[nbos] [FM] Layer control (Part 2 of 3)
Christopher Rodrigues Macias
Tue Mar 20th, 2007
(apologies for spamming, but the length of the text actually requires
it to be split into 3 sections to get it by the list filters)

Controlling Layering (Z-order) in Complex FM7 Maps (continued)
by Christopher Rodrigues Macias

[ Continued from the previous email ]

OK, so without further ado, here is the layering scheme I used on my
“bigger than Ben Hur” FM map project. The (L) prefix indicates that
the layer is used for the text labels for that symbol type, rather
than the symbols themselves.

0 -- Staging --
1 (L) Supranational Features
2 (L) Borders & Capitals
3 (L) Other Boundaries
4 (L) Religious & Ethnic Groups
5 (L) Atmospheric Features
6 (L) Air Routes
7 (L) Other Points of Interest
8 (L) Ruins
9 (L) Fortifications
10 (L) Temples & Shrines
11 (L) Cities
12 (L) Towns & Villages
13 (L) GM’s Secrets
14 (L) Other Routes
15 (L) Rail
16 (L) Major Roads
17 (L) Minor Roads
18 (L) Sea Lanes
19 (L) Other Terrain
20 (L) Vegetation
21 (L) Mountains & Hills
22 (L) Lakes & Rivers
23 (L) Cliffs
24 (L) Base Terrain
25 (L) Continents & Islands
26 (L) Undersea Features
27 (L) Oceans, Seas & Bays
28 Supranational Features
29 Borders & Capitals
30 Other Boundaries
31 Religious & Ethnic Groups
32 Atmospheric Features
33 Air Routes
34 Other Points of Interest
35 Ruins
36 Fortifications
37 Temples & Shrines
38 Cities
39 Towns & Villages
40 GM’s Secrets
41 Other Routes
42 Rail
43 Major Roads
44 Minor Roads
45 Sea Lanes
46 Other Terrain
47 Vegetation
48 Mountains & Hills
49 Lakes & Rivers
50 Cliffs
51 Base Terrain
52 Continents & Islands
53 Undersea Features
54 Oceans, Seas & Bays

If this looks like massive overkill, well… you just have to see the
map I was using it on. If you’re needs are much simpler than this,
great. Strip out all the layers you don’t need, and adjust the ones
you keep to get the z-ordering you want.

Tip: Notice the top layer named “-- Staging --". This is where I
place anything that, for whatever reason, I’m not ready to insert
into the actual layering scheme yet. I keep it at the top so that
those objects always appear above everything else (when I have the
staging layer visible), so I can spot them easily. This has the
advantageous side-effect that, if I open the map and start adding
stuff without remembering to set the current layer to the right one,
the stuff I’m adding defaults to the topmost staging layer, where it
is easy to see/find.

Note that you effectively have to decide on the z-order you want
ahead of time, as changing things around later will be very
difficult. There may be a way to script things to re-order pre-
existing layers, but I haven’t attempted that yet. I believe it is
possible, but I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader. <img
alt="icon_wink" />

Tip: if you are uncertain about what layering of symbols you want
(“Roads over mountains, or mountains over roads? Hmm.”) and
experimentation still leaves you unsure, then you can buy a little
insurance by leaving a ‘blank’ layer in between each of your pre-
defined layers in FM. This allows you a limited ability to move
things around if you later change your mind.

Once you have decided on your layers, then it is time to rename the
layers in FM to match your desired scheme. This takes just a couple
minutes of typing. After you’ve renamed the layers in FM to match
your desired setup, then you need to place (or move) all your symbols
on to the appropriate layer.

This requires a little discipline in setting the ‘current layer’ to
the one appropriate for whatever you are drawing at the moment.
However, if you make a mistake and forget, it is usually not too
difficult to manually move the symbols as needed (provided you notice
what you’ve done before you accidentally hide them all behind a
continent!). You will also have to get the hang of turning layer
selection and visibility on and off to allow you to edit just what
you are trying to deal with at that moment, but this isn’t hard.

The last piece of the puzzle is a script that, when run, will arrange
the z-order of objects to match the order of the layer they are on.
Here is the script:

[ Continued in the next email ]
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