Mastering Symbol Catalog Settings

When you make your own symbol catalogs, either from new symbols, or just to create a re-mix of existing symbols, one of the main issues is how to make them easily accessible. Sure, you can always click the open symbol catalog button and browse for it, but that means you need to remember where it is, and it is more complicated than just clicking one of the symbol catalog buttons in the top toolbar.

But, if all the official catalogs can be loaded from those buttons, why not our own? It’s actually quite simple, so let us have a look.

If you want to see me do this, I both created a symbol catalog, and set it up to use the buttons in my recent live mapping session. This is just a small part of the actual stream, but click this link to go to the spot in the video where I start with the catalog.

Let us first have a quick look at how these buttons work. They are not connected to a specific catalog, but they are instead using a keyword filter. What happens when you click a button is that if there are exactly one symbol catalog that matches the filter, it will load that catalog into the symbol catalog window immediately, but if there are either 0 or 2 or more matches, it will instead show the Select Catalog window. So if you ever see a select window with an empty list, that was because no catalogs matched the filter, not because there is anything wrong with your CC3+ install.

Now, the keyword form the button is only half the puzzle, the current map style also provides a keyword to the search. So when you click the button, what it actually looks for are catalogs that both matches the keyword for the current style AND the keyword for the button. This is visible in the screenshot to the right. This was the window that showed up when I clicked the Skirmish Symbols button. You’ll notice that all the catalogs it found starts with the words ‘DD3 Color Skirmish’. In this case ‘DD3 Color’ is the keyword from the style (This is a DD3 Dungeon map) while ‘Skirmish’ was from the button. If I had clicked the Debris button instead, I would have gotten catalogs that had names starting with ‘DD3 Color Debris’ instead, and if clicked the Skirmish button under another map style, say for example while working with a map in the Creepy Crypts style, I would have gotten catalogs starting with ‘CA186 Skirmish’ (Creepy Crypts is annual issue 186, therefore the style identifier CA186).

This search system is what allows the button to load the appropriate symbol catalogs depending on what style of map you have loaded. This is also the reason there is still a button there for you to press even if the style doesn’t have any symbol catalogs of that type (and therefore giving you the empty list to select from); the actual list of buttons is fixed, it’s just what they find that differs.

So then, how do we apply this to our own catalogs?

Before we go to that, we need to talk about Symbol Catalog Settings. Above, I just referred to the buttons finding a catalog by a specific name, but that is a simplification. What the buttons find aren’t symbol catalogs, but symbol catalog settings. This adds an extra level of indirection, and while it does complicate things a little bit extra, it also opens up the system for a lot more flexibility. You see, you can easily make many catalog settings under different names all pointing to the same symbol catalog, so if you wish one of your catalogs to be easily available in many styles, you can simply make one catalog setting for each, all pointing to the very same catalog. Each symbol catalog setting, in addition to loading a specific catalog, can also set the color, line width, line style, fill style and layer properties, for example to make sure the layer is set properly for the type of symbols in the catalog. But, you can also completely ignore all these properties if you want to, and just concentrate on the important thing, a symbol catalog setting loads a specific symbol catalog.

Now, to create a new symbol catalog setting, the easiest place to start is in a map of the style you want to associate it with. Hit the Symbol Catalog Settings button. This will bring up a list of all the symbol catalog settings for the current style, as opposed when you click one of the symbol catalog button and get a filtered result. Hit Advanced>> to continue on to the dialog where we can actually add things.

Notice the naming of the existing catalogs in this dialog. If you look in the top right of the dialog, in the field named ‘Master filter’ you can see the keyword for the current style. All symbol catalog settings that fit this style should start with this text. So, in my example, it needs to start with ‘DD3 Color’. The next words should be the keyword(s) from the button. You should be able to pick up most of these by looking at the names of the existing catalogs, for the catalogs visible in my dialog in the screenshot, they would be “Cave; Containers and Treasure; Debris; Elemental and Magic”. While they may not always be named 100% identical to the title of the button, they should be more than similar enough that when looking in this list, you can see which is which.

Now, let us assume that I have this catalog with lovely tentacles that I want easily accessible in this style. These would fit best on the Skirmish button, so the name for the setting should be ‘DD3 Color Skirmish Tentacles’ (Make sure to use a unique name, if I just used ‘DD3 Color Skirmish’ I would have overwritten the original setting by that name and which I don’t want to do, I want to add an additional one, so I use the correct base, and then just add an identifier, in this case ‘Tentacles’ at the end). [You can download the tentacles here. Note that they already have symbol catalog settings ready made for them , but you can always make more if you need]

With the name determined, hit the New button and type in ‘DD3 Color Skirmish Tentacles as the name’. Then scroll down in the list, find your new setting, and click on it to select it (If CC3+ prompts you to save your changes just as you click New or when you select your new setting, you’ll probably want to click no, unless you deliberately have changed another catalog settings before this one and want to keep the changes). Now, hit browse, locate your symbol catalog file (.fsc file), select it, and hit OK to return to this dialog. Finally, hit Save and then OK. The catalog should be loaded into the symbol catalog window immediately, but if you now try to click on a button to load another catalog, and then click the skirmish button after that, your new catalog should be among the choices you get.

Now, if you want the catalog available for multiple styles, for example for Creepy Crypts, simply create a new catalog setting named ‘CA186 Skirmish Tentacles’ the same way as above, and you have it. (Keep in mind that the advanced dialog is filtered on whatever is typed into the master filter field, so if you want to work with Creepy Crypts catalogs while still having a DD3 Dungeon map open, just change that field and hi the find now button. But if you don’t know the correct keyword for a style, the easiest is to start a new map in that style first and let CC3+ tell you)

Remember, you can make as many symbol catalog settings as you want, to make this work with as many styles as you want.

Sometimes, people ask me if they can make one symbol catalog display for all styles so they don’t have to make all these catalog settings. The short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is; you don’t really want to do that. There are lots of different styles in CC3+, many with very distinct visual design. Having a catalog showing up in all of them is just a disturbance, because it can’t be used with most styles except the one it was designed for anyway, and perhaps a few more; even worse if you would have a lot of these always showing catalogs as it would drown out the actual catalogs intended for the style. But, you can always make catalogs easy to find using this style. For example, if you create a new catalog settings for one of your catalog, and named it something like ‘XYZ Tentacles’ it won’t show up in any style by default. However, now all you have to do to find it is to click the Symbol Catalog Settings button followed by Advanced >> and then type ‘XYZ’ into the Master filter and hitting Find now, and voila, all your special catalogs are right there, regardless of style you started in (You’ll need to replace the original Master Filter text to get the buttons back to normal though). (We can actually create lists of these master filters by right clicking Symbol Style Toggle and picking Master Filter Settings, but that is a topic for another day.)



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