Best Quality Logos for Office

It’s a challenge to create the absolute best quality logos for client files in Microsoft Office. Most artists choose bitmap formats for logos, usually JPEG format. Apparently this is some kind of received wisdom from artist to artist, because JPEG format is close to the worst possible format for logos. But I’ve already covered this subject in JPEG Logos? Fail! back in 2013.

Brandwares has used indexed-color PNG format for most line art (a term for non-photographic art that is mostly flat color areas). Most logos qualify as line art. But there are a couple of disadvantages to using any type of bitmap format for branding information.

With Office files, Microsoft is determined to foist image “compression” on us. I put compression in quotes because Microsoft’s solution is really downsampling by another name. Whatever the name, the results are blurry and absolutely do not reinforce the brand. All bitmap files will be downsampled unless the user chooses only a single file. You can’t protect the company logo, even with XML hacking. Let’s face it, sooner or later, bitmap logos will look like mush.

The other persistent problem with bitmap formats is what happens when you create a PDF from a document. Acrobat’s default settings assume you want to create a small file to post on a web page. This was a serious problem 20 years ago. So, once again, a software company’s helpful authoritarianism leads to default settings that cream the logos in any Office file.


Vector Formats for Best Quality Logos

For many years, we at Brandwares were aware that a vector format was a potential way out of this. Vector formats are naturals for line art, because they easily handle geometric shapes with simple coloring. But there are relatively few vector formats from which to choose, and the available formats didn’t seem up to the job.

One grandaddy of vector formats is the EPS file. Well-known to designers, the EPS doesn’t get great support in Office programs. Printing them at high resolution requires PostScript support from the printer, which is dicey in most business offices. Office programs can’t ungroup them, so adding theme color support in an Office file is out of the question.

CGM was an early contender, and is still used in technical applications. But it never got support in common file formats. SVG is making inroads on the web, but Office is only beginning to support the format.

Let’s be honest, Microsoft offers the best support to the formats it invents. For vector graphics, that is WMF and EMF. WMF is a 16-bit format that was invented in the ’90s. In practice, it’s not too useful today. All too often, WMF files do not render the inside curve of shapes like O or D. In addition, Adobe Illustrator’s WMF export is horrendous, turning every curve into a series of angled straight lines. Corel Draw does a better export, but the format is limited by its 16-bit capacity.

The format we’re left with is EMF (Enhanced MetaFile). We’ve tried EMFs exported by Illustrator, but they aren’t so great. Illustrator’s curve accuracy goes down the toilet when it exports as EMF, even though it puts Corel Draw to shame. But at this point, we realized that there might be other programs that could do a better job with EMFs.

And there is! Forget Illustrator, forget Corel Draw! For now, the king of the EMF planet is the freeware program Inkscape! This open source vector illustration package creates top-notch EMF (and SVG) graphics and can import Illustrator AI and EPS graphic files. InkScape features much better curve accuracy than Illustrator can export. Here’s the complete workflow to create a robust logo that is a small file size and sharp at any resolution and has a transparent background and will never get downsampled by Office or Acrobat!


Best Quality Logos, Step-by-Step:

You’ll need a piece of artwork in Adobe Illustrator (.ai) or Illustrator EPS (.eps) to try this out. You can download Inkscape for OS X or for Windows.

  1. In Illustrator, open the .ai or .eps file and choose the Selection tool (dark arrow). Click on the logo. If the logo outlines are selected when you do this, go to step 3. However, if clicking on the logo activates a rectangle around the logo, proceed to step 2.
  2. The rectangle that gets selected is a clipping mask and/or a compound path boundary. In Illustrator, choose Object>Clipping Path>Release. You might have to do this several times, until all clipping masks are removed. Select the rectangles. If part of the logo also gets selected when you choose a rectangle, you’re not done. When you can select just the boundary rectangles, delete them. If you neglect this step, PowerPoint can resize the clipping mask which makes the logo look cropped.
    Depending on the logo, you may also need to release the Compound Paths on the same menu. Doing this will cause the inside of A, O, D, etc. to fill in. If this happens select the paths for letter outline and the inside and choose Object>Compound Path>Make. Compound paths don’t cause problems around single letters, but they may cause issues around large groups of shapes.
  3. Save the file and close Illustrator.
  4. Open the file in InkScape. (Inkscape prefers more recent formats of .ai. If you see an import error message, try saving the file in Illustrator to a newer format)
  5. Choose File>Document Properties.
  6. On the Page tab of the dialog, expand the line Resize page to content by clicking on the plus sign.
  7. Change the units dropdown to in (inches)
  8. Set each of the 4 margin fields to 0.01 to add 1/100″ to the logo area.
  9. Click on Resize page to drawing or selection, then close the dialog.
  10. Choose File>Save As… and set Save as type: to Enhanced Metafile (*.emf). Save the file and close InkScape.
  11. Open PowerPoint, choose Insert>Picture and place the logo file. If it is the correct color you’re done. However, if you need to key part of the logo to the presentation theme, or if you need transparency in part of the logo, continue with the next step.
  12. With the logo selected, choose Picture Tools>Group>Ungroup. PowerPoint will pop up a notice: This is an imported picture, not a group. Do you want to convert it to a Microsoft Office drawing object? Click on Yes
  13. Once again, choose Drawing Tools>Group>Ungroup. Yes, you have to do it twice! This time, the drawing is actually ungrouped.

Best Quality Logos Extended

Once the file is ungrouped, you can key part or all of it to a theme color. If your presentation contains multiple color themes, then changing themes will change the keyed logo element automatically. This can be a slick trick for presentations with different sections in different code colors.

Best quality logos in identical slide layouts keyed to different color themes

The layout for these slides is identical. Each uses a different color theme that varies one code color.

Transparency is not supported in most EMF exports, but by importing and ungrouping the logo, you can add transparency back in. In PowerPoint, choose Drawing Tools>Shape Fill>More Fill Colors…, then set the Transparency slider. This works the other way around from Illustrator, but the units are the same. If the Illustrator file used 40% Opacity, set 60% Transparency in PowerPoint.

Best quality logos benefit from EMF transparency

From L to R: each character has 10% more transparency. You can’t get this by adding transparency in Illustrator, you must re-create it in Office.

EMF are not a great candidate for objects like disclaimers. Each letter includes one or 2 complex curves, so a paragraph of text will be much larger that the same disclaimer rendered as an indexed-color PNG or even a JPEG of the same text. But for logos, they’re pretty great. You get the same small file size and pin-sharp appearance regardless of how much you enlarge it. Applying image compression or printing to a low-res PDF leaves EMF logos in pristine condition. It’s by far easiest way to create the best quality logos for Microsoft Office.

