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Wrong layer concept for an layout application


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I had an epic essay written describing my workflow as a package designer and the difficulties in using this layer system and it's lack of global layers. While writing it, I reevaluated my whole workflow structure and template system, digging in deep to all aspects of the Master Pages and Layers to see if I could come up with a way to make it all work. It was an interesting and informative journey, the tale of which is way to boring for anyone here to slog through.

My primary findings boil down to what many others have said before: I need a level of layer-like containers that are independent from any Page or Master Page with the ability to show/hide those layers of content across the entire document with a single toggle.

For those still interested in reading, my document structure as a package designer includes: top level dynamic and static artwork layers that may overlap the packaging "window" layer which in turn overlaps dynamic and static artwork layers in the background. Static art is branding and info that appears on all packages. Dynamic art are images, colors, etc. that change based on the particular "flavor" of each package. Additionally I have a topmost layer with printer die lines, and the window layer is actually 2 layers: one with the window containing a spot color for export to the printer and one with the window containing the product image for exporting to make a 3D render of the "filled" package.

In InDesign, I have 5-7 global layers, and 2 master pages Front and Back. I can, with a single click, toggle the die lines to check my artwork fits properly. I can, with a single click, toggle the 2 window variants depending on my export intent.

In APub, to achieve a similar set up, I came up with 2 approaches.

1. Create 5-7 layers in each of the Front and Back master pages with ALL design elements present in these masters. When working on the dynamic aspects of the design, any master text is easy enough to edit, but all other objects and shapes, I have to constantly "edit detached" to manipulate things. Very tedious.

2. The reverse approach to keep the dynamic art independent from the master pages making them easier to edit quickly (no "edit detached"), was to created 10-14 Master Pages (5-7 for both Front and Back), each with a single layer of content. That means each page needs 5-7 Masters applied and correctly sorted in each page's layers panel. Also tedious.

Neither of these approaches are great, #1 is a pain to work with during the design process, but once the design finalized, it's not so hard to add a new flavor or make a minor edit. #2 is much preferred during the design process as elements are still moving around and I may be jumping across pages frequently. But takes a great deal of setup time at the start and there are so many layers!

So this ended up being a bit of an essay too, huh? I haven't settled on an approach yet, but as others have said, the debate might be moot since we've been told "global layers" are coming.

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40 minutes ago, prophet said:

…the debate might be moot since we've been told "global layers" are coming.

Ooh, I had not heard this. Hopefully global layers are coming across all products, as like you I find trying to work-around the existing Affinity layers concept frustrating to say the least. There are workflows that many of us have developed and used over decades in both print and digital work (as you described) that are either impossible or very cumbersome in the Affinity range as it stands today. It boggles my mind that Aldus/Macromedia/Adobe Freehand😢—released over 30 years ago—got so much of this right in such a short period of time (v1 was released in 1988, and v4 was released in 1994 by which time Aldus had filled many of the most request feature gaps).

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I don't see what's the problem.

Quote

To Show/Hide "star" or toggle visibility of "w1" and "w2" on all pages, toggle respective layer in "global" layer stack.

You can do the same in Affinity by creating your own "Global Layers" master layer and applying that to your other masters.

global-layers.png.a3a2c8eeac73e08a68e600acc5e0a4df.png

I don't know how ID works, but Affinity seems flexible enough here.

♥️Affinity; macOS 12; ⌨️🖱; recreational user since 2014.

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2 hours ago, hawk said:

You can do the same in Affinity by creating your own "Global Layers" master layer and applying that to your other masters.

Ah, but in my example, I have a different w2 shape on the B Master Page, so I need that layer separate in each Master Page. Your example does work for the "star" layer since that is the same across all pages. But efficiency starts to break down since I have to double click each Master, then move to the Layers Panel to toggle the layer visibility, then back to the Pages panel to choose the next Master, then back to Layers and back to Pages, etc. etc. Each additional Master Page acting as a global layer increases the round trips I have to make to toggle them on/off. Much more efficient to pull the global layers out of the Masters and be their own thing like InDesign. IMHO of course.

