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Author David Blatner provides in-depth training on InDesign CS5, Adobe's print and interactive page layout application, in InDesign CS5 Essential Training. The course shows how to create new documents with strong and flexible master pages, precisely position text and graphics, prepare documents for print, and export designs as interactive PDF or Flash SWF files. Exercise files are included with the course.
I know people who never work with more than one layer in their InDesign document and they manage all their objects using Send to Back and Bring to Front. There's nothing really wrong with that other than it will eventually drive you insane, especially in a complicated layout. No, it's much better to create multiple layers in your document and use them to organize your objects. Let's look at our Layers panel out here in the dock. This has a Layer 1. In fact every InDesign document has a Layer 1 in it. But you can add your own layers, rename them, hide them, lock them, and more.
Let's see how it's done. I'm going to add a new layer to my document by clicking the New Layer button. I can rename that layer by clicking on it and then moving my cursor away. Now I'll call this Text,. You can call it anything you want, but I'm going to call this my Text layer and I'll press the Enter or Return key to tell it that I'm done typing. Now I want to put all my text frames on that layer. So I'll click on the first one with my Selection tool and then Shift+Click on each other text frame on my page here, and I want to move all of those to my Text layer. How do I do that? Well, you see this little blue box on the right column of the Layers panel? That's called the item proxy.
That's a stand-in for all the objects on my page that are currently selected. So to move those objects to a new layer, all I have to do is drag that little blue box up to the Text layer. There you go. Now all those objects are on the Text layer. Now you probably noticed that when I did that the frame edges changed color. That's because frame edges always reflect the layer color. In this case there are two colors, blue and red, and you see those right to the left of the layer name. Let's go ahead and rename Layer 1. I'll click on it, pause, and then click again to rename it.
I'll change this to something like Background, there we go. Okay, I need one more layer here for my graphic elements. I'll just click New Layer and it always adds it above the one that was currently selected. And this one is going to be called Graphic Elements, there we go. So I'm going to select my ampersand there and this flower object and drag that up onto Graphic Elements. Good, looking very nice. I'll press Cmd+Shift+A or Ctrl+Shift+A to deselect everything and I'm going to press the W key to go into Preview Mode so we can really see how changing the layers affects what I do on my page.
One of the best reasons to use layers is that you can reorder them easily. For example, I can grab all of the graphic elements and move them above the Text layer simply by dragging this layer up until I see this black bar above Text. Let go and you can see that those elements moved above the Text layer. Another good reason to use layers is that you can hide and show them. For example, if I don't want to be distracted by that background image, I can simply click on this little eyeball icon in the left column of the Layers panel and it disappears.
Click on it again and it comes back. The next column over is a Lock column. If I click on that, that whole layer becomes locked. There's no way to select anything on a locked layer. This is very helpful. For example, I might want to select all the objects in this area and I can lock that background and then drag out a marquee with the Selection tool without worrying about accidentally selecting that background image. What if I want to select just the items on one layer, perhaps just the Text layer? Can I do that? Sure, all you need to do is right-click or Ctrl+Click with a one-button mouse on the layer that you want to select.
In this case the Text layer and then choose Select Items on this layer. This one is called Text, so it's actually listed here. Select that and now just the items that were on the Text layer are selected. As you can see building and using layers isn't required but it really helps you organize your documents, and if you want to get the most out of the Layers panel, check out the techniques for managing your objects that I'm going to show in the next movie.
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