PowerPoint Construction Best Practices

PowerPoint was built so that a completely new users could build a presentation without knowing anything about the program. A quick look at the typical presentations out there will quickly confirm how little most users know about the program. But there is a design, an internal workflow that was built into the software. Creating a file that uses this workflow will make your templates and themes easier to use. Users will be able to build presentations faster and suffer fewer WTF moments. The deck will simply work better when you use these PowerPoint construction best practices.


Your New Mantra: Theme>Master>Layouts>Slides

This is the order in which you should approach PowerPoint construction. The best practice is Theme>Master>Layouts>Slides. First, create a Theme. Then apply that to a Master Slide, then format the Slide Layouts. Then last of all, make the Slides. The best presentations follow this order. The worst decks are created by trying to reverse the order. A surprising number of people start with the Slides, then try and fix the Layouts on which they’re based. Finally they end up at the Master and never quite discover the Theme. These are the problem decks that I get called on to repair, since they just don’t work anymore.


PowerPoint Construction Best Practices: The Theme

The basic design building block of all Office programs is the Theme. Themes nominally have 3 components: the Font theme, the Color theme and the Effects theme. However Effect themes are not editable in the program interface. All a designer can do is choose one of the presets, and the presets available change with each version of Office. Since effects are only used with tacky effects like 3D lozenges and shadows, most designers will simply ignore the Effects theme. If I’m able, I’ll apply the Office 2010 Couture effect theme, which has minimal gimmicks.

That leaves the Font and Color Themes. Color themes in Mac versions of Office are editable in PowerPoint. To create custom Font themes, Mac users must build them manually in a Text Editor. No need to get nervous about coding, they’re very simple files that you can create in TextEdit. I covered the technique in this article: XML Hacking: Font Themes. To create a Color theme that will work the best for your client, please read Office Charts: 6 Colors Maximum! This article is important because the order of colors in a theme determines the automatic color order of charts.

You don’t have to use a custom theme, but you also can’t have a theme-free file. If you don’t customize, your template will use the default Office theme. Then users will start to use the theme fonts and colors, because they’re obvious in the interface. And then your client’s presentations will be off-brand. Is that what you want? I didn’t think so…

A clear advantage of using a theme is that applying a new custom theme instantly updates the appearance of legacy documents. This feature alone takes most of the pain out of brand updates, but the underlying templates must have been built with theme application in mind.

I have Themes in my Theme!?

As usual for Microsoft, they use the same word in two different senses, just to make sure you get confused. In PowerPoint, a Theme and a Template can both contain an entire presentation in addition to the Color, Font and Effects Theme parts. By contrast, if you save a Theme from Word or Excel for Windows, the Theme file contains only the Color, Font and Effects parts, but no content or pages. So when you’re talking Themes with an expert, you need to make it clear whether you’re talking about a Font or Color Theme subfile, a Word or Excel style Theme that combines the Colors, Fonts and Effects, or a PowerPoint theme that includes all of the above plus Masters and Layouts.


PowerPoint Construction Best Practices: The Master

In PowerPoint, when you choose View>Slide Master, you’ll see a list of thumbnails at the side of your screen. The larger thumbnail at the top is the Slide Master (outlined in red):

PowerPoint construction best practices

The slide master never appears in a presentation. For this reason, some designers falsely conclude it is unnecessary and make a mess of it by ignoring it, deleting all placeholders, or otherwise mistreating it. The clients of these designers live in PowerPoint hell, with layouts and slides that just don’t work the way they should. It’s a shame that a designer who doesn’t know what they’re doing can’t spend a few dollars to bring in a professional to assist them.

A critical function in PowerPoint templates and themes is Inheritance. Inheritance is what we use when we create a typestyle, then apply that style to text. The text is said to inherit the characteristics of the style. The style is the parent and the text is the child.

The Slide Master inherits the fonts and colors of the Theme. Then the Slide Layouts inherit their formatting from the Slide Master, and finally the Slide inherit their formatting from the Layouts. The Slide Master is a crucial link in the chain. Ignoring it or formatting it incorrectly will cause inheritance problems in the rest of the presentation.

The correct way to format the Slide Master is to include as much formatting as possible that can carry over to the Layouts. Leave all placeholders in place, do not delete any. Perhaps you don’t think users will need a date or footer field, but deleting them will create problems for the users that actually do need them. You will also create problems in the future, when today’s decks become tomorrow’s legacy presentations that need to be updated with a new theme.

Analyze the design sample slides for where bulleting is needed and where it isn’t. A default Microsoft design uses bullets for every text level, but your template will be more useful if it includes a mix of bulleted and non-bulleted levels. The bullet scheme you apply on the Slide Master is automatically inherited by all the slide layouts.

On most presentations, there is a company logo that appears on most or all slides. Include that logo on the Slide Master (Of course, that logo is an indexed-color PNG right? You’re not still using JPEGs for logos, are you?). Important: Don’t touch a Slide Layout until the Slide Master is complete!


PowerPoint Construction Best Practices: The Layouts

When the Slide Master is complete, then and only then, move on to the Slide Layouts. Why? Because editing the Layouts breaks the inheritance from the Master of the edited feature. As one example, if you create a unique bullet setup on a Layout, then go to the Master and create the same setup, the edited Layout will remain out of sync. Subsequent changes to the bullets on the master will never show on the Layout, because you broke the inheritance. Any changes to the Slide Master also have be duplicated on the Layout. Even though the bullets are identical, you created twice as much work by editing the Layout before the Master.

I’ve seen some designers who delete everything on the Master so they can create Layouts that differ from each other. This, too, is a mistake. The Slide Master should be formatted to look like a typical or common slide in the presentation. Then, for any layout that has different graphics or background color, right-click on the Layout, choose Format Background and turn off the background graphics with the Hide background graphics option. This leaves the placeholders in place and they still get their formatting from the Master. Then create a different color background and/or include different graphics. Presto, a different appearance, while maintaining inheritance from the Master.

I really don’t like the Layout titles that Microsoft has assigned. First, there is the Title slide, then you have Title and Content. Except the word Title refers to 2 different things. The first layout is for the title of the presentation, which could just as easily be called the Cover slide, while the second refers to the Title placeholder on the slide layout. Most of the layouts have titles, why do only some include Title in the layout name?. I’d love to fix this, but then I would create another problem:

People will make presentations with your template. Someday those decks will be “legacy content” that needs to be updated with the next template that will inevitable follow yours. When those presentations are updated, PowerPoint will find a Cover layout in the old file and a Title layout in the new one. PowerPoint doesn’t know these are intended to be the same layout. So instead of replaced Cover with Title, it keeps both. The old deck now has a new Title layout, but it doesn’t get applied to the title slide, because that is linked to the Cover layout. The user screams. Why didn’t all the slides update with the new theme? Well, it’s your fault, because you thought you were more clever than Microsoft and you changed the layout name.

