Less messy, InDesign-style layers
Photoshop-style layers (one layer per object) quickly creates a messy layers palette which encourages far too much pointing, clicking, dragging, grouping, naming and organising - it breeds design inefficiency.
We’ve been using Photoshop for web design in spite of this, not because of it!
Few will request this feature so please take a leadership role and ensure fast, digital design iteration isn’t ruined by photo editing paradigms.
Loving this much-needed application so far - great work!
Forrest Corbett commented
Fully agree. Photoshop has Group in layers (as opposed to Group as in grouped objects). I'd be fine with that as well.
Corey, the artboard-only layer display is an interesting twist. It's different, but I like it. Still, the files I work on have many hundreds, if not thousands of layers. (Very complicated interfaces.) I need to be able to handle layers as an aggregate, not individually. And groups, as it exists in XD, doesn't cut it.
I love the idea of this being built from the ground up as a new, streamlined tool, and I'm very happy with most of it. I need the ability to group layers without grouping the objects. I find myself grouping layers so I can easily find what I need, but that slows me way down because I can't individually select objects that are now grouped.
Ron Frank commented
I can provide a use case. Though, an overall background layer was already mentioned. Additionally, having all ones comments on a layer — across artboards! — makes it so one can export with or without those comments with just a single click. Also, with Illustrator type layers, you can also see all the objects within a single layer.
I'm a big fan of AI / ID layers and see nearly no use for the current one. Clearly, I'm in the minority though. Sketch is doing great, and they also do not have layers the way Illustrator and InDesign do. I actually was considering a move to Sketch until I realized they too don't have what I'm looking for. So now I'm considering a move back to Illustrator. They have some nice new tools, including an asset export palette that looks compelling. BUT, I don't think they have prototyping, and that's great in XD.
Oh, and I think Dale's answer also explains what I was getting at - cheers
@Cory Lucier 'Can you provide a specific usage scenario where an alternative representation is important?'
The current layers implementation in XD is fantastic for modifying objects and working at a detailed, technical level. However, most of us are not working at that level when iterating through design ideas.
In Photoshop, we’re modifying a photo in a fairly detailed and complex way - this is what Photoshop’s layers were built for and they work brilliantly.
Here’s the start of some wire frames I’m working on…
If I switch to the layers palette, I just see a mirror of the artboards, which isn’t a very efficient use of a click…
And when clicking into that artboard’s layers, instead of clarity, I see a more confusing representation of the pasteboard (and this wireframe is about to get much more complicated)….
To make sense of the layers, I’d have to spend time grouping, naming and organising, and then spend more time maintaining that organisation, all while trying to quickly iterate through design ideas.
As an example of InDesign layers, here’s a on way to group stuff
It offers a different context for managing objects in the document and it’s always organised no matter what happens on the pasteboard.
I’d say one thing though, the InDesign feature that makes it’s layers panel work, is the ability to CMD + CLICK through objects on the pasteboard’s Z axis.
This largely removes the need to fiddle with the layers palette when trying to reach objects under other objects and allows you to use layers to simply group objects.
I thought I put in a request for that feature but can’t see the requests I’ve created, so can’t find it sorry.
Does that help at all? Essentially, Photoshop’s layers have never been conducive to efficient design, they’ve always slowed things down - I haven’t met a designer who ever said it was faster to work that way.
Without saying which implementation of layers is 'better', I imagine most people would request layers to be in the style of Photoshop as that is where they've come from and they're used to the 'each individual object is a layer' paradigm.
I personally believe Illustrator / InDesign-style layers are much more versatile and powerful. For example, I have a layer called 'BG' which I assign my background shapes to across all artboards. That way I can lock this layer and all background shapes across all artboards are locked. There is no easy way to do something like this in Photoshop / XD / Sketch.
The Illustrator / InDesign way of dealing with layers essentially deemphasises the need to manage individual objects. As the OP says, XD in its current iteration we must name and manage layers to keep the document tidy. Illustrator and InDesign do not require this to keep their documents tidy.
AdminCorey Lucier (Adobe) (Admin, Adobe) commented
Actually we've gotten pretty good feedback on the fact that localized/contextual object hierarchy was a welcome change. e.g. When working on an artboard the layers panel only displays a hierarchy representing that artboard, not the entire document. etc. These aren't compositing layers at all.
Can you provide a specific usage scenario where an alternative representation is important?