I Have Two Lightroom Words For You – "Solo Mode"

I was in New York last week at Photo Plus East and I realized something. So many people don’t use one of my absolute favorite features for getting around in Lightroom. First… story time. See, I was walking through the expo and some one stopped me to say hi. He also had a Lightroom question. Well, the question got pretty involved so I asked him if he had his laptop there to show me (I figured it would save both of us time). So he opened his laptop and we were able to figure out his issue pretty fast.

In the process though, he was scrolling up and down the right side of the Develop module to get to the panel he wanted. So I asked if he knew what Solo Mode was. You’d think I gave him a million dollars when he saw what it did :)

What’s really interesting is that I saw the same guy the next day. He told me that he’d gone back to his studio (that he shares with several other photographers) and told them about it and none of them knew what Solo Mode was either. To add icing on the cake, I answered another LR question that day and showed the person Solo Mode and they almost kissed me (it was a guy so I stopped him ;) ). At this point I realized two things: 1) I need to start charging for advice (totally just kidding!) and, 2) I needed to write a tip about Solo Mode.

What is Solo Mode?
Solo Mode automatically keeps only one panel open at a time. As you open another panel, the other automatically collapses. It’s great to keep you from having 7 panels open and scrolling up and down to switch panels. To turn it on, right-click on any dark gray area in your left or right side panels.

(click to see this larger)

You’ll see a pop-up menu show and Solo Mode will be one of those options. Just click it to turn it on. Don’t forget that turning it on in the right side of the Develop module only turns it on for those panels. You need to turn it on for the left side too. And it’s module specific so turning it on in Develop, doesn’t automatically turn it on for, say, the Library module.

Do you use Solo Mode? Weigh in and let us know if you agree? If not, give it a try. Once you turn it on, you’ll never go back. See ya!

Author: Matt Kloskowski

Matt is the full-time Director of Education for Kelby Media Group and a Tampa-based photographer. He's the Editor-in-Chief of Lightroom Magazine, the lead instructor on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom LIVE Seminar Tour and author of several best-selling Photoshop books. Matt also hosts the world's top Lightroom blog, LightroomKillerTips.com, where he's built up a massive library of Lightroom videos, presets and tips. In addition to teaching Photoshop, Lightroom and photography seminars around the world, he's an instructor at Photoshop World and one of the full-time staff writers for Photoshop User Magazine.

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140 Comments

  1. I’ve been using Lightroom for a couple years now and hadn’t heard of solo mode until about a week ago. I got a copy of Scott Kelby’s Lightroom 3 book as a thanks for leading one of his World Wide Photowalks, and I learned about it and have been using it ever since.

    It’s a huge timesaver and screen cleaner-upper!

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  2. Oh yeah, I use “solo mode” … once I started using it I never looked back. :)

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    • I agree!!!

      I almost forgot what it was like before solo mode, changed it back —arrrgghhhhh!

      Thanks Matt…I think you posted this as a tip awhile ago and I grabbed onto it then…great time saver!

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  3. Yip – Solo mode is on all the time! Without it LR is just totally frustrating.

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  4. I’ve been using this for a while in Library mode but couldn’t figure out what I had done to turn it on, I wanted to turn it on in Develop mode as well! Thanks!

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  5. Oh. Wow.

    Can I kiss you now? ;)

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  6. I cannot believe I never knew about this. Just tried it out! Killer tip.

    — Dave

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  7. Solo mode is great, other than I wish there were hot keys to open/close each panel. Unless there is, and I just can’t find them…

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    • HEY THERE ARE !!!!! cmd key + 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, etc
      VERY EASY try to use them so you can do it by heart…. the lens correction for ex. by cmd+6 or curves by cmd+2 and the rest always closes automatically!!! ITS A GREAT thing .. Hope i could help “””

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      • Actually, you can use both! My laptop screen is quite small and some of the develop subpanels will hide their header, so I use cmd/ctrl + n to get to the next subpanel. The old one still closes.

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    • For the panels in the right side of the Develop module there are hot keys!
      CTRL+1 for Basic CTRL+2 for Tone Curve and so on.

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      • I reckon you mean CMD+# rather than CTRL+#

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    • where have you been all my life!!!!! thank-you oh so very much!

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    • For the LEFT panels, use CTRL+CMD+#

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  8. I discovered Solo Mode a few months ago and use it all the time now. It is so much easier and faster to navigate when all the panels, except the one I’m working in, are collapsed.

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  9. I have Solo mode turned on most of the time. I’m always amazed how few people seem to take the time to explore the features offered by the (often) expensive pieces of software they’ve bought; sticking to just the few that they initially learn.

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    • Well, maybe that’s because most expensive software have so many options, it’s impossible to figure them all out by yourself.