Deleting layouts isn’t so much of a sin. The Two Content and Comparison layouts are mostly redundant, your client may need one or the other, but not both. The Content with Caption and Picture with Caption layouts are fairly useless in their default form, but they’re worth reformatting if your client’s content requires something similar. Someone connected with Microsoft told me that the last 2 layouts with rotated text (Title and Vertical Text and Vertical Title and Text) were intended for use with Asian languages. Could be, so I leave them in for world-wide companies that might need Far Eastern text but delete them for smaller and local clients. Just remember: if you keep the layout, keep the name. New titles for new layouts only!


Custom Slide Layouts

I assumed everyone already knew this, but you can also create custom layouts in Slide Master view. Start by duplicating an existing Layout or creating a new one. Then choose the Insert Placeholder command to add an all-purpose Content placeholder, or one of several types of content-specific placeholders. You can add many placeholders to a layout, it’s a very flexible system.

A question that comes up frequently is whether to use Picture or Content placeholders for a photo slide layout. These 2 types of placeholders act differently, so the choice depends on what kind of action is most suitable. When you insert a picture into a content placeholder, the placeholder fits itself to the photo proportions. If the photo has a small physical size, the Content placeholder shrinks to fit the photo. The photo’s aspect ratio is always preserved.

By contrast, a Picture placeholder stays the same size. Placed photos are enlarged or reduced to fit the placeholder, and are automatically cropped to make the photo fit the aspect ratio of the placeholder. Knowing this, we can state that where a particular layout is locked down, you should use a Picture placeholder. An example might be a photo page where there is an exact 1/4″ gap between photos on all 4 sides. A Picture placeholder will maintain this layout:

PowerPoint Construction Best Practices - Picture Placeholder

Picture placeholders are better for rigid or exact layouts.

If the slide contains a single picture and the entire picture must show in its original proportions, a Content placeholder is more suitable:

PowerPoint Construction Best Practices - Content Placeholder

A flexible layout when the entire photo must show is better with a Content placeholder.

Lazy Designer Syndrome and How to Avoid It

I’ve repaired lots of presentation that show these symptoms: in a series of placeholders on a custom layout, you’ll enter text or content. You switch to a different layout, then switch back, but now the content is in different placeholders than you used originally. What’s happening? Usually, there was a lazy designer who, while editing a layout, copied and pasted formatted placeholders rather than using Slide Master>Insert Placeholder. While they were saving themselves a few minutes, they were sentencing their users to much more time rearranging slides after switching layouts.

The reason is that PowerPoint keeps track of each placeholder by its ID number in the XML. But when you copy and paste placeholders on a layout, PowerPoint does not assign a new ID number. It only does that when you choose Insert Placeholder. The result is a slide with placeholders that PowerPoint can’t tell apart. When it has to assign a piece of content to the duplicated placeholders, the result is random placement of the graphic or text.

To be fair, you can also get a similar effect when switching between layouts that have different numbers of placeholders. If the first layout has 10 placeholders and the second has only 2, PowerPoint will place the first 2 items in the right place. The remaining 8 items will still be in placeholders, but since there is no layout information, they’re plunked wherever PowerPoint wants to put them. When you reapply the original layout, all placeholders will pop back into place, with each kind of placeholder going where that type is on the layout. Unfortunately, during this process, PowerPoint re-writes the ID numbers and some pieces end up in a different order. The effect is less chaotic than lazy designer syndrome. This is also a bug you can help fix! I’ve created a suggestion at Microsoft’s PowerPoint User Voice forum explaining the issue. Please take a look and add your vote: Microsoft uses this feedback to prioritize their programming.


PowerPoint Construction Best Practices: The Slides

Now you’re finally ready to make slides, or hand the template off to your users so they can get creative. And this is the place where a well-constructed template or theme can either save your users time, while a sloppy one will keep them working ’til midnight. Do it right and the slides will be easy to produce, and they’ll work the way they’re supposed to. Just follow your mantra: Theme>Master>Layouts>Slides and all else will be bliss!

Multiple Color Themes, One Template

Multiple color themes in the same PowerPoint template are useful for companies with several divisions or for presenters who need color-coded sections. Here are 3 ways to add that capability to your presentations.


Multiple Color Themes: Using Super Themes in PowerPoint

Users sometimes get the idea for using multiple color themes from some of the Super Themes that are distributed with newer versions of PowerPoint:

Super Theme Color Variants

Super Theme Color Variants

The user sees a preview of the color palette that will be used, then picks the variant they want to use. It’s an elegant, attractive interface, but working with Super Themes is the hard way to get there. These files have extra levels of folders compared to a normal theme, so the structure is more complex. Microsoft has never published any details of the format, nor have they supplied tools to assemble them. I’ve spent many hours trying to reverse engineer them, so far without much success.

Fortunately, there are other ways to add multiple color themes, so we don’t have to use this solution. The only unique advantage a Super Theme has is that you can include both 4:3 and 16:9 versions of a presentation in the same file with undistorted artwork in both. Hopefully, you’ll see an article from me about the subject someday.


Multiple Color Themes: Hacking XML

This technique works to add multiple color themes to PowerPoint. You can also add them to Word and Excel files, but those programs won’t show them in the user interface. These extra color themes will travel with a theme saved from such a Word or Excel file, but you already knew that PowerPoint is the program to use for creating theme files. To hack the XML, start by reading XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you’re using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X.

Now, expand your Office file to see the XML. Open the ppt folder, then open the theme folder inside that. PowerPoint saves every theme that’s ever been applied to the presentation, starting with theme1.xml, so you’ll have to check the theme name in each variant to get the right one. If you’re trying this with Word or Excel, look in word\theme or xl\theme respectively, where you will find only one theme1.xml file.

