Photoshop CC Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Exploring layer basics


Photoshop CC Essential Training

with Julieanne Kost

Video: Exploring layer basics

Photoshop's ability to work with layers is definitely one of my favorite features. Now I know that I am going to want this trunks layer to be a little bit smaller.
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  1. 1m 42s
    1. What is Photoshop?
      1m 42s
  2. 4m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Installing Adobe Bridge
      1m 23s
    4. What's new
      1m 26s
  3. 40m 58s
    1. What is Adobe Bridge?
      3m 3s
    2. Getting photos from a camera
      6m 0s
    3. A tour of workspaces in Bridge
      8m 30s
    4. Customizing how thumbnails are displayed
      4m 42s
    5. Changing file names and batch renaming
      4m 39s
    6. Adding basic metadata with metadata templates
      4m 46s
    7. Creating and applying keywords to images
      7m 1s
    8. Viewing images in Full Screen Preview mode
      2m 17s
  4. 27m 23s
    1. Using Review mode to filter out rejected images
      5m 32s
    2. Saving images in collections
      3m 52s
    3. Rating and labeling images
      4m 31s
    4. Using the Filter panel to view different subsets
      3m 7s
    5. Using smart collections
      3m 39s
    6. Viewing final selects in a slideshow
      2m 50s
    7. Organizing groups of images into stacks
      3m 52s
  5. 41m 40s
    1. Comparing raw and JPEG files
      5m 5s
    2. Starting in Camera Raw instead of Photoshop
      4m 1s
    3. Touring the Camera Raw user interface
      5m 29s
    4. Previewing before and after adjustments (CC 2014.1)
      6m 55s
    5. Previewing before and after adjustments
      3m 18s
    6. Toggling onscreen Shadow/Highlight clipping warnings (CC 2014.1)
      4m 48s
    7. Toggling onscreen Shadow/Highlight clipping warnings
      4m 44s
    8. Choosing output settings
      3m 34s
    9. Saving a copy without going to Photoshop
      3m 46s
  6. 1h 10m
    1. Using the nondestructive Crop tool: Door and window with ramp
      3m 42s
    2. Correcting a tilted horizon line with the Straighten tool
      4m 12s
    3. Fixing color casts with the White Balance tool
      3m 52s
    4. Fixing blown-out highlights
      5m 42s
    5. Revealing hidden shadow detail
      4m 36s
    6. Reducing distracting color noise with Noise Reduction (CC 2014.1)
      7m 32s
    7. Reducing distracting color noise with Noise Reduction
      5m 55s
    8. Correcting lens distortion
      5m 17s
    9. Making perspective corrections to images
      5m 51s
    10. Removing chromatic aberration
      3m 32s
    11. Sharpening details
      7m 23s
    12. Making an average photo great (CC 2014.1)
      6m 57s
    13. Making an average photo great
      6m 5s
  7. 1h 52m
    1. Using the Graduated Filter tool (CC 2014.1)
      6m 15s
    2. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      5m 39s
    3. Adding a radial gradient (CC 2014.1)
      7m 56s
    4. Adding a radial gradient
      6m 35s
    5. Making local adjustments with the Adjustments Brush (CC 2014.1)
      11m 52s
    6. Making local adjustments with the Adjustment Brush
      11m 19s
    7. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool (CC 2014.1)
      6m 37s
    8. Retouching blemishes with the Spot Removal tool
      4m 35s
    9. A quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity (CC 2014.1)
      7m 59s
    10. A quick portrait retouching technique using Clarity
      7m 49s
    11. Converting to black and white (CC 2014.1)
      3m 24s
    12. Converting to black and white
      3m 17s
    13. Editing images directly with the Targeted Adjustment tool
      3m 56s
    14. Selective coloring effects with the Adjustment Brush
      5m 56s
    15. Easy sepia and split-tone effects
      4m 11s
    16. Adding digital film grain texture effects
      2m 27s
    17. Adding vignettes and border effects (CC 2014.1)
      4m 40s
    18. Adding vignettes and border effects
      4m 24s
    19. Saving variations within a single file with the Snapshot command
      3m 27s
  8. 19m 16s
    1. Copying and pasting settings across files
      1m 52s
    2. Processing multiple files in Camera Raw
      4m 22s
    3. Saving and using a library of Camera Raw presets
      5m 47s
    4. Saving multiple files in Camera Raw
      3m 36s
    5. Using Image Processor to batch process multiple files
      3m 39s
  9. 27m 6s
    1. Opening files from Bridge
      3m 9s
    2. Customizing the interface in Photoshop
      5m 16s
    3. Managing panels
      5m 1s
    4. Switching and saving workspaces
      3m 45s
    5. Switching tools using the keyboard
      3m 21s
    6. Customizing the keyboard shortcuts
      6m 34s
  10. 22m 49s
    1. Working with tabbed documents
      2m 51s
    2. Arranging documents
      3m 37s
    3. Stopping Photoshop from tabbing documents
      2m 49s
    4. Panning, zooming, and using the Rotate View tool
      9m 51s
    5. Cycling through the different screen modes
      3m 41s
  11. 26m 19s
    1. Understanding file formats
      8m 26s
    2. Choosing the resolution you need
      5m 15s
    3. Understanding Resize vs. Resample
      9m 40s
    4. How big a print can you make with your image?
      2m 58s
  12. 59m 15s
    1. Using Undo and the History panel
      6m 40s
    2. Using crop options
      4m 20s
    3. Understanding Hide vs. Delete for the Crop tool
      3m 52s
    4. Cropping to the perfect print size
      3m 51s
    5. Making the canvas bigger with the Crop tool
      5m 2s
    6. Making the canvas bigger using the Canvas Size command
      4m 57s
    7. Straightening a crooked image
      4m 21s
    8. Removing keystoning from buildings
      2m 6s
    9. Using the Perspective Crop tool
      2m 4s
    10. Scaling, skewing, and rotating with Free Transform
      8m 29s
    11. Nondestructive transformations with Smart Objects
      3m 56s
    12. Warping images
      4m 48s
    13. Preserving important elements with Content-Aware Scale
      4m 49s
  13. 41m 55s
    1. Exploring layer basics
      13m 25s
    2. Loading, selecting, and transforming layers
      9m 28s
