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CRITICAL & OVERDUE: Formally add the “universal layer” concept; add an “Automatically move objects to and from artboards” toggle; optionally, make said toggle's disabled state the default behaviour when “Edit All Layers” toggle is also disabled

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Hi guys.

Sorry in advance for the redundancy, but I'm creating a new, separate topic, since part of this request was already kinda “solved” and my earlier post on said thread is TL;DR material. So here goes the shortened [it ballooned a bit again, but now with new, useful ideas] and focused version:

There's a super easy way to solve a very serious philosophical UX choice which almost completely prevents me to recommend Affinity Designer to, well, mostly everyone.

As you know, when you have a document into artboard mode, objects will be cropped whenever they go past the boundary(ies) of their respective artboard and reappear once they fully transition into the pasteboard, and AD automatically moves them in the layers panel according to whichever artboard they touch/hover above. This is already normal and expected AD behaviour for most users.

You can also manually move objects and layers outside/above artboards (I'm henceforth calling those “universal layers”, but feel free to give them a better name, like “document layers” or whatever), which do allow you to have any objects they contain appear – and, obviously, export – in two or more adjacent/close artboards. This is a great sign of a potential UX choice, as it is proof the document and layer model is completely ready for the addition I'm proposing; only the UX and the UI need a slight tweak in the form of a toggle and a few lines of code (by the way, nudging objects with the arrow keys doesn't trigger this behaviour, so it should be properly harmonised with the click+drag behaviour in both modes).

The only issue is that doesn't allow you to deactivate said behaviour of automatically moving objects/groups/layers into artboards when dragging them around with the mouse/trackpad, even with the “Edit All Layers” option disabled (the logical behaviour would be for objects not to switch layers or move into artboards under any circumstance if you're working in one layer in isolation, period. That particular case should be treated as a bug, not as a feature, and maybe the devs should ask users if they mind that slight change).

That could and should still be the default behaviour, so as not to confuse current happy users, but if we were given said toggle, AD would instantly become much more usable for 99,9% of use cases and a much bigger percentage of current and prospective users.

As I've said before, if any of the devs/mods or other users want me to do a little narrated screen capture to demonstrate this, I'm all up for it.

Kudos for the Affinity team and all the best for you all,

João

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I'm also adding a separate comment as a bonus, because this may open yet some other cans of worms and I want to keep it separate from the original one, so please bear with me:

As for the universal/document layers themselves, and their visual manifestation in the Studio UI, any layer sitting above the topmost artboard could automatically become “universal”… because it technically already is. That is intuitive for any user to grasp, but some extra visual feedback – like, say, change its descriptor in the Layers panel from “(Layer)” to “(Universal Layer)” … and maybe even rename the current artboart-level layers into “(Artboard Layer)” for good measure – would also be very welcome and help a lot with discoverability.

But if you want to go the extra mile and make sure people instantly get it without having to create and move layers around, you can also add a draggable separator with an independent scroll field, kind of like the one between Master Pages and regular layout pages in InDesign and APub. If you dragged layers and objects below the separator, they could automatically snap into the nearest artboard (since with the concept of universal/document layers, it would no longer make any sense to have universal/document objects sandwiched between different artboards in the layers panel like they do now, and with the “Automatically move objects…” behaviour activated, they could just jump to the topmost layer in the universal/document section when dragged, in the actual WYSIWYG document working area, from their current artboard onto the pasteboard).

Boom!, instant reconciling of both Affinity's new and current artboard-centric layer model and Adobe's/Corel's/Macromedia's document-centric one, without having to add an extra Artboards panel like Adobe did. That should make a lot of people happy without cluttering the UI too much. Also, you could extend the concept to Affinity Publisher, and thus even allow for document-, master page- and layout page-level layers, in a totally logical and consistent tie-in with the Designer Persona. That would actually make Affinity superior and more flexible than Adobe's offerings.

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Bonus comment #2:

There's also a way which you could deal with the whole “Clip to Canvas” conundrum that will inevitably arise if and when you get around to implement any of these proposed features. If said option to “Automatically move objects to and from artboards” is turned off, it stands to reason that when dragging an object outside of an artboard it would technically remain in it and thus be clipped out of view, with no draggable features unless you switched to outline mode, am I right? And that is also terrible UX, which leads me to believe that maybe that's the reason why you came up with the whole “drag—partially clip—reappear as universal object” behaviour; well, guess what, not all users like it anyway because sometimes they may end up with just a tiny visible tip of an object and thus have to resort to all sorts of shenanigans (like scouring the Layers panel or using Outline view) just to find their “missing objects”.