Format the XML to be readable, then go right to the bottom of the listing, where you’ll find the self-closing stub called <a:extraClrSchemeLst/>. First, open up the stub:

<a:extraClrSchemeLst>
</a:extraClrSchemeLst>

Then add a color scheme:

<a:extraClrSchemeLst>
  <a:extraClrScheme>
    <a:clrScheme name="Red-Tan Chart Colors">
      <a:dk1>
        <a:srgbClr val="000000"/>
      </a:dk1>
      <a:lt1>
        <a:srgbClr val="FFFFFF"/>
      </a:lt1>
      <a:dk2>
        <a:srgbClr val="082948"/>
      </a:dk2>
      <a:lt2>
        <a:srgbClr val="FAF9F9"/>
      </a:lt2>
      <a:accent1>
        <a:srgbClr val="C46158"/>
      </a:accent1>
      <a:accent2>
        <a:srgbClr val="E69779"/>
      </a:accent2>
      <a:accent3>
        <a:srgbClr val="699BC5"/>
      </a:accent3>
      <a:accent4>
        <a:srgbClr val="6E9C82"/>
      </a:accent4>
      <a:accent5>
        <a:srgbClr val="1F497D"/>
      </a:accent5>
      <a:accent6>
        <a:srgbClr val="4A8363"/>
      </a:accent6>
      <a:hlink>
        <a:srgbClr val="1F497D"/>
      </a:hlink>
      <a:folHlink>
        <a:srgbClr val="699BC5"/>
      </a:folHlink>
    </a:clrScheme>
  </a:extraClrScheme>
</a:extraClrSchemeLst>

The syntax is exactly the same as for the clrScheme listing that every theme includes as its main color theme, so you can simply copy and paste the whole block of XML. The theme file can hold any number of extra color schemes. When you are using the final file, you can change the theme colors by choosing View>Slide Master>Colors in PowerPoint (actual menu names change in different versions of Office).

Multiple Color Themes

Clicking on the Colors dropdown shows the extra color themes.

When you choose a new color theme, all elements keyed to the color theme will change throughout the presentation.


Multiple Color Themes: Multiple Masters (PowerPoint only)

For Word and Excel, a document can have only one color theme applied at a time, and that theme affects all pages in the file. PowerPoint allows more flexibility, since it can have multiple master slides and each of those master slides has its own color theme. This means that different parts of a PowerPoint file can have different color themes. This is often used to color-code different sections of a presentation.

In its most basic form, this is the simplest technique. No XML hacking required:

  1. In PowerPoint, choose View>Slide Master to view the masters.
  2. Right-click on the Slide Master (the larger slide at the top of the left-hand display) and choose Duplicate Slide Master. The new master is added below the slide layouts for the first master. (In Windows versions, right-click and check that each Master has the Preserve Master attribute checked, or they’ll vanish later.)
  3. Select the new master, then choose Color>Customize Colors.
  4. Revise the color theme, or apply a color theme you created earlier. OK out.

Repeat the steps above for each different color theme you need to include. In the program interface, the user will see a group of slide layouts for each slide master. Here is a presentation where only one colors changes in each color theme:

Multiple Master Color Themes

Each master has its own color theme and slide layouts.

While this is the simplest method to use, it’s not self-evident to all users that you change color themes by choosing a different set of slide layouts. So you’ll probably have to include at least an explanatory note with the template when you distribute it. But what if you want a premium solution for a high-end client? Read on…


Multiple Color Themes: XML Hacked Multiple Masters (PowerPoint only)

A solution that is simpler to use is to combine techniques 2 and 3. Create multiple masters, each with a different color theme. This will create a theme#.xml file in ppt/theme. Open all the theme#.xml file and copy the clrScheme for each to an extraClrScheme tag in all the others. So if you have 3 masters and color themes, copy the clrScheme tag for theme1.xml to an extraClrScheme tag in theme2.xml and theme3.xml. Then copy the clrScheme from theme2.xml to extraClrScheme tags in theme1.xml and theme3.xml.

The result is that it doesn’t matter so much which master you choose, you can change the color theme later. Of course, changing the color theme affects all slides based on the same master. This is an easy-to-use method for providing presentation with sections in different colors.

My thanks to Timothy Rylatt for his assistance with fact checking and corrections in this article.

XML Hacking: Locking Graphics

Locking graphics in Office documents must be #1 on most designers’ wish lists, judging by the number of requests we get. While Word and Excel already do a fairly good job of this, PowerPoint remains wide open. If you can see it, you can move, resize or delete it. Placing items on the Slide Master or Layouts helps, but this is minimal protection against a savvy user. Your users love to be “creative”, so how can we protect the brand from their enthusiasm?

Fortunately, it’s possible to provide protection for important logos and maintain slide layout integrity by editing the template XML. But this power comes with a responsibility to design the protection carefully. It can be a very thin line between a deck that is protected and one that is unusable. If you decide to protect your presentation, it is incumbent on you to test it repeatedly to ensure your users can still get work done with it.

Before trying this, please read my Introduction to XML Hacking. If you’re using OS X, it’s also important to read my notes about Editing XML in OS X.

Locking takes place mostly in the Slide Master and Layouts. A minimal approach is best, as each additional locked item will create more feedback from your users with the potential to increase tech support costs. On the Slide Master, you will probably only lock a company logo.


Locking Graphics: Logos

Start by placing a logo on the Slide Master. Of course, you’re not using a JPEG file, because you already know that’s the worst format for line art. If you still think JPEGs are the best, please read JPEG Logos? Fail! and Logo Production Secrets. After the logo is in place, expand the presentation to view the XML. Open ppt\slideMasters\slideMaster1.xml. All the placeholder coding comes first, so scroll down about halfway until you see XML that looks like this:

<p:pic>
  <p:nvPicPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="Picture 6"/>
    <p:cNvPicPr>
      <a:picLocks noChangeAspect="1"/>
    </p:cNvPicPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvPicPr>

To lock this, we just add one small parameter (in bold):

<p:pic>
  <p:nvPicPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="Picture 6"/>
    <p:cNvPicPr>
      <a:picLocks noChangeAspect="1" noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvPicPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvPicPr>

Test this out by re-zipping the files and opening in PowerPoint. Try to select the logo. noSelect=”1″ has the effect of making it unselectable, so the user can’t do anything creative with it, even if they open the master.


Locking Graphics: Shapes

Different graphic objects use a slightly different syntax. The noSelect=”1″ parameter remains the same, but you have to expand a tag and add a new line to include it. For all AutoShapes except lines, the default XML will resemble the following:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="9" name="Rectangle 8"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvSpPr>

Editing the p:cNvSpPr tag as shown below will make the shape unselectable:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="9" name="Rectangle 8"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr>
      <a:spLocks noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Lines

At the XML level, lines are referred to as Connectors rather than Shapes. The original XML will look like this:

<p:cxnSp>
  <p:nvCxnSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="8" name="Straight Connector 7"/>
    <p:cNvCxnSpPr/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvCxnSpPr>

To lock this, edit the p:cNvCxnSpPr tag:

<p:cxnSp>
  <p:nvCxnSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="8" name="Straight Connector 7"/>
    <p:cNvCxnSpPr>
      <a:cxnSpLocks noSelect="1"/>
    </p:cNvCxnSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </nvCxnSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Placeholders

Placeholders are the boxes on slide layouts that can hold different types of content. The layouts are found in ppt\slideLayouts. They are numbered in the order that they appear in the left-hand list of layouts in Slide Master view. By default slideLayout1.xml is the Title slide. The XML tag is <p:sp> instead of <p:pic>, but otherwise the syntax is the same for locking. Placeholders do not inherit the lock parameters, so locking a placeholder on the master doesn’t affect the layouts and locked placeholders on the layouts have no effect on the slide placeholders.

