Pages ’09: The Wonders of Master Objects

If you guys are InDesign mavens (which I most definitely am not), you know that you have the ability to use master pages in that program to set up repeating graphic elements. Apple’s Pages has a similar feature, but I don’t think it’s very obvious how you use it. In the interest of expanding human knowledge, then, we’ll walk through how you can take advantage of something like this without having to learn InDesign. Whew. (Sorry, Adobe.)

So if you want to play along at home, open a blank document in Pages. First, insert an object that you’d like to repeat on subsequent pages—this can be your company logo, a chart, or even a text box. To pull in an image, either drag it in from the Finder or select the Media button on Pages’ toolbar to grab something from one of your photo libraries.

After you’ve got your object in your Pages document, put it wherever you want it to go, and then make sure that it’s set to be floating and not inline. If you click the object to select it, buttons to choose this option should appear on your toolbar. (Inline objects wouldn’t make very good masters, as they’d move with the text instead of standing apart from it. For that reason, Pages won’t even let you assign that status to inline objects.)

Now that you’ve got your floating picture/text box/whatever all set and ready to go, choose Format > Advanced > Move Object to Section Master.

Yes, it really was that easy. You now have an object that’s rooted in place, and as you type and fill up more pages, all of them will have the same object in exactly the same place. You can have as many master objects as you desire, so go ahead and make your document look like a GeoCities website circa 1997 if you’d like.

What? This is an important screenshot.


One thing you may note is that once you have designated something as a master object, you can’t move it. Oh, crap—the company logo needs to be 86 pixels from the edge instead of 85! Luckily, there’s an option for that. Just choose Format > Advanced > Make Master Objects Selectable, and you’ll be able to shuffle things around again. And when you move master objects on one page, Pages’ll move all of them in exactly the same way! 

Finally, if you want some portions of your document to look different, that’s pretty easy to do. If you go to the Layout tab in your Inspector and click on the Section button, you can set your options exactly how you want them (like having different master objects on your first page).

To really understand what’s going on, you should know that Pages applies master objects by sections. For the most part, as long as you keep on typing, your document will all be one long section. And even if you insert a page break or something, you’ll still be in the same one. But sometimes it’s useful to be able to group parts of your document together, especially if you’re trying to perform some neat wizardry like having different master objects for each section. 

So if you’d like to create a new set of stuff for a subsequent group of pages, choose Insert > Section Break to start a new section and create new master objects (or you can select the Sections button from the toolbar). You can easily see which pages are grouped together through View > Page Thumbnails. Sections are divided by grey lines, and if you click on a single page’s thumbnail, the section it’s in will be highlighted in yellow.

So you can have a few pages with some predefined master objects and then have an entirely new section with different ones. Or have ten sections, all with different master objects. The world is your burrito. 

The world is your burrito? I’m being strange, and I’m quoting Weird Al, all in the same tip? Boss, if you’re reading this, I promise I’ll do better next time. And by “better,” I mean I’ll quote him more often! Right? Right? Funny, huh?