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Apps: Publisher
Platforms: All

Affinity Publisher now has the ability to define custom text variables as fields. This allows you to add new fields and assign whatever value to them you wish.

Within the Fields panel, you will now see a new section for "Custom". Within that there is a + button where you can add your own fields. For example, in this screenshot three custom fields have been created: <product name>, <price> and <release date>. 

image.png

I can now add these fields into my document, so any references to the price, name and date are drawn from the field values. In this example this means when the price and product name is confirmed I can just update the field value and every instance of that is updated throughout my document.

For iPad you can find custom fields at the bottom of the fields panel. You can add fields using the "Add custom field button". On iPad to edit the field you need to long press on it which gives the options in the flyout menu.

image.jpeg

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MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2021) / Apple M1 Max / 64GB / macOS 12.0.1

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Thanks, this works well.

I was able to create variables with non-unique names, is this by design? It might complicate scripting.

When creating a variable and typing its name I'm able to press Return to close the popup to complete the creation. When editing a variable name, pressing Return changes the variable name but doesn't close the popup. I have to press Esc or click with the mouse to close it.

The variable value field can display up to 128 characters, anything longer than that is truncated but the full value is saved. When editing, I'm editing only the truncated value so there's no way to edit a variable longer than 128 characters. I was trying it with thousands of characters to get an idea of what I could use variables for.

For those interested a field name can be up to 16 characters. Typing more than 16 characters will truncate it to 15 plus an ellipsis so perhaps it's saving a longer name, too. It might be nice just to force a 16-character name to avoid the ellipsis in a variable name. [EDIT - oops, brain malfunction. That's the automatic truncation for the column. 🙂]

Thanks!

Edited by MikeTO
correction
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This is a nice addition and very useful, thank you... 🙂

A couple of workflow wishes...

  1. After entering placeholder text for a new custom field, if you haven't either tabbed or hit enter, clicking the + icon to add a new custom field shows the placeholder text seemingly accepted but when hitting enter to create the new custom field the placeholder text for the prior field is removed.

    Obviously, it's a case of having to tab or hit enter prior to add a new custom field but it might be nice if hitting the + icon acted in the same way as tab or enter, accepting the placeholder text for the prior custom field.
     
  2. Custom fields are kept in alphabetical order which is fine though It would be nice to have the option to re-order custom fields either via drag and drop or through the use of ∧ and ∨ buttons.
     
  3. It would be nice to have the trash can icon to the left of the three vertical 'edit custom field' dots to speed up the deletion of unwanted custom fields rather than having to edit the custom field for every field you want to remove, perhaps in a similar fashion to the lock icon in the layers panel which only appears when hovered over or alternatively an option to Cmd-click multiple custom field names so they can be deleted in one go or even a select all option for deletion in one go.

 

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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2 hours ago, Hangman said:

After entering placeholder text for a new custom field, if you haven't either tabbed or hit enter, clicking the + icon to add a new custom field shows the placeholder text seemingly accepted but when hitting enter to create the new custom field the placeholder text for the prior field is removed.

Obviously, it's a case of having to tab or hit enter prior to adding a new custom field but it might be nice if hitting the + icon acted in the same way as tab or enter, accepting the placeholder text for the prior custom field.

This isn't unique to variables. For example, if I'm renaming a layer with its panel and don't press Tab or Return before clicking the Add Layer icon, the change won't be accepted. If I'm renaming an index mark with its panel and add a new mark it won't be accepted. Other parts of Affinity do accept the change, such as text size. I think the issue is with inline editing of list items.

This is unrelated and completely useless until scripting is available, but if in the future you want to know the unique ID of a text variable just insert an index mark before it - the ID will be shown in the Index panel. You can also see the variable ID with cross references.

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Whenever I add or edit a custom field & press Return or whatever, the Fields panel scrolls back to the top, so I have to scroll all the way back down if I want to check on that or chamge anything else. Is this happening for anybody else?

If so, I would prefer that the panel remain on the Custom section afterwards....