I propose, thus, a sensible compromise, that might be activated automatically when that “manual mode” is engaged, but might also be optionally toggable in all other scenarios: what if the portion of any object outside of its parent artboard appeared slightly transparent and/or in outline view? And if it overlapped another adjacent artboard, when selecting said artboard the latter would automatically obscure those objects or, alternatively, only the clipped out objects from any given and selected artboard would show at a time in said transparent/outlined manner. And if you wanted to see all hidden objects at once, easy: either you triggered Outline mode, or you selected all artboards at the same time. In fact, the latter option might allow you to make them disappear in outline mode in unselected artboards so as not to make critical vector editing work extremely confusing on complex projects with overlapping stuff all over the place (I'm showing some foresight here, because I tend to be a mix of rational and chaotic/messy, so I know in advance that would eventually happen to me and I'm sure it would to happen to others as well).

This is intuitive and completely workable, and would, as a bonus, solve that unforgiving UX scenario I mentioned first. And it could be just yet a different View mode. Call it Hybrid or something. Make the whole “Clip to Canvas” functionality a toggable set of options with various degrees of “clipping aggressiveness” (maybe even with custom transparency values?) in Artboard mode. I don't know, I'm not the UI/UX expert here and cannot (nor had the pretension to be able to) provide you with all the answers, but I know enough to at least be able to make an informed assessment, and to me it seems that, as it stands, Affinity Designer's entire layer model is a complete mess and doesn't offer users nearly as much choice as the competition. It's oversimplified for the sake of looking/feeling nice or just being different, but ends up chopping the legs off of an otherwise superb application.

Please, please, please consider this feedback more seriously than the last time. I and others have been waiting for this for more than a year now.

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Hi JGD,

We're obviously reading your comments and we obviously want you to be happy. Would you be able to show me a little screen capture of when it's getting in your way so I can see what you're actually trying to achieve that's not working out for you? If the problem could be solved for you by simply offering the other behaviour when 'Edit All Layers' is not enabled then I'll definitely consider it, but only once I've seen what the actual problem is?

Many thanks in advance,

Matt

 

Edited to add: Just to make it very clear, Artboards act as containers in Designer, they do not in Illustrator and this is the reason for some of the differences... There are pros and cons to each method, but we deliberately chose to make them act as containers...

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On 5/21/2019 at 9:11 AM, MattP said:

Hi JGD,

We're obviously reading your comments and we obviously want you to be happy. Would you be able to show me a little screen capture of when it's getting in your way so I can see what you're actually trying to achieve that's not working out for you? If the problem could be solved for you by simply offering the other behaviour when 'Edit All Layers' is not enabled then I'll definitely consider it, but only once I've seen what the actual problem is?

Many thanks in advance,

Matt

 

Edited to add: Just to make it very clear, Artboards act as containers in Designer, they do not in Illustrator and this is the reason for some of the differences... There are pros and cons to each method, but we deliberately chose to make them act as containers...

Hi Matt, thank you for your prompt feedback.

Yes, I know of your choice of making Artboards as containers, I've read on it here on the forums before, and I see no inherent problem in that.

My point being that both models, Adobe's and Affinity's, are perfectly reconcilable if some extra thought is given (and more control is devolved to the end user). As it stands, Affinity Designer already supports objects outside of/above Artboards, and will export them just fine as if they were contained in them. It's just that its default behaviour makes it seem like that isn't possible (and, in fact, it hinders its usability thereof to the point of frustration and uselessness).

As promised, I will make a little narrated screencap, and will also provide you with the corresponding .afdesign demonstration files to show you just what I'm getting at. Also, I may provide you with some example .Ai files – speculative Faculty projects which could very well be actual, professional ones –, too, so you can see what kind of finished artwork can absolutely benefit from such a hybrid model.

All the best,

João

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Hi again @MattP,

As promised, here are my video demos and the test file I was working on.

I'm sorry for all the ranting and raving these last few days (and you can still sense my frustration in my voice), but I do feel I'm onto something here.

If you can address this without opening, as I said, a few cans of worms, this should be a low-cost, high-benefit fix. I wouldn't say this is the only issue preventing me and other users from using Affinity Designer on a daily basis, but I will say it is the most serious, and it is indeed preventing me from even wishing to test it on more complex projects.

