Paragraph and character style separation

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chahn
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Paragraph and character style separation

Post by chahn » Sat Dec 13, 2008 9:22 pm

I have a question about how Mellel implements styles. I'm not sure why the character style options are separated from the paragraph styles. I expect that there is a good reason behind Redler's decision, and I hope that others can help me understand why these style elements are separated and how I can better use this separation to my advantage. I apologize if this post is somewhat long, but I think it's important to lay out my question as completely as possible in order to help others see why I am confused.

In my mind, the overarching purpose of styles is to move from descriptive formatting to logical formatting. Instead of saying "I want this piece of text to be Arial 16pt bold," I can say "I want this text to be a level one header," which also means that all level 1 headers will have the same formatting.

It seems that separating the character style options from the paragraph styles makes it harder to focus on logical formatting. Instead of saying, "I want this text to be a level 1 header," I now have to say "I want the paragraph features--spacing, indent, etc.--to be like the level 1 header paragraph, and I want the character features--font, size, etc.--to be like a level 1 header." In other words, instead of thinking about just the logical description (level 1 header), I am thinking about 2 aspects.

In fact, the two aspects I am thinking about are probably descriptive formatting issues--exactly what styles are supposed to move away from! This becomes evident if one makes use of the ability to associate a character style with multiple paragraph styles. Let's take a body text paragraph style and two character styles: Char1 and Char2. How would one decide to use Char1 rather than Char2? It would be a different of character formatting: I want to use Char1's font (for example) for body text rather than Char2. That means that I am thinking about Char1 and Char2 in terms of fonts rather than logical functions, and it would make sense to name Char1 and Char2 by their fonts. Thus, the abstraction from description falls apart and the character styles become descriptive rather than logical. In this case, it would make more sense to just include the character information within the logical style "body text," since changing from Char1 to Char2 is no different than defining the logical style of body text to include the characteristics included within the character style.

(I can't think of an example where one would think of Char1 and Char2 in logical terms but would still want to separate character formatting from paragraph formatting. The best example I can think of is having the character styles of normal text and small text and choosing which one to associate with the body text paragraph style. Why would that be better than having font size included as part of the "body text" style definition and deciding how large or small to make body text?)

What about reusing a character style in multiple paragraph styles? Let's take a body text character style and use it in both a body text paragraph style and a block quote paragraph style. In this situation, one manages to keep the focus on logical formatting rather than descriptive formatting. But, is there an advantage to this approach over having all of the formatting--character and paragraph--in one style? The only advantage I can think of is that it becomes possible to change the body text font in one place and have it change both paragraph styles at once.

But the ability to link styles together shouldn't necessarily depend on a separation between character formatting and paragraph formatting. I might want to link the size of the first line indents between the body text style and the block quote style, so that if I change the body text to indent 2ems instead of .5in, all the indents will change in a similar manner. How does separating character formatting from paragraph formatting help here? For this situation, I think OpenOffice does a good job in allowing one to link styles; the features of a child style that are changed from the parent become independent, but if a shared feature is changed in the parent, it changes in all of its children as well. Is there something that Mellel's style setup allows one to do that is not possible to replicate in this manner?

Finally, one might just define a paragraph style and an associated character style for each logical function. This seems to be the preference for Mellel's default style set: the body paragraph style is associated with the body character style, the title paragraph style with the title character style, and so forth. This just seems to result in the need to set up more styles initially--instead of defining (say) 10 initial styles, one defines 10 paragraph styles and 10 character styles. The inelegance of this approach is almost painful in the case of note styles. In Mellel's default style set, there are four note styles (footnote, footnote small, endnote, and endnote small), two paragraph styles (note text and note text small), and two character styles (note text and note text small). That's 8 styles for 2 kinds of notes (since mixing footnote and footnote small, or endnote and endnote small, would make one's formatting inconsistent and defeat the point of styles)!

In all of these situations, the character styles become focused on description rather than logical function. (In the notes example, the paragraph styles also become descriptive.) If one wants to do character-level styling logically, the way Mellel handles style variations seems far more useful. For instance, style variation A is normal text, B is emphasized text (which is a logical definition: one emphasizes roman text by italicizing it but emphasizes italics text by setting it back in roman, or making it bold. Thus, how B is described will vary between body text, which is normally roman, and a header level that is normally italicized, but the logical function is the same in either case.).

