Adobe Creative Suite: Using Palettes in the Workspace

Palettes are an integral part of working with most of the programs in the Adobe Creative Suite because they contain many of the controls and tools that you use when you're creating or editing a document. The basic functionality of palettes is quite similar across the programs in the Adobe Creative Suite, and the purpose of all palettes is the same. Palettes offer you a lot of flexibility in how you organize the workspace and what parts of it you use. What you use each program for and the level of expertise you have might affect what palettes you have open at a given moment.

Palettes are small windows in a program that contain controls such as sliders, menus, buttons, and text fields that you can use to change the settings or attributes of a selection or of the entire document. Palettes might also include information about a section or about the document itself. You can use this information or change the settings in a palette to modify the selected object or the document you're working on.

Whether you're working on a Windows machine or on a Mac, palettes are very similar in the way they look and work. Here are the basics of working with palettes:

  • Opening: Open a palette in one of the Creative Suite programs by using the Window menu; choose Window and then select the name of a palette. For example, to open the Swatches palette (which is similar in many programs in the suite), you would choose Window --> Swatches.
  • Accessing the palette menu: Palettes have a flyout menu called the palette menu. The palette menu opens when you click the arrow in the upper-right corner of the palette. The palette menu contains a bunch of options that you can select that relate to the tab that is currently selected when you click the palette menu. When you select one of the options in the menu, it might execute an action or open a dialog box. Sometimes there are very few options in a palette menu, but particular palettes may have a whole bunch of related functionality and therefore many options in the palette menu.
  • Closing: If you need to open or close a palette's tab or palette altogether, just choose Window --> Name of Palette's Tab. You can close a palette the same way: All you need to do is select an open palette in the Window menu, and it will close. Sometimes a palette contains a close button (an X button in Windows or the red button on a Mac), which you can click to close the palette.
  • Minimizing/maximizing: All you need to do to minimize a selected palette is to click the minimize button in the title bar of the palette (if it's available). You can also double-click the tab itself (of an active tab) in the palette. This will either partially or fully minimize the palette. If it only partially minimizes, double-clicking the tab again will fully minimize the palette. Double-clicking the active tab when it's minimized will maximize the palette again.

You might also see what's called the cycle widget when a palette can be partially minimized and maximized. This is a small double-sided arrow that appears to the left of the palette's name on the tab. If you click this arrow, it progressively expands or collapses the palette.

Palettes that partially minimize give you the opportunity to work with palettes that have differing amounts of information. This simplifies the workspace while maximizing your screen real estate.

Most palettes contain tabs, which help organize information and controls in a program into groupings. Palette tabs contain a particular kind of information about a part of the program; a single palette may contain several tabs. The name on the tab usually gives you a hint about the type of function it controls or displays information about, and it is located at the top of the palette (or to the left of the palette when you're using side tabs).

To minimize a side tab (which we discuss further in the following section), you need to click in the gray area that surrounds the tab(s) in a palette. This collapses the side tab into the side of the workspace. To maximize a minimized side tab, click one of the tabs in the palette.

You can also minimize a side tab by clicking the active tab in a palette. If you click an inactive tab, the palette only switches to that tab in the palette so that you can work with it.

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