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3 hours ago, hawk said:

You can do the same in Affinity by creating your own "Global Layers" master layer and applying that to your other masters.

This requires a massive amount of work to maintain.

A newly created page in Publisher can have at most one master page applied to it, and newly added layers do not commonly get added below the top of the stack except when something else is selected and an appropriate mode set.

If you create a 300-page document and want content that stays on the top and the bottom of each page with page-specific content in between, you would need to apply the upper master to those 300 pages. Not too big a deal, but then whenever you add content to those pages you would need to pay attention that it gets added below the upper master and not above it.

Now add to this a layer for each language in a multi-language document.  Then after the document is completed, add a few more translations...  As the new master pages always seem to get added above the uppermost master, if you have a master page layer that is intended to float at the top of each page, the added languages will need to be manually moved below that master on each of the 300 pages... individually.

You might think to remove the upper master from all pages then re-add it, but if any of the content on the upper master was customized on a per-page basis it may be lost by doing so.

For some use cases, the existing functionality is certainly quite flexible and may be sufficient, particularly for shorter documents, but for many other use cases it is simply not practical.

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  • 2 months later...

I am just now finishing a technical book (architecture), 160 pages with text and graphics, 3 columns, linked frames for flowing text over multiple pages, multiple language versions. InDesign 2021.

I have NO idea how I would accomplish this (including all revisions) in Publisher without global layers and not going totally insane in the process.

Sincerely hoping Publisher 2.0 will provide this.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/26/2020 at 12:05 PM, hawk said:

I don't see what's the problem. (…)
You can do the same in Affinity by creating your own "Global Layers" master layer and applying that to your other masters.

While "you can do the same" sounds correct, the lack is in doing it same speedy.

Note that APub mainly is an app to increase efficiency – there is no look, no layout you couldn't achieve in AD, too. APub speeds it up – whereas Master Pages used as substitute for Global Layers reduce that advantage massively: The more you need them, the more cumbersome they get, the more extensive the layout, the more pointless this replacement becomes.

Two major disadvantages of Master Layers as Global Layer substitute is their position within the Layers hierarchy + their locked attitude. Though you can move Master Layers up/down on individual pages – page by page, or even throughout the entire document – your adjusted hierarchy gets confused as soon you add new content on any page.

True Global Layers just don't have some limitations of Master Layers, e.g the requirement to layout within Master layers on document pages + the demand to Detache repeatedly, again and again… and again…

 

macOS 10.14.6, MacBookPro Retina 15" + Eizo 27"

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@thomaso

The chief use case for Global Layers is setting up multi-lingual documents, where each global layer carries the text of one language and the visibility of the language layers can be turned on or off. Can this even be achieved using master pages in Publisher? I don't think that one can toggle the visibility of master pages on/off globally with one click.

As far as I can tell, Publisher would require one to set a publication in Language 01 (e.g., English), then duplicate the finished document and replace all the threaded Language 01 stories with Language 02 translations, and make final copy fitting adjustments.

 

 

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@Mark Oehlschlager, there is no need to convince me, I am yearning for Global Layers since earliest APub Betas. To me the main advantage is not in using them for multi-lingual documents (if those get output as separate media I even prefer two separate files with the option to alter not text only but adjust/optimize the layout, too, in particular with languages which require different amount of space).

I like Global Layers because they enable easier work within a specific layer hierarchy without the need of APub groups or Layer-layers + their disadvantage with accessing single objects. I used to start with a default set of empty Global Layers, e.g. • background, • images (photos), • illustration (info graphics w text) • text, • notes (markers, version#, date, questions to the editor or client, etc). So when placing, editing, styling e.g. text I could always stay in the global • text layer without losing this hierarchical position even when switching pages. Also it was easy to hide such certain object types with a single-click throughout the entire document, e.g. to focus on certain content, or to export text only, et al.

On 2/15/2021 at 11:20 PM, Mark Oehlschlager said:

Can this even be achieved using master pages in Publisher?

