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I'm using the new feature to link another file into the document which I then want to export to a PDF with layers selected in the settings. The result is that the layers in the top level, parent document, appears to work but the linked document has all the layers converted to groups, and within those any layers or groups are lost and all the element appear at the same level.


This is how it re-imports back into Affinity Designer. The three named layers are ones in the parent document. The two unnamed groups are the linked documents even though these have named layers in them. All the groups are unnamed. The files are *.afdesign files and are flattened to a single group thereby losing any organisation you might have had in the original.

Acrobat only appears to know about the named layers:


Is there any way to have the layers in the linked documents appear as named layers in the exported PDF? I'd like to stick with linked documents as this will prevent duplication and the need to update more than one document when a change request comes in. Ideally the top level group could also inherit the name of the linked/embedded file as it does in the source document.

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Hi Sean, sorry this content is under an NDA. I will need to find some time to construct the same situation with content that isn't sensitive.

It shouldn't be difficult to reproduce though.

A file with layers exports to PDF with the layers as expected (with export layers set in settings). If you link this first document into a second document and then export that second document to a PDF then I'm finding that I lose the layers. Is your understanding that this shouldn't happen?


I decided to try and reproduce it with a simple case and my explanation wasn't quite right. It seems that the structure is simply flattened and that any grouping under parent layers is what is lost.

For example, this document structure:


Embedded and linked into this document:


Yields this in the final exported PDF:


I was expecting to see some folder icons, representing nested grouped layers, for the parent layers. This is to help a 3rd party navigate to a specific object in the design data structure but as a flattened structure it makes things difficult.

Looking at the code within the resultant PDF it looks like all the layers are independent of each other. 

Also, groups appear as flattened content under their layer "parent". If a group is not in a layer then it doesn't appear at all in the Layers structure visible in Adobe Reader etc. I can accept that now that I know this is the case and will just have to remember to use layers instead of groups whenever this is important.

testparent.pdf testlayers.afdesign testparent.afdesign

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A further update. After doing some more testing last night I'm a little (more?) confused. I re-ran the export of the above file with the current1.9 release from yesterday and the result was this:


The version (beta) includes layers from the both of the external files, doesn't. Sadly I didn't construct my test well enough to figure out which one it is missing but I can also say that I'm missing information in the project file which triggered this thread. That file is an AD (*.afdesign) file.

As a test I thought I'd read the (above)  afdesign file into Publisher to see if the export there is any different. The structure of the file was quite different to Designer:


and resulted in this being visible in Adobe Reader


This appears to be inconsistent and reflects my experience with the design file that I can't post here. Sometimes it appears to work and other times not. Is there any clear workflow documentation to explain how this is expected to work?

Are nested layers fully supported? If you link or embed a file what data will make it into the exported PDF? Does the linked file need to be setup in some way for this to work as expected or is it only the settings in the parent file that influence the export? Is the type of linked file (PDF, afdesign etc.) important when trying to use this feature? Are there any known limitations?

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Hi Paul Mc,

I think there are a few things going on here. Firstly as you've discovered Groups are not Layers and therefore will never go out to the PDF as a Layer - this is intended behaviour as they're two separate things.

The other is that I've found before that Acrobat (maybe more so Adobe?) is very strange with layers and heirarchy - for example Illustrator will only ever export out the Top Level layers - anything below the top level will not go out as a child layer and instead will be included under its parent layer. In fact Illustrator's export option is called 'Create Acrobat Layers from Top-Level Layers'.

However I have seen other PDFs and applications create nested layers inside Acrobat, so I'm not entirely sure exactly why this behaviour is a thing - unless Adobe know something others don't? With that said we do have an improvement listed regarding creating child-layers, instead of creating all layers on the same level.

Unfortunately the three files you've uploaded is missing the linked 'testlayers.pdf' so when I'm exporting that Linked file is going out as the cached pixellated image, so I won't be able to get exactly the same results you do, but given we do only create top level layers, you also need to factor in that your PDFs are set to passthrough. What this means is that we don't interpret the PDF (providing it is the same or lower PDF version as the one you're exporting) and just pass it through to the exporter therefore I wouldn't imagine the Layer information in the PDF being passed through to be placed inside a Layer contained in the parent document.

I will run this by development however to be sure.

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1 hour ago, Sean P said:

 you've discovered Groups are not Layers


I maybe should have said that I was given a sample and found I couldn't reproduce it. I don't know how it was created but I'm (now) guessing Acrobat rather than Illustrator.

Not to worry, this isn't a show stopper as I'm able to use a single "layer" of layers to do the grouping and all that is required downstream can work with that structure. It was just that on a particular file of repeated objects where each object was in its own layer, there were sub-objects within those objects and they ended up with the same name and all "floated" to the top level. The result was that it wasn't obvious which was the parent when it came to editing later by another party. If I use a more unique (intelligent?) naming scheme this won't be a problem in future.

Sorry about the file missing content. It can be created by exporting the testlayers.afdesign file to PDF.

I'm curious as to what the development intention was with this regarding whether Layers information is preserved or not. Maybe a line or two in the docs might help as it isn't mentioned (or wasn't last time I checked).

Thanks very much @Sean P, I really appreciate your complete and detailed responses.

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