Scratching the Itch: Using the Publisher Scratch Area for Layout

In addition to toolbars, the page, task panes and rulers, there is another area of the Publisher window that is especially useful for working on publications.  It's call the Scratch Area, and is a place where you can put textboxes and objects to move them around on the page or onto other pages.

You've probably noticed the scratch area, though you may never have used it before.  It surrounds the page, so if you zoom out, it's hard to miss.

The scratch area in relation to the page

All of the grey area in the picture above is scratch area.  Think of it as a holding place or as a bulletin board where you store things that you want to use in your publication, but aren't certain yet of their positioning.

In the second picture below, you'll see several items in the scratch area.  These items are saved with the publication when you save as .pub, so that if you need to stop working on your publication and come back to it at a later time or if you need to send it to someone else to work on, the objects are there for later use.  If you  save as HTML, PDF, or XPS, however, these items are left behind, as is the entire scratch area.  When you print, the items in the scratch area are ignored.

Scratch area with extra objects in it 

The scratch area remains the same for every page in your publication.  As you can see below, if I move to a new page, all the items that were available on the first page are still available:

Scratch area remains the same when the page changes

This can be really helpful if you want to move items from page to page.  Let's say you start out with that blue oval on the first page, but decide that although you need to have it in the publication, it doesn't seem to belong on page one.  You can park that shape in the scratch area, then use it later when you do find just the right place to put it.  You don't have to try to copy it to the clipboard and hope it will still be there after you do a dozen other steps.  You can see it's sitting there waiting patiently to be used.

The scratch pane is also useful for doing one particular kind of special effect in a publication.  You can let a shape or a textbox drift off the edge of the page so that part of it is on the page and part is in the scratch pane.  Try this:

1.      create a rectangle or an oval

2.      drop the fill color flyout and choose Fill Effects

3.      on the Gradient tab, select a color for Color 1, then choose Shading style "from center"

4.      OK to close the dialog

5.      Drag your shape with its fun fill so that half of it is on the page and half is in the scratch area.

oval with a gradient partially in the scratch area

Okay, so what?  So I've got a shape with a gradient in my publication. 

But now go to File/Print Preview and see how that object will look on the page.  Pretty cool, huh?

How the oval will print

Okay, so it's a little silly, but it is a fun effect that you can get by playing with placement on the scratch area versus placement entirely on the page. In addition to showing up this way when you print the file, the shape will also appear this way when you save as HTML, PDF, or XPS.

Cherie Ekholm
Senior Test Lead

About the contributor:  Cherie is a nearly 19-year veteran of Microsoft.  Prior to joining the Publisher team, she worked as a Test Engineer and Test Lead in the International, Word, and Natural Languages groups.  She currently coordinates the testing of PDF and XPS across the Office applications in addition to her other testing and management duties.  Cherie is also a member of the AIIM Standards Board, and the ISO 32000 (PDF Reference), and PDF/UA (Universal Accessibility) standards committees.

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