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Customizing the Lightroom Interface

Lightroom is very efficient at importing, organizing, sorting and developing, but it makes a great tool for showing your work as well. The interface, while flexible and useful, can be customized to some degree so that you can present a professional, more polished image to your clients. With Lightroom’s customization features, you can simplify the visible part of the interface, and this can even help you streamline your workflow as well.

Today, we’re going to look at customizing the side panels.

Lightroom has lots of panels, and some modules have more than others. If you have a number of these panels open at the same time, you could find yourself scrolling, and scrolling, and scrolling. There’s a simpler way, though. If you right click on Windows, or Control-click on a Mac, on any of the panels, you get a menu that looks something like this.

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Notice the option for Solo mode? If we choose this, only one panel will remain open at a time. Click a new panel to open it, and any open panel will collapse into a tidy heading bar. This is a great way to keep things neat and to avoid that endless scrolling.

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Now, we can simplify things even further, by hiding the side panels entirely. To set this up, we can right click, or control click on a Mac, on any side panel header, and simply click the name of a panel section to remove the check mark next to the name, and hide that panel.

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Clicking again adds the checkmark and shows that panel, so this is easy to change. If you’re showing images to a client, you might hide everything but the Collections panel here on the left, for example, and everything but the metadata panel on the right. In this way, you can streamline the appearance and, in general, customize your client experience.

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Notice the difference in the panel arrows. The ones with the dotted pattern on the arrow can be customized and are subject to solo mode, but the ones at the top with a solid arrow are immune – they will always be present, and don’t automatically collapse in Solo mode. This includes the Navigator Panel and the Histogram Panel in the Library Module.

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There’s another hidden customization available here in the side panels. See these little swirly marks at the bottom of the panels?

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These are called “End Marks” and you can enable them in the Lightroom preferences. Simply go to Edit > Preferences on Windows, or Lightroom > Preferences on Mac, and open the Interface tab. Here, we can change the end marks from None to Small Flourishes.

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In older versions of Lightroom, there were more end mark styles available, but it’s still possible to add your own. If we choose the other option, “Go to Panel End Marks folder,” we will open an Explorer or Finder window on our Lightroom settings folder.

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Here, we can add files to the End Marks folder, and they will become available in Lightroom’s menu. In this folder, we can place any files of type PNG, GIF, TIF or PSD, with transparency, and they will become available as end marks. The maximum width for the end marks is 250 pixels, although (depending on the design) a narrower size of about 150 pixels seems to look better. We can have end marks with other styles of flourish designs, or with informational text, or even with branding elements such as a logo.

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Once you have placed the files into the End Mark folder as I’ve done here, we can return to Lightroom’s preferences, and sure enough – here are the new End Marks we have just added. We can pick and choose, and see the results immediately as we select each one form the menu. Here we see some graphic choices – arrows, and swirls. We can also use this to add a logo – and with transparency, we can have the logo be any shape or size. Finally, we can use the end marks to add an informational panel as well – here I show a description of the color code meanings for labels assigned to images.

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In the preferences panel, there is also a setting to control the font size of the user interface. The options here aren’t extremely useful, and the results of changing the font size range from imperceptible to very dramatic.

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If you’d like even more control over the panel appearance, there is a free utility available from Jeffery Friedl at regex.info, and here you can create customized sets of fonts for each UI element, including changing the font face as well as the font size, and even changing some of the text labels themselves:

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This is an unsupported product, and comes with some warnings, but it is quite a clever hack and if you’re adventurous, you may want to look into it.

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About Michael Hoffman (224 Articles)
Mike has been a photographer, artist, educator, and technophile for most of his life. Early in his career, he created technical illustrations and photographs for electronic equipment manufacturers, and taught classes in computer aided drafting and 3D modeling software. When digital cameras became widely available in the late 1990s, the move was a natural one, and has led to a happy combination of technology, software, photography and art. Mike is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Acrobat, and is well versed in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements, as well as Illustrator and InDesign. He has also contributed his time and efforts to the excellent work being done by Operation Photo Rescue, in restoring photographs damaged by natural disasters. As an active member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, he continues his quest for excellence in art, excellence in design, and excellence in education.

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