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XPressBadge Documentation

1.Introduction #

XPressBadge is an ID Card Design, Printing and Management software. While ID card designing is the main purpose of this application, it can nonetheless be used for almost any design and publishing tasks such as brochures, flyers credit cards and product labels. XPressBadge uses vector graphics to ensure highest print quality and tiny file sizes. It can run on Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10.

Some of the great features of XPressBadge are:

  • Vector graphics
  • Layout customization
  • MDI interface
  • Layers
  • Two-sided printing
  • Page templates
  • Supports data binding with plethora of data sources including SQL Server, Oracle, SQLite and text files
  • Drag-n-drop binding with database fields
  • SQL Query support
  • Album View
  • Alpha Masking
  • Green screen (a.k.a. Chroma Key)
  • Interactive Page setup window

This manual discusses all salient features of XPressBadge in detail. Before shedding light on each individual feature, it is pertinent to provide the big picture.

2.Bird-eye view of the process #

The following illustration shows XPressBadge in Design layout. As you can see, the application contains a main designer surface (center), several tool windows (left and right) and a Ribbon (top) containing application commands and options. All these components, except for the Ribbon, can be moved/docked freely, to create the layout that works best for you. Get yourself familiar with the names of these components as we’ll use these names throughout the manual.

 

Now that you have basic knowledge about the names of application components, it is time to understand how to get things done with XPressBadge. Note that this section is a brief overview of XPressBadge designing and printing process. For detailed information, see User Interface, Working with Designer and other relevant sections of the manual.
 
Application workflow can be divided into the following major steps:
 
Selecting a page template
 
When starting with a new project, you need to have the following information beforehand:
 
What is the size of your drawing/badge/label, and the size of your page in case you’ll be printing several drawings/badges/labels per page?
 
If you’re going to print this drawing/badge for several subjects (e.g. ID card for an entire class of students), you’ll need to have subjects’ data in a data source such as a text file or Microsoft Access database.
 
Once you have this information available, start XPressBadge and click New button from the Ribbon (top left). XPressBadge comes with a bunch of predefined page templates. A page template defines page size, card size, number of rows and columns on the page and horizontal/vertical distances between the cards. XPressBadge includes standard ID card templates and many common templates from companies like Avery® and Worldlabel®. You can define your own templates too.

 
XPressBadge New Drawing Dialog
 

Once you select a template, click OK and XPressBadge will create a new drawing for you. You are now ready to proceed to the next step.
 
Designing
 
This is the heart of the entire workflow. Here you create the actual layout of your drawing/badge/label. These badges and labels use drawing objects such as text, shapes, barcodes, lines, and gradients to create a great-looking and informative output. These drawing objects are available in the Toolbox. You can drag-n-drop these objects onto designer surface to create their new instances. Thereupon you set each object’s properties using the Properties pane. You can design one or both sides of your drawing using XPressBadge using the Front/Back toggle button.
 
Printing
 
Once you are done with the design phase, it is time to connect to your data source. If your drawing does not involve injecting unique information for individual subjects, you can skip this and the following sections completely and instead choose Print (Design) and commands from the application menu (blue button at the top left of the Ribbon). Those commands print your drawing directly and do not require subjects’ data.
 
Your data source could be a text file such as CSV or Tab-delimited, or it could be a database. XPressBadge can connect with many popular data sources. It also provides the ability to use SQL queries to fetch custom projections. For more information about data sources and how to connect to them, see Data Source section. In summary, you choose a data source type and then tell XPressBadge about your data source through a connection string. XPressBadge then display the list of available tables and views and available columns within the selected table/view. These columns can then either be dragged directly into the drawing to create new data-bound objects, or you can manually set bindable properties of existing drawing objects to these columns. See Drawing objects, Variables and Properties topics on how to use variables to bind your drawing objects to database columns.
 
Once you have specified your data source, the Data Preview tool window will display resulting data rows. Each row will normally correspond to one subject. Data Preview window allows you to select the subject rows that you want to get printed. XPressBadge will print one copy of your drawing for each selected row and inject subject’s data in place of the variables, thus creating that subject’s ID card, badge or label. This process is known as Baking.
 
You can review these baked versions before actual printing using the Album tool window or Print Preview button from the main Ribbon (note that this is different from the Print Preview command available in the application menu, which show the preview of design version only). Once you’re satisfied with the output, you can use Print button from the main Ribbon (again note that this is different from the Print (Design) command available in the application menu).

