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As you are probably aware of merging layers is, of course, a destructive action and it may not be what you always want to do. So, give you an example. Let's say that I wanted to run a filter on everything in the backdrop group here. So, this backdrop folder has been made up of four different layers here. I want to run a filter on the composite of these four layers. The problem is that you can only run a filter on one layer at any given time. So, I need some way to create a version that's the accumulation of these particular layers that I can act on it.
If I click on the backdrop layer and do Command+E or Ctrl+E, that merges that and flattens that down so I get my composite result. But I have lost all the individual layers that made up that composite result. So, that's not what I want to do in this context. I'm going to undo that, Command+Z, Ctrl+Z. Instead we are going to use our good friend, that make better key. Hold down Command+Option or Ctrl+Alt on Windows and then type E. So, it's just a slight variant, it makes the Merge command better. When you have a group selected, Command+Option+E, Ctrl+Alt+E creates a merged copy of the group. You can actually see that in the layers panel it added the word Merged in parenthesis to the new layer that it created for you.
Visually it doesn't look any different in your image window because it's a composite copy. So I can actually turn off the backdrop group altogether and you won't see any visual change. But there I have my composite copy. So, if I go off and do something to this particular layer, like run a filter on it or something. I don't know. Let's do something like Diffuse > Glow. Why not? No idea what this is going to do. Just go ahead and click OK. So, I have run a filter on that result. If I don't like it, I can just delete this layer, turn it off, I can go back to the backdrop group and I can always create a new composite copy of the group again if I need to go back and change my mind.
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