I hope I have clearly laid out why I think Mellel's separation between character and paragraph styles doesn't make sense to me. I would appreciate any thoughts on why Mellel makes this separation so that I can more effectively make use of styles in my work.

Alternatively, I hope I have provided some helpful feedback on how Mellel's styles might be improved. In short, I would eliminate the distinction between character and paragraph styles, add the ability to link styles hierarchically as in OpenOffice, and emphasize that style variations are best used to represent logical formatting within another style.

rpcameron
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by rpcameron » Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:29 pm

While it does seem that the default style set seems to join them together by function rather than some other division, this can easily be changed. In fact, I highly recommend spending an afternoon setting up a complete style set for yourself, and augmenting it as necessary.

I personally usually only have 2 character styles: one for text, and one for headings and titles. I then set up a couple of paragraph styles, usually 2 for headings (one flush left and one centered), but both use the same character style. Then I set up some body styles for an indented first line, no first line indent, indented margins for block quotes, and some various styles with differing amounts of spacing after the paragraph (to be used with lists); all of those paragraph styles use the same character style.

When I set up my auto-titles (for headings), I associate them with the chosen paragraph style, and optionally may change their formatting slightly by using a character variation (italics, bold, or small caps).

But by having a multitude of paragraph styles and various types auto-titles, I am still able to achieve all of this by only defining my fonts choices twice, once for headings and once for body text. I'm certain that other users have their own particular styles or ways in which they set up their style sets, but this is the normal method I use for myself. I truly appreciate the separation of character styles and paragraph styles. In fact, this was illustrated to me just last week as I wrote a paper in Mellel, exported to RTF to be shared with a user using Word, but some final formatting and pagination was last in the translation, so I had to tweak the styles a little in Word. I daresay the process was tedious to get set what I originally wanted, that what would have taken me less than a minute to do in Mellel took over 15 minutes in Word because of the way its style system cascades styles in an unpredictable way.
— Robert Cameron

jannuss
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by jannuss » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:55 am

rpcameron wrote:I personally usually only have 2 character styles: one for text, and one for headings and titles. I then set up a couple of paragraph styles, usually 2 for headings (one flush left and one centered), but both use the same character style.
The work I do requires me to set things up in exactly the opposite manner -- I have two paragraph styles: one full page and one indented -- and at least six character styles I use inside both: titles, subtitles, regular text, quoted text in classic Hebrew, quoted text in modern Hebrew, and citations. Add to this a seventh character style: to avoid problems that sometimes occur emailing Hebrew text to PC users, I have a special email style I apply before cutting and pasting a chunk of text into an email.

The separation of paragraph and character styles suits me very well. Coupling them would mean I'd need at least 14 styles for an average document -- no thank you.

Janet

donb
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by donb » Sun Dec 14, 2008 8:41 am

You are not forced to associate a paragraph style with a character style. In the paragraph style setup under associated character style you can select "none" and apply whatever character style independently, if you so wish. On very rare occasion I have found this useful.

Don Broadribb

ozean
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by ozean » Sun Dec 14, 2008 5:36 pm

I would be terrified if I would have to change the font face in eight different “paragraph with character” styles if a publisher wants me to use a different font in my body text. The way it is now, I can switch fonts in my “standard” and my “small standard” (for footnotes) character styles, and all paragraph styles that access them will make the switch automagically.

In addition to these basic styles, I do have a set of heading/title related character styles that are used only in one particular paragraph style. However, I see practically no difference in defining these styles in two different dialogues (one for character, one for paragraph style) compared to having to define them in one dialogue (which might get even more cluttered). I guess the difference in the current approach is that I have to enter a style name two times and I also have to generate the link between paragraph and character style. But the work that I have to invest for this is – in my workflow – much smaller then the work I would have to invest when paragraph and character styles would be fused.

Since I can assign the same logical name/function to a paragraph and a character style, I also don’t feel like I am pressed to think in formatting instead of semantics… :)

Ori Redler
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by Ori Redler » Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:49 am

chahn wrote:I have a question about how Mellel implements styles. I'm not sure why the character style options are separated from the paragraph styles. I expect that there is a good reason behind Redler's decision, and I hope that others can help me understand why these style elements are separated and how I can better use this separation to my advantage. I apologize if this post is somewhat long, but I think it's important to lay out my question as completely as possible in order to help others see why I am confused.

