How to Template: Introduction and Templating Tools
Articles by Pichoro
Hello! Thanks for joining me. When the website staff discussed creation of an "articles" feature here at the Magic Set Editor website, I felt like it was perhaps time to do something that has long been sought after - a tutorial on templating. So, I'm going to start with what I perceive as the beginning, and walk through how to template, from starter topics to more advanced topics. At times, I'm going to refer to lots of existant templates for examples. I may also create some examples as necessary.
Following is a list of topics I intend to cover during the life of this article. This is in no way meant to be a final or all inclusive list of topics, nor is it meant to be an index for what order things will come in. I'm all ears for feedback, or requests for future articles or what you'd like to see next.
- Tools of Templating
- Template Headers
- Fields Types and Their Limitations
- Various Methods for Field Placement in Styles
- Field Rotations
- Booster Packs
- Automatic Text Replacements
- Export Templates
- Extra Styling Fields
- Include Packages
Templating: Tools You'll Need
I'm going to begin with the tools and special computer settings you'll need in order to template. You'll of course need a functioning copy of the latest version of Magic Set Editor, but there are many other pieces of software that I use on a regular basis.
The first tool I use on a regular basis is Notepad. Notepad is the most basic text editing tool that can safely open MSE template files, edit them, and save them in a format that can still be understood by MSE. There are other programs that can work with MSE files, and some other users may recommend those programs over Notepad. Personally, I continue using Notepad for two huge reasons. First, Notepad is reliable. Notepad's settings or functions have never damaged a template file I was working on - the damage is always done by a mistake I've made. Second, it is simple. It is easy to use, and available with all Windows computers.
The next tool I use will be a controversial one as well. Despite it's limitations, I still utilize MS Paint for a number of simple templating functions. In particular, I find MS Paint very useful for making minor alterations to masks, minor resizings that do not need to be a particular size, just in a range of sizes, and for creating sample renders for templates that span multiple images and need pasted together. However, MS Paint lacks many higher level image editing functions, including the ability to deal with transparencies in images. That leads me to my next tool recommendation.
My next recommendation is a high end image editor. In any template, you're going to want the ability to work with images and keep them clean and uncompressed to maximize quality. You're also going to often want the ability to work with transparencies in images. Lots of options for this exist, including commercial, freeware, and open source options. They include Adobe Photoshop, Corel Paint Shop Pro, Paint.net, and GIMP. My personal setup utilizes an open source option, GIMP, most of the time, but I also have an older version of Paint Shop Pro installed for batch editing some images. There are individuals that prefer each of the different programs. They all feature strong image editing capabilities, and can function perfectly well for the creation of a template. You should find one that you are comfortable with, and learn to use it as well as possible.
You'll also require a method of both opening and creating ZIP archives. Many users utilize an additional program for this, such as 7-Zip or Winrar. It is my recommendation that if you are a Windows user, you simply utilize the standard ZIP compression tools integrated into Windows. They are accessible by right clicking on the file. If you right click on a file or series of multiple selected files, you can create a ZIP archive by choosing "Send to" then "Compressed (zipped) folder". If you right click on a ZIP archive, you can choose "Extract all..." to open the ZIP extraction dialog, or you can simply double click to open the file in a Windows Explorer window if it has a .ZIP file extension. Being able to accurately handle ZIP archives is important because MSE utilizes ZIP compression extensively. Set files and installer files are both ZIP archives, and templates can be ZIP archives as well.
My final two suggestions aren't tools so much as they are settings that I highly recommend having in place. First and foremost, I recommend you set your computer to show full file extensions, even on known file types. In Windows 7, this is accomplished in the following manner. Open a Windows Explorer window, and navigate to C:. Choose "Organize", then "Folder and search options". In the dialog that opens, switch to the "View" tab. Uncheck the box next to "Hide extensions for known file types". You may also wish to take a moment while you have this dialog open to switch "Hidden files and folders" to "Show hidden files, folders, and drives", but that option is less important. When you click "Apply", it will reveal file extensions for every file on your hard drive. This can be dangerous as well - you'll need to be careful when editing file names to not destroy a file's functionality by changing its extension incorrectly. So you may also consider creating a new folder in which you'll work on MSE templates, and carry out this option just on that folder. If you do so, you'll want to confine all MSE activity to that folder, including your set files, set symbols, renders, and your MSE installation.
The final suggestion is that you give yourself full editing permissions on your MSE installation if it is within a Program Files folder. You must be an administrator or have the help of an administrator to do this, and you should do it even if you are an administrator to stop annoying "permission required" popup boxes whenever you try to edit anything. To do this on Windows 7 or Vista, navigate to your MSE install folder's location, but do not open the install folder. Instead, right click on it and choose "Properties". Switch to the "Security" tab. Click the "Edit" button. In the "Group or usernames" list box, choose "Users". In the "Permissions for Users" list box, checkmark the "Modify" box in the "Allow" column. This will automatically check the "Write" box further down. When you click "Apply", a dialog will open notifying you of changes being made to give you modify and write access to all files inside of the Magic Set Editor folder. Let it run undisturbed. Afterwards, you'll be a much happier templater.
I'm going to stop there for the time being. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, make suggestions, or make requests. Next article, I plan to discuss the beginning steps in creating a template, basic guidelines that should be known in file naming, and a discussion of the various pieces of information in a header of a template file. Thanks for reading!