Layers Cake

Fireworks‘ ability to share layers to multiple pages makes it much easier to build mockups sharing some screen elements. I suppose the feature enables use similar to how many designers use Photoshop’s Layer Comps, but without layers that you don’t want appearing cluttering up your panel and you can place a shared layer in a different stack position on each page. Great as the feature is, the UI for it has some problems:

  1. Fixed, relatively narrow width of the two panes; names get cut off around 25 characters (proportional font)
  2. Page numbers displayed in the Pages panel do not appear in the Share Layer to Pages modal window, which compounds the previous issue
  3. No page thumbnails to help you visually orient yourself
  4. No easy way to apply the sharing settings for one layer to another
  5. Newly shared layers are always placed at the top of the layer stack
  6. Button text labels consume space
  7. Button arrows are not graphical
  8. Vertical scrolltrack displayed regardless of need
  9. Though you can select multiple layers in the panel, only the last selected layer will be acted on; this makes it a real pain to create new pages once you’ve built up a set of layers that need to stay separate for flexibility
  10. The Escape key is not bound to the Cancel button
  11. Ok is not OK

I came up with three potential solutions with various pros and cons.

Multi-Layer Sharing Utility

This design would open to the current page by default (the canvas shows the selected page so you don’t need a thumbnail) and lets you share multiple layers to multiple pages in one pass. If a page already has one of several checked layers shared to it, the checkbox next to the page in the right pane would show the horizontal line mixed state.

Single Layer Sharing Popover

This could be invoked through the contextual menu on a top-level layer object on the canvas or, somewhat less smoothly, the existing Layers panel command (contextual or panel menu).

Modal Window with Usability Enhancements

Basically, let the whole window and the various panes be resized. I suspect most are not designing on 1024 x 768 displays anymore.

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Daniel J. Wilson

I am a designer, drummer, and photographer in Brooklyn, NY.

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