EDIT: This only happens when I change the property name, like the <product name> in the example, but not the value itself ... if that makes any sense.

All 3 1.10.8, & all 3 V2.5.2 Mac apps; 2020 iMac 27"; 3.8GHz i7, Radeon Pro 5700, 32GB RAM; macOS 10.15.7
Affinity Photo 
1.10.8; Affinity Designer 1.108; & all 3 V2 apps for iPad; 6th Generation iPad 32 GB; Apple Pencil; iPadOS 15.7

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4 minutes ago, R C-R said:

Whenever I add or edit a custom field & press Retune or whatever, the Fields panel scrolls back to the top, so I have to scroll all the way back down if I want to check on that or chamge anything else. Is this happening for anybody else?

I see that if the Fields panel is included as part of a group when I have several different panel groups taking up the horizontal space in the respective studio but if you include the Fields panel as part of a single group so the panel takes up the entire height of the screen you shouldn't see the scrolling issue... e.g., I keep multiple, frequently used panel combinations in the right studio and less used panels that occupy much more vertical screen real estate in a single group in the left studio.

 

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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2 minutes ago, Hangman said:

but if you include the Fields panel as part of a single group so the panel takes up the entire height of the screen you shouldn't see the scrolling issue...

Sure, but what I would like to see is it not scroll back to the top if the panel height is not enough to show the Custom text variables, for instance when it is included in a panel group like I currently have with it grouped with Styles & Stock panels ... or for that matter if I have more custom fields than will fit, even with the other field types collapsed. (Right now, in this group I only have room to show 7 custom field names plus the 'double click' hint at the bottom.)

To see what I mean, consider adding lots of custom fields when using a screen not tall enough to display them all plus all the other field types, even if all the others are collapsed.

BTW, when you said "when I have several different panel groups taking up the horizontal space in the respective studio" I assume you meant the vertical space, right?

All 3 1.10.8, & all 3 V2.5.2 Mac apps; 2020 iMac 27"; 3.8GHz i7, Radeon Pro 5700, 32GB RAM; macOS 10.15.7
Affinity Photo 
1.10.8; Affinity Designer 1.108; & all 3 V2 apps for iPad; 6th Generation iPad 32 GB; Apple Pencil; iPadOS 15.7

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19 hours ago, MikeTO said:

This isn't unique to variables. For example, if I'm renaming a layer with its panel and don't press Tab or Return before clicking the Add Layer icon, the change won't be accepted. If I'm renaming an index mark with its panel and add a new mark it won't be accepted. Other parts of Affinity do accept the change, such as text size. I think the issue is with inline editing of list items.

Absolutely, and maybe a tab or enter key should be the expected norm though there are many areas where, from a workflow perspective, perhaps a little UI finessing would be welcome.

There seems to be a UI design concept adoption where you have to repeat the same steps over and over to achieve something that you ideally should be able to achieve in a single step. This improved at least with the creation of new colour palettes which used to be a two-step process:

Step 1 - Click the Hamburger Menu to Add an Application/Document/System Palette
Step 2 - Click the Hamburger menu a second time to select Rename Palette

At least now that is a one-step, combined process...

This approach could be applied to so many more parts of the UI to streamline the creation/addition/deletion or movement of so many elements or objects in the colour panel and many other panels...

Currently, again you have a two-step process to delete Custom Fields:

Step 1 - Click the Edit Custom Field icon
Step 2 - Click the Trash Bin Icon

This could so easily be a simple one-step process if the trash bin icon were to be moved up one level, so instead of select/delete, select/delete, select/delete, it became a delete, delete, delete process or even better, Cmd (Ctrl) select, delete or a Select All option was available...

You still can't Cmd (Ctrl) select multiple swatches to delete en-mass, you still currently have to adopt an 'eat, sleep, delete, repeat' approach and delete one by one... :)

 

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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10 minutes ago, R C-R said:

Sure, but what I would like to see is it not scroll back to the top if the panel height is not enough to show the Custom text variables, for instance when it is included in a panel group like I currently have with it grouped with Styles & Stock panels ... or for that matter if I have more custom fields than will fit, even with the other field types collapsed. (Right now, in this group I only have room to show 7 custom field names plus the 'double click' hint at the bottom.)