3.User Interface #

XPressBadge uses very flexible layout where most of the UI items can be positioned and resized through simple dragging. It utilizes MDI interface to allow you to work with multiple drawings at a time. Each drawing is assigned a document window in the documents pane. Multiple document windows are arranged in a tabbed view, much like the tabs of modern browsers. Ribbon commands and tool windows always work with the active drawing. Only one drawing can be active at a time. Once you are satisfied with a particular arrangement of tool windows and designer area, you can save this layout using Save Layout command from the application menu. This will allow you to switch to a different layout and later come back to this arrangement by using Load Layout command (also available in the application menu). See Layout management section for more information about built-in and custom layouts.

 
By default, Design layout displays important tool windows to the left and right sides of the main designer area. In addition you see a horizontal at the top and a vertical ruler at the left side of the designer. Let’s take a look at

3.1.Tool windows #

Each tool window serves a specific purpose. As of version 2.3, XPressBadge contains the following tool windows.

 

  • Toolbox: Provides drawing objects such as text, shapes and barcode to construct a drawing.
  • Properties: Allows you to view/edit selected drawing object’s properties such as position and size.
  • Explorer: Shows a hierarchical view of the drawing contents.
  • Data Source: Lets you connect to a database or text file to fetch subjects’ data.
  • Data Preview: Provides tabular, read-only view of the fetched data that will be used for batch printing.
  • Page Setup: Controls page margins and number of rows and columns on the page for batch printing.
  • Color Box: Allows you to define the color/gradient used for drawing object’s border and interior.
  • Album: Displays baked output of the active drawing for selected subjects.
  • Cam Capture: Connects to camera device to acquire live photographs of the subjects.
  • Photo Manager: Allows you to link acquired photographs to subjects.

 

All these tool windows have been discussed in detail in Tool windows section.

3.2.Layout management #

XPressBadge windows can be positioned and sized freely, to create a layout that best suits your style. Once you have adjusted tool windows as you want, you can save this layout using Save Layout command (available in the application menu). This allows you to create different layouts for different types of work. For example, you may want to show Toolbox and Properties Pane during the design phase, but replace them with Data Preview and Album windows during batch printing. This can be achieved using Load Layout and Save Layout commands (both available in the application menu). XPressBadge comes with two default layouts named Design and Batch, which will serve for most of your needs.
 
To adjust the position of a tool window, you simply click its title bar and drag to a new place. When you start dragging, all existing tool windows will docking adorners where you can drop it to get it docked to that window. You can also drop it outside of any existing tool windows to let it float freely inside the application window.

 

There are 7 possible docking states for a tool window:

  • Docked left of an existing window
  • Docked right of an existing window
  • Docked top of an existing window
  • Docked bottom of an existing window
  • Docked as a tabbed document with an existing window
  • Floating freely
  • Auto-hidden

 
The following illustration shows several tool windows in different docking states. As you drag a tool window onto another tool window, the target window shows a visual cue using which you can dock the dragged window. Use Pin icon (top right of each tool window) to set a tool window to auto-hide mode.

 

MDI (save indicator and close buttons on the tab)

4.Designer #

  • Creating a drawing
    • Templates
    • Changing drawing size
    • Adding drawing objects
      • Drag-drop
      • Double-click z
      • Marquee
    • Snap to grid
    • Badge opacity (see-thru for back side)

4.1.Working with Designer #

Move, Resize and Rotate

  • Rotate with CTRL allows 15 degree increment
  • Arrow keys can be used to move an object
  • Resize handles

 
Cut, Copy and Paste commands

  • Copy/paste clipboard content such as text and image

 
Formatting commands in the Ribbon
 
Zoomming

XPressBadge designer supports zooming in and out using mouse wheel. If your mouse does not offer a wheel, you can use the zoom control available at the right-bottom of the application window. You can zoom to as small as 25% and as large as 400% of the original size. The zoom control also contains a handy button that zooms to 100%.

Since XPressBadge is a vector graphics application, zoom in or out does not affect the quality of drawing objects (except for Image objects that show raster images).

 
Undo/Redo

XPressBadge supports indefinite levels of undo and redo levels. Use CTRL + Z for undoing your most recent action, and CTRL + Y (or CTRL + SHIFT + Z) for redoing the last undone action. You can see the list of undo and redo actions in Action History tool window.