No – or: it depends how you understand "achieved". In APub it requires a lot more clicks to maintain a certain layer hierarchy or to hide specific objects, especially master page content and especially across an entire document. With global layers I usually even don't need to care for the Global Layer's sub-hierarchy, so I don't need to unfold the Global Layers and access / refine their order. Finally it is easy to add an additional global layer at any time or layout stage, e.g. to have another level for info graphics. Viceversa it's also easy to merge two global layers to one or move a Global Layer in the layer hierarchy to a different position throughout the entire document with one move only.

macOS 10.14.6, MacBookPro Retina 15" + Eizo 27"

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13 hours ago, thomaso said:

No – or: it depends how you understand "achieved".

Imagine Serif creates a second master page panel. But Serif don't call it master pages, they call it global layers. The appearance is similar to the layers panel, and the functions are efficiently abbreviated (for example, fade in and fade out). The layer panel could then be divided into two parts (global layers on top, layers below). Done.

The whole thing is based on the symbols. The symbol functionality is already there: In Affinity Designer they are actually called symbols, in Affinity Photo they are called linked layers (if I am not mistaken) and in Affinity Publisher they are called master pages.

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5 minutes ago, Michail said:

Imagine Serif creates a second master page panel. But Serif doesn't call these master pages, he calls them global layers. The appearance is similar to the layers panel, and the functions are efficiently abbreviated (for example, fade in and fade out). The layer panel could then be divided into two parts (global layers on top, layers below). Done.

An interesting idea, but how would you handle when there is a Global Layers used on a Master Page? I can reorder Master pages within the layer stack, but if that Master contains a Global element that needs to remain at the top of the stack?

16 minutes ago, Michail said:

The whole thing is based on the symbols.

I'm not sure this is an accurate interpretation, but maybe. Symbols and Master Pages (and maybe linked layers? Don't have experience) are all about changing aspects of a representative instance and those changes updating throughout the document. In the case of global layers, the primary aspect seems to be simply visibility (maybe stacking order?).

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1 hour ago, prophet said:

An interesting idea, but how would you handle when there is a Global Layers used on a Master Page?

You can apply master pages to master pages. If you think of the master pages as global layers again, the matter becomes clear.

 

1 hour ago, prophet said:

In the case of global layers, the primary aspect seems to be simply visibility (maybe stacking order?).

Symbols copy a state to several instances. This is what master pages also do. I can't imagine Serif taking different approaches within the Affinity suite.

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Presently, one can add empty container layers (i.e., not object or text layers) from the Layers Panel, but these layers are properties of individual pages. Would it be possible (without mucking up the architecture of the Affinity Suite) to be able to add document-wide Global Layers from the Layers Panel?

In this conception, Master Pages would offer repeatable but page-specific page composition schemas (not necessarily applied continuously or document-wide), Layers (as currently defined, and what might be called Page Layers) would offer Page-specific object containers, and Global Layers would offer document-wide containers for organizing types of content that need to be switched on/off globally (e.g., alternate texts in a multi-lingual document).

Global Layers would always preserve their stacking order relative to each other, but otherwise, for each spread, the user could freely arrange the stacking order of applied Master Pages, Page Layers, and Global Layers.

See screenshot illustration below.

Screen Shot 2021-02-16 at 11.40.05 AM.png

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3 hours ago, Michail said:

Imagine Serif creates a second master page panel. 

The concept of Global Layers is realized already, e.g. in ID. – I don't see a reason nor advantage to have them in a separate layers panel or panels section.
Once more: Global Layers have nothing to do with Master Pages or Master Page Layers.

macOS 10.14.6, MacBookPro Retina 15" + Eizo 27"

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1 minute ago, thomaso said:

The concept of Global Layers is realized already, e.g. in ID. – I don't see a reason nor advantage to have them in a separate layers panel or panels section.
Once more: Global Layers have nothing to do with Master Pages or Master Page Layers.

Exactly. There's no reason to re-invent the wheel here. Most items in the Layers panel are technically not even layers - they are objects. Then when you create an actual layer (it starts off blank) that layer should be global, and appear on every page. Adobe apps go a step further and actually require that objects be bound to a layer, but I don't think it's necessary.