    3. Organizing layers into layer groups
      8m 47s
    4. Merging, rasterizing, and flattening layers
      10m 15s
  14. 1h 15m
    1. Using the Marquee and Lasso tools
      11m 41s
    2. Combining selections
      6m 40s
    3. Converting a selection into a layer mask
      7m 40s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool and Refine Edge
      7m 12s
    5. Selecting soft-edged objects using Refine Edge
      9m 28s
    6. Touching up a layer mask with the Brush tool
      5m 42s
    7. Changing the opacity, size, and hardness of the painting tools
      9m 9s
    8. Blending images with a gradient layer mask
      4m 55s
    9. Combining multiple exposures with layer masks
      5m 5s
    10. Making selections with Color Range
      5m 17s
    11. Selecting with Focus Mask
      3m 10s
  15. 42m 5s
    1. Introducing adjustment layers
      3m 29s
    2. Starting with a preset
      2m 36s
    3. Improving tonal quality with Levels
      7m 32s
    4. Increasing midtone contrast with Curves
      5m 7s
    5. Removing a color cast with Auto Color
      2m 37s
    6. Changing the color temperature with Photo Filter
      1m 56s
    7. Shifting colors with Hue/Saturation
      5m 39s
    8. Making washed-out colors pop with Vibrance
      2m 7s
    9. Converting color to black and white
      3m 32s
    10. Creating traditional darkroom toning effects
      2m 51s
    11. Controlling which layers are affected by an adjustment layer
      3m 49s
    12. Three different ways to add an adjustment layer
  16. 24m 41s
    1. Adjusting shadows and highlights
      5m 49s
    2. Replacing color using Selective Color
      5m 39s
    3. Using fill layers to create a hand-painted look
      7m 18s
    4. Using a gradient fill layer to add a color wash
      5m 55s
  17. 46m 27s
    1. Removing blemishes with the Healing Brush and Patch tools
      10m 21s
    2. A quick technique for smoothing skin and pores
      3m 4s
    3. Making teeth bright and white
      2m 47s
    4. Brightening eyes, to make a person appear more alert
      6m 31s
    5. Taming flyaway hair
      4m 53s
    6. De-emphasizing wrinkles with the Healing Brush
      1m 53s
    7. Body sculpting with Liquify
      5m 6s
    8. Removing unwanted details with Content-Aware Fill and Patch (CC 2014.1)
      5m 34s
    9. Removing unwanted details with Content-Aware Fill
      6m 18s
  18. 22m 47s
    1. Creating panoramas with Photomerge and Auto-Blend
      5m 50s
    2. Combining multiple frames of an action sequence
      6m 21s
    3. Swapping heads in a family portrait
      4m 3s
    4. Working with bracketed exposures (HDR)
      6m 33s
  19. 1h 0m
    1. Overview of filters
      3m 3s
    2. Applying filters nondestructively with Smart Filters
      5m 56s
    3. Straightening images using the Adaptive Wide Angle filter
      5m 28s
    4. Creating a soft glow with the Gaussian Blur filter
      3m 23s
    5. Creating an infrared look with Diffuse Glow
      5m 4s
    6. Adding noise with the Add Noise filter
      7m 7s
    7. Sharpening an image with Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen
      7m 22s
    8. Giving an image texture with the Texturizer filter
      1m 53s
    9. Using the Field, Iris, and Tilt-Shift Blurs
      6m 9s
    10. Using the Spin and Path Blurs
      7m 38s
    11. Applying the Camera Raw filter
      2m 48s
    12. Applying a filter to multiple layers
      4m 11s
  20. 24m 3s
    1. Cycling through the blending modes
      5m 24s
    2. Scanning or photographing paper to add a deckled edge
      4m 55s
    3. Adding texture with blend modes
      1m 58s
    4. Making a cast shadow more realistic with Multiply
      5m 57s
    5. Sharpening an image with High Pass and Overlay
      2m 49s
    6. Adding a realistic off-center vignette
      3m 0s
  21. 35m 37s
    1. Exploring character (point) type
      11m 58s
    2. Adding paragraph (area) type
      4m 7s
    3. Adding type on a path
      7m 3s
    4. Clipping an image inside type
      3m 41s
    5. Warping type
      2m 36s
    6. Defining character and paragraph styles
      6m 12s
  22. 24m 13s
    1. Using the shape tools
      13m 45s
    2. Custom shape layers
      6m 15s
    3. Adding a keyline to an image
      4m 13s
  23. 49m 44s
    1. Adding a drop shadow effect (CC 2014.1)
      9m 58s
    2. Adding a drop shadow effect
      8m 57s
    3. Adding edges, textures, and color overlays using styles (CC 2014.1)
      4m 19s
    4. Adding edges, textures, and color overlays using styles
      5m 11s
    5. Creating a transparent logo or watermark (CC 2014.1)
      4m 39s
    6. Creating a transparent logo or watermark
      4m 46s
    7. Knowing how and when to scale layer effects (CC 2014.1)
      6m 0s
    8. Knowing how and when to scale layer effects
      5m 54s
  24. 11m 43s
    1. Creating contact sheets
      4m 29s
    2. Creating PDF presentations
      3m 25s
    3. Saving for the web
      3m 49s
  25. 23m 9s
    1. Working with video clips
      12m 14s
    2. Adding special effects to video files
      5m 56s
    3. Adding pans and zooms to still images
      4m 59s
  26. 1m 4s
    1. Next steps
      1m 4s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CC Essential Training
15h 37m Beginner Jun 17, 2013 Updated Oct 06, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learning how to use Adobe Photoshop efficiently and effectively is the best way to get the most out of your pixels and create stunning imagery. Master the fundamentals of this program with Julieanne Kost, and discover how to achieve the results you want with Photoshop and its companion programs, Bridge and Camera Raw. This comprehensive course covers nondestructive editing techniques using layers, masking, adjustment layers, blend modes, and Smart Objects. Find out how to perform common editing tasks, including lens correction, cropping and straightening, color and tonal adjustments, noise reduction, shadow and highlight detail recovery, sharpening, and retouching. Julieanne also shows how to achieve more creative effects with filters, layer effects, illustrative type, and the Photomerge command for creating panoramas and composites.