You can see what other parameters are possible for the spLocks tag at Datypic’s a:spLocks page. There are options here to prevent grouping the image, rotating, moving or resizing it, changing it’s aspect ratio and several other less useful options. Let’s use some of the other parameters to lock down the shape. Here is the start of a Title placeholder:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

After we add parameters to prevent moving and resizing, the XML looks like this:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1" noMove="1" noResize="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

Don’t expect that slides based on this will still have unmoveable placeholders. The lock parameters are not included when a slide is created from a layout. This locking ensures only that the layout remains the same, so when a slide is reset, it will always return to the correct format.

If the placeholders must remain in place on the slides, then you must first create the slide, then edit the XML before distributing the deck. For this, look in ppt/slides. The files are numbered in the order they appear in the presentation, so slide1.xml is usually the title. Here is the XML for a locked title placeholder.The noRot parameter prevents rotation:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="2" name="Title 1"/>
      <p:cNvSpPr>
    <a:spLocks noGrp="1" noMove="1" noResize="1" noRot="1"/>
  </p:cNvSpPr>

When the user clicks on this, all the adjustment handles have a diagonal through them and the user is unable to change the shape size or position:

Locked Title Placeholder


Locking Graphics: Other Objects

By default, the picture and placeholders already include a p:locks or sp:locks tag, which is where we add the locking information. But what if you insert a text box on a layout for a legal disclaimer and want to make it ineditable? The text box XML initially looks like this:

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="TextBox 6"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr txBox="1"/>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvSpPr>

To lock this, we need to expand the <p:cNvSpPr txBox=”1″/> tag. In case it’s not obvious, to expand a closed tag, you must first delete the slash at the end that closes it. Then you create a new closing tag and put the <a:spLocks&gt> information between the two. The noTextEdit parameter means the text can’t be edited. Even if a clever user gets to the slide layout, they can’t change the text, though the shape is still moveable.

<p:sp>
  <p:nvSpPr>
    <p:cNvPr id="7" name="TextBox 6"/>
    <p:cNvSpPr txBox="1">
      <a:spLocks noTextEdit="1"/>
    </p:cNvSpPr>
    <p:nvPr userDrawn="1"/>
  </p:nvSpPr>

Locking Graphics: Gotchas and Exceptions

After a few months of practical testing, some real-life limitations on shape locking have become evident. Adding the noChangeAspect=”1″ has the same effect as checking the Lock aspect ratio option on the Size pane of the Format Shape dialog. But just as when you check this option manually, clicking on the shape and dragging the adjust handles will still distort the shape. On top of this, I found this page on MSDN: 2.1.1255 Part 4 Section 5.1.2.1.34, spLocks (Shape Locks). The pages states that “Office ignores attributes noChangeArrowheads and noRot when applied to a shape. PowerPoint additionally ignores the attribute noAdjustHandles when applied to a shape and noChangeShapeType when the converting the shape to a freeform.” So a user can circumvent noChangeAspect by dragging on the handles and you can’t prevent the handles from displaying either. Office simply doesn’t implement Microsoft’s own spec completely. There’s nothing you can do about this. It should be noted, that the accuracy of Microsoft’s information is not the best. Their statement that Office ignores noRot=”1″ when applied to a shape is not true, you can successfully prevent rotation with this parameter. You really have to test everything to really know what works and what doesn’t.


Locking Graphics: The Designer’s Responsibility

Powerful? Yes. But with power comes responsibility. Company presentation templates need to be revised, but after you lock items in XML, those shapes can no longer be revised through the program interface. So it’s essential that if you use these techniques, that you document your changes when you send the file to your users. Using these methods secretly to get repeat business from captive clients is dishonest and is definitely not a best practice.

XML Hacking: Font Themes

Font themes are one of the simpler theme elements in Open Office XML, but for some baffling reason, Mac Office users can’t create one. It’s odd enough that the only Mac program that can create a color theme is PowerPoint, but even it can’t provide an escape from Calibri and Arial! So I’m going to show you how to do it on your own.

Let’s start with a dead-simple font theme. Here’s the minimal file that Office will read:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<a:fontScheme xmlns:a="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/drawingml/2006/main" name="Test">
  <a:majorFont>
    <a:latin typeface="Arial"/>
    <a:ea typeface=""/>
    <a:cs typeface=""/>
  </a:majorFont>
  <a:minorFont>
    <a:latin typeface="Arial"/>
    <a:ea typeface=""/>
    <a:cs typeface=""/>
  </a:minorFont>
</a:fontScheme>

You can create this in any text editor, including TextEdit in plain text mode (don’t try this with an rtf file). However, by default TextEdit will change the necessary straight quotes to smart quotes, producing a file that Office will not recognize. If you’re using Text Edit, make sure you visit both TextEdit>Preferences and TextEdit>Edit>Substitutions and turn off Smart Quotes in both locations.

Now that you’re set up to edit, copy and paste the font theme file. The <a:latin> tag is the standard font for your theme. <a:majorFont> is for headings and <a:minorFont> for text. Fill in <a:ea> with a font that supports Chinese or Japanese (ea stands for East Asian), if you want to support those languages. The <a:cs> tag stands for complex scripts: Arabic, Thai, Hebrew and many more. For more detail on non-European language support in font themes, please see my article XML Hacking: Font Themes Complete. Or you can just leave those tags blank if you have a predictable user base that won’t require them.

A common mistake is to get too specific with the font name in font themes. The name is only the base font name as displayed in Powerpoint’s font menu. “Open Sans” will work, but “Open Sans Extrabold” will cause Word 2011 to display a blank space where the font theme should be, while Word 2016 will simply ignore the entire file.

Save the file as a text file with a .xml ending and give it the name you want to appear in the user interface. “Brandwares.xml” will appear in the Font Theme menu as Brandwares.

For Office 2016, save this file to Users/YourUserName/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/User Content/Themes/Theme Fonts. For Office 2011, save it to Users/YourUserName/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/User Templates/My Themes/Theme Fonts. In current versions of OS X, the user Library is hidden by default. To open it, hold down the Alt key, while clicking on the Go menu and choosing Library.

Once it’s correctly installed, it will show in PowerPoint’s Slide Master view under the Fonts dropdown. A new Custom group will appear at the top of the list, with your font theme in it. Once you apply it and a color theme to a presentation, you can save as a theme file and distribute that to your users, it will contain the font theme you just created. Happy hacking!