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12 minutes ago, Jeremy Bohn said:

Adobe apps go a step further and actually require that objects be bound to a layer, but I don't think it's necessary.

This is an aspect of the Adobe model that can be restrictive. On occasion, I've wanted to add a page specific item to a document that didn't really conform to the Global Layer stack schema, and then one is forced to either add the item to an existing Global Layer, or to introduce a new Global Layer for that one, page-specific item. 

I think a case can be made for the existence of both "Page Layers" and "Global Layers" created and managed from within the Layers Panel.

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2 hours ago, Michail said:

You can apply master pages to master pages. If you think of the master pages as global layers again, the matter becomes clear.

Ugh. Not a fan. Overly complicated.

It's tricky to conceptualize how this will work within the existing Affinity model.

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3 hours ago, Jeremy Bohn said:

Most items in the Layers panel are technically not even layers - they are objects. Then when you create an actual layer (it starts off blank) that layer should be global, and appear on every page. Adobe apps go a step further and actually require that objects be bound to a layer, but I don't think it's necessary.

Completely agree that most items in the Affinity suite Layers panel are not layers.  However, it's not unreasonable to display the hierarchy of layers and objects all together in a single tree.  Many graphics apps do just that, and the result is not really significantly different than Affinity's Layers panel.

However, I don't believe that all layers should be global.  I frequently need an organizational tool that is local to a page and not simply a group of groups of objects.

I am entirely happy with having every object belong to some layer (reassignment to a different layer being possible at any time).  When, at some point in the future, we get scripting, you will understand why giving every object a well-defined layer is an important thing.

3 hours ago, Mark Oehlschlager said:

I think a case can be made for the existence of both "Page Layers" and "Global Layers" created and managed from within the Layers Panel.

Absolutely.  CorelDRAW has both page layers and global layers, and I use them both extensively.  CD doesn't have any real notion of master pages, but it does optionally support odd and even page layouts, where global layers can be configured to appear on one or both facings.

[Added in edit] In the Affinity suite, I could see the utility of three sets of layers.  Truly global layers.  Master layers.  Page layers.  All three sets applicable to the current page would appear in the Layers panel, where their stacking order (Layers > Arrange) could be modified, their visibility turned on or off, etc.  Affinity would have to sort out how things are presented.  If master layers are presented the way master objects currently are, you'd be able to put page layers above or below the set of master layers, but not interleave them.

I could see using an additional master page to contain a set of "global" layers, but as noted above assigning that second master page to every body page becomes tedious quickly.  Better to have an option for truly global layers.

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14 hours ago, thomaso said:

I don't see a reason nor advantage to have them in a separate layers panel or panels section.

But I do. It seems to me that you would like to have the global levels as the sole concept. Is this assumption correct?
Surely you have your reasons for that. I suspect that this is what you need for your work and nothing else.

But I would like the present layer concept to be retained - supplemented by the global layers. The layer concept in Affinity gives the designer a lot of leeway. The one-dimensional and archaic layer concept in ID forces the user to do almost all image and graphics editing outside ID.

Perhaps, if your time permits, you could think outside the box.

 

14 hours ago, thomaso said:

Once more: Global Layers have nothing to do with Master Pages or Master Page Layers.

What is the value of this statement?!

 

14 hours ago, Jeremy Bohn said:

Most items in the Layers panel are technically not even layers - they are objects. Then when you create an actual layer (it starts off blank) that layer should be global, and appear on every page.

None of us is free of (Adobe-) imprints. Personally, I don't really care what it's technically called - if it allows me great creative freedom.

Create a layer in Affinity Publisher and you have a layer. Don't create a layer and you don't have a layer, but unbound objects. What's the problem?!

 

13 hours ago, prophet said:

Ugh. Not a fan. Overly complicated.
It's tricky to conceptualize how this will work within the existing Affinity model.

At most, this is complicated for the programmers. We only have to operate the panel 😎

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17 minutes ago, Michail said:

The one-dimensional and archaic layer concept in ID forces the user to do almost all image and graphics editing outside ID.