All the best,

João

universal layer test.afdesign

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By the way, I know that this is slighty off-topic, but since this was another issue that was preventing me from doing a large volume of projects and that I've just noticed it's gone, I'm very happy to see that the click+Option+drag to duplicate behaviour is finally fixed (maybe it was before and I didn't notice it, but it's definitely a v.1.7.x thing). I can perform an undo and AD will finally undo both the duplicate and the drag operation, instead of the drag operation only.

It's these little things that really do make me want to use Affinity instead of just firing up good ol' crusty Ai. That one in particular drove me absolutely nuts because I do a lot of modular typography and duplicate objects constantly (and, accordingly, undo those operations just as frequently when I inevitably mess up). It might have been just an extra Command+Z press, but it was a behaviour inconsistent with any other vector design app – from Adobe or otherwise –, the Finder, and the entire Apple HIG. Plus, it added up over time.

Another point scored for Affinity, and at least I can now tell you that I'll probably start doing all my modular type projects in it and recommending it for students, or even for a teacher and colleague of mine who does a lot of that kind of work, too.

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Hi JGD,

thank you for these annotated screen casts. They made your points perfectly clear. I would also endorse your point that the container model of the artboard should be thought of as being reconcilable with your “universal layer” model. As an aside, you will know that it is possible to achieve what you want by creating, not universal layers, but universal artboards on top of empty ones that are supposed to act like their namesakes in Illustrator (see attached). I haven’t followed all of your threads, so I am sure you already considered that option. But I must confess, this technique is also a bit cumbersome and creates a slight mess on the workspace.

Test.pdf

Test.afdesign

Universal.png.6d6f51c0137dadfb7dc66601e25443aa.png

 

Personally, I must confess I have always been a bit perplexed by the fact that independent layers above artboards get exported to PDF so effortlessly, as that clearly breaks the logic of the container model (or the “document tree” model: an independent layer of that kind doesn’t seem to have a proper place in the document tree). I must also confess that I have never used this technique, partly because of the editing problems you describe (moving “universal layers” will nest them to artboards immediately), and partly because I wanted to keep my document structure logical and tidy.

But, indeed, as those little cracks and inconsistencies are already present in the current document tree model, I am also starting to wonder whether it would be possible to exploit them in a more fruitful way. As far as I understand, artboards in Designer are currently thought of as being part of a single page. For when we import a document containing artboards to Publisher, we can choose whether (a) to convert the existing artboards to spreads or (b) keep them as artboards. In the latter case, a single layout page will show up in the Pages Panel (see below), obviously containing all of the artboards as layers.

Publisher.png.080cfab57c781e5c4e0c8e7eeb9a3d39.png

 

Hence, there already seems to be another logical layer in a Designer document that could be a natural place for holding what you call “universal layers.” So I would like to suggest to ponder the following. What about exhibiting the “hidden” page which holds the artboards in Publisher to the users of Designer and allow them to add objects to this page? The page would then be the primary container of everything: of artboards on the one hand, being still containers in themselves, and of other objects, like layers or shapes, on the other hand.

Publisher import would still allow to make a choice. When the user would choose to convert artboards to single pages, all the “universal” objects would have to be duplicated and nested to the pages according to the parts that had been visible on the original artboards in Designer. When a user would opt for keeping the artboards, well, then everything would be as it currently is. 

Does that make any sense?

Alex :)

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15 minutes ago, A_B_C said:

Hi JGD,

thank you for these annotated screen casts. They made your points perfectly clear. I would also endorse your point that the container model of the artboard should be thought of as being reconcilable with your “universal layer” model. As an aside, you will know that it is possible to achieve what you want by creating, not universal layers, but universal artboards on top of empty ones that are supposed to act like their namesakes in Illustrator (see attached). I haven’t followed all of your threads, so I am sure you already considered that option. But I must confess, this technique is also a bit cumbersome and creates a slight mess on the workspace.

Test.pdf

Test.afdesign

Universal.png.6d6f51c0137dadfb7dc66601e25443aa.png

 

Personally, I must confess I have always been a bit perplexed by the fact that independent layers above artboards get exported to PDF so effortlessly, as that clearly breaks the logic of the container model (or the “document tree” model: an independent layer of that kind doesn’t seem to have a proper place in the document tree). I must also confess that I have never used this technique, partly because of the editing problems you describe (moving “universal layers” will nest them to artboards immediately), and partly because I wanted to keep my document structure logical and tidy.

