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This post is part of a series called Beginners Guides to InDesign.
Quick Tip: Creating New Documents, InDesignCS5
Quick Tip: Working with Rulers and Guides in Adobe InDesign

The new layers panel added to InDesign CS5 is packed with features that can really speed up your operating pace. The panel now resembles Adobe's Illustrator Layer panel and has borrowed many of its useful features. So if you are new InDesign or have simply overlooked this addition read on.

The Panel

First open an existing document that contains a lot of items. To activate the panel go to Window > Layers. Click once on one of the disclosure arrows to reveal the items contained within that layer.

Immediately you will notice that each individual item has been split on to an individual sub layer. These layers are automatically assigned a name. A text layer will take its name from the beginning of the text frame, a shape will be named square or rectangle etc and an imported graphic will be named by its source name.

To change the name of a layer, click once on top of the actual name (The cursor will transform to a white hand) and then again, the name will highlight blue, now enter the new name.

Visibility and Locking

Before the introduction of the Layers panel, InDesign would stack items on top of each other making individual selecting a bit of a headache. Now by using the layers panel it is possible to turn the visibility of the items on or off and in turn locate the item faster. Do this by clicking on the visibility icon indicated below.

To select or deselect a few items at a time, click once on the visibility icon and drag up or down the line of icons. Alternatively hold down shift to pick out layers not sitting next to each other.

Next to the visibility icon is the lock option. To lock or unlock simply click in the lock box. When an item is locked and you attempt to move it, InDesign will bypass the locked item and select the item below it. To unlock the locked item click on the padlock symbol attached to the item frame.


If a group has been created it will display in the layers panel under its own disclosure arrow and named group. Again it is possible to rename this layer to make navigating easier. Note that InDesign will continue to name groups as 'group' regardless of how many is created, so for your sanity rename as you create.

The cool feature about grouping within a layer is the ability to control the groups via the layer panel. In past versions of InDesign if you wanted to add an item to a group you would have to ungroup, select the items and the additional item and group again. Now simply select the item you want to add to the group and drag it into the group layer. This process can be reversed too if you want take an item out of the group, just drag it out.

Navigating Items

If there is a particular item you want to locate and edit use the following method. Find the item in the panel list, right click > Select and Fit Item. InDesign will automatically select the item, center it and zoom in close.

Also it is possible to toggle through individual items by clicking on the square to the left of the layer name. When clicked InDesign will select the frame. However, this method will only highlight the item and it wont be centered.


Taking time out to familiarize yourself with the layers panel will surely give your InDesign operating skills a boost. I hope you found some value and enjoyed this Quick tip.

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