Hm? In what way is the editability of an object related to the layer concept? The need in ID to edit image & graphic externally is due to the lack of editing tools within ID – which is solved in APub not only by single features / tools (e.g. Effects or Transparency / Fill Tool) but nearly 100% by Studio Link / Personas, which allow editing in APub with almost identical features as in their separate apps.

22 minutes ago, Michail said:
14 hours ago, thomaso said:

Once more: Global Layers have nothing to do with Master Pages or Master Page Layers.

What is the value of this statement?!

To avoid confusion & mixture of very different subjects and goals. While the term "Master" names content which shall appear on every applied document's page (or just as an empty page at least) Global Layers aren't objects at all (as mentioned above by @Jeremy Bohn) and therefore don't get applied but rather deliver an element to structure (~sort, order) your objects / layers in a main, overarching hierarchy. Accordingly to their different goals also the handling of master layers versus global layers is very different.

Some detailed differences (initially posted here) :

I appreciate Master Pages a lot, they are extremely helpful to place + edit identical content on several pages of a document without the need to do it more than once. Master pages are related to their specific content, whereas global layers are independent of both content and master pages. Global layers are simply something different and have nothing to do with master pages – even though they have aspects in common, like saved text styles or global colors do for instance, too.

We have different understandings of "global". Because I understand "global" as a property ruling absolutely (not relative within a page) + over all pages (not to certain pages only), then master page layers are not global. – Here some fundamental differences of these two different pairs of shoes:

1. APub's master pages can pretend to be "global" but don't have to: they only appear on a document page if they are applied to this page.
–> Global layers do always exist for every page, master pages included.

2. APub's master page applied to a document page results in 1 certain master layer on the page. It contains all master page objects.
–> With true global layers all pages show the same set of global layers.
–> Master page layers appear within these global layers.

3. In APub all layers of 1 master page are limited to 1 master layer on their document page. This single layer includes all master page content layers.
–> With true global layers master page layers of 1 master page can be spread over various global layers.

4. APub's layer hierarchy isn't global, thus a master page layer can have different positions within the layer hierarchy on different pages and it requires manual work on every single page to sort the order of a master page layer within all other layers in the same way on all pages.
–> With true global layers their layer structure is always the same AND on all pages.
–> Their global property is not caused by master pages nor is it related to them but is independent of master pages and master page layers.

5. APub's master pages are initially locked on every single page. For full access to a master's content layer you need to "detach" its specific master layer on a specific page. Once you detached a master layer it is detached on this specific page only. You neither can detach a master layer on more than 1 page at a time nor can you detach more than 1 master on a page at a time.
–> Global layers don't have this concept of being locked, they don't need to get detached. They give full access at any time and on all pages synchronously. You can move any item of a certain global layer at any time to another global layer, also you can move master page items on their master page between global layers.

6. Master page layers display a visible occurrence on the layout view. If selected in the layer panel they show up as selected object on their pages, too, even if empty.
–> Global layers don't show up as objects on the page layout, they appear in the layers panel only. They do not reflect their existence on the page.

7. In Apub every master page appears in every of its document page's layer hierarchy as a separate, visible and selectable master layer.
–> Global layers don't display a master page on its document pages, they only display master page content, and only on the page layout view, not in the layers panel, unless they get selected on the layout view. 
[–> Different handling of master items with global layers: If a master page object is selected on a page layout it appears in the layers panel, too, if unselected it disappears from the layers panel. To select a master page object on a document page you simply click it with a modifier key pressed. Once selected you can edit it.]

... (tbc.)...

Simplified you can understand global layers as additional, hierarchical elements in the layers panel. The lack of global layers is a lack in the entire document, their global functionality can't be achieved by any of the existing elements. With true global layers every object, the content of master page layers included, is a child of a global layer. Therefore you can't use a master page layer (child) as a global layer (parent).

45 minutes ago, Michail said:

Create a layer in Affinity Publisher and you have a layer. Don't create a layer and you don't have a layer, but unbound objects. What's the problem?!