But, indeed, as those little cracks and inconsistencies are already present in the current document tree model, I am also starting to wonder whether it would be possible to exploit them in a more fruitful way. As far as I understand, artboards in Designer are currently thought of as being part of a single page. For when we import a document containing artboards to Publisher, we can choose whether (a) to convert the existing artboards to spreads or (b) keep them as artboards. In the latter case, a single layout page will show up in the Pages Panel (see below), obviously containing all of the artboards as layers.

Publisher.png.080cfab57c781e5c4e0c8e7eeb9a3d39.png

 

Hence, there already seems to be another logical layer in a Designer document that could be a natural place for holding what you call “universal layers.” So I would like to suggest to ponder the following. What about exhibiting the “hidden” page which holds the artboards in Publisher to the users of Designer and allow them to add objects to this page? The page would then be the primary container of everything: of artboards on the one hand, being still containers in themselves, and of other objects, like layers or shapes, on the other hand.

Publisher import would still allow to make a choice. When the user would choose to convert artboards to single pages, all the “universal” objects would have to be duplicated and nested to the pages according to the parts that had been visible on the original artboards in Designer. When a user would opt for keeping the artboards, well, then everything would be as it currently is. 

Does that make any sense?

Alex :)

It kind of does, yes.

Maybe have a super-artboard called pasteboard, above all others? And allow you to add a toggle to layers so as to force whatever objects in them to stay put in whatever artboard they belong to, including the pasteboard?

And as a solution to the entire cropped objects conundrum, considering different behaviours other than cropping them outright? Just making them x% transparent?

And maybe fix the entire selection model, thus allowing to select anything visible/unlocked (including, yes, artboards) regardless of where it sits on the document tree? That can of worms is already open, as you pointed out. It is inconsistent behaviour, and it will lead other people to, just like me, think they can use it for universal layers, only to become immediately frustrated and disappointed.

Or, I dunno, just allow users to pick between an Ai-like document model and an Affinity-like document model, as long as they are fully-compatible between one another (say, by even allowing to automatically move all universal objects to whichever artboard they're sitting atop of at the push of a button, or automatically extract all objects from each artboard into the pasteboard – maybe you'd lose whichever universal layers you had set up before, but that would be understandable) and with Publisher, document-specific (so it could be a Document Setup-level preference) and easily discoverable (see above). We're already allowed to pick between Corel's (lasso) and Adobe's (intersection) selection model, so… why not?

We could certainly hash out some ideas here and get at a more sensible solution. There is a lot to love in Designer but, as I've said it before, it feels too rigid and dumbed down, with some disastrous, unforgiving UX results. :\

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Personally, I wouldn’t call Designer “dumbed down” or its UX results “disastrous,” as they work pretty well for a whole lot of scenarios. And I also understand that the developers are reluctant to make changes that are certainly of the far-reaching sort. But apart from that, I am clearly seeing what you are after, and it makes a lot of sense to me. There is also the parallel, still unresolved problem of “global layers” in Publisher that is a real hindrance in some use cases. So I fear there is still some conceptual work lying ahead … :)

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66164-wrong-layer-concept-for-an-layout-application/

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66333-publisher-some-thoughts/

But it seems that global layers are on the roadmap already:

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66164-wrong-layer-concept-for-an-layout-application/&tab=comments#comment-400240

:)

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13 minutes ago, A_B_C said:

Personally, I wouldn’t call Designer “dumbed down” or its UX results “disastrous,” as they work pretty well for a whole lot of scenarios. And I also understand that the developers are reluctant to make changes that are certainly of the far-reaching sort. But apart from that, I am clearly seeing what you are after, and it makes a lot of sense to me. There is also the parallel, still unresolved problem of “global layers” in Publisher that is a real hindrance in some use cases. So I fear there is still some conceptual work lying ahead … :)

For me, they are disastrous. There's nothing more terrible than software making these kinds of decisions for you, without affordances to prevent it. Intuitiveness is hard to explain as a concept, but what you've just seen in those videos is something Serif should've done with live testers, sitting on a chair at their HQ, with a camera pointed at their faces, and addressed before even shipping v.1. You may notice I've isolated at least three or four instances of unpredictability and objects just “disappearing” (i.e. bad UX).

