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Specialized Panels

The panels discussed so far—the panels you'll use most often—all appear at the bottom of the list in the Windows menu, below a horizontal line. Above that separator are a host of other, more specialized panels:

  • As its name implies, the Tools panel contains an assortment of tools to perform specialized tasks (see Figure 5). The Tools panel also contains buttons for changing the 3D axis and a menu for selecting a workspace.
    Figure 5

    Figure 5 The Tools panel typically extends horizontally across the workspace; this figure shows a more compact configuration.

  • The Info panel displays all kinds of information about the current task, from the cursor's current position in a composition to the In and Out points of a layer (see Figure 6).
    Figure 6

    Figure 6 The Info panel displays pertinent information about the task at hand.

  • The Preview panel contains controls for playing back and previewing the composition. By default, setting a composition's current time also sets the time in all panels related to that composition (see Figure 7).
    Figure 7

    Figure 7 The Preview panel contains controls for playback and previews.

  • The Audio panel lets you monitor and control audio levels (see Figure 8).
    Figure 8

    Figure 8 The Audio panel lets you monitor and control audio levels.

  • The Effects & Presets panel provides a convenient way to view and apply effects. You can reorganize the list, create and view favorites, and find a particular effect in the list or on your hard drive (see Figure 9).
    Figure 9

    Figure 9 The Effects & Presets panel makes it easy to find effects and save custom presets for animation.

  • The Character panel provides convenient text controls to support After Effects' direct text creation feature. It includes all the controls you'd expect—font, size, fill and stroke, kerning, leading, and the like. It also includes a few you might not expect—baseline shift, vertical and horizontal scaling, superscript and subscript, and a feature to aid in laying out characters in vertically oriented languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (see Figure 10).
    Figure 10

    Figure 10 The full-featured Character panel lets you control the characteristics of text you create in After Effects.

  • The Paragraph panel lets you control blocks of text as you would in a word-processing or layout program. You can specify justification, alignment, indents, and the spacing before and after paragraphs (see Figure 11).
    Figure 11

    Figure 11 You can control blocks of text using the Paragraph panel, which lets you adjust settings such as alignment, justification, and indents.

  • The Paint panel provides full control over the characteristics of paint, such as color, opacity, and flow. You can also specify which channel you want to paint onto and whether to apply a mode to each stroke (see Figure 12).
    Figure 12

    Figure 12 The Paint panel gives you control over After Effects' painting and cloning features.

  • The Brushes panel not only provides a menu of preset brushes, but lets you create brushes and specify their characteristics, such as diameter, angle, roundness, hardness, and so on (see Figure 13).
    Figure 13

    Figure 13 The Brushes panel lets you select the characteristics of the brush you employ.

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