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Understanding the After Effects Workspace

After Effects offers a flexible, customizable workspace. The main window of the program is called the application window. The various panels are organized in this window in an arrangement called a workspace. The default workspace contains groups of panels as well as panels that stand alone, as shown in Figure 1. The following table lists the individual items shown in the workspace in Figure 1.




Application window


Tools panel


Project panel


Composition panel


Timeline panel


Time graph


Grouped panels (Info and Audio)


Time Controls panel


Effects & Presets panel

You customize a workspace by dragging the panels into the configuration that best suits your working style. You can drag panels to new locations, move panels into or out of a group, place panels alongside each other, and even undock a panel so that it floats in a new window above the application window. As you rearrange panels, the other panels resize automatically to fit the window.

When you drag a panel by its tab to relocate it, the area where you can drop it—called a drop zone—is highlighted. The drop zone determines where and how the panel is inserted into the workspace. Dragging a panel to a drop zone results in one of two behaviors: docking or grouping.

If you drop a panel along the edge of another panel, group, or window, it docks next to the existing group, resizing all groups to accommodate the new panel. If you drop a panel in the middle of another panel or group, or along the tab area of a panel, it will be added to the existing group and placed at the top of the stack. Grouping a panel doesn't resize other groups.

You also can open a panel in a floating window. To do so, select the panel and then choose Undock Panel or Undock Frame from the panel menu. Alternatively, you can drag the panel or group outside the application window.

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