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CorelDRAW X5 : Finding and Saving Important Characters

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11/29/2012 11:16:36 AM
Picture (Pi) fonts, also called Symbols, are terrific for embellishing design work, but locating a specific character within a Pi font isn’t straightforward because your keyboard has letters and not very many symbols; no two font designers agree on a specific mapping for symbol sets, although occasionally there is a progression as you type across your keyboard. For example, some picture-font designers code an upper-left ornamental frame corner as “a”, the upper-right frame corner as “s”—if the users are intuitive enough, they can type across the left end of the second row (a-s-d-f) on the keyboard to make a sequentially correct four-corner picture frame from such a symbol font.

Using the Insert Character Docker

CorelDRAW, via Text | Insert Symbol Character (CTRL+F11), removes the guesswork in locating a character or symbol in any font you have installed. When you choose this command, the Insert Character docker appears, and you have two ways to insert a character:

  • As text If you need, for example, a fancy bullet that is inline in existing text in your document, you place the Text tool cursor at the location in the text where you want the character, click the character on the docker to select it, and then you click the Insert button (or double-click the thumbnail of the character). You might not always want to choose this method; the advantages are that the character is editable text and stays aligned to the text that comes before it and after it. However, the disadvantage is that as a designer, you might want to move this ornamental character around on the page—but as inline text, the inserted character is bound to the line of text you added it to.

  • As a collection of editable shapes To add a character to your document as a shape you can immediately edit with the Shape tool, you first select the Pick tool instead of the Text tool. Then you drag the thumbnail of the symbol you want onto the page. It’s easy to spot the difference between an inserted Symbol on a page and a Symbol added as a shape: shapes have a default black outline and no fill, so they’re easy to single out in a document. The disadvantage to adding a Symbol as a shape is that you can’t edit it with the Text tool, but overall, you have an endless supply of special characters at your cursor tip with the Insert Character docker, so mistakenly adding the type of symbol you don’t want to a document is corrected in a flash.

Figure 1 shows the process of adding a Symbol to a document by dragging a thumbnail into the document; you locate the installed font from which you want a symbol by using the drop-down list at the top of the docker, set the size of the symbol at the bottom (a symbol can be resized at any time in the future by scaling it with the Pick tool), and then drag and drop. Notice in the enlarged inset graphic in this figure that the Insert Symbol docker provides you with the extended character key combination for the symbol you’ve clicked. This feature is a great help if you’re coming to CorelDRAW from a word processor such as WordPerfect. You might already be familiar with certain extended character codes; for example, standard font coding for a cents sign (¢) is to hold ALT, then type 0162. Therefore, for any font you’ve chosen on the Insert Symbol docker, if the font has a cents sign and you want to choose it quickly, you type 0162 in the Keystroke field, press ENTER, and the docker immediately highlights the symbol—it’s easy to locate and equally easy to then add to the document. Conversely, when you click a symbol, the Keystroke field tells you what the keystroke is; you can then access a cents sign, a copyright symbol, or any other extended character you like in any application outside of CorelDRAW. You just hold ALT and then type the four-digit keycode in, for example, WordPerfect or Microsoft Word, and you’re home free.

Figure 1. The Insert Character docker is your ticket to quickly looking up and adding special extended characters to your designs.

Using the Symbol Manager

Now that you’ve located the perfect symbol for a design by using the Insert Character docker, it would be nice to save the symbol so you can reuse it in the future instead of hunting for it again! This is where the Symbol Manager (CTRL+F3) under Window | Dockers is an invaluable resource. The Symbol Manager provides you with information about symbols contained and saved only to a document you have open and also provides User Symbols, an area on the Symbol Manager where you can duplicate a catalogued symbol into any document at any time.

Let’s say you’ve found a great symbol for a layout, you’ve placed it in your document, and you decide you want to reuse it tomorrow. Here are the steps for cataloguing the symbol and for accessing an instance (a duplicate that takes up less saved file space in a document) of it tomorrow:

  1. With an object selected, choose Edit | Symbol | New Symbol.

  2. In the Create New Symbol box, type a name you’ll remember later in the Name field and then click OK. As you create more and more new files using CorelDRAW, you’ll definitely want to stay tidy in your cataloguing work. Cross-referencing is a good practice; in Figure 2, the Name of the symbol refers to the typeface it was copied from. Later, it’s easy to look up the name of the symbol and use it in a program outside of CorelDRAW.

    Figure 2. Define a symbol and then save it to a Symbol Library.
  3. Open the Symbol Manager and then click on the Symbol1 title. A thumbnail of the symbol you just saved appears.

  4. A tiny Export icon becomes active; click it, it’s the Export Library command. This is not much of a library, but you need to start somewhere!

  5. In the Export Library box, it’s best to save the new library to where CorelDRAW recommends (to better allow the program to locate it in the future; Symbols is a good location). Name the library and then click Save. You’re done.

  6. In any new document, open the Symbol Manager, click the User Symbols + icon to open the collection, and then click the name of the library you saved in step 5. Now all you need to do is drag the thumbnail into a document, and you have an instance of the symbol you saved.

In Windows 7, if you install CorelDRAW X5 Graphics Suite to the default hard disk location, your saved Symbol Library should be in your boot drive directory (usually C:\)AppData\Roaming\Corel\CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X5\Symbols. This is good to know when you want to load your collection by clicking Add Library on the Symbol Manager docker, to add symbols to a Local document.

Tip

With the Pick tool, right-click over any object you create, and you can then choose Symbol | New Symbol and Symbol | Symbol Manager from the context menu.


Symbols saved to a library are always instances and as such, duplicates you add to a document cannot be edited using the Shape tool or other shape-editing features. You can apply transformations such as scaling and rotating, but you cannot edit the nodes of a shape instance. However, you can edit the original shape as saved in the Library, and all future instances you use reflect your edits. To edit a symbol in your library, right-click the shape thumbnail in the Symbol Manager and then choose Edit. After you’ve edited the shape, right-click the shape in the document window, and then click the Finish Editing Object button to the left of the document horizontal scroll bar. Every instance in every document is updated to reflect your edits.

Tip

It’s easy to tell the difference between an instanced symbol and one that can be edited in any document. Choose the shape using the Pick tool. If the bounding box dots are blue, it’s a shape instance. If the bounding box handles are black, it’s a regular shape and you can perform any CorelDRAW operation on the shape.

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