The current state of the drawing is represented with bold font in the list of actions. Note that any actions that are below the current state (which are the redo actions) will be lost if you perform any operations on the drawing. This is a common shortcoming of the undo/redo model and is not specific to XPressBadge. Other applications such as Word and Excel also lose redo actions if you make changes to the documents after undo.

 
Switching between front and back sides

XPressBadge supports 2-sided drawings and badges. You can use Front/Back Switch button (see
Layers

4.2.Drawing objects #

Drawings and badges are composed of drawing objects like text, symbols, images and barcodes. XPressBadge supplies several drawing objects that allow you to create all kinds of great-looking badges, broachers, cards and other drawings. You can choose these drawing objects from the Toolbox and add them to your drawings. See Toolbox to find different ways of adding these objects to drawings.
 
All drawing objects share some common properties such as Name, Location and Size. In addition to these common properties, each drawing object type exposes a specialized set of properties too, that are specific to that object type. In the following sections we’ll examine these common properties followed by the specialized properties of each drawing object.

4.2.1.Common properties #

Name

User-specified name of the drawing object. Name can be any text and is recommended (but not required) to be unique within the drawing. You can use object’s name to identify it even when it is not readily visible on the drawing surface (such as the objects on the back side of the drawing). You can set this property from Drawing Explorer as well as from Properties pane.

 
Visibe

Boolean (True/False) value that determines whether the object is visible on the drawing surface and in the print output. You can set this property from Drawing Explorer as well as from Properties pane.

 
Locked

Boolean (True/False) value that determines whether the object will respond to user’s interaction such as mouse click. You can lock an object if you want it to remain in a fixed position while you work on other objects on top of the locked one. You can set this property from Drawing Explorer as well as from Properties pane.

 
Location

Specifies the X, Y co-ordinates of the object on the drawing surface. The top left corner of the drawing is the origin (0, 0). As you move an object on the drawing surface, this property automatically gets updated to reflect object’s new position. You can also set this property from Properties pane if you want to place it at a precise position. Note that these values are shown in currently selected measurement units. When you change measurement units (from the Ribbon), these properties automatically reflect the new values. All objects except the Line object support Location property.
 
An object can be moved using the arrow keys too. See Working with Designer section for more information.

 
Size

Specifies the width and height of the drawing object. You can change the size of an object using the resize handles. Alternately you can use Properties pane to set the width and height of the objects to precise values. All objects except the Line object support Size property.

Just like the Location property, Size of an object is also shown in currently selected measurement units. Width and height of an object is displayed alongside the horizontal and vertical border of the object too when the object is selected.

 
Rotation

Specifies the rotation angle of the object in degrees. All objects except the Line object support Rotation property. You can rotate an object using Properties pane or you can use the rotation handle to rotate it directly on the designer surface. See Working with Designer section for more information.

 
ZOrder

An integer value (positive or negative) that determines the order in which objects are placed on top of each other. You can use this property to move objects to background or bring them to foreground in relation to other objects. Objects with higher the ZOrder value are placed in front of objects with lower ZOrder values. You can change the ZOrder from Properties pane. You can also quickly move objects to foreground or background using the Format tab of the Ribbon.

4.2.2.Common shape properties #

The following properties are specific to Shape objects. This includes Ellipse, Rectangle, Symbol and NGon.

 
Outline and Fill

Specifies the brushes that are used to draw shape’s border and interior respectively. XPressBadge supports 4 kinds of brushes:

  • No brush
  • One color brush (also called Solid brush)
  • Linear gradient brush with two or more gradient stops and start/end points. By default start and end points are at top-left and bottom-right of the object.
  • Radial gradient brush with a progressive transition between two or more colors radiating from an origin (the center of the gradient). By default, origin is set at the center of the object.

 
See Color Box for more information about how to apply these brushes to drawing objects.

 
Border Style

Specifies the pen style used to draw border of the shape. By default borders are drawn with solid brush. Other options include dash, dot, dash-dot and dash-dot-dot.

 
Border Thickness

Specifies the thickness of shape border. Default is 1. You can use Properties pane to set this property.

4.2.3.Ellipse #

Ellipse shape can be used to add circles and ellipses to your drawing. Ellipse inherits all common properties of shapes (and therefore all common properties of drawing objects).

