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Panels

Panels group related information into a few well-defined categories, such as Tools and Properties, making it easier to find what you're looking for. With a single click on the triangle to the left of the panel name, you can minimize or maximize panels, making it easier to keep your workspace uncluttered. A panel that is currently closed can be opened via the Window menu.

All panels can be docked and undocked, so you can arrange them the way you want. Position the cursor over the upper left corner of the panel. When the cursor turns into a “move” icon, click and drag to move the panel. (See Figure 3.5.) After a panel is undocked, you can move it around by clicking and dragging on the blue bar at the top of the panel, but you have to grab it by the upper left corner again to re-dock it. On the Mac, in Flash, you cannot dock panels to the Timeline or Stage, and the Property inspector floats on its own. By default, the Actions panel in Flash also opens free-floating on the Mac, but it can be docked.

Figure 3.5. To dock or undock a panel, grab it by the upper left corner.


You can resize some panels by positioning the cursor at an edge or corner. If the cursor turns into a two-headed arrow, as shown in the lower-right corner in Figure 3.6, the panel is resizable. Click and drag to resize.

Figure 3.6. To resize a panel, grab it by an edge or corner. If the cursor turns into a two-headed arrow, you can resize.


All the Studio MX programs have a Property inspector that provides contextual editing options based on the type of object selected, often giving you one-stop shopping for object editing. It's at the bottom of the screen, except in FreeHand, where by default all panels except Tools are on the right. (Refer to Figures 3.13.4.)

Sometimes the programs share just a few basic object attributes on the Property inspector. For instance, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, and FreeHand all work with bitmaps, but only two attributes—the width and height of the image—are common to all four programs. All but Dreamweaver also give the bitmap's position on an x-y coordinate grid. (See Figure 3.7.)

Figure 3.7. Clockwise from left: Bitmap properties in FreeHand, Flash and Fireworks.


Similarly, Fireworks, Flash, and FreeHand all have a “document” object, but the x and y dimensions of the document are the only common attributes. (See Figure 3.8.)

Figure 3.8. From top to bottom: Document properties in FreeHand, Flash and Fireworks.


One area of significant overlap is manipulating text. There are half a dozen or so common attributes for text objects—including styles such as bold and italic, left-right-center alignment, font, size, and color—most of them expressed in standard symbols familiar from applications such as Microsoft Word. (See Figure 3.9.)

Figure 3.9. Common text attributes, shown here in the Dreamweaver Property inspector.


Even where individual attributes are not the same from program to program, though, it's still a great efficiency-booster just to have almost everything related to a particular type of object gathered in one place, as opposed to being scattered in half a dozen different palettes, as was often the case a couple of versions back.

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