Font Themes – An Alternate Method

March 2017 edit: If you have any problems creating a font theme from scratch, here’s a workaround. Open an existing font theme that come with Office and edit the font names to the ones you want to use. These files are the verbose style discussed in this article: XML Hacking: Font Themes Complete. For most uses, you only need to set the a:latin font in the a:majorfont and a:minorfont sections. Here’s where you can find the Microsoft Font Themes:

Office 2011 for Mac – Open Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/Media/Office Themes/Theme Fonts and copy any of the XML files.

Office 2016 for Mac – Open Applications, then right-click on Microsoft PowerPoint and choose Show Package Contents. Open Contents/Resources/Office Themes/Theme Colors and copy any of the XML files in there.

Here are the locations for 32-bit versions of Windows. If you’re using a 64-bit version of Windows, check the same path inside C:\Program Files (x86).

Office 2007 for Windows – Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Document Themes 12\Theme Fonts.

Office 2010 for Windows – Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Document Themes 14\Theme Fonts.

Office 2013 for Windows – Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Document Themes 15\Theme Fonts.

Office 2016 for Windows – Open C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\root\Document Themes 16\Theme Fonts.

XML Hacking: Table Styles Complete

Custom Table Styles are probably one of the more detailed hacks you’ll have to write. See the constructions details in my previous post. Besides the basic table format, there are 6 optional format layers you need to at least consider. In a minimal table style, you’ll need to include at least the Header Row, First Column and Banded Rows. Most users will expect to see these options. Total Rows, Last Columns and Banded Columns are less requested, you only need to include them if a design or client specifically requires them.

As mentioned in part 1, if you haven’t hacked XML before, please read XML Hacking: An Introduction. If you’re using a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X. In addition, an essential companion to this pair of articles is the post on setting Default Table Text, which is set in a different XML component..

Let’s take a look at how our work appears in the PowerPoint interface. First, we’ll insert a plain vanilla table. By default this takes on colors and fonts from the current PowerPoint theme:

Default Table Style

Next, we choose the Table Tools>Design tab, open the Table Styles gallery. Up at the top a new Custom section has appeared with our new custom table style:

Select Custom Table Style

Select the custom table style and the default table changes to match our design. This screen shot has all formatting options turned off, so effectively we are seeing the Whole Table formatting only.

All Options Off

Options: Banded Rows and Header

Using the options panel in the upper left corner, we can add some of optional formatting layers we created in XML. First, let’s turn on banded rows. If you remember, we only formatted odd-numbered rows, so the banding only changes rows 1 and 3 in our example:

Banded Rows

Next, we’ll leave banded rows on and also add the Header row. This row doesn’t count as part of the table body, so the banding moves down 1 row:

Banded Rows and Header

Options: First and Last Columns

Next, we’ll turn off banded rows, leave the Header as is and add the first column:

Header Row and First Column

Here’s the table with First and Last Columns checked:

First and Last Columns

Options: Header and Total

And finally, Header and Total Rows:

Header and Total Rows

As you can see, with some pre-planning, one table style can cover quite a few related table looks. The layer options for different features make the table useful for many different purposes and the options panel makes it fast and easy for users to try different combinations. This feature is a major advance over tables in PowerPoint 2003 and earlier, which were quite crude by comparison.Table styles work the same way in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. While Word and Excel include table style editors in their interface, PowerPoint needs to be hacked to create them. Happy hacking!

XML Hacking: Custom Table Styles

For branded documents, you want to have a unique table style. Microsoft Office programs include a pile of table styles that are auto-created by the software, but they all have that generic MS look. It’s possible to create custom styles in Excel for Windows and Mac and Word for Windows using the program interface. But if you’re not using one of those, you can still create custom table styles. You just have to hack some XML!

First we have to cover how Office programs create custom tables. It’s not a simple subject, but understanding this will also help you if you’re trying to create custom table styles in Word for Windows or Excel, which actually have tools to do this in the respective programs.

Let’s start by making one thing clear: table styles do not format the font choice or size contained in the tables. Yes, I know the Word and Excel table style tools have font formatting dropdowns, yes I know Microsoft help files say that font styling is included in table styles. The truth is that font styling in a table style is limited to setting bold or italic attributes, font color and whether the table component uses the Headings or Body font as specced in the Font Theme. For typeface and size, alignment and weight/italic controls, read my post on Default Table Text

I find that it’s easier to format Office tables if I imagine that table formatting has layers. The base layer is any overall formatting that applies to the table as a whole. Then, we build layers on top of that base formatting that looks after the Header Row, probably the most common feature applied to tables. We follow this with the Total Row, the bottom one. Next, the First and Last Columns. Once these outer areas are formatted, we add layers for Even and Odd Row Banding and then Even and Odd Column Banding. Finally, we can spec special formatting for the cells in the 4 corners. This sequence moves from the general to the particular and also from the most common to the rarest formatting.

This sequence is how the table style dialogs in Word for Windows and Excel present table elements. It’s similar to the order in which we enter the information in an XML custom table style. If you follow this order, you’ll get a custom style in much less time than if, for instance, you try to start with the even and odd rows.

Word’s custom table styles are stored in the styles.xml file. This is in the word folder of an unzipped file. The comparable file for PowerPoint is called tableStyles.xml in the ppt folder. The XML is similar in concept, but the differences mean you can’t copy and paste from one program to another. If you’re not sure where to find these files, please read XML Hacking:An Introduction. If you’re editing on a Mac, you should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X

Here’s a typical PowerPoint table style. I’ve broken the listing into 2 pieces so it fits on the page. Copy and paste them together into one listing:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<a:tblStyle styleId="{0817EA92-75D0-4044-A80A-286907CE0DDB}" styleName="Custom Table Style" >
  <a:wholeTbl >
    <a:tcTxStyle >
      <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
        <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
      </a:fontRef >
      <a:schemeClr val="dk1"/ >
    </a:tcTxStyle >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr >
        <a:left >
          <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:left >
        <a:right >
          <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:right >
        <a:top >
          <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:top >
        <a:bottom >
          <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:bottom >
        <a:insideH >
          <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:insideH >
        <a:insideV >
          <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:insideV >
      </a:tcBdr >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:srgbClr val="F5F9FD"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:wholeTbl >
  <a:band1H >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:schemeClr val="accent6"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:band1H >
  <a:band2H >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:band2H >
  <a:band1V >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:srgbClr val="F5F9FD"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:band1V >
  <a:band2V >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:band2V >
  <a:lastCol >
    <a:tcTxStyle >
      <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
        <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
      </a:fontRef >
      <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/ >
    </a:tcTxStyle >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:srgbClr val="999999"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:lastCol >
  <a:firstCol >
    <a:tcTxStyle >
      <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
        <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
      </a:fontRef >
      <a:schemeClr val="dk2"/ >
    </a:tcTxStyle >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr/ >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:srgbClr val="F3F3F4"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:firstCol >
  <a:lastRow >
    <a:tcTxStyle >
      <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
        <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
      </a:fontRef >
      <a:schemeClr val="dk1"/ >
    </a:tcTxStyle >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr >
        <a:top >
          <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:top >
      </a:tcBdr >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:srgbClr val="CCCCCC"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:lastRow >
  <a:firstRow >
    <a:tcTxStyle >
      <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
        <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
      </a:fontRef >
      <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/ >
    </a:tcTxStyle >
    <a:tcStyle >
      <a:tcBdr >
        <a:bottom >
          <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
            <a:solidFill >
              <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/ >
            </a:solidFill >
          </a:ln >
        </a:bottom >
      </a:tcBdr >
      <a:fill >
        <a:solidFill >
          <a:schemeClr val="dk2"/ >
        </a:solidFill >
      </a:fill >
    </a:tcStyle >
  </a:firstRow >
</a:tblStyle >