Completely agree, no scrolling back to the top of the panel should be necessary, there is absolutely no need or benefit for the panel to do so, it should maintain focus on its last entry...

12 minutes ago, R C-R said:

BTW, when you said "when I have several different panel groups taking up the horizontal space in the respective studio" I assume you meant the vertical space, right?

I absolutely did mean vertical in this instance... :)

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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2 minutes ago, Capitaine Pongo said:

Sorry but could you give us an example of work that could be done with this? I don't quite see the advantage over data merge fields?

It's for constants that you want to use throughout a document. For example, if you make versions of the same document for different clients, you could have a variable named Client Name and just change their name in one place to update all instances of it. Or perhaps a product name is NDA so you're using a code name as a placeholder until it's finalized.

Also when scripting is available in a future version of Affinity, variables will provide in-document storage for scripts. This is one of the precursors to doing some exciting things one day.

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34 minutes ago, Intuos5 said:

Could anyone check what happens when you copy paste a custom variable to a new document? Does Affinity add it to the list of custom variables in the new document?

In short, no it doesn't...

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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There is a significant visual difference between the MAC version of the panel shown above and the current Windows version.

The MAC panel looks much tidier and the buttons are more clearly recognizable as such.

On MAC (from Ash):

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/uploads/monthly_2023_07/image.png.83f1065826c1071af655c37c725c0832.png

This is how it looks like in the current Windows version:

image.png.fc55c04604bdf95e492784e29c2931eb.png

 

1) The add-button is missing the plus-sign

2) To my mind, in comparison to Ash's MAC screenshot, overall the data sections and buttons on the right lack contrast against the background. Buttons are too small and the button labes (vertical dots) are to thin. The UI lacks visual guidance.

3) And of course the truncated label problem in the Windows version as reported here:

 

These are my current UI settings:

image.png.82468d02c684641524345518ce28f3d0.png

 

Hardware: Windows 11 Pro (23H2, build 22631.3880, Windows Feature Experience Pack 1000.22700.1020.0), Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-14900K @3.20 GHz, 64 GB RAM, NVIDIA RTX A4000 (16GB VRAM, driver 551.61), 1TB + 2TB SSD. 1 Display set to native 2560 x 1440.
Software: Affinity v1 - Designer/Publisher/Photo (1.10.6.1665), Affinity v2 (universal license) - Designer/Publisher/Photo, v2 betas.

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Windows panel bug: value input remains in the panel after deleting custom field entry from the list. Even after closing the panel or document. Need to restart Publisher to get rid of the stray value.

 

image.png.f93007f71fc1cc499de0bb2da4e4105a.png

Hardware: Windows 11 Pro (23H2, build 22631.3880, Windows Feature Experience Pack 1000.22700.1020.0), Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-14900K @3.20 GHz, 64 GB RAM, NVIDIA RTX A4000 (16GB VRAM, driver 551.61), 1TB + 2TB SSD. 1 Display set to native 2560 x 1440.
Software: Affinity v1 - Designer/Publisher/Photo (1.10.6.1665), Affinity v2 (universal license) - Designer/Publisher/Photo, v2 betas.

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6 hours ago, Hangman said:

In short, no it doesn't...

Nor are they available to other chapters in Books - they are document specific. I believe ID has the same limitation.

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38 minutes ago, 4dimage said:

Windows panel bug: value input remains in the panel after deleting custom field entry from the list. Even after closing the panel or document. Need to restart Publisher to get rid of the stray value.

Out of interest, does the value also remain if you close the Custom > toggle and open it again...

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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8 minutes ago, Hangman said:

Out of interest, does the value also remain if you close the Custom > toggle and open it again...