One major problem is the accessibility of APub layers in the layout view: As soon an object is nested in an APub layer (e.g. as group or Layer layer) then clicking the object in the layout does select its parent layer in the layers panel – whereas Global layers never get selected in the page view (main window) but get rather activated only (in the layers panel).

The problem of accessibility becomes more obvious (~disturbing) when you try using Master page layers as substitutes for Global Layers: then you need to Detach them to be able to edit any containing (nested) layers (objects) whenever you want to work inside a master on a documents page. Compare this series of stepbystep screenshots :

 

macOS 10.14.6, MacBookPro Retina 15" + Eizo 27"

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1 hour ago, thomaso said:

Hm? In what way is the editability of an object related to the layer concept? The need in ID to edit image & graphic externally is due to the lack of editing tools within ID – which is solved in APub not only by single features / tools (e.g. Effects or Transparency / Fill Tool) but nearly 100% by Studio Link / Personas, which allow editing in APub with almost identical features as in their separate apps.

What about masking layers, adjustment layers and layer effects image.png.1ef6f702e83896e0191d8990f63f1732.png ? None of this has anything to do with Studio Link and would not be possible without the existing layer concept.

 

1 hour ago, thomaso said:

To avoid confusion & mixture of very different subjects and goals ... 

It's nice that you have dealt with the subject so extensively. For me personally, it wasn't necessary, because that was a rhetorical question ("?!").

 

1 hour ago, thomaso said:

One major problem is the accessibility of APub layers in the layout view: As soon an object is nested in an APub layer (e.g. as group or Layer layer) then clicking the object in the layout does select its parent layer in the layers panel – whereas Global layers never get selected in the page view (main window) but get rather activated only (in the layers panel).

image.png.7ac17194dbd0f96f5649763394a804d6.png

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5 hours ago, Michail said:

It seems to me that you would like to have the global levels as the sole concept. Is this assumption correct?

2 hours ago, Michail said:

What about masking layers, adjustment layers and layer effects image.png.1ef6f702e83896e0191d8990f63f1732.png ? None of this has anything to do with Studio Link and would not be possible without the existing layer concept.

Ah, I guess now I understand. – No, I don't think Global Layers as the only layers in APub. Every Global Layer would contain object layers of cause, while currently these layers in the layers panel do represent the objects on the layout page, Global Layers don't need a representative on page, so they don't exist visually in the layout view – but changing the Global Layer's order or content would appear visually in the layout objects which are nested within the Global Layers.

By the way (…and not that I ask for it in APub): The layers in the layers panel are just an additional UI item, kind of a reflection of the layout objects. There are many other applications which offer similar features/tools but don't present any layer concept within their UI. For instance simple layout apps, which allow a vertical object hierarchy (~back-/ foreground) but don't display layers as such. Most obvious is the raw developer/editor Lightroom which allows masks, filters, effects and even cloned image parts and text additions – but works entirely without a layers panel.

Your screenshot: No, I don't mean a selection in the layers panel but on the layout page. If you there click on a object which inside a group (or Layer layer) you always get this parent layer selected first. You can't avoid such parent layers to react and get selected. [Global Layers wouldn't react at all on a click on page, they might rather vice versa define by their activation/selection status in the layers panel what objects can get selected on a click on page and what objects are excluded from being accessible with a click.]

macOS 10.14.6, MacBookPro Retina 15" + Eizo 27"

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On 2/17/2021 at 6:53 AM, thomaso said:

The concept of Global Layers is realized already, e.g. in ID. – I don't see a reason nor advantage to have them in a separate layers panel or panels section.
Once more: Global Layers have nothing to do with Master Pages or Master Page Layers.

InDesign (CS5 era image) does this nicely - the entries in the layers palette show each entity on the spread, in the layer it's in, so you can adjust the stacking order of elements on the page within Global Layers. But, you can also in single-digit-clicks non-destructively (I can't over-emphasise how important it is that this doesn't actually change any pages) re-purpose the entire document for a different output intent (from anywhere in the document), by toggling layers on and off.

 

image.png.596b410de47c4dc66bf152c6b4baeb5b.png

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