How to Use Panels in the Creative Cloud Workspace

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith

Panels are small windows in a Creative Cloud 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 an entire document. Panels may also include information about a section or about the document itself. You can use this information or change the settings in a panel to modify the selected object or the document you’re working on.

Whether you’re working on a Windows machine or on a Mac, panels are similar in the way they look and work. Here are the basic instructions for working with panels:

  • Open a panel: Open a panel in a Creative Cloud program by using the Window menu: Choose Window and then select the name of a panel. For example, to open the Swatches panel (which is similar in many programs in the Creative Cloud), choose Window  →  Swatches.
  • Close a panel: If you need to open or close a panel’s tab or panel altogether, just choose Window  →  Panel’s Tab Name. Sometimes a panel contains a close button (an X button in Windows or the red button on a Mac), which you can click to close the panel.
  • Organize the workspace: All Creative Cloud programs now offer options for workspace organization. You can return to the default workspace, which restores panels to their original locations, by choosing Window    →  Workspace    →  Default. You can also open frequently used panels, position them where you want, and save a customized workspace by choosing Window    →  Workspace    →  Save (or New) Workspace. Name the workspace and click OK; the saved workspace is now a menu item that you can open by choosing Window    →  Workspace    →  Your Saved Workspace’s Name.

    You can also choose from a wide range of included presets designed for a variety of specialized tasks.

  • Access the panel menu: Panels have a panel menu, which opens when you click the arrow in the upper-right corner of the panel. The panel menu contains a bunch of options you can select that relate to the selected tab when you click the panel menu. When you select an option from the panel menu, it may execute an action or open a dialog box. Sometimes a panel menu has just a few options, but particular panels may have a bunch of related functionality and therefore have many options on the panel menu.
  • Minimize/maximize: All you need to do to minimize a selected panel is click the Collapse to Icons double-arrow button on the title bar of the panel (if it’s available). If the panel is undocked, you can also double-click the tab itself in the panel. This action either partially or fully minimizes the panel. If it only partially minimizes, double-clicking the tab again fully minimizes it. Double-clicking the active tab when it’s minimized maximizes the panel again.

Panels that partially minimize give you the opportunity to work with panels that have differing amounts of information, which simplifies the workspace while maximizing your screen real estate.

panel menu Creative Cloud
Displaying the panel menu.

Most panels contain tabs, which help you organize information and controls in a program into groupings. Panel tabs contain a particular kind of information about a part of the program; a single panel 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’s located at the top of the panel. Inactive tabs are dimmed.

Moving panels

You can move panels all around the workspace, and you can add or remove single tabs from a panel. Each panel snaps to other panels, which makes it easier to arrange panels alongside each other. Panels can overlap each other as well. To snap panels to each other, drag the panel to a new location onscreen; you see the top bar of the panel become shaded, indicating that it’s becoming part of another panel’s group.

Group similar tabs by moving them into a single grouped panel. Accessing different functions in your document becomes a lot easier because then you have less searching to do to find related functions for a task. If you want to return to the original workspace, you can choose Reset Workspace from the Window menu in the Workspace category.

You can hide all panels by pressing the Tab key. Press it again to reveal all panels you’ve hidden.

Looking at common panels

Many panels are similar across programs in the Creative Cloud. Although not every panel has exactly the same content in every program it’s in, many have extremely similar content. You use these panels in similar ways, no matter which program or operating system you’re using.

Acrobat doesn’t contain numerous panels, like other programs in the Creative Cloud. Instead, Acrobat relies mainly (but not entirely) on a system of menus and toolbars filled with buttons and drop-down lists. In Acrobat, you can open dialog boxes that contain a bunch of settings you can enter for your documents.

The following panels are available in most, but not all, Creative Cloud programs. This list describes what you can do with each one:

  • Color: Select or mix colors for use in the document you’re working on. You can use different color modes and several ways of mixing or choosing colors in the Colors panel.
  • Info: See information about the document itself or a particular selection you’ve made. The Info panel includes information on the size, positioning, and rotation of selected objects. You can’t enter data into the Info panel: It only displays information without accepting it, so you have to use the Transform panel (described in this list) to make these modifications, if necessary.
  • Swatches: Create a swatch library, which can be saved and imported into other documents or other programs. You can store on the Swatches panel any colors and gradients you use repeatedly.
  • Tools: You use this important panel, sometimes called the toolbox (and not available in all Creative Cloud programs), to select tools — such as the Pencil, Brush, or Pen — to use in creating objects in a document.
  • Layers: Display and select layers, change the layer order, and select items on a particular layer.
  • Align: Align selected objects to each other or align them in relation to the document itself so that you can arrange objects precisely.
  • Stroke: Select strokes and change their attributes, such as color, width/weight, style, and cap. The program you’re using determines which attributes you can change.
  • Transform: Display and change the shear (skew), rotation, position, and size of a selected object in the document. You can enter new values for each transformation.
  • Character: Select fonts, font size, character spacing, and other settings related to u