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Another new layer manipulation feature in After Effects CS5 has to do with the Align panel. I'm going to open up a Window > Align. I have opened up here to be in the same frame as my Info panel so it's easy to see what's going. Previously the Align palette always aligned layers to each other. Well, the new feature in CS5 is ability to also align to the composition's boundaries, not just other layers. For example, in this heads-up display, the layout is a little bit messy and let's say I want to rearrange things and justify things more towards the edges and to the center of the comp, etcetera.
I am going to choose this element, go to my Align palette, and now you see I have a popup that's either Composition or Selection. Now since I only have one layer selected, my only option is Composition. And let's say I wanted to go over to the left side of the comp, right along the wall there, and along the bottom as well, which it already is, or I can put it along the top if I wanted to. Just simple clicks in the Align palette. If I select multiple layers like I have a few different user interface elements that I all want to be centered, n ow I can either align to each other, align to selection, or say align to composition.
In this case when I had multiple layers selected, it defaulted to Selection ,which is the old behavior. The new behavior you need to pick, Composition. Oh, let's go ahead and center and now I have centered all of those elements. I can continue to go ahead and select additional elements, and say oh, I'll go ahead and justify you guys to the right side, maybe pick one more element and say, you know, snap yourself up to the very top there. So, in short, the Align panel has gone a little bit more useful. Now for what it is worth, you did have this capability in After Effects before, but it required some hidden command keys.
If I start moving a layer and then I hold down Command+Shift on Mac or Ctrl+Shift on Windows that also makes it snappy, to snap to the top, to the edges, into the corners, etcetera. So you don't need the Align palette to easily align things to edges of composition but if you have a group of layers selected, it does make it a lot easier to distribute things in this way.
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