I know for a fact that I'm not the only one feeling this way about AD. Just because there's a sizeable number of users who don't, that doesn't mean there isn't an equally large number of those who do and either put up with it, or just bailed on it and stuck with Adobe. The difference here being that I'm not willing to take Adobe's crap anymore, but am not willing to severely downgrade my workflow, either, and I've bet heavily on Serif and Affinity.

They are indeed the ones with the best chances of making it, and believe me when I tell you that I did look at alternatives and keep doing so. Nothing comes close. Not even CorelDraw, an application on which I did the first versions of those diagrams back when I was only fifteen (so, some 18 years ago now), and which I still used in the v.11, PowerPC OS X days. But that doesn't change the fact that if I can't do with AD at least 95% of what I do in Ai without wanting to pull my hair out, I just… won't.

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For me, they are disastrous. There's nothing more terrible than software making these kinds of decisions for you, without affordances to prevent it.

On the other hand, you will also have to admit that it is very cool to be able to just drag an object to an artboard and have it immediately nested as a child to the artboard node in the document structure, at least in use cases that are different from the ones you have in mind. I can perfectly understand your frustration, João, for designers of info graphics will need the functions you described. You cannot really do maps without global layers. You should have a choice. So, again, I think you are justified in your criticism, and I would endorse your request for a second look and some sensible tweaks. :)

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32 minutes ago, A_B_C said:

For me, they are disastrous. There's nothing more terrible than software making these kinds of decisions for you, without affordances to prevent it.

On the other hand, you will also have to admit that it is very cool to be able to just drag an object to an artboard and have it immediately nested as a child to the artboard node in the document structure, at least in use cases that are different from the ones you have in mind. I can perfectly understand your frustration, João, for designers of info graphics will need the functions you described. You cannot really do maps without global layers. So, again, I think you are justified in your criticism, and I would endorse your request for a second look and some sensible tweaks. :)

Exactly, and as I've said before on the forums and now on my little demos, I totally get the thinking behind it. Which leads me back to the entire illustration vs. design, and Designer vs. Illustrator switcheroo. Both apps are trying to address both fields at the same time, and the old 80 lbs. incumbent gorilla is still best suited for design, whereas the nimble newcomer is most definitely more suited for – and more popular among – the illustration crowd, precisely because of the features which you've mentioned and I'm addressing more as bugs than as features (not because they are bad ideas per se, but because they a) need to be optional and b) need a lot more polish).

What frustrates me to no end is seeing that Designer is one centimeter away from being great for really complex design work as well and kick the gorilla in its proverbial groin. Heck, rename the current Vector Persona into an Illustration Persona and recreate a new, tweaked Design Persona if you must, or create two entirely new ones from scratch with slightly different behaviours (yes, it's a very Charing-Cross-becoming-Embankment-and-Strand-becoming-Charing-Cross kind of thing, but if you must do it, please do it ASAP).

That was supposed to be the beauty of Affinity, right? Personas. I don't know if that's the solution, but it would certainly be a way of looking at it, and totally justify momentous changes of behaviour and apparent document structure. That's definitely discoverable and predictable, IMHO. Perhaps save it for v.2 but, if possible, the groundwork for such a set of features could perhaps be laid down and tested in the real world right now. Plus, it would further differentiate Designer from Publisher (which should still feature a cut-down/consolidated Vector Persona), and bring it a bit more on par with Photo (which appears to be, at first glance and with its five Personas, a much more complex application).

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You know, a great way of summarising this entire issue is thusly:

Affinity Designer is like a great set of brushes, pens, rulers, protractors, compass, etc., but then the draftsman table it comes with has wheels under its feet, its surface is buttered so your stuff slides around, etc.

The problem with Designer is, then, not the tools, but the canvas. And my choice of word isn't innocent, either. That's a physical, white thing atop of which you scratch with pigments and splosh paint. I've said this before here on the forums about abstraction, left-vs.-right-brain, etc.; Illustrator is very WYSIWYG, even if it uses some apparently abstract conventions like the all-inclusive pasteboard (they're not abstract at all, however; originally, Ai was thought-out as a literal table where you had a literal, single sheet of paper, and now it's thought-out as a literal table with multiple sheets of paper, just like Freehand was). And that behaviour in AD we're discussing here is an attempt to make it even more WYSIWYG but, in its… AI-ness (as in artificial intelligence, not Adobe Illustrator :P ), can and does rub many users off the wrong way. It rubs me off the wrong way just like, say, iTunes' and Apple Photos' automatic library management rubs off Windows switchers, used to manage their stuff manually, the wrong way.

