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Symbols in graphic design programs

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Anonymous

One thing I haven’t seen mention of in any posts so far is the symbol capability of programs like Macromedia Freehand. This makes it much easier to manage anything where you have things repeating. I will explain the normal way using symbols in a program, and also the specific command in Macromedia Freehand which is my preferred program.

It’s very simple to make and use symbols -
1. Select the thing you want to make into a symbol
2. Make it a symbol (press F8 in Freehand, it will appear in the library panel as Graphic-01, give it a name).
3. Copy and paste it wherever you want it.

Now, whenever you want to change every copy of the symbol, all you have to do is edit the symbol itself, and it will change everywhere (Press CTRL-E in Freehand to edit a selected symbol)

You can also press CTRL-R on a selected instance of a symbol to release it - this means you can edit it normally and it will not change when you edit the symbol, as it is no longer a symbol.
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The benefits of using symbols are many - I often have layers of symbol for each card, some inside the other, in order to make it as easy as possible to make changes as I playtest.

For example, if you wanted to represent Magic the Gathering decks in Freehand, this is one way it could be represented:

One fundamental symbol which is the outline of each card called “Outline”.
Symbols for each color which showed the colored border and background and contained “Outline” in it.
Symbols for all the mana symbols - each color, and all the numbers up till 10.
Each individual card would be also be a symbol, containing all the text, and the color symbol, and mana symbols.

Then, if you want to change the appearance of an individual card, all cards of a color, or all the cards, you can do it easily. You can also change how the mana symbols look for all the cards. Finally, it is very easy to add new cards using the symbols that already exist.
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While in this example (I picked as a game just about everybody has played), symbols don’t help too much with changing the way the game is played, in many games the appearance of a card also defines its function, not just its text. Also, in many board games the board is tiled in some way, or features repeat, and symbols are very useful for making these boards. As you can see, symbols can be a very powerful way to rapidly design and edit games.

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