4.2.4.Rectangle #

Rectangle shape can be used to add normal and rounded rectangles. Like Ellipse, Rectangle also inherits all common properties of shapes (and therefore all common properties of drawing objects). In addition, Rectangle provides one more property named Corner Radius that you can use to round the 4 edges of rectangle.

4.2.5.NGon #

An n-gon is a convex polygon that is equiangular (all angles are equal in measure) and equilateral (all sides have the same length). This object can be used to add common shapes such as triangle, pentagon and hexagon etc. NGon object inherits all common properties of shapes (and therefore all common properties of drawing objects). In addition, NGon provides one more property named Sides that defines the number of edges of the n-gon. You can set the number of sides to any number between 3 and 100. As the number of sides of n-gon increases, it starts resembling more and more to a circle.

  • Symmetric polygon with N sides. N can be from 3 to 100.

4.2.6.Line #

Represents a 2 dimensional line object with start and end points. Unlike other drawing object, Line does not have Location or Size properties and therefore does not show the 8 resize handles that are shown around other drawing objects. There are only two handles using which you can change the start and end of the line object. However a Line can be moved around by click-and-drag just like other drawing objects.

You can change line style from solid to dashed or dotted. You can also use Thickness property of the line object to create thicker or thinner lines.

4.2.7.Text #

Represents a text box that can be used to create labels, paragraphs and other textual elements. A Text object supports multiline text with automatic word wrapping. It also supports font faces, sizes and styles available on your machine. You can perform in-place editing of the contents of a Text object by double clicking (this works even when the Text object is rotated), or using the Properties tool window. Properties window shows live preview of the font families when a Text object is selected.
 
Text object supports horizontal and vertical alignments. This setting is especially useful when you place objects near one of the edges of the drawing. For example, you may want to place an e-mail address near the top-right corner of the drawing and let it expand towards the left (instead of default left expansion). In this case, you can set Horizontal Alignment property to Right and the text will start flowing towards left.
 
Text object provides two properties for setting its contents: Designer Text property controls the content that is displayed in the designer. Use this property to visualize at design time what the output will look like. On the other hand, Text property controls the actual output that will be printed. Note that Text property shows light green background, which means it support variables. See Properties pane and Variables topics for more information on how to use variables to fetch data from data sources.
 
Designer Text property has no effect on the printed output if Text property is set.
 
The following illustration shows a 90 degrees rotated Text element which is being edited in-place. A Text object just like other drawing objects can be rotated to arbitrary angle and not just multiples of 90.

 
***

Tip: If you copy text from any application to the clipboard, you can press CTRL + V (or choose Paste command) on the designer for it to automatically create a Text element for you. This Text element will have the copied text as its content.

4.2.8.Image #

Using image object, you can adds photographs, clipart and other illustrations to your drawing. Image object supports both files and binary image data. It exposes the following important properties:
 
Designer Source: This property allows you to select the photograph or image that will be displayed in the designer. Simply click the Browse button and choose your file.
 
Source: Determines the image content that will be used during Print Preview and Print. This property supports Variables too. You can either provide a static image file path, or you can use a variable that points to image column. This column could in turn either contain path of the image file or the actual binary contents, which is the case when your images are stored directly in the database.
 
Transparency Color/Transparency Tolerance: Together these two properties implement a powerful feature known as Chroma Keying or Green Screen. The idea is that batch photography firms take pictures of their subjects with a background of distinctive non-human color (such as green). These pictures are then brought to the lab where a software such as XPressBadge is used to replace the background with a different image such as a scenery. Here is an example:

To make this feature work, the background screen should be of reasonably distinctive color and should not have been used in the foreground/subject. Set Transparency Color property to your screen’s color (you can use Advanced button available in this property dropdown if you know color code) and then play with Tolerance property to figure out the best balance where the background is completely wiped and the foreground is not affected.
 
Opacity Mask: This property is available through Color Box tool window (and not Properties pane). Using this property you can create interesting blend effects where two images seamlessly merge into each other. Alternately you can create photographs with fading frames. Following are two such example. The one to the left uses linear gradient mask with one of the gradient stops set to transparent. The one to the right uses a radial gradient to fade the photograph away from the center.

