Manage windows and panels

You can create a custom workspace by moving and manipulating Document windows and panels. You can also save workspaces and switch among them.

Rearrange, dock, or float document windows

When you open more than one file, the Document windows are tabbed.

  • To rearrange tabbed Document windows, drag a window’s tab to a new location in the group.
  • To undock (float or untab) a Document window from a group of windows, drag the window’s tab out of the group.
  • To dock a Document window to a separate group of Document windows, drag the window into the group.
  • To create groups of stacked or tiled documents, drag the window to one of the drop zones along the top, bottom, or sides of another window. You can also select a layout for the group by using the Layout button on the Application bar.
  • To switch to another document in a tabbed group when dragging a selection, drag the selection over the document’s tab for a moment.

Dock and undock panels

A dock is a collection of panels or panel groups displayed together, generally in a vertical orientation. You dock and undock panels by moving them into and out of a dock.

  • To dock a panel, drag it by its tab into the dock, at the top, bottom, or in between other panels.

  • To dock a panel group, drag it by its title bar (the solid empty bar above the tabs) into the dock.

  • To remove a panel or panel group, drag it out of the dock by its tab or title bar. You can drag it into another dock or make it free-floating.

Navigator panel being dragged out to new dock
Navigator panel being dragged out to new dock, indicated by blue vertical highlight

Navigator panel now in its own dock
Navigator panel now in its own dock


You can prevent panels from filling all the space in a dock. Drag the bottom edge of the dock up so it no longer meets the edge of the workspace.

Move panels

As you move panels, you see blue highlighted drop zones, areas where you can move the panel. For example, you can move a panel up or down in a dock by dragging it to the narrow blue drop zone above or below another panel. If you drag to an area that is not a drop zone, the panel floats freely in the workspace.


The position of the mouse (rather than the position of the panel), activates the drop zone, so if you can’t see the drop zone, try dragging the mouse to the place where the drop zone should be.

  • To move a panel, drag it by its tab.

  • To move a panel group, drag the title bar.

Narrow blue drop zone indicates Color panel will be docked on its own above the Layers panel group.
Narrow blue drop zone indicates Swatches panel will be docked on its own above the Color panel group.

A. Title bar B. Tab C. Drop zone 


Press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) while moving a panel to prevent it from docking. Press Esc while moving the panel to cancel the operation.

Add and remove panels

If you remove all panels from a dock, the dock disappears. You can create a dock by moving panels to the right edge of the workspace until a drop zone appears.

  • To remove a panel, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) its tab and then select Close, or deselect it from the Window menu.

  • To add a panel, select it from the Window menu and dock it wherever you want.

Manipulate panel groups

  • To move a panel into a group, drag the panel’s tab to the highlighted drop zone in the group.

Adding a panel to a panel group
Adding a panel to a panel group

  • To rearrange panels in a group, drag a panel’s tab to a new location in the group.

  • To remove a panel from a group so that it floats freely, drag the panel by its tab outside the group.

  • To move a group, drag the title bar (the area above the tabs).

Stack floating panels

When you drag a panel out of its dock but not into a drop zone, the panel floats freely. The floating panel allows you to position it anywhere in the workspace. You can stack floating panels or panel groups so that they move as a unit when you drag the topmost title bar.

Free-floating stacked panels
Free-floating stacked panels

  • To stack floating panels, drag a panel by its tab to the drop zone at the bottom of another panel.

  • To change the stacking order, drag a panel up or down by its tab.

    Note: Be sure to release the tab over the narrow drop zone between panels, rather than the broad drop zone in a title bar.

  • To remove a panel or panel group from the stack, so that it floats by itself, drag it out by its tab or title bar.

Resize panels

  • To minimize or maximize a panel, panel group, or stack of panels, double-click a tab. You can also double-click the tab area (the empty space next to the tabs).

  • To resize a panel, drag any side of the panel. Some panels, such as the Color panel in Photoshop, cannot be resized by dragging.

Collapse and expand panel icons

You can collapse panels to icons to reduce clutter on the workspace. In some cases, panels are collapsed to icons in the default workspace.

Panels collapsed to icons
Panels collapsed to icons

Panels expanded from icons
Panels expanded from icons

  • To collapse or expand all panel icons in a column, click the double arrow at the top of the dock.
  • To expand a single panel icon, click it.
  • To resize panel icons so that you see only the icons (and not the labels), adjust the width of the dock until the text disappears. To display the icon text again, make the dock wider.
  • To collapse an expanded panel back to its icon, click its tab, its icon, or the double arrow in the panel’s title bar.
  • To add a floating panel or panel group to an icon dock, drag it in by its tab or title bar. (Panels are automatically collapsed to icons when added to an icon dock.)
  • To move a panel icon (or panel icon group), drag the icon. You can drag panel icons up and down in the dock, into other docks (where they appear in the panel style of that dock), or outside the dock (where they appear as floating icons).

Use panel menus

Access the panel menus using the icon on the upper-right corner of the panel.

Panel menu (Symbols panel)
Panel menu (Symbols panel)

Set UI color

You can customize the interface to sport one of following available color options: Dark, Medium DarkMedium Light, and Light.

  1. Do one the following:

    • (Windows) Choose Edit > Preferences > User Interface.
    • (Mac OS) Choose Illustrator > Preferences > User Interface.
  2. Choose the desired interface color from the following Brightness options: Dark, Medium Dark, Medium Light, and Light.

    Set UX color
    Available UI color options

  3. Choose a Canvas Color from the following options:

    • Match User Interface Brightness Sets the color of the canvas to the selected brightness level.
    • White Sets the color of the canvas to white.


Scale the UI

You can scale the user interface of Illustrator based on your screen resolution. When you launch Illustrator with fresh preference settings, it identifies your screen resolution and adjusts the application scale factor accordingly.

Note: The UI scaling is not supported for Windows 7 and for screens with low resolution.

To scale the user interface on your screen, perform the following steps: 

  1. Do one of the following to open the user interface preferences:

    • (Windows) Choose Edit > Preferences > User Interface.
    • (Mac OS) Choose Illustrator > Preferences > User Interface.
  2. On the User Interface preferences tab, click the UI Scaling slider to increase or decrease the scaling of the UI based on your screen resolution. 


    • The number of stops displayed in the slider depends on the resolution of your screen. More stops are displayed for screens with higher resolutions. 
    • Illustrator scales the annotations if you set the scale factor on the fifth stop or above. 

    You can check the preview of the scaled UI, which is displayed next to the slider, as shown in the figure below:

  3. Select the Scale Cursor Proportionately option to scale the cursor icons in proportion to the UI.

  4. Relaunch Illustrator to apply the updated settings. If you do not relaunch Illustrator now, the changes will take effect the next time when you launch Illustrator.

Rename or duplicate a workspace

  1. Choose Window > Workspace > Manage Workspaces.
  2. Do any of the following, and then click OK:
    • To rename a workspace, select it, and edit the text.

    • To duplicate a workspace, select it, and click the New button.

For a video on customizing the workspace based on different workflows, see

Save and switch workspaces

By saving the current size and position of panels as a named workspace, you can restore that workspace even if you move or close a panel. The names of saved workspaces appear in the workspace switcher in the Application bar.

Save a custom workspace

  1. Choose Window > Workspace > Save Workspace.

  2. Type a name for the workspace.

Display or switch workspaces

  1. Select a workspace from the workspace switcher in the Application bar.

Delete a custom workspace

Choose Window > Workspace > Manage Workspaces, select the workspace, and then click the Delete icon.

Restore the default workspace

  1. Select the Default or Essentials workspace from the workspace switcher in the application bar.

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