Topics include:
  • Using Bridge to batch rename files and add keywords and metadata to photos
  • Viewing, rating, filtering, and creating collections to isolate your best work
  • Comparing raw and JPEG file formats
  • Retouching and automating workflow with Camera Raw
  • Navigating documents and the Photoshop interface
  • Understanding file formats, resolution, canvas size, and print size
  • Cropping, straightening, transforming, warping, scaling, and resizing images
  • Selecting, stacking, aligning, and grouping layers
  • Making precise selections using the Marquee, Lasso, and Brush tools
  • Using Refine Edge, Quick Selection, and layer masks to isolate soft edge objects
  • Improving tone, contrast, and color selectively
  • Converting to black and white and tinting images
  • Retouching blemishes, smoothing skin, whitening teeth, and brightening eyes
  • Retouching with the Liquify, Content-Aware Fill, Healing Brush, and Patch tools
  • Merging multiple exposures
  • Making nondestructive changes with Smart Filters
  • Adding texture, edge effects, and drop shadows with blend modes
  • Working with type
  • Creating, modifying, and combining shapes using the Shape tools
  • Adding layer effects
  • Saving and sharing images via contact sheets, web galleries, and Save For Web
  • Editing video and audio clips
  • Panning and zooming still photos
Julieanne Kost

