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Use Adobe Creative Suite Panels to organize and design your own workspace

The possibilities with Adobe Creative Suite are endless.

For this reason and more, Adobe CS has become the industry standard for graphic design, video production and many other creative professions. Programs such as Adobe’s Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have revolutionized several industries and are now more accessible to the average consumer than ever before.

At the Digital Workshop Center, we consistently see students who have been forced into these complex programs by their employers in the hopes they’ll be able to bring design work in-house.

However, Adobe CS is designed for personal computers and, therefore, has a ton of options centered around customizing the program to best work for you. Whenever I open any of my Adobe programs, I first open and arrange the panels to best suit my needs. Adobe panels are common in almost all CS programs — they’re the small, moveable pieces within the greater Adobe puzzle.

Each panel is focused on one group of commands. For example, in Adobe InDesign you have the Pages panel, which gives you all the choices you need to create, arrange and manage your pages. While you could also use the text-based menus at the top of the program, the panels are typically easier to understand.

Each panel also includes a menu is in its top-right corner. The panel menu provides additional commands or options to help you fine-tune exactly what you need.

Another feature of the Adobe panel system is that you can easily group or dock panels. By default there’s a dock section on the right side of most Adobe programs. This section usually has a dark-gray background separated from the design area of the program. You can fit all of your desired panels into the dock or drag and drop panels in any order you want. In addition, you can re-size the dock or collapse it to save you space.

The size and resolution of your monitor is a huge factor in how you will arrange your dock, but don’t be afraid to play around with different arrangements.

The more you use an Adobe CS program, you’ll learn which panels you need for your work. When you have all the panels opened and arranged the way you like, I highly recommend saving that as a workspace, which takes a snapshot of your program’s environment so you can easily return to that arrangement as you see fit.

There’s no limit to the number of panel workspaces you can create and it works well to create different layouts for different types of projects. For example, you can create one workspace for your graphic design projects, another for web projects and maybe one for advanced typography. Through the window menu in any Adobe CS program, you can easily manage future workspaces.

When a new student opens Adobe for the first time, I think there’s always a brief feeling of anxiety, maybe due to the amount of commands on the screen. However, if you embrace the panel system and get used to the similarities across all Adobe Creative Suite programs, you will see the logic behind panels and start to enjoy it.

Stu Crair is the owner and lead trainer at The Digital Workshop Center, providing digital arts and computer training instruction in Fort Collins. Reach him at (970) 980-8091 or stu@fcdigitalworkshop.com.

[Originally posted in the Coloradoan on 12/5/2013]