As foreign as it seems now, then it was completely expected that if I drew a box or line within the confines of another box, the newly added box or line became a “child” of the larger box and could not be moved outside the confines of the first box (this was known as the parent-child relationship).

This behavior had definitive advantage if you were creating forms with lots of rules. As long as you started drawing the rule within the box, you could not extend the rule past the edge of the box in any direction. It made for neat, precise intersections between the lines and box edges. The drawback was that if you wanted to resize the table or form, you would have to scale each of the items within the box (one at a time) to the new size before you could resize the parent. Complex forms could take you hours to resize — you might have chosen to simply start over.

If you’re new to QuarkXPress (any time since, say, QuarkXPress 4), and you’ve wondered about the constrain feature in the preferences dialogue or item menu; well, that’s the explanation. The feature pays homage to us geezers and enables us to  work in the fashion to which we had become accustomed once Quark changed the behavior of boxes. With QuarkXPress 8’s new features, they’ve done the same for you. These days, constrain is still very useful and with the behavior set of the resizing tool, you have the additional benefit of being able to scale all of the components together. That’s the big win. You don’t have to resize the items within the parent box so that you can make the box narrower, for instance.

X-Ray Magazine v5n6 QuarkXPress 8 Accessibility Defined Figure 35

In the early days of QuarkXPress, a box or line drawn within the confines of another box became a child of the parent box. Drag as you might, you could not extend the child beyond the perimeter of the parent. Here you can see that my move icon is far to the right of the box edge, but the line is not passing the edge.

X-Ray Magazine v5n6 QuarkXPress 8 Accessibility Defined Figure 36

Today, you can still opt to select a series of items and those within the confines of the largest item (parent) will become constrained (become the child) by the size and shape of the parent.

To use the constrain feature, you need a series of items and a few mouse clicks:

  1. Draw a box.
  2. Within the confines of this box, draw lines or other boxes.
  3. Select all items with the item tool.
  4. Choose ITEM > GROUP.
  5. Choose ITEM > CONSTRAIN.

To deactivate the parent-child relationship:

  1. Select the group.
  2. Choose ITEM > UNGROUP or ITEM > UNCONSTRAIN.