 
Stretch: Defines how the photograph will be resized if the image object is not the same size as the photograph. Possible options are:
 

  • None: Photograph will not be resized. Parts of the photograph will be clipped if photo is larger than the image object.
  • Fill: Photograph will be resized to be the same size as the image object. Aspect Ratio may get distorted.
  • Uniform: Photograph will be resized so that larger of the width and height matches that of the image object. The other dimension is resized accordingly to main original aspect ratio.
  • Uniform To Fill: Photograph will be resized so that smaller of the width and height matches that of the image object. The other dimension is resized accordingly to main original aspect ratio. This will clip parts of the photograph in the larger dimension.
  • 4.2.9.Symbol #

    Symbol shape can be used to add several types of common graphic elements such as star, arrow,right-angled triangle, diamond and callout. Symbol inherits all common properties of shapes (and therefore all common properties of drawing objects). In addition it provides one more property named Symbol Type, which is a dropdown from which you can select one of these shapes. Note that these symbols are available directly in Toolbox window too.

    4.3.Advanced controls #

    4.3.1.Barcode #

    As the name suggests, this drawing object displays supplied text in the form of barcode. XPressBadge supports following barcode types:

    • AZTEC,
    • CODABAR
    • CODE 39
    • CODE 128
    • DATA MATRIX
    • EAN 8
    • EAN 13
    • ITF
    • PDF 417
    • QR CODE
    • UPC A
    • MSI
    • PLESSEY

    Barcode object exposes two properties namely Data and Designer Data using which you can inject the value that needs to be barcoded. Designer Data is for design-time display, whereas Data property is used by XPressBadge during Batch Print and Batch Print Preview. Data property support variables, so you can bind it to a database field. See Variables topic for more information.

    4.3.2.Magstripe #

    Magnetic stripes are used in many low-security environments to provide basic authentication services. Credit cards and employee identity cards are two examples of cards that use magnetic stripes. The Magstripe drawing object allows you to encode data onto such cards. For this object to work, you need to have a printer that supports magnetic encoding. Many printers come with separate installable modules that can be attached to the printer to add magnetic capabilities.
     
    Magstripe object will be positioned and sized automatically if you double-click it in the Toolbox or drag-n-drop it onto the designer. Important to note that Magstripe object by default does not display anything in print preview or actual print. Instead the specified data is sent directly to the magnetic encoder module for encoding. However you can display the band and data using DisplayBand and DisplayTrackData properties.
     
    Magstripes can hold up to 3 tracks of data. Each track has a maximum length and list of allowed characters. The following table summarizes these limitations:
     
    XPressBadge shows these limitations in the Properties pane when a Magstripe object is selected. Note that all 3 track properties are bindable (green boxes), so you can use Variables instead of static values to encode subject-specific information in the magnetic strip. This will be a common scenario for most batch jobs. When binding, make sure your database fields comply with the limitations mentioned above.

    4.4.Tool windows #

    4.4.1.Explorer #

    The Explorer (or Drawing Explorer) tool window provides a hierarchical view of the drawing contents. Root node of the hierarchy is the drawing itself. Under the root node, you’ll see FRONT and BACK nodes that are used to group front-side and back-side layers. Each layer node in turn contains the list of drawing objects that are part of that layer. See Layers for more information.

    Selecting a drawing object in the Explorer will select it in the drawing too (and vice versa). Each drawing object shows a Visibility and a Lock icon in front of it. Clicking these icons will toggle object’s visibility and locked/unlocked status respectively. These icons are available for layer nodes too, clicking which will affect all drawing objects in that layer.

    Object nodes provide context menu that can be used to perform common tasks such as cut, copy and paste. In addition you can select a node and press F2 key to rename an object or layer. Press ENTER or ESCAPE to accept or cancel changes. Each object node shows the object Name as well as its Type (in parenthesis).

    This tool window contains a small toolbar at the top that allows you to create new layers and delete existing ones. Note that you cannot delete all layers from either front or back side of the drawing. Each side must have at least one layer. Also note that deleting a layer will delete all drawing objects of that layer too.

    You can also use this window to adjust the z-order of drawing objects. This allows you to move a drawing object to the background or foreground with respect to other drawing objects. The same effect can be achieved using the Properties pane using the Z-Order property slider.

    Note that Explorer window supports multiple selection, so you can perform operations on more than one objects at a time.

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