Exploring layer basics

Photoshop's ability to work with layers is definitely one of my favorite features. So let's take a look at how we can master the layers panel in order to create a composite. We're going to start in Bridge and select these first three files to open. I'll select the first one and hold down the Shift key, and then select the third one. Then I'll hold down the Cmd key on the Mac or the Ctrl key on Windows and tap the O key in order to open all three images. Now we can see the tabs for all thre open documents and we can click on the tabs in order to see each one individually.

But I wannna put all three of these separate documents into the same document, so I can work with multiple layers. There a variety of different ways that we can do this. One of the probably easiest ways to do it, would be to select the Move Tool in the Tool Bar, and then position it in the image area of the first document hold down the mouse and drag it over the tab of another document. When you position the cursor over the other tab that document will pop to the foreground. Now I need to position my cursor anywhere in this document window.

But if I were to release the cursor now, you can see that Photoshop just sets down the image exactly where I told it to. But what I really wanted it to do was I wanted it to center it, so I'm goonna use the keyboard Cmd+Z, or Ctrl+Z on Windows, to undo that. And then I'll return back to O3, the tree branches image. I've got the move tool selected. I'll click and hold down the mouse, drag it on top of the first documents tabs. And this time when I bring my cursor back into the image area I'm going to hold down the Shift key.

And that tells Photoshop to drop this other document directly in the center of the first one. Excellent. So another way we can do this that might be easier, would be to see all of our images at one time. So I'm going to select Window and then Arrange, and you can see that I have some keyboard short cuts next to the command for tile. We created this short cut in an earlier video. So we can either use the shortcut or just select Tile. And now we can see all of our images.

The one that's active, or the currently selected document, is a little bit lighter as far as the title goes. So we know that we've already dragged this document into the dark trees, into the composite. So I can go ahead and close this. And I'll do that by just clicking on the X icon in the tab. You can see that Photoshop automatically retiled my images. This one on top is still selected and I can see the layers in the layers panel. So I'll move down and click on the 02 tree trunks image down here.

Now, I can simply use the move tool and click anywhere in the image area, hold down my mouse and drag it on top of the other image. Again, if I hold down the Shift key, then Photoshop will drop that right into the center. Again, I'm going to undo that just to show you another way that you can drag and drop layers. So I'll use Cmd+Z on the Mac, or Ctrl+Z on Windows. Now this top document's still selected so I need to actually click down below down in the 02 tree trunks file in order to make it the currently selected document.

