Custom templates in Pages

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Pages 2, the page-layout and word processing program included with Apple’s $79 iWork ‘06 suite, comes with more than 60 beautiful and versatile templates. So I was surprised when a friend complained that it didn’t have a template for a 5.5-by-8.5-inch auction brochure. What she didn’t know was that Pages’ templates are customizable. In no time, we were able to create one that perfectly suited her needs.

If you create the same type of document over and over in Pages 2 (   ), you can save considerable time and ensure consistency from one project to the next by using templates. Once you create a template, anyone can use it to add pretyped text and custom graphics. Whether you’re creating a template for an auction brochure, a recipe card, or another project, the basic steps are the same.

Start with a clean slate

To create a custom template, you need to start with a blank page. Open Pages (/Applications/iWork ’06) and choose Blank from the dialog box that appears. If no dialog box appears, or if Pages is already open, select File: New to open a new blank template.

Set Page details

Next, set up the basic structure of your document, including the document size, margins, and any other settings for the whole page. The default page size for a blank template is 8.5 by 11 inches. If you need a different size—for example, my friend’s auction brochure needed to be 5.5 by 8.5 inches—select File: Page Setup and choose the appropriate option from the Paper Size drop-down menu. If you don’t see the size you want listed, select Manage Custom Sizes at the bottom of the menu and type values for Width and Height.

To set the margins for your document, open the Document pane of the Inspector palette (if it isn’t visible, choose View: Show Inspector). Because we planned to print the auction brochure as a booklet, we also turned on the Facing Pages option, which shows you how the pages will look bound together.

Add text and graphics

Now that you’ve set up your page size and margins, specify where text and graphics should appear on the page. Ultimately, these page elements will become placeholders, which other users can quickly customize by dragging their own text and photos on top of them.

By default, Page’s Blank template includes a single text field right in the middle of the page. In most cases, you’ll want something a bit more versatile. To create your own text box, click somewhere off to the side of the document so that the cursor disappears; then click on Objects in the Pages toolbar and select Text from the drop-down menu. A small text box will appear in the middle of your document. To resize the text box, click just outside it (it will disappear) and then click on the box again. Handles will appear along its edges. Drag these until the box is large enough to suit your needs. If you lose track of a text box, go to View: Show Layout to see outlines of all page elements. Repeat the process to create as many text boxes as you need.

After you’ve created text boxes, fill them with generic text. To prevent confusion about which text you intend to be temporary and which you’ve already replaced with real content, Apple uses Latin words as placeholder text. If you’d like to do the same, download G-design’s free Lorem Ipsum Widget, which lets you define how much Latin text you need.

To add images to your document, open the Media Browser (View: Show Media Browser) and select iPhoto from the pull-down menu at the top of the browser window. Once you’ve dragged the image you want onto the page, you can use the Graphic pane of the Inspector palette to add rules, drop shadows, or reflections.

If your template will have several different types of pages—for example, one with ads or one with lists of donors—add those pages now and format them appropriately.

Define placeholders

Right now, your text and images are just standard page elements. To enable drag-and-drop customization, you must turn them into placeholders. Start by choosing Format: Advanced: Enable Placeholder Text Authoring. Highlight the first block of text and choose Format: Advanced: Define As Placeholder Text. Repeat this process for any other text on the page. To turn an image into a placeholder, select the image and choose Format: Advanced: Define As Image Placeholder.

Capture your template

Once you’ve created your template, you can give users easy access to it by placing it in the Pages menu at the top of the document window. The process of turning a page into a reusable template is called capturing the page.

Click on the toolbar’s View button and select Show Page Thumbnails from the pull-down menu. You should see a small image of your template page along the left side of the window. Click once on the page’s thumbnail to select it and then choose Format: Advanced: Capture Pages. In the dialog box that appears, enter a name for your template page. Set the Include pull-down menu to First Page Only and then click on OK.

Repeat this process for any other template pages you want to create, giving each one a different name. Now, when you click on the Pages menu, you should see the name of your captured pages along with a thumbnail image of each.

Managing multiple template pages

If you’ve created more than one template page, you may want to adjust the order in which the pages appear within the Pages menu. To do this, choose Format: Advanced: Manage Pages. Use the arrow buttons to move a selected template page up or down in the list (see “Management Skills”).

You can also use the Manage Pages window to delete template pages. For example, you probably don’t want the default Text Page to appear. To delete it, click once on the name of the template page and click on the minus-sign button (-). A word of caution: you can’t restore items deleted from the Manage Pages dialog box—so make sure you’ve selected the correct page before clicking on that button. Once you’re happy with the arrangement, click on Done.

Finalize your template

If you created a variety of page designs for your template, your current document may be several pages long. To simplify your template, trim your document to just one or two pages—the ones you’ll use most often. These pages will appear whenever you open your new template. Remember, you’ll still be able to access the other page designs from the Pages menu.

To delete pages from the document, click on a page’s icon in the Thumbnails drawer and press the delete key. You’re now ready to finalize your template (File: Save As Template). In the window that appears, give your template a name and click on Save.

To use your new template, select File: New. In the dialog box that appears, choose My Templates from the column on the left, select the thumbnail for your new template, and click on Choose.

Share with others

Before you create your custom template, check to see if someone else has already done the work for you. The Web site offers a template exchange, where you can download Pages templates from other users or share your own. The offerings include a newspaper layout, legal forms, flash cards, and more.

To share one of your templates, open your My Templates folder ( your user folder /Library/Application Support/iWork/Pages/Templates/My Templates) and make a copy of the template file. You can then e-mail this file to other iWork users or post it online (you’ll need to become a member to post templates to the site).

[ Jeffery Battersby is a writer, newspaper publisher, and network analyst. He lives in upstate New York. ]

One of a Kind: If Pages doesn’t offer the layout you need—such as the auction brochure shown here—design it yourself. Then turn it into a template, so that next time you can quickly customize the text and graphics without starting from scratch. Our template includes several different page designs, which are visible in the thumbnail column on the left.Management Skills: The Manage Pages dialog box lets you control how template pages appear in the Pages menu. Use the up- and down-arrow buttons to change the order of pages.
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