Contents - Layers

The Layers panel of the Contents pane lists all layers in a window and provides basic controls: we can alter the order of layers in the  display stack, to change layer opacity, and turn layers on and off.  The Layers panel also allows us to specify the background color of a window.


Click the Layers title bar to pop it open if a different Contents pane panel, such as Component or Record, is open.


In addition to the layers tab strip at the bottom of a window the Layers panel is our primary interface to see what is in the window and to manage layers.    The list shows the display order of layers in the window, with higher layers in the list rendered above lower layers in the list.  A "virtual layer" called the Background appears at the bottom of the list to allow us to control the background color of the window and to turn background color off and on.


The Layers panel shares many of the same controls as a table.  For example, the keyboard arrow keys move the current cell, indicated by a dotted outline, up and down, left and right.    Layers can be selected just like rows in tables can be selected.


For a step-by-step illustrated tutorial to the Layers panel, see the Example: Layers Tutorial topic.




Toolbar Enabled for Selected Layers

The toolbar at the top of the Layers panel is enabled when one or more layers have been selected by Ctrl-clicking a layer.  




The move commands are not enabled if there is only one layer, nor are they enabled when only the Background is selected.  The Delete button is not enabled for the Background and it is not enabled when one layer remains in a drawing, image or labels window.


Ctrl-click on a layer to select it or deselect it.  Double-click onto a layer to toggle it on/off.   Double-click into an opacity % setting or into the background color well to change opacity or color.


  icon_move_up.png Move up

Move each selected layer up in the list.

icon_move_down.png  Move down

Move each selected layer down in the list.

icon_move_top.png Move to Top

Move all selected layers to the top of the list, retaining their relative orders in a group at the top of the stack.

icon_move_bottom.png Move to Bottom

Move all selected layers to the bottom of the list,, retaining their relative orders in a group at the bottom of the stack.

icon_delete.png  Delete

Delete all selected layers from the window. We cannot delete the Background from a window. This does not delete the components from the project: it only removes them as layers from the window.  If a map has one layer we can delete that to leave a blank map.  However, with only one layer in a drawing, image or labels window we cannot delete the defining layer from its own window.   


Opacity of a layer in percent.  Double-click into the opacity % setting to change the opacity.  Applies to all selected layers.


Layer off (empty box) or on (filled box).  Double-click a layer name or the on/off box to toggle the layer off and on.  Applies to all selected layers.


Color well showing the background color.  Double-click into the color well to change the background color.


Ctrl-click onto a layer row to select that layer.


Move buttons will move all selected layers together.   Selected layers need not be next to each other in the stack to be moved in the same relative direction up or down.   Commands will have no action on layers for which they are impossible.  For example, if several layers are selected and one of them is the lowest layer in the stack then that last layer will not move on a Move down command while the rest the selected layers will move down one step.

Keyboard Controls

Experienced users working with many layers report it is often much quicker to use the keyboard to toggle layers on/off, to select layers, and to move selected layers up and down.


Ctrl-A, Ctrl-I

Ctrl-A is Select All, to select all layers.  Ctrl-I is Select Inverse, to invert the selection.  A quick way to de-select all layers is to do a quick Ctrl-A followed by a Ctrl-I.


Select / Deselect current layer.

Ctrl-Up Arrow

Ctrl-Down Arrow

Move selected layers up or down in the stack.


Control current cell: Toggle current layer on/off or  begin editing opacity.

Arrow Keys

Move current cell up / down / left / right.


Move current cell all the way to the left (layer names).


Move current cell all the way to the right (on/off box).


Move current cell to the top layer.


Move current cell to the bottom layer (Background).

Page Up

Page Down

Move current cell up or down one page's worth.

Scroll bar

A vertical scroll bar appears when there are more layers than can fit into the display.   Scrolling the display does not move the current cell.

Scroll bar context menu

Right-clicking onto the scroll bar calls up a context menu:

  • Scroll Here - Drag the scroll bar handle to the spot right-clicked and scroll the display accordingly.

  • Top - Scroll the display to the top.

  • Bottom - Scroll the display to the bottom.

  • Page Up - Scroll the display up one page.

  • Page Down - Scroll the display down one page.

  • Scroll Up - Scroll the display up one row.

  • Scroll Down - Scroll the display down one row.

Controls Apply to All Selected Layers

Controls such as opacity, the layer on/off boxes or various Move Up or Move Down controls apply to all selected layers.    This allows us to apply the same settings or action to many layers at once.   Selecting more than one layer is a convenient way of moving more than one layer up or down, simultaneously changing the opacity of multiple layers at once and so on.