And then, instead of dragging and dropping from the image area, you should know, that you can also drag and drop from the layers panel. So I'll click where it says Background, hold down my mouse, and then just drag this up to the top document. Again if I want it centered, I need to hold down the Shift key. Excellent. We no longer need the 02 tree trunks file opened, so let's close that. And now we can see in our 01 dark trees file, I have all three layers here. If I want to toggle on and off the visibility of my layers, I can click on the I icon next to any layer.

I can even toggle off the background layer. Now I'm looking at transparency right now, but, you can see that my screen is all white, and that's because in a past video I selected the Photoshop menu on the Mac or the Edit menu on Windows and then I chose Preferences. And I came down to Transparency and Gammet I turned the grid size to None, but by default this will actually be set to Medium so let's go ahead and choose that and click OK.

Now you can see that when I hide the viability of all three layers, Photoshop is showing me transparency with this checkerboard. Now we need to take a look at the background layer, because it is rather unique. When you first open a document, Photoshop might open that document as a background depending on the format that you're opening. You should know that just because you can see the layer, that doesn't necessarily mean that the layer is active. Right now layer two is selected so if I do something to my image I would be doing it to layer two.

I want to make sure that I come down and click on the Background layer in the Layers Panel in order to select it. Now there are three things that you cannot do with the background layer. The first thing that you can't do is you can't move it or reposition it. Even if I have the move tool selected, if I click and drag in the background layer, when I release my cursor Photoshop brings up the error message that it can't use the move tool because the layer is locked. And that's true, you can see here there is a lock icon on the background there.

And in fact you cannot remove that lock icon unless you turn the background, into a regular layer. Before we do that, I want to show you two other things that limit what you can do on the background. If I wanted to reposition the background, if I wanted to change the stacking order meaning that I wanted to not reposition it in the image area, but I actually wanted to move it on top of layer one. If I click and try to drag in the Layers panel, you can see that Photoshop gives me that international symbol for you can't do this.

And when I release my cursor, sure enough, the background is still at the bottom. Again, we need to turn the background into a layer in order to reposition it in the Layers panel and change the stacking order. And the third thing that you cannot do with the background there is that you cannot erase the transparency. So if I tap the E key on the key board or if I select my Eraser tool and I start erasing on the background, I'm not seeing the checkerboard here, instead I am seeing white which happens to be my background color.

So let me Undo that and we are going to turn the background into a layer. Now there is many ways we can do this, we can go under the Layer menu, and choose New, and Layer From Background. Or we can simply double-click on the word Background in the Layers panel. When you double-click on the word background it enables us to name the layer. So in this case I'm going to name it Texture, because I'm going to use this as kind of a screen backed texture in my composite. When I click OK you can see that we no longer have a background and the layers been unlocked.

Now I can reposition the layer and the stacking order if I wanted to, by dragging it up, and then releasing the mouse. I don't actually want to do that, so I'll Cmd+Z on the Mac, or Ctrl+Z on Windows to undo that. I can also reposition the layer by selecting the Move tool, and then dragging it over to the right. Again, I'll use Cmd or Ctrl+Z to undo that. And finally, if I tap the e key again to select the eraser, this time when I drag the eraser, you can see that it's revealing that checkerboard underneath, so I'm actually erasing to transparency.

Excellent, let's undo that as well, using Cmd+Z on the Mac or Ctrl+Z on Windows. Now I'm going to tap the V key in order to give me the move tool. And let's go ahead and rename the other layers. I'll select layer one and I'll also click to the left of the thumbnail right here in the empty square in order to make it visible. Then to rename I'll double-click on layer one and we'll call this branches. Then I'll move up to layer two. We can make it visible.

And then double-click on layer two, on the name, and we'll call this, trunks. Now, tap Return or Enter in order to apply that. Now, if I want to change the stacking order, or reposition how these appear, all I need to do is select the layer that I want to reposition, and then drag it up or drag it down, until I see that solid gray line. Then I can release the mouse and I have changed the stacking order on my Layer's panel. Now, I brought in both of the branches layer as well as the trunks layer in order to determine which one I liked better.