The difference being that if you buy a Mac, you're not forced to use either of those apps and can carry on doing stuff the old fashioned way, whereas switching from Ai to Affinity Designer forces you to give up useful – nay, essential – workflows for certain kinds of projects. Do you now see the deeper, underlying philosophical issues I'm getting at?

Automatic ≠ WYSIWYG (especially if having a layer above an artboard creates the opposite expectation on the user…). And database (something which Affinity Designer's rigid container tree does feel a lot like) ≠ WYSIWYG. If you're working on a physical table, you may have a single sheet of transparent paper over many other sheets of paper, am I right? Shouldn't you be able to work on that level/layer unhindered, then, just like in real life? Unfortunately, from a purely psychological standpoint, AD really is also worse for visual creatives (including, yes, illustrators) than Serif devs think (no, we don't usually conceptualise our work as boxes inside other boxes, but as layers of meaning/material/pigment – the lowest of which is always the paper or the canvas, hence the reason why we’d never think of an artboard as “containing” stuff, but, instead, as the substrate atop which stuff is layered, or the final artwork cropping area extracted from a larger substrate – which can be common across several different pieces – and, indeed, I've seen people working on many at the same time and on the same table –, and that also includes web and interface design! This still comes from the annals of analog media, when stuff was physically layered and then photographed for print production, and students are still taught that way in fine arts schools and faculties). It really feels like AD was designed by engineers more than Adobe's offering was, and I never really thought of ever saying this about any piece of commercial software (GNU/GPL/FOSS stuff is a different matter), ever, as that's a common grievance when it comes to users calling out the latter's developers on their mistakes (like, say, on that infamous thread about gradients in Photoshop I always love to quote as an example).

Look, I'm no UX expert. But I've been doing design for almost 20 years, formally studying it for 15, practicing it professionally for around 10 and am just now starting to teach it in earnest. And I've dated a painter and illustrator (who works with actual, physical media, but also with digital tools) for a couple of years and watched her and her colleagues very closely while they worked. I know how designers and illustrators work and think, and I assure you Serif devs are absolutely in the wrong here. In real life™, physical media doesn't change its z position just because you tweaked the other two axes, you know? But that wouldn't even be an issue if we had a choice, and from a technical standpoint there are strong hints that such a choice may indeed be on the table (pun unintended), and that Serif may not be as boxed in (pun also unintended) with this model as it may appear. Let creatives be creatives and use their tools in a freer way, and if Serif devs manage to reconcile both models, they'll achieve something rather hard and not quite unlike squaring the circle. But I do think it's doable, and I'm dead sure it must be done. ;) 

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On 5/23/2019 at 8:01 AM, CLC said:

I could never word this better @JGD - thank you so much!

I know I'm rather verbose, and could probably say as much with less than half of the walls of text I output here every now and then, but I try my best. I really want Affinity to be as close to perfect for everybody as possible. And I'm glad you're all paying attention to that. ;)

Anyway, keep the suggestions coming. I'm sure we'll all get at a workable solution.

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On 5/22/2019 at 10:56 PM, A_B_C said:

Personally, I wouldn’t call Designer “dumbed down” or its UX results “disastrous,” as they work pretty well for a whole lot of scenarios. And I also understand that the developers are reluctant to make changes that are certainly of the far-reaching sort. But apart from that, I am clearly seeing what you are after, and it makes a lot of sense to me. There is also the parallel, still unresolved problem of “global layers” in Publisher that is a real hindrance in some use cases. So I fear there is still some conceptual work lying ahead … :)

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66164-wrong-layer-concept-for-an-layout-application/

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66333-publisher-some-thoughts/

But it seems that global layers are on the roadmap already:

https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/66164-wrong-layer-concept-for-an-layout-application/&tab=comments#comment-400240

:)

I'm quoting you again because only now did I have the time to properly check out the other threads.

So, as I said, there are indeed other users speaking about this issue in as strong a language as I am (“wrong layer concept”, “users won't take Affinity seriously”, etc.). The omission of Global/Universal/Document layers is severe enough to make some users dismiss the Affinity Suite altogether as an Adobe CC alternative.

@TonyB was made aware of that, as his quoted reply on one of those threads seems to imply, but I feel I should tag him anyway, because this mustn't be a Designer-only or Publisher-only issue, and the proliferation of similar requests across the board proves just that. Many projects of a certain level and/or kind of complexity, whether they are DTP or large-scale print ones, absolutely require this feature, and even optimistic and enthusiastic potential switchers like myself won't do so until it is properly implemented.

