I’m kidding about the title of this month’s tip, but it did get your attention, so it served its purpose. Seriously, how would you like to open Xara Designer every time and have the page size, colors, fonts, and all that other good and essential stuff set up exactly the way you want it?

The solution is to build and save a Xara Template, and the following sections show you how. First, download tons ‘o colors.xar using the attractive and conveniently located button at left here.

The Key To Customization

Whenever you launch Xara, there are some resources that are stored on your system, and some that are local to a new document based on a template, and existing documents you might open. The difference, for example, is when you put a button in the Button Gallery on a toolbar in Xara so it’s easy to access, this change is stored on your system, and you shouldn’t expect to see this button in its custom location if you re-install Xara. However, if you’ve created a template, and specify the template is used for all new documents, and the template is zoomed to full page, every new document based on this template will open at full page zoom resolution. So how cool is that?!

Setting Up the Template’s Page

The following sections have recommendations plugged in for what you might want to specify in your template; naturally, it’s up to you to define your own preferences, but I’ll give reasoning along the way as to why I suggest something.

  1. Step1After launching Xara Designer, press Ctrl+Shift+O to display Options. Let’s suppose you want your default page size to be something other than any of the presets offered. I personally want a page that is exactly the size of a full screen for screen captures—1280 by 1024 is my screen resolution. So the first stop is Units in Options, and I set the page units to pixels. You can’t specify a page size in pixels unless the current unit of measurement is pixels.
  2. Step 2Click the Page Size tab and then choose Custom from the Paper Size drop-down list. Now I’ll enter my screen resolution after choosing Landscape orientation, click Apply and our first step toward customizing a personal template’s completed.

Optionally, you might want to press Ctrl+L now, if you want rules bounding your template page from now on. Personally, I can’t get away without rulers, and if you measure things in units other than Inches, go back to Options and choose the Grid and Ruler tab. The rulers in Xara can be set to any unit you like, and this unit is independent of how units are displayed on the Infobar.

Customizing your View

Because I have to take screen captures most of my work day, I tend to slum it and use PrintScreen a lot, although Evernote and SnagIt are helpful, and Designer Pro 7 does have a Screen Capture feature under Utilities. For the sake of convenience, I’d like all my new documents based on this template to open to full page zoom level, so after I hit PrintScreen, when I then press Ctrl+V, the screen capture lands neatly in the center of the page which is exactly the size of my screen resolution. Try this to always open to full page viewing resolution:

  1. Choose the Zoom Tool, and then choose the Zoom to page icon. Now, don’t do any zooming until you’ve saved this template, or perform this step again just before you save the template.
    Step 3

Fonts, Fonts, Fonts

The good news about Xara versions 5 and later is that when you need to choose a typeface for a design, all you do is choose the Text tool, click the down arrow to the right of the Font list on the Infobar, and then start typing the first few letters of the font you want to use. The bad news is that with Windows 7, 64x processing, and the availability of quality fonts for free these days, you could easily have 800 or more typefaces installed. And if you don’t remember the name of a typeface, scrolling your installed fonts list is a pain in the backside. And as a very unprofessional consequence, we tend to pick Ariel or some other font for designs from the top of the list.

Well, how about this custom template offers typefaces from the middle of the alphabet, so you get a fresh look at what you’ve installed and only have to scroll halfway to the top and the bottom of the font list?

  1. Step 4Choose the Text tool from the toolbox, but don’t make an insertion point on the page, and don’t even click or try to type anything. Click the down arrow to the right of the default font name on the Infobar to expand the installed fonts list, and then scroll down to the Ms or Ns, and then click on a font. Also, set the font size, directly to the right of the font list. Me, I tend to design headlines in my work, without a lot of body text, so I set the point size to 24, although I’m sure this won’t suit all designers. Finally, you might want to set the alignment of your default text, although I see nothing wrong with Left alignment. Okay, finally, finally (for sure!), you might want to set the default color for text in your template. To do this, click a color on the color line, or use the Color Editor.

Adding Colors to Your Template

I’m not big on going to the Color Gallery and picking out a custom collection of colors every time I have an idea and just want a serviceable palette, and to get down to business. For that reason, like other Xaraist who’ve posted them on tg, I created a custom collection of colors, named them and everything, and saved them to a XAR document. To add saved colors to a new document, all you need to do is drag the Xara file into the workspace of your future template.

  1. Step 5Put the downloaded xara file “tons o’ colors.xar on your desktop and then click the maximize/restore Windows button at the top right of Xara so you can see both the program and parts of your Desktop. Then drag the “tons ‘o colors.xar” file icon into the workspace and you now have a handsome collection of colors organized sometimes by hue on the color line.

Remember to Cap your Pen

…or it’ll dry out! Seriously, the type of cap a line end has can be set in Xara, and there’s no reason, if for example, you do a lot of technical illustration that an end cap shouldn’t be Square or Butt, or whatever.

  1. Step 6With the Pen tool chosen, go to the Line Gallery, choose the type of end caps Xara puts on lines from now on, and while you’re at it, you might want to specify a line width such as 1 or 2 points instead of the default.

Buttons and UI Style

Earlier I’d mentioned that some customization, specifically the addition of buttons to a toolbar, is not stored in a document but instead on your hard drive. Ever since version 6, you have had the option to run Xara with the sleek, black, depressing interface, or what’s called the “classic” interface, which is a medium gray and all the UI elements are clearly visible. You make this change with a four keystroke combination, but before you try this out: if you have any custom buttons in your setup, they will vanish when you switch UI color themes. So think about this one carefully, especially if you have a lot of custom buttons on toolbars.

  1. To change the UI from the current version’s to the Classic look, press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+S, and if you have small hands, you might want to use both of them!
    Step 7

Putting Options in Its Place

Step 8I’ve removed several of the default buttons from the Standard Bar and put things I use all the time such as Subtract and Intersect (the Arrange>Combine Shapes items) where Undo and Redo used to be. If you’ve never added a button to Xara’s toolbars and you’ve settled on a UI theme in the previous section (so you don’t undo your button work later), here’s a quick move to put Options as a button right on the main Toolbar. Why would you want to do this? Well, for one thing, I reset the Nudge distance constantly. Also I use several programs in Windows, I’m not getting younger, and I cannot memorize 40,000 keyboard shortcuts with a high degree of confidence. Here’s how to add Options to the Toolbar:

  1. Choose Window>Control Bars, and then put a check in the Button Palette, the last item in the scroll window. The palette pops up above the workspace. Hold Alt and then drag the orange wrench button to below the Zoom tool on the Toolbar, or any location you’re comfortable with.
  2. As shown in figure 9, you now have all of Xara’s Options just a click away.
    Step 9

Saving Your Template

You have only a few short, simple steps ahead of you now to save this template.

  1. Choose File>Save Template. In the Save Template dialog box, give your template an evocative name because you might want to build more user templates in the future, accept the default location for the saved template because as you can see here, this is where Xara keeps all your other templates, and if you like, click the use as default template checkbox, which makes all new documents when you launch Xara (and continue to create File>New documents) have all the properties you’ve specified in this series of steps. You can click Save now, and close Xara without saving the current file—because you’ve already saved it as a template.

Happy drawing in the future with your very own copy of Xara Designer for Bill, or for Susan, or for Binkie.