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Clear organization is one of the keys to success with presentations. You can make your presentation files a lot easier to work with and save yourself time and effort by organizing the content into layers. And when it comes to organizing your presentation document, you don't have to go wild creating tons of layers. Just like the design of your presentation, its construction should be as simple and straightforward as you can make it. You can probably set up most presentations with a standard approach to layering that uses just five layers: navigation, text, images, background, and guides.
If you want to add a layer for media or if you're doing several different versions of a presentation for different audiences, then go ahead and create those layers as needed. So to get started, let's create a new document. And in the dialog box if you're not seeing more options, be sure to select that. I have three choices for Intent: Print, Web, and Digital Publishing. I don't want to choose Print because this is a presentation and it's primarily going to be viewed onscreen. So I want to choose either Web or Digital Publishing. And these are very similar both of them will set my documents measurements in pixels.
They'll use RGB swatches and those are what I want for a presentation. In fact there are only two differences between Web and Digital Publishing. One is page size. If I choose Web, I get a document that's 800 x 600. If I choose Digital Publishing, it's 1024 x 768. Digital Publishing also has a Primary Text Frame selected. Primary Text Frame is a useful feature when you need to switch master pages that are applied to document pages, but it's not usually necessary for a presentation file, and it also might get in your way, since primary text frames are linked by default, so text flows between them.
Typically, that's not something you'd need for a presentation, so I'm going to turn that off. If you know the number of slides you're going to have, you can set the number of pages here, too. Though that's not necessary, you can of course add or remove pages later on. You definitely want Facing Pages to be turned off and Landscape Orientation. For the size of your presentation, you want to select the smallest size you expect to present at. It's better to have a presentation that has to scale up to fit a larger screen than one that has to be scaled down to fit a smaller screen. So typically, you'd choose values like 1024 x 768.
For the Number of Columns, you don't have to add any additional ones, but using them often helps you come up with a better more consistent design in less time. Basically, you use the columns like a standard set of guides on every page to help you set the width of text columns and position other elements. I'm going to divide my space up into 12 columns and give them a little more space in between, say 16 pixels. For the Margins, I can leave the left and right sides alone and keep them at the default of 36 pixels. But I'm going to unclick Make all settings the same and change my top and bottom margins.
The Top I want to increase just so the content isn't starting too high up on the page, so I'll make that 52 pixels. And the bottom I'm going to make even bigger: 80 pixels. This will give me space for navigation buttons, branding, and contact information. I don't need a bleed because this isn't a print project, but I do want a slug area for my presentation notes. I'll make that 300 pixels on the right side, and click OK. Now to set up the layers. We're going to set up those five typical layers that correspond to the different types of content in our presentation.
So from top to bottom, we want navigation, text, images, background, and guides. Guides will be on the bottom, so we'll do that first. I'll click on Layer 1 and rename it Guides. Then I'll Option+Click or Alt+Click on the new layer icon. This way I can create a new layer and name it at the same time. I'll call this one Background and I'll repeat the process for Text, Images, and Navigation.
If you don't like the default colors that came with these layers, you can pick a different one by right-clicking and choosing Layer Options, and then you can pick a different color. You can pick whatever color you want, but just make sure you have a different color for each layer so you can tell them apart easily. I'll also recommend that you go to the Layers Panel menu and choose Paste Remembers Layers. This way when you copy and paste objects, they'll stay on their current layer and you won't accidentally have Text on Images layer and so on.
Taking the time to set up any InDesign document with well-organized layers is really worth it. As you go through your project, you might not even realize how helpful it was to do that because everything is just where you expect it to be. But someday might get a file from elsewhere were all the content is disorganized or all crammed onto one layer, and then you'll quickly see the difference in these approaches and be glad that you got in the habit of using layers.
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