Tools are flashy and make quite an impression on feature set website pages and social media posts, as do all those state-of-the-art technologies, formats and standards already supported by Affinity apps; but low-level, workflow-defining behaviours and features like this one are absolutely make-or-break and those upon which users decide to stick with an app or not. You're better off attracting users to strong, dependable apps still lacking some tools (users can always fire up a CS5 counterpart or something else if they need to trace a bitmap into a vector, or do a vector blend, or use a specific Photoshop filter, or something else altogether), than doing things the other way around (what good are Affinity's nice tools if users feel more like using Adobe CS/CC apps from the ground up anyway? Case in point: I've been using AD/APhoto for the occasional gradient, which I then import straight into Illustrator or InDesign, so… that's telling).

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On 5/23/2019 at 12:49 AM, JGD said:

It really feels like AD was designed by engineers more than Adobe's offering was, and I never really thought of ever saying this about any piece of commercial software

>:(

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On 5/31/2019 at 1:51 AM, Jowday said:

>:(

You seem to be… err, mad, and judging from the lack of positive reactions to my other posts, you don't seem to agree with my stance, either, but… care to at least elaborate on why?

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32 minutes ago, JGD said:

You seem to be… err, mad

..or agreeing with you and angry with the developers. We'll see, if he returns.


Patrick Connor

Serif (Europe) Ltd.

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13 hours ago, Patrick Connor said:

..or agreeing with you and angry with the developers. We'll see, if he returns.

True. Still, even with the current limitation in number of reactions per day (which sometimes feels a bit constraining, but I understand where you're coming from with that), it would be nice to have some more elaborate feedback from other users than the odd and not very constructive emoji. :P Or, you know, some suggestions as to alternative UX models or even workarounds (I just came up with one in a different thread: using AD more like Ai CS2 and older, as in, not using artboards at all while in the designing process, but just for exporting the final artwork for printing/linking… It's not 100% practical or elegant, but a functional workaround nonetheless).

Debating stuff, if done with respect, is healthy, and I hope you take my jabs at you well. I don't wish to make users mad at you and pile up on you for the sake of it, and if that's the end result of my rants, well, I'm very sorry. All I say here is in good faith and with a very specific goal which is arguably in your best interests, and I'm not even mad or angry, just a bit sad and disappointed at the overall slowness of this process of attracting new users to the fold (I really wanted to work towards that goal in earnest, but I just can't bring myself to do it until a certain bare minimum of functionality is met, and I'd say this is the last big hurdle to be overcome). But oh well, at least I know I and others are being heard, which is much more than you can say about the competition. ;)

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16 hours ago, Patrick Connor said:

..or agreeing with you and angry with the developers. We'll see, if he returns.

Bingo :) Well, not exactly. I HOPE! I am 'angry' with the decision makers. However I share @JGD's feeling that engineers made feature design decisions here and there. Fx one of the features in Designer we saw early in the beta - that has been withdrawn. Hardly a popular feature request.

Release early and often: "early and frequent releases in creating a tight feedback loop between developers and testers or users, contrary to a feature-based release strategy"

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On 6/1/2019 at 10:44 PM, Jowday said:

Bingo :) Well, not exactly. I HOPE! I am 'angry' with the decision makers. However I share @JGD's feeling that engineers made feature design decisions here and there. Fx one of the features in Designer we saw early in the beta - that has been withdrawn. Hardly a popular feature request.

Release early and often: "early and frequent releases in creating a tight feedback loop between developers and testers or users, contrary to a feature-based release strategy"

What feature are you alluding to, pray tell? Maybe I missed something, and/or I'm not fully understanding your comment.

As for the development strategy, I do believe you can and should have a mix of both.

Yes, you must adhere to some sort of over-arching strategy, lest you give off that aimless vibe I was talking about before, and not just pander to whatever preconceived notions of your audience, as that would also devolve into the whole “giving them a faster horse” thing.

On the other hand, you really should listen to your user base if they flat-out tell you that one of your ideas is completely nonsensical and hinders them more than it helps them. Yes, even if that means buckling to one of said “preconceived notions”, because not all of them are inherently bad/wrong. I can absolutely guarantee that while Adobe's implementation of multiple artboards isn't as elegant as it might have been (Freehand's, as far as I can remember, was much more so, as you could even select and focus on the damn things directly on the Navigation panel, and I can't for the life of me understand nor accept how Adobe, being the sole owners of Macromedia's entire IP, couldn't have straight up lifted the entire UX from FH and put it into Ai after all these years), the overall layer concept and its relation to artboards is more flexible, WYSIWYG and intuitive.