If we toggle on and off the visibility of the branches layer, I think I am going to like the trunks layer better. So I'll make the branches layer visible, and then I want to delete it. The easiest way to delete a layer in Photoshop is to simply tap the Dlt key. But you could also drag it down to the trash icon in order to delete it. Now I know that I am going to want this trunks layer to be a little bit smaller. But I am not quite sure how much I want to resize it. So to make sure that I keep the document flexible, I am going to turn that layer into a smart object first by selecting Convert to Smart Object.

Now when I select Edit and then Free Transform, I can scale this down, knowing that I can always rescale it back up without losing any quality. I'm going to hold down the Opt key on the Mac or the Alt key on Windows, as well as the Shift key, and then just drag to make it a little bit smaller. When I like the size, I'll go ahead the Enter or Return key. Now I want to change the opacity of the texture layer, so I'll select it on the Layers panel and then I can either use the opacity slider here.

In fact, I can click on the word Opacity and drag left or right in order to change the opacity. I can use the drop down arrow here, and then use the slider, or I can enter in a value. So let's go ahead and enter in 50, and then tap the Return or Enter key. I also want to show you one additional way and this is actually my favorite way. As long as you have one of these top tools selected, like the Move tool or the Marquis tool, you'll notice that none of these tools have an option for opacity or blend mode here in the Options bar.

So I can select any of these tools. And then I can use my numeric keys, in order to change the opacity on the Layers panel. So if I tap eight right now, you can see that my opacity went to 80%. If I type quickly, and I know the exact percentage I want to go to, I can type in 56 and I would go to 56%. Now, if you wanted to go back to 100%, you would tap the 0 key. And if you wanted to go down to nothing, to 0%, then you tap 00 twice.

But I'm not really getting a very realistic view of that background, because the checkerboard is getting in the way. So I'm going to return back to the Photoshop menu, on Windows, you'd go to the Edit menu, and then preferences, Transparency and Garmet, and I'll change the grid size to None. We'll click OK, and now we'll use that keyboard shortcut, maybe the six key, to give us 60% of the texture layer. Just in case you're wondering why you have to have these tools selected, let's select the Brush tool for a moment.

You can see that the brush tool has an opacity slider. So, if I were to tap the five key right now, it would change the opacity for the brush. I don't want that, so I'm going to tap the 0 key in order to bring that back to 100%. So just keep in mind that if you're going to use the numeric keys to change the opacity on the layers panel, you've gotta select one of these tools first. So I'm going to tap the V key first, and then I would probably tap like, four to get 40% or seven to get 70%.

Now at this point, we've done enough work on this image that I would probably want to save it. Because there are multiple layers, we don't actually have to worry about saving over the original file. But, if it makes you more comfortable, you can still select File and then Save As. You can see that for the format Photoshop is going to default to the Photoshop format because this has multiple layers. I'll go ahead and save it into the original folder this 11 layers, but I am going to change the name.

We're going to call it Composite.PSD. And then click Save. I do want to leave on this maximum compatibility because that's going to enable me to take this layered Photoshop document into another application that might not support layers, maybe Lightroom for example. We'll go ahead and click OK and then we'll close the file for now. I'm going to use Cmd+W or Ctrl+W on Windows or you could use the File menu and select Close.

If we return to Browse and Bridge now you can see that our composite file has been saved along with all of our original source images

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CC Essential Training .

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Q: This course was updated on 01/16/2014. What changed?
A: When Creative Cloud applications are updated, we refresh our training to make sure it covers the latest features and interface changes from Adobe. This update covers changes to Camera Raw, including nondestructive cropping, workflow and output settings, and the ability to save multiple files automatically.
Q: This course was updated on 6/18/2014. What changed?
A: In June 2014 Adobe released new features for Photoshop CC and added enhancements to several existing features. We added movies to introduce the new Focus Mask and Blur Gallery features, and changed several movies to reflect updates to instant type preview, font search, Typekit, Liquify, Content-Aware Fill, Adobe Camera Raw, and Smart Guides. 
Q: This course was updated on 10/06/2014. What changed?
A: We updated this course to reflect the October 2014 changes to Photoshop CC. There are 16 new movies, which are indicated by the "(CC 2014.1)" tag that appears next to their names.
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Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

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How to use exercise files.

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Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

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