In my mind, the overarching purpose of styles is to move from descriptive formatting to logical formatting. Instead of saying "I want this piece of text to be Arial 16pt bold," I can say "I want this text to be a level one header," which also means that all level 1 headers will have the same formatting.

It seems that separating the character style options from the paragraph styles makes it harder to focus on logical formatting. Instead of saying, "I want this text to be a level 1 header," I now have to say "I want the paragraph features--spacing, indent, etc.--to be like the level 1 header paragraph, and I want the character features--font, size, etc.--to be like a level 1 header." In other words, instead of thinking about just the logical description (level 1 header), I am thinking about 2 aspects.
I think that in Mellel there is a good separation of styling and formatting from the structure or logical format of the document.
There are three levels in the cases at hand:
A. Character styles or attributes: deal with the way words appear in the text.
B. Paragraph styles or attributes: deal with the way paragraphs are laid out.
C. Auto-titles: deal with the structure.

So, when want to enter a Level 1 heading, all you need to do is enter a level 1 auto-title.

I'm guessing that the source of the confusion is the fact that Word does it differently: paragraph/character styles ARE the levels there, so the way the heading looks and the function it serves (logically) are one and the same. With Mellel, you can have a heading that is small or large, independently of its function.
Ori Redler from RedleX

johnny366
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by johnny366 » Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:00 pm

An old thread I know, but can anyone help me with this problem?

I have a paragraph style applied in many places in a document, which I want to also be 1pt smaller text. I have now attached the Para style to a character style accordingly, but it seems I have to reapply the para style to affect the char (size) change. I guess I'm in the common trap of thinking 'MSWord' - I'm coming from Pages which has really simple ways to achieve what I need. I hope Mellel does too!

Sorry if this is covered in many places but I cannot search the forum properly.

DylanMuir
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by DylanMuir » Wed Feb 11, 2009 7:15 pm

Was the paragraph style associated with any character style before? If not, what character style was used on the existing text? If you change the font in that character style, it will fall through to the currently existing text.

Changing the character style associated with a paragraph style will not automatically force every paragraph with that style to adopt the new character style. To do that, you would have to re-apply the paragraph style.

I'm not entirely sure why the Redlers chose this sort of "soft linking" between paragraph and character styles. But clearly a paragraph can have one of several character styles assigned to it, and you wouldn't necessarily want to obliterate those every time you changed the paragraph style settings.

DRM

jannuss
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by jannuss » Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:06 pm

DylanMuir wrote:I'm not entirely sure why the Redlers chose this sort of "soft linking" between paragraph and character styles. But clearly a paragraph can have one of several character styles assigned to it, and you wouldn't necessarily want to obliterate those every time you changed the paragraph style settings.
I read the character style associated with a paragraph style as an initial condition, a start-up point.

I usually change paragraph style just a few times in the course of a document, but change character style often. It would be disastrous for me if changing the character style associated with a paragraph automatically changed all the document.

But, having said that, maybe it would be helpful to have an option could be associated with the change.

Janet

ozean
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by ozean » Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:35 pm

DylanMuir wrote:To do that, you would have to re-apply the paragraph style.
So I guess, the important question to be answered now is: how to do this in a quick and efficient way?

My guess would be that you could use the “Replace Styles…” command (in the menu bar go to File > Replace Styles) – and then replace the style with itself? Or does this not work? Or is there another, better way?

rpcameron
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Re: Paragraph and character style separation

Post by rpcameron » Thu Feb 12, 2009 12:00 am

ozean wrote:
DylanMuir wrote:To do that, you would have to re-apply the paragraph style.
So I guess, the important question to be answered now is: how to do this in a quick and efficient way?

My guess would be that you could use the “Replace Styles…” command (in the menu bar go to File > Replace Styles) – and then replace the style with itself? Or does this not work? Or is there another, better way?
If all of the affected areas have the same character style, why not change the character style? This will propagate the font size change through all instances.

Perhaps I am a bit confused, but the question related paragraph styles and font sizes. Font sizes are set through character styles, not paragraph styles. Was this a mistake, or a misunderstanding because the paragraph style in use referred to an associated character style? If it was associated with a particular character style, and the affected areas of text are still marked with that character style, then simply modifying the character style would have the desired effect.
— Robert Cameron

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