And that's not just for me, but for the entire combined mad-at-Adobe-because-of-CC Ai, former-and-even-more-disgruntled-because-of-the-Macromedia-takeover FreeHand, and curious CorelDRAW user base that Serif seems to wish to attract judging from their marketing (even though, in all fairness, they seem to be gearing themselves towards the Pixelmator and Sketch crowd with the actual product). And it's a very safe extrapolation for me to do because I happen to have used all three applications throughout my career, and so did many of my colleagues (CorelDRAW being very popular in secondary education in my country and elsewhere in Europe, I believe, and the former two in undergraduate and professional education since time immemorial); I really feel dead sure that Serif's management and devs are shooting themselves on the foot with this.

Unless, of course, that is a remnant of Draw Plus' UX, to which I also say – much to the chagrin of Plus users, which I know are also a bit disgruntled – good riddance. They weren't afraid of distancing themselves from their old suite in the past, and if it's the case again they shouldn't be now, either. In any case, whether it's a rehash of an old idea or a brand new one, this whole lack of universal layer support and “artboards-as-containers” thing is the proverbial hill I'm willing to die on.

Users are willing to tolerate drastic changes/omissions to their tools, and even to the UI (Corel's, for instance, is very different from everything else, with those ridiculous panels that only open one at a time and waste huge amounts of screen space, and that's one of the reasons I personally didn't wish to go back to it even if I had the chance – and, in fact, I now do once again –, but if I was forced to at least I would be able to, you know, do my job somewhat unhindered; and I guess the same goes for Quark, even with its likewise stupid, non-standard keyboard shortcuts, and its limited tool set…), but there's only so much divergence they are willing to accept and live with when it comes to core features and workflows. And if those changes/omissions render a piece of software useless for half of their projects, it's all but guaranteed they will just ignore it or, worse even, if they are reviewers or influencers, outright pan it.

Once again, my mention of Corel and Quark isn't that innocent, either. Right now, Adobe has real, cross-platform competition from three different companies, and while Serif is the only one which offers a comprehensive and affordable suite that also runs on iOS, the other two also offer perpetual licenses, so if you're that mad at Adobe you could, in theory, buy a CorelDRAW suite and a QuarkXPress licence and have, right here and right now, a complete, mature, industry-standard and cross-plaftorm solution on desktop hardware. Ever since CorelDRAW came back to the Mac, this scenario became a serious existential threat to Serif, IMHO. No matter how expensive those products are, we all have to face that reality head-on, because… guess what, schools can get those software packages at a reduced price, too. On the other hand – and I'll say it again –, judging from Corel's feeble commitment to the Mac and Quark's abysmal response to Apple's technological transitions in the past, the upcoming transition of the Mac to ARM-based A-series processors is a golden opportunity for Serif. But that will only work in their favour if their product is ready for competing with the “big boys”, which, no matter how good their sales figures may look, I feel it still isn't.

Edit: even with the latest “2 million users” milestone revealed at the Serif Keynote, I'm not budging on my last statement. How many of those two million bought Affinity apps and then left them in the drawer? Are those stats for customers, as in people who purchased the apps, or individual active users in the last “x” days? And how many of them are just dabbling with the apps while they get up to speed, instead of being heavy, daily or near-daily users?

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I have to agree with most of what JGD is saying. I've had Illustrator on my desktop for 20 years or more but I rarely used it because I found the interface confusing. And because I rarely used it I never got comfortable with the interface. Designer's interface is way more straight forward to me but once I began using it for larger projects I found the Layers panel a chore, for a number of reasons. It may be the one thing that I struggle with in the program.

Oddly enough, in the past week I've seen a YouTube video; had a colleague send me an Illustrator file; and seen this post here, all using Illustrator for tasks I would have used InDesign for. The example in this post could go either way though IMHO. People certainly expect to use Designer in the same way they've used Illustrator in the past.

While I think the Layers panel could use some rethinking I'm not sure if it's the earth-shattering deal breaker the poster believes it is or whether Publisher with a link to Designer would be the logical platform for this kind of work. In general I think Artboards should be more like pages with a separate panel and universal layer system and the Layers panel should more easily distinguish between groups, layers and masked items.

 

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