Example:   Turn Many Layers On or Off

When there are many layers in a window it can be much quicker to turn layers off and on by using the Layers panel instead of double-clicking tabs in the tab strip of a window.   Clever use of Selection with Ctrl-A to Select All and Ctrl-I to Select Inverse can greatly reduce the number of clicks.    


Suppose we start with a mix of many layers, some of which are on and some of which are off:




   We want to turn on all layers except four layers.


eg_quick_layers_change01_02.png   eg_quick_layers_change01_03.png


We select the four layers we want off and double-click as needed one of the layers to turn all four of those layers off.  


eg_quick_layers_change01_04.png   eg_quick_layers_change01_05.png


We then press Ctrl-I to invert the Selection and double-click as needed one of the layers to turn on all selected layers.   Done.

Background Color

The Layers panel shows a check box to turn the Background color on and off.  The Background is not a real layer in that it does not correspond to any drawing, image or labels layer in the context window.




The Background shows what color to put underneath all other layers. By default white, we can change it by double-clicking into the color well and we can turn it on or off for display like the other layers.   Changing the background color to a color other than white allows us easily to see if any white space in the window is part of the background or not.   See the Example: Layers Tutorial topic.  

Background in a Window



Consider a map with two layers as seen above, a Cities layer of points and a Regions layer that is a drawing of regions as areas.   By default the Layers panel uses white color for the background.


We can change the background color to a different color by double-clicking into the background color well and changing the color to any desired, such as the light green color seen above.




Double-clicking the Background layer turns off background color, showing the default checkerboard pattern that indicates transparency.


Background in Drawings

Background is a property of a specific component when opened in its own window.    Each individual component can have its background color set to some color different than the default by opening the component in a window and setting background color in the Layers panel.   The background color specified for a component applies whenever the component is opened in its own window, but not when the component participates as a layer in some other window.




For example, we can double-click open in its own drawing window the Regions drawing used as a layer in the example map earlier in this topic.  The Layers panel shows one layer for a drawing window until other layers are added to the window. The background color by default is white.




Just as with a map, double-clicking the Background layer turns off background color, showing the default checkerboard pattern that indicates transparency.



We can double-click into the background color well to change the background color for the drawing to a blue color as seen above.   Changing the color for a drawing's background will apply only when that drawing is opened in its own window.   It will not apply if the drawing is used as a layer in a map.




For example, we can open the Regions drawing in its own window at the same time that it is used as a layer in a map window.   With the focus on the map window, the Layers panel shows the background color specified for the map, a light green.   The blue color used as a background for the Regions drawing does not carry over into the map.

Visual Effects

Changing the background color can dramatically change the appearance of a window.   The following three illustrations below show the effects of changing only the background color from the default white, to black to green.




It is important to consider background color when using Style to choose colors for objects in drawings.   In the illustrations above a white background hides the yellow road lines while a black background hides the black line used for a railroad.  The formatting shown above was intended for use with a green background color, and not with white or black background.   It is obviously a bad idea to use the same background color as used by objects in a map.  See more examples in the Example: How Not to Format a Drawing  topic.


Besides the practical aspect of not using a background color that is the same as a color used for objects in a drawing, the choice of background color can have a big aesthetic effect.  The background color set by the Layers panel can dramatically change the look and feel of a visual display, as seen below where different formatting using the Style panel is combined with different choices of background color in the Layers panel.  The objects in all three examples are exactly the same.





See Also

Getting Started


User Interface Basics












Layer Opacity




Contents Pane


Contents - Record


Contents - Style


Transform: Overlay Topology


Example: Layers Tutorial - We take a tour of the Layers panel in the Contents pane, learning how to manage layer display order, select layers, turn several layers on and off at the same time, alter opacity settings for one or more layers and how to change background color.


Example: Style Panel Quickstart - A tutorial introduction to using the Style panel in the Contents pane to apply color, symbology, size and rotation to areas, lines and points in drawings.


Example: How Not to Format a Drawing - When using Style to format a drawing it is a really bad idea to use the same color for objects that is used for the background color.   It can also be a bad idea to use transparent color for objects.   This topic illustrates why.



Manifold Future - Future Tour Part 1 - This video shows how to download and use a portable installation for Manifold Future.  The video also shows the Contents, pane, layers and layer opacity, one click use of data source favorites, using your own archival favorite and getting record values instantly.  If you are using Viewer or Radian Studio, download and use the Future version to get access to all these powerful new features.