Yes it does. Here is the complete show:

 

Hardware: Windows 11 Pro (23H2, build 22631.3880, Windows Feature Experience Pack 1000.22700.1020.0), Intel(R) Core(TM) i9-14900K @3.20 GHz, 64 GB RAM, NVIDIA RTX A4000 (16GB VRAM, driver 551.61), 1TB + 2TB SSD. 1 Display set to native 2560 x 1440.
Software: Affinity v1 - Designer/Publisher/Photo (1.10.6.1665), Affinity v2 (universal license) - Designer/Publisher/Photo, v2 betas.

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On 7/14/2023 at 1:35 PM, MikeTO said:

This is unrelated and completely useless until scripting is available, but if in the future you want to know the unique ID of a text variable just insert an index mark before it - the ID will be shown in the Index panel. You can also see the variable ID with cross references.

Just an observation, the isn't really important. When viewing a marker in a panel list such as Find and Replace:

  • For note markers, <Sidenote>, <Footnote>, or <Endnote> is shown
  • For standard fields, <Author> or some other tag is shown
  • For variable fields, the unique ID is shown
  • For index markers, nothing is shown

Screenshot2023-07-15at5_16_07PM.thumb.png.c2ef07f64984c0f668e9f022d83f51f2.png

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This is what I see when opening up the Fields panel. Is the button meant to be a "+" rather than a "."/"-"?230716_custom-fields-apub.jpg.0bda4c34e53cba1f8afa109c4ebfd4db.jpg
 

  • UI: I will say on my machine that the UI looks inconspicuous for this function. On first glance in Windows, it doesn't seem anything special could be done as it reads like some appended static data in the "custom" area. Custom data can be mean a few things in my experience across programs. It doesn't suggest they are actually variables to be utilized there. I know it is early, this is just my readily available first impression.

    It's not clear what "Double-click field name to <insert>" suggests when there are no fields present. Oh how I'd love to insert, but what field name? I appreciate the double click option. I think I would prefer a button to the side, but being able to double click is also good.
     
  • This placeholder still appears even when the Custom variables section is collapsed even though custom fields are present in the document. I figure it is temporary:
    image.png.7dc709998cb18eac05d68bf60dbf86b0.png
     
  • A unique ID system could be added? If a unique ID system is utilized somehow, they should be bolded/colored in some way within the Fields Panel to suggest they are "live" data in the panel waiting to be inserted/called. Being able to call these variables in manually when working with text field/etc would be ideal. For example, a suggestion pop-up when typing out a certain phrase would call back to those variables. That would be ideal! (or some key press to pull up the menu for these, something like this) Hopefully that is clear.
     
  • I agree that sorting is critical. I like the idea of being able to group/categorize them since they're effectively like constants. Some pieces of text will be important earlier on, such as root elements (Headings, blurbs, link data, etc) should be able to be placed at the top of this panel... but then sentences/strings should be able to be sorted further down to keep this more readable and less tethered to "main text". This is feasible with categories, but maybe others have better ideas there how to go about it.
     
  • In my use case, I am often setting up webpages and I might have "dummy" text at first when creating a mockup. Is there a quick way to select all the text inside that field/art text and replace with a field variable outside of activating the text field and using Ctrl + A? (I'm asking somewhat because there already might be!) That may influence any future feedback. A way to clear and replace text inside a text frame/art text with the variable would be incredibly helpful in my usage.
     
  • Advanced Request: Being able to concatenate custom fields + new text together and save this into a variable would also be welcome! So if I have the same recipe of fields being reused over and over in a sentence/statement and I ever need to modify that same expression without having to change each usage of those variables tied together, that would be handy to have it all in one place for recipes repeated numerous times.
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  • Staff

Thank you all for your messages.

I've just been catching up on these and rather than respond individually I will list what bugs (not feature requests) have been logged. If you feel I've missed anything then please let me know.

