Adobe Creative Cloud Across the Curriculum: A Guide for Students and Teachers

2C: The 5 Elements You Need to Know about Every Creative Cloud Workspace (Interface)

6. ACC interfaces and menus -- settings, preferences, templates, and art boards
When you first launch a Creative Cloud application, you need to establish preferences and settings before you create a new project. If you’re just beginning, you probably want to rely on the original settings and preferences and not change them, but even so you need to know that they exist and can be revised. For example, in InDesign, you might want to set your “units & increments” for either millimeters, inches, picas, or pixels, depending on your purposes. In Premiere Pro, I like to set the default on the still images I import to 10 seconds instead of 5 seconds.

Creative Cloud becomes increasingly user-friendly with each update, and one of the things it now does better than ever is to provide templates that anticipate the most common formats beginners want to use. It also makes it easy to switch between them. These templates handle a number of settings and preferences so you don’t have to worry about them, although you can almost always override such presets when you need to.

In Photoshop and XD, these templates are called “artboards,” and there are preset artboards to choose from when you start a new design project for web, mobile, or tablet. In many cases, you can save your work in different formats with different settings. For example, In Premiere Pro, you can save your sequences in standard definition for quick streaming or you can export in high definition (HD) or ultra-high definition (4k).

Chapter One asks you “What do you want to create today?”  because you should always ask that question as you begin any new project in Creative Cloud. What genre or format will you use to publish and circulate your final work? You need to have some understanding of the final destination in order to start a project in Creative Cloud with the right settings, preferences, templates, and artboards.

7. ACC interfaces and menus -- workspaces, saving, sharing
Workspaces are very personal. Just look at someone’s desk at work, at home, in an office, at a studio, or in a cubicle. We each have individualized ways of working. Some people like to have photographs of their family nearby. Others have artwork or cartoons. So it is with the workspaces or interfaces within each Creative Cloud application: They are individualized.

Each workspace, in each different application, begins with a standard arrangement, but these can be customized depending on the tools you use most. Each interface does have some things that don’t change very much such as tools (#8 below) and menus (#9). Tools such as the selection arrow or cropping tool are typically in a vertical stack against the left edge of the screen, and the main-menu functions are horizontal across the top of the screen.

The space in the middle, in between the menus on the edges of the screen, is like a tabletop, canvas, or pottery wheel — it’s where you pull things together, work on them, and create. This central pane is where you actually get the work done, but the entire interface, including all of the menus and tools, is called the “workspace.”

All of the Creative Cloud workspaces and interfaces have a similar look and function so that once you learn one application, it’s much easier to use the others. Creative Cloud workspaces have consistent functions, names, and tendencies — the main tools are on the left, the main functions are in a pull-down menu from the top, and you’re able to customize the organization.

On the other hand, each media format is so unique that the workspaces will have some important differences. In some ways a film is like a photograph, but in others it’s very different, which is why Photoshop has a different interface than Premiere Pro.

There are many aspects to these workspaces, but two of the most essential are saving and sharing your work. Many of the applications have automatic Save features, but it’s still a good idea to save your progress regularly. I use the keyboard shortcut commands (Command-S) probably about once every minute or two. Sharing your work is essential as well. Most Creative Cloud applications have a Share button or Export menu at the top of the screen. You should figure out how to share and export your work in your first days working with any application. 

8. Understanding the Main Tools
Every Creative Cloud application workspace or interface has a column of main tools, represented by icons, typically in a vertical stack toward the left edge of the screen. Think of this column as your toolbox for each application. You grab a hammer to drive a nail. Then you use a paintbrush to paint. Next you might drill a hole using a different tool.

These toolboxes can look intimidating at first. Photoshop and Illustrator have over a dozen tools in the standard toolbox, and many of the tool icons can be clicked to reveal different varieties of the tool. But don’t be intimidated, because novices and professionals alike tend only use a couple of these tools at a time — never the entire toolbox at once. You can basically use two-to-four tools in each application to get about 90% of your work done, at least at first.

Further, the tool icons are self-explanatory: The arrow selects things, the straight line draws lines, the paint brush paints strokes, the letter “T” is the text tool for typing, etc.

Like all software, Creative Cloud applications have pull-down menus for the most common functions across the top of the screen. When you’re new to an application, you’ll go back and forth between the toolbox on the left of the screen and the function menu across the top. Those make up your “home” — the safe and reliable places to go.

The best way, of course, to really understand how the workspaces, menus, and tools work is to actually put your hands on the applications and play around with them. The explanations here can help orient you in general, and the tutorials can show these principles in action, but you really need to try them out on your own to get the picture.

9. Understanding panes, panels, and properties.
Element 7 above talked about the Creative Cloud general workspaces, and Element 8 described the toolboxes and menus. You’ll also encounter a number of panes, panels, and properties throughout these applications.

A pane is a rectangle in the workspace that holds a variety of other tools and panels. For example, the main toolbox is a panel that holds a collection of tools. A panel is a smaller pane or a sub-pane that typically has a list of things or options. Property settings are in very small panels. Properties give more detailed information within a panel, often a numeric value for something.
Creative Cloud workspaces, panes, panels, and properties are nested, which means that one is located inside the other.

Not all panes, panels, and properties are always visible. To make them appear or disappear, you typically click the Window pull-down menu at the top of the application screen and then select the pane, panel, or property you wish to see. Sometimes there are arrows to either expand a panel or to shrink it. And sometimes properties include numbers, sliders, or selection devices to reveal or change those values.

Until you watch a tutorial and experiment with panes, panels, and properties, it’s difficult to get a sense of what they are and how they work. But you do need to be aware that, like all aspects of Creative Cloud, workspace/interfaces, panes, panels, and properties can be customized in terms of the ways they appear in your own workspace. You might conceal certain panels and reveal others. You can often shrink or expand the sides of a pane to make your workspace more manageable and visible. You can close panels and make them disappear and open new panels through the Window pull down-menu.

10. Getting help and solving problems.
Chapter One describes the goal of becoming a knowledge producer rather than a media consumer. And in order to become a media producer, you’ll need to learn how to solve technical problems on your own and with the help of others.

If you have a problem with your hardware or operating system, you’ll want to contact a computer consultant. (By the way, 90% of those problems can be solved by saving your work regularly and rebooting your computer when you hit a dead end.)

When the problem involves not knowing how to operate the software, I suggest the following steps to solve it:
  1. Spend at least five minutes trying out different solutions on your own, because doing so develops your instincts and abilities for tackling future problems.
  2. Use the Help feature in the Creative Cloud menu itself. This is particularly helpful for locating functions or commands that you know exist.
  3. Go online and search for advice regarding the problem. Type in the name of the application as well as “how to,” and then describe what you’re looking for in as few words as possible.
  4. Search YouTube for advice on the problem, in case there’s a tutorial.
  5. Educational services like have detailed tutorials covering specific functions in all Creative Cloud applications, but you might not have access to those resources.
  6. If you can’t solve the problem on your own using steps 1-5, it’s time to consult your local Creative Cloud expert. This could be a friend, a media lab attendant, a librarian, or perhaps your instructor.
  7. If you still can’t solve the problem, return to the concept of Principle 2 (in Section 2b): Since there are “many paths to god,” try going at the issue from a very different approach, using a different app or different functions to accomplish approximately the same thing.

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