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Chapter 3. Introducing the MX Interface > Character and Paragraph Attributes

Character and Paragraph Attributes

Text attributes can be divided into those that affect paragraphs and those that affect individual letters or characters. The most commonly used paragraph attribute is justification: aligned left, aligned right, centered, and justified (aligned left and right). Others include line spacing, first-line indent, and margins. Character attributes include font, point size, character position, character spacing, and kerning (pairwise character spacing).

To make paragraph-level changes, select the Text tool. Then, to make changes to just one paragraph, click anywhere in that paragraph. Alternatively, you can select any part of one or more paragraphs. Any subsequent paragraph-level changes made in the Property inspector affect all the chosen paragraphs.

To make character-level changes, click and drag with the Text tool to select the text you want to change, as shown in Figure 3.25. Any subsequent character-level changes made in the Property inspector affect just the selected characters.

Figure 3.25. Click and drag with the Text tool to edit individual letters within text blocks.

Font, Point Size, Color, and Styles

You can select a font from a drop-down menu (indicated as “Font” in Figure 13.9). In Flash and Dreamweaver, you can also type in the font name. If you type in the font name, you need to click at the insertion point in the workspace to be able to type your text. Otherwise, you enter your text into the Font selection field.

You can type in a font size in all four programs. All four also offer an alternative means to select the font size: a pop-up slider in Flash and Fireworks, a drop-down listing just the most commonly used font sizes in Dreamweaver and FreeHand. Typing in a size is generally the easiest way to set the font size. However, the sliders enable you to select text and quickly preview it at many different sizes.

Flash and Fireworks assign the fill color to your text. Dreamweaver doesn't distinguish between stroke and fill, so there's just one color selection box. FreeHand automatically assigns just a fill color to text, but allows you to add a stroke, so the text can be outlined in a different color.

You can also force font styles by using the Bold and Italic buttons. In Dreamweaver and Flash, consider creating and applying a CSS tag instead. That way, later on, you can make global changes to all bolded text just by changing the tag.

→For more on applying CSS tags in Flash, seeFormatting Using CSS,” page 608, in Chapter 21, “Advanced ActionScript.” For CSS in Dreamweaver, seeCSS Styles: Background,” page 171, and “CSS in Dreamweaver MX 2004,” page 179, in Chapter 8, “Writing and Editing HTML, XHTML, and CSS.”

In Flash, where you can include the font in the movie, it may be preferable to use a bold or italic version of a font rather than the Bold and Italic buttons, because you can lose much of the subtlety of a typeface by forcing a bold or italic style that it wasn't designed for. When working with text in Dreamweaver, you're using system fonts (fonts provided by the user's computer) and can't be sure that the bold or italic versions will be available on all machines. Therefore, it's common to just stick with standard fonts and use the bold and italic buttons in Dreamweaver.

Text Direction

Flash and Fireworks allow you to control text direction: horizontal left-to-right, horizontal right-to-left (not available in Flash), vertical left-to-right, and vertical right-to-left. In Freehand, you control text direction by attaching the text to a path.

→For more on reversing text direction in FreeHand, seeText Effects,” page 849, Chapter 30, “Using FreeHand in Web Site Planning and Creation.”

Vertical directions are particularly useful for Asian languages. Figure 3.24 shows the text direction button in Flash.

Kerning and Character Spacing

Kerning refers to the amount of space between two letters or characters, whereas character spacing applies to larger groups of characters or entire blocks of text. Both kerning and character spacing can be defined by positive or negative settings. Positive settings increase the amount of space between letters, and negative settings decrease space until letters eventually overlap, as shown in Figure 3.26. Zero is neutral. For general legibility in blocks of copy, it's best to work within a range of 0 to +5 or even less, depending on text size. The smaller the point size, the greater the effect of character spacing. Many fonts have desirable kerning built in. In Flash and Fireworks, you can use this kerning by selecting the Auto Kern option. FreeHand does this automatically. As already mentioned, Dreamweaver does not support these options.

Figure 3.26. Character spacing: +20 on the top, 0 in the middle, –5 at the bottom.

In Flash, Fireworks, and FreeHand, select letters, words, or entire text blocks, then enter a positive or negative number in the character spacing field. In Flash and Fireworks, you can also drag a slider to select the amount of spacing. When used with vertical text, character spacing determines the vertical amount of space between characters. In Flash, you can also set a preference to turn off kerning of vertical text; then character spacing affects only horizontal text.

Character Position

Character position refers to raising or lowering text in relation to a baseline, as with superscripts and subscripts. Most of the time you will use the default of Normal, which places text squarely on the baseline. (See Figure 3.27.) The superscript and subscript options are typically used with special characters or footnotes within text blocks.

Figure 3.27. The baseline is an implied line on which the characters sit. Superscript and subscript appear above or below the baseline.

Alignment and Justification

In all four programs, use Alignment buttons to specify left-aligned, centered, right-aligned, or full justification of paragraphs. Full justification creates newspaper-style paragraphs that are aligned on both the left and right sides. When using full justification, be sure to check the amount of space that is created by the justification so that large, distracting gaps do not appear between words. Do not use full justification with bitmap fonts, or they will stretch and become blurry. These settings also apply to vertical text, in the programs that support that.

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