  • Deleting a Custom Text Field can leave the variable's contents in the panel
  • Adding a custom variable causes Fields Panel to jump to the top
  • Clicking create Custom Field doesn't place focus inside Field name
  • Adding text to a custom field is lost if you don't use Tab or Return prior to creating another field.
  • Editing custom field name doesn't close dialog after pressing return
  • Fields Panel truncates actual value, and converts that truncation to actual value when edited
  • Fields Panel's button ellipses disappear when using 150% Scale on Windows
  • The Fields Panel background is missing the darker area for each category on Windows
  • Insert custom fields button lacks the + symbol
  • Fields Panel dividers can only ever be made larger on Windows
On 7/15/2023 at 10:18 PM, MikeTO said:

Just an observation, the isn't really important. When viewing a marker in a panel list such as Find and Replace:

  • For index markers, nothing is shown

Hi MikeTO,
There is actually a down arrow that indicates Index Markers in the Find and Replace Panel. 

18 hours ago, debraspicher said:

This is what I see when opening up the Fields panel. Is the button meant to be a "+" rather than a "."/"-"?
 

  • UI: I will say on my machine that the UI looks inconspicuous for this function. On first glance in Windows, it doesn't seem anything special could be done as it reads like some appended static data in the "custom" area. Custom data can be mean a few things in my experience across programs. It doesn't suggest they are actually variables to be utilized there. I know it is early, this is just my readily available first impression.

    It's not clear what "Double-click field name to <insert>" suggests when there are no fields present. Oh how I'd love to insert, but what field name? I appreciate the double click option. I think I would prefer a button to the side, but being able to double click is also good.
     
  • This placeholder still appears even when the Custom variables section is collapsed even though custom fields are present in the document. I figure it is temporary:
    image.png.7dc709998cb18eac05d68bf60dbf86b0.png

Hi debraspicher
As mentioned above I've logged some issues about the UI lacking the contrast and the button text to insert custom variable being incorrect. With regards to the 'Double-click field name to insert' that isn't just for Custom fields. It is for any Field in the fields panel, which is why it remains visible after collapsing the Custom Section.
 

 

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Hi @Sean P,

Two more possible issues...

When the placeholder text is replaced with 'actual' text, should the actual text be included in the page word count? Currently, it isn't...

One mild annoyance, though this is true of all fields but especially of the custom fields... when double-clicking to insert placeholder text it would be great if the focus automatically reverted to back the page so you can continue typing (or to add a space if adding multiple fields adjacent to each other), currently you type, double-click to insert a placeholder you then have to click back on the page before you can continue typing...

 

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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7 minutes ago, Hangman said:

When the placeholder text is replaced with 'actual' text, should the actual text be included in the page word count? Currently, it isn't...

One mild annoyance, though this is true of all fields but especially of the custom fields... when double-clicking to insert placeholder text it would be great if the focus automatically reverted to back the page so you can continue typing (or to add a space if adding multiple fields adjacent to each other), currently you type, double-click to insert a placeholder you then have to click back on the page before you can continue typing...

Agreed. MS Word and other apps include the expanded field value as part of word count.

I keep tripping up on the focus issue, too, but it's broader than just this panel. Simple lists in panels retain focus but don't provide any visual feedback that they have focus. Preflight, Hyperlinks, Index, Anchors, and I'm sure others all have the same issue. Fixing the broader issue might take more time so perhaps a fix just for Fields would be easier for now. Double click to insert a field and then return focus to the document.

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10 minutes ago, MikeTO said:

I keep tripping up on the focus issue, too, but it's broader than just this panel. Simple lists in panels retain focus but don't provide any visual feedback that they have focus. Preflight, Hyperlinks, Index, Anchors, and I'm sure others all have the same issue. Fixing the broader issue might take more time so perhaps a fix just for Fields would be easier for now. Double click to insert a field and then return focus to the document.

Absolutely, I only highlighted this particular issue in relation to the Fields panel to keep it pertinent to this particular thread, but totally agree... :)

Affinity Designer 2.5.3 | Affinity Photo 2.5.3 | Affinity Publisher 2.5.3
MacBook Pro M3 Max, 36 GB Unified Memory, macOS Sonoma 14.5, Magic Mouse

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