QUESTION: What is "copyfitting"?
is the process of ensuring
that a block of text isn't too long or
too short to fit the space alloted for it in a document.
Another term for copyfitting is "text fitting."
Here is an example of a situation where copyfitting
Let's say you're using variable-data-publishing
software to create a
variable-data document that has a space
three inches wide and one-half inch high that is supposed
to contain a company name. Let's also assume that you've
used your variable-data-publishing software to
specify a particular
font, font style, and font size for the company name.
What happens if a particular company name
is too long
to fit into that space?
The illustration below shows what can happen in a situation
"ABC Corporation" and "Gillins Company"
both fit into the reserved space, but
"Monmaxx Company" does not fit. Some
typesetters refer to this problem as an "overset."
You might think that you could avoid oversets
by imposing a limit on the number of characters that are
allowed for the company name. For example, if company
names are stored in your database in a field named
COMPANY_NAME, you might be tempted to deal with this
issue by setting up your database so that the
COMPANY_NAME field contains no more than fifteen characters.
this does not work very well in most cases.
For one thing,
it just wouldn't make
much sense to take this
approach when designing a database that will
contain company names, because
lots of companies have names that are longer
than fifteen characters, so
your database wouldn't be very useful if you
allowed only fifteen characters for the COMPANY_NAME
But there is also another reason: if you take
a close look at the three company names above, you'll see that
each of the company names has fifteen characters — yet
two of the company names fit into the space but one
of them does not.
Because the font that is used in the illustrations above
a proportionally spaced font. This means that
all the characters are not the same width. For example,
a "t" is wider than an "i" and an
"m" is wider than an "f" — and so on.
The fonts that are used in most documents that
are created today are proportionally spaced fonts.
it's easy to understand why counting the number of
characters is not a dependable method of ensuring that
variable text will fit into a particular area on a document.
If you are using Microsoft Word
or Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress or some other application
to create a document by hand, you can simply deal
with oversets as you go along. That is: if you are
and you see that it's too big, you can
make the font smaller, decrease the inter-character
spacing, or even re-word the text to make it fit.
But when you're using variable-data-publishing
software to generate documents,
you are not typing each document yourself, and —
depending on how your production workflow is set up —
it's very likely that you will not have an opportunity to
examine each and every document that is produced — so
it is very important to make sure that your variable-data-publishing
system provides a way for you to ensure that oversets
are dealt with properly.
Different ways to deal with oversets in a variable-data-publishing workflow
Some variable-data-publishing solutions do nothing
to help you
manage oversets, while others have various features
that help you to deal with oversets. For example:
Re-sizing text is not always desirable
- Some variable-data-publishing
systems create a "log file" or "history file"
that contains error messages that tell you about oversets that
happened during a production run.
With a system like this, you can examine the log file
after each production
run to see if there were any oversets. If so,
you can then devise a way to deal with them. For
example, if there are just a few oversets, you might
be able to fix up the problem documents manually
by editing them to make the font size smaller.
- Some variable-data-publishing systems are
capable of re-sizing text automatically
so that oversets will fit. These systems do this
by making the font size smaller and/or by decreasing
the space between characters and/or by decreasing
the space between lines (this is useful if you are
dealing with sentences and paragraphs of text instead
of just individual lines of text).
With systems like
this, you usually have the option of setting up your
documents so that text will "fill up" a space.
That is: the text can be made just big enough to
occupy the entire area that is reserved for it.
- Some variable-data-publishing systems
allow you to set up your documents so
that areas that are reserved for variable text expand
and contract as needed — and the more-powerful
systems can also position other elements on the
page dynamically, depending on the amount of space
that an expanding/contracting text block occupies.
For example, if your document contains a paragraph
that might occupy as few as two lines or as many as
six lines, the vertical positions of paragraphs
that follow this paragraph will be adjusted accordingly
by the software.
This feature is sometime referred to as
- The most versatile variable-data-publishing systems
offer all of the above features,
allowing you to use a combination of several
techniques to deal with
different situations. Systems like these
have the most to offer in terms of flexibility
and quality control.
Although it is great to have a variable-data-publishing
system that is capable of re-sizing text dynamically,
it's important to realize that this is not
always the best technique for dealing with oversets.
Here is an example of a situation where re-sizing
text would not be a good thing to do.
Suppose you're creating "special-offer"
cards for a shoe store. The cards are to be
customized according to the information in the
store's customer database. Each card is
to contain the customer's name, along with
a money-saving offer. Customers that have spent
a lot of money at the store are to receive better offers
than customers that have spent less money.
The two cards depicted below are for two customers
named Marilyn Jones and Janice White. The store's
database indicates that Janice has spent
more money than Marilyn; therefore, Janice is
receiving an offer for free shoes or boots while
Marilyn is receiving an offer for free shoes only.
The offer on
Janice's card has been printed in a font that
is smaller than the offer on Marilyn's card
so that the
first paragraph on each of the two cards occupies
As you can see, using two different font sizes
in the same paragraph makes Janice's card
look very unattractive.
A better approach would be to use the same
font size throughout the paragraph and
allow the paragraph to occupy as
many lines as required.
below shows how this looks.
Note that the second paragraph on both cards
in the illustration immediately above is
positioned appropriately relative to the bottom
of the first paragraph. In other words: even
though the text in the second paragraph is
not variable, its location on the page is variable.
This is an example of whitespace management.
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