Break It Down

That's a big pile of XML to throw at you. Let's break it down, first, the section that sets parameters for the whole table. Think of this like a layer cake, with the WholeTbl section being the first layer. Then later attributes are superimposed on top of it.

Often, the whole table needs relatively little formatting. Line 2 sets the style name "Custom Table Style". This appears in a tooltip when you hover your mouse over this table style. Line 2 also contains the GUID, a unique identifier that Word uses to keep track of objects. You can't reuse the number from any other table style, instead Google "GUID Generator" to find free sites that will create the number for you.

From line 3 to 8, we set the font charcteristics that we can: idx="minor" means the font will be the theme body font. The actual font used is set in the theme, not here. Line 5 sets the font color, in this case the Office Preset Color black.

Line 9 begins formatting the default borders. As one example, line 12 sets the weight for the left border w=0, meaning it has a 0 thicknuess and does not display. If it id display, the color setting in line 14 would set it to bg1, or the first background color, normally white in most themes. By contrast, look at line 40 for Inside Horizontal borders (the ones between each cell. Here the weight is set w=114300. The measurement units are EMUs or English Metric Unit, a made-up measurement system that allows easy conversion between English and Metric systems. At 914400 EMUs per inch, it means the line weight is 1/8 of an inch, unusually thick borders for a table.

Then, starting on line 54, are the fill settings for default cells. Line 57 set them to an RGB color value, since this is a tint not found in the theme. The color notation is hexadecimal, just as on an HTML page.

Color Models

One of my readers pointed out that I hadn't covered the different color models well, and that's important. Here are the different ways you can spec color. Use the same syntax for fonts, borders and fills:

<a:prstClr>: These are a very limited range of named colors that were used in early versions of Microsoft Office, when only 8 or 16 colors were available. They're just here for legacy file format support, but you'll see them used in some XML sample listings.
An example would be <a:prstClr val="black"/>.

<a:schemeClr>: These access the Theme Colors. For the 2 pairs of light and dark colors that form the first 4 in a theme, you may see them variously as lt1, dk1, lt2 and dk2, or bg1, tx1, bg2 and tx2. Be careful with using the last 4, because Office Open XML allows mapping other colors to bg and tx. The safer choices are lt and dk. These are followed by the 6 accent colors: accent1 through accent6. Finally hlink and folHlink designate the hyperlink and followed hyperlink colors.
Examples are <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/> or <a:schemeClr val="accent2"/>.

<a:srgbClr>: Sometimes you need colors that are not in the theme. This color model uses hexadecimal colors, exactly the same as used in HTML.
<a:srgbClr val="F5F9FD"/> is one example.

<a:scrgbClr>: This is also RGB, but uses percentages instead of hexadecimal:
<a:scrgbClr r="50%" g="50%" b="50%"/>.

<a:hslClr>: If you need to use HSL (Hue, Saturation and Luminance), this is the model for you.
Try <a:hslClr hue="14400000" sat="100%" lum="50%"/>.

<a:sysClr>: This model allows you to use operating system colors. Beware, you'll get different results in OS X then in Windows, and users can customize their system colors as well.
<a:sysClr val="windowText"/>.

01 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
02 <a:tblStyle styleId="{0817EA92-75D0-4044-A80A-286907CE0DDB}" styleName="Custom Table Style" >
03   <a:wholeTbl >
04     <a:tcTxStyle >
05       <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
06         <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
07       </a:fontRef >
08       <a:schemeClr val="dk1"/ >
09     </a:tcTxStyle >
10     <a:tcStyle >
11       <a:tcBdr >
12         <a:left >
13           <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
14             <a:solidFill >
15               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
16             </a:solidFill >
17           </a:ln >
18         </a:left >
19         <a:right >
20           <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
21             <a:solidFill >
22               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
23             </a:solidFill >
24           </a:ln >
25         </a:right >
26         <a:top >
27           <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
28             <a:solidFill >
29               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
30             </a:solidFill >
31           </a:ln >
32         </a:top >
33         <a:bottom >
34           <a:ln w="0" cmpd="sng" >
35             <a:solidFill >
36               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
37             </a:solidFill >
38           </a:ln >
39         </a:bottom >
40         <a:insideH >
41           <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
42             <a:solidFill >
43               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
44             </a:solidFill >
45           </a:ln >
46         </a:insideH >
47         <a:insideV >
48           <a:ln w="114300" cmpd="sng" >
49             <a:solidFill >
50               <a:schemeClr val="bg1"/ >
51             </a:solidFill >
52           </a:ln >
53         </a:insideV >
54       </a:tcBdr >
55       <a:fill >
56         <a:solidFill >
57           <a:srgbClr val="F5F9FD"/ >
58         </a:solidFill >
59       </a:fill >
60     </a:tcStyle >
61   </a:wholeTbl >

Layers

Next up is the section for the odd and even-numbered horizontal bands:

62   <a:band1H >
63     <a:tcStyle >
64       <a:tcBdr/ >
65       <a:fill >
66         <a:solidFill >
67           <a:schemeClr val="accent6"/ >
68         </a:solidFill >
69       </a:fill >
70     </a:tcStyle >
71   </a:band1H >
72   <a:band2H >
73     <a:tcStyle >
74       <a:tcBdr/ >
75     </a:tcStyle >
76   </a:band2H >

In XML, an empty or unused attribute closes itself, as does the final object in a chain of references. Line 64 shows <a:tcBdr/ > with a slash right after the name. The slash closes the border attribute, indicating that adding odd-number row formatting doesn't include a change to the borders. On the other hand, the fill is active, using the Accent 6 color from the theme. Accent 6 closes itself because it's the final item of information in defining the fill.

Compare lines 72 to 76 (even-numbered rows) with 63 to 71 (odd-numbered rows). No format was set for even-numbered horizontal rows, so applying this attribute in Office will have no effect on the table appearance.

Next up are banded columns. This is similar to the banded row section: odd-numbered rows are defined, but not even-numbered. The fill color is a hexadecimal RGB, value, since this color is not in the theme:

77   <a:band1V >
78     <a:tcStyle >
79       <a:tcBdr/ >
80       <a:fill >
81         <a:solidFill >
82           <a:srgbClr val="F5F9FD"/ >
83         </a:solidFill >
84       </a:fill >
85     </a:tcStyle >
86   </a:band1V >
97   <a:band2V >
98     <a:tcStyle >
99       <a:tcBdr/ >
100     </a:tcStyle >
101   </a:band2V >

After banded rows and columns, we proceed to first/last rows and columns, more layers in the cake. Here's the XML for the Last (rightmost) Column:

102   <a:lastCol >
103     <a:tcTxStyle >
104       <a:fontRef idx="minor" >
105         <a:prstClr val="black"/ >
106       </a:fontRef >
107       <a:schemeClr val="lt1"/ >
108     </a:tcTxStyle >
109     <a:tcStyle >
110       <a:tcBdr/ >
111       <a:fill >
112         <a:solidFill >
113           <a:srgbClr val="999999"/ >
114         </a:solidFill >
115       </a:fill >
116     </a:tcStyle >
117   </a:lastCol >

This contains sections for font, border and fill parameters. As with the whole table section, font formatting is limited to speccing which theme font and color to use. No borders are assigned and the fill color is an RGB gray. Here are the remaining parameters for the First (leftmost) Column, the the last (bottom) row and first (top) row. In the Office interface, the top-most row is referred to as the Header Row and the bottom-most as the Total Row.

Clearly, when you edit this XML by hand, you'll need to be familiar with the custom color theme used in the file and its hex values. Read my post on this subject: XML Hacking: Color Themes Next time we'll take a look at how table styles connect with the Office program interface to give the user access to these features

Cross-platform Fonts from Small Foundries: Beware!

Specifying fonts for electronic documents creates more hassle for clients and users than designing for print or web. This is because desktop applications need to have the font installed on each computer creating the documents. The cost can be high and installation by the client’s I.T. department is usually required. But these are technical hurdles that can be overcome if the client buys into a perceived necessity to have a different look than the competition.

There are 2 inter-related problems that crop up next: font families and cross-platform use. Font families are grouping of fonts that are linked so the user can switch between regular, italic and bold variants by clicking on attribute buttons. This is different from standard usage in the design world, where single fonts predominate. Designers are used to switching to a bold or italic look by picking a different font from the font menu, rather than by clicking on a bold or italic button. I’ve previously discussed font family issues here.

Windows vs OSX Linespacing

Same font, same document, different platform.
The small-foundry font displays and prints with tighter linespacing on a Mac (at right).

Today I’m focussing on the awful things that can happen when font families are specced for use with both Windows and Mac OS X. Surprisingly, it is not easy or simple to create families that work well on both platforms. The most popular software used by independent font designers doesn’t do this correctly, though we have filed numerous bug reports with the company. The net result is that if you spec a font from a small foundry that is going to be used on both Mac and Windows, it’s very likely not going to work. It’s not universal, there are some very skilled individual font jockeys who have the knowledge and skill to do it right. But you’re only going to find out the hard way, by buying the font and trying to use it.

Let me clarify, these fonts will work fine on either Windows or Mac. We can set up a template to make it work for either platform. You only see the anomalies when you move a document from one platform to the other.

Brandwares can provide fonts for your client’s project. Our service includes speccing the correct family groupings and supporting installation and troubleshooting. This includes working with the foundry to create correct families for cross-platform fonts.

I also encourage designers to ask your client the Mac/Windows question sooner rather than later. Call the foundry and ask if they can test on both platforms. I’ve known type designers who only own a Mac and don’t have any way of testing on Windows. When files are going to be used on both, speccing fonts from a large foundry is a good solution. They use different software and we have never seen a bad Mac/Windows family from one of the big companies. But the most practical solution is to stick with the wide variety of fonts that come free with Microsoft Office. They are high-quality faces, already installed and FREE! Your client appreciates a bargain, too!

Windows Macintosh Font Test

Testing Light and Regular font families from a small foundry.
Windows on the left, OS X on the right.
Yes, they’re supposed to be the same. No, they’re not.

WordLab to Brandwares

Finally, the transition of 2 companies into 1 is complete. We began planning the merger more than a year ago. We started with rebranding WordLab to match Brandwares. With the completion of the process, all WordLab content has been folded into the Brandwares site. The aspect that has required the most detailed planning has been managing the SEO for both sites. Our goal was to ensure the summing of as much link juice as possible. I think we pulled it off. We’re getting more total hits now with one site than the 2 previous sites received separately.

Brandwares for Complete Workflows

Brandwares’ strengths have been in web development, especially math-intensive intranet applications for financial institutions. The angle that WordLab brings is a strong focus on desktop applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat. Combined, our new company can create and support complete workflows. These provide strongly branded information from every major software group in a company. This unified approach gives our customers both higher office productivity and stronger brand identity in every communication. I look forward to helping your company achieve exactly those goals.

Calculating RGB Tints

Theoretically, there is no such thing as RGB tints. Color theory uses “tint” as any lighter hue of a color. Often this will be explained as what happens if you mix a color with white, though anyone who has spent any time mixing colors has noticed that adding white pigment changes colors in other ways than simply making them lighter.

In the commercial art world, tint is nearly synonymous with screen, because the traditional way of creating lighter shades of a base color is to print it with a halftone screen.

Because of this tradition, brand guidelines often augment a base set of colors with a subset of pastels referred to as tints or screens. This all makes perfect sense in a print-oriented world. However, when you move into digital display color, there are no screens any more. So how do we interpret brand guidelines for RGB-only software like Word, PowerPoint, Excel and the web?

Brand guidelines now normally include RGB numbers for the base colors of a brand, but tints rarely have an RGB equivalent. The designer just specs 20% of PMS 286 and lets you figure it out.

A Calculator for RGB Tints

You can do it with Illustrator, but it’s a little roundabout. You create an RGB color, save it as a swatch, being sure to over-ride Illustrator’s efforts to keep turning it into CMYK. Then you can spec a percentage of the swatch and finally find out the RGB value of that percentage.

Or you can just use the handy dandy RGB Tint calculator on this very web site. Simply enter an RGB or hexadecimal color value, then the tint percentage, and you get an instant readout of the new color values along with a preview of the color appearance. In addition, it makes a useful RGB-hexadecimal convertor, though there are plenty of other ways to do that operation.

This is a tool we developed for our own template creation work, but you may as well get some use of it too. Enjoy!