      I didn’t know about this feature either, but it seems very helpful. Like most people, I use a specific order in doin things. After I’m done, the basic panel is all I need to look at. Gives the brain some peace of not having to look at too many visual stimuli :)

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    • Well, I’ve used hotkeys forever and haven’t really had the need for solo mode. As soon as I get home I’ll try it and see what I’ve missed out on. I’m fairly sure using hotkeys is about as fast as clicking the panes. I do agree however, that when you put quite a few dollars in software you should also take the time to learn it properly.

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  10. TO IAN :

    cmd + 1 =basic
    cmd + 2 = tone
    cmd + 3 = hsl

    etc……..

    have fun

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    • Awesome tip as well! Thanks!

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  11. Thanks for the excellent tip, Matt. Now, to make it perfect, I think it would be a great feature update to have the collapsed panels not scroll up off the screen when a particularly long panel opens. Then you don’t have to scroll to the top of the list to change panels. Thinking of which if there was a panel below it could lock to the bottom of the screen and then you could have just the open panel scroll within the open space. Would this be workable on a small laptop screen, or am I too used to working on a large desktop monitor?

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  12. Great timing for this tip, I had it turned on in Lightroom 2 on my PC, but have just switched to mac and Lightroom 3 and had forgotten how to do this!!
    Cheers for the reminder!

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  13. Man, Solo Mode changed my life! Without it I was cluttered and dis-organized. Now I’m a meal, lean, Lightroom editing machine!

    Pretty cool Matt!

    Scott
    Bald Is Beautiful Photography

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  14. Have been using it for eva, probably first heard it from Matt long ago and been thankful ever since.

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  15. All the time solo mode in develop right panel, never in left panel. I would like to be able to reorder panels.

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  16. I’d kiss you too, but I’m a dude, and have rejection issues.

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  17. Hey Matt

    I read your blog all the time and I always think I have lightroom figured out until you mention a tip like this one – brilliant!

    Here is another question – is there any way to fade a history item. In other words, if I apply a preset, can I go to the history and fade the effect, rather then going through all the adjustments and reducing them?

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  18. Saw it somewhere a few months back. Turned it on and haven’t looked back. Just showed it to my wife yesterday. She’d open a panel and then go back and close it by hand before selecting another one. She thought it was a great time saver. Thanks for keeping us all up on the latest tricks.

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  19. I’m another “wow, never knew that, that will be really useful” user!

    Thanks Matt

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  20. Absolutely DO use Solo Mode! I can’t remember whether it was something you wrote or one of Kelby’s books – but I’ve been using it since at least v. 2. Glad you’ve highlighted this useful little nugget of information.

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  21. Yeah solo mode is really useful for the develop pane. Makes it easer to go from top to bottom and not jump around so much

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  22. Oh why, such a little thing but make so much of a diffference. Thanks!

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    • Yep, I was about to say that. Solo mode was covered in Julieanne Kost’s video series while LR3 was still in beta. :)

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  23. I use it all the time. I’m not sure why it wouldn’t default to that setting… I think you told about it in a PSUTV awhile ago.

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  24. Matt,

    Yep. Sure do use Solo Mode! I actually picked up on this from your LR3 course at Kelby Training.

    I can’t stand working in LR without it now. It would be like working in a kitchen with a weeks worth of used dishes strewn around…messy and disorganized ;)

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  25. Used Solo mode since Day 1 with the original LR. It rules. Would prefer if there was a master solo mode setting for all the panels; as far as I can tell I need to do each one individually which is kind of a pain. But it’s one of the first things I do when I install Lightroom.

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  26. I love solo mode so much, I think I wouldn’t use Lightroom without it. I agree it should be a default setting. I’m pretty sure you’ve mentioned it here or on PSUTV.

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  27. Great talking to you in NYC last week. You talked about Solo Mode a while back on D-Town I believe and I started using it right away. No I won’t kiss you but I will thank you.
    Best
    Alan

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  28. Well well well, I never knew That!! and I thought I knew Lightroom well….

    As a wedding “Tog” this will save me so much time, Its even got me thinking of a new way to process my weddings.

    Have you got anymore obvious in your face tips that we might miss??

    Thanks Matt, I appreciate the help.

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  29. Matt, I think you mentioned solo mode on an episode of PSUTV a few weeks/months ago — I’ll never go back to the default mode again, solo is an absolute time-saver.

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  30. Just worked out the keyboard short cuts…..

    Wow, this will have me flying through big quick collections.

    Thankyou.

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  31. Hey Matt,

    I’ve use solo mode since Lightroom first came out. Before I found your web-site, I was using Michael Tapes web-site (rawworkflow.com), and he had some tutorials on the first beta and version 1. One of his tutorials was on the panel settings and that’s when I got hooked on Solo Mode!! No turning back for me. Saves a lot of scrolling time.

    Thanks for the tip anyway!

    Dennis

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  32. I’ve used Lightroom since it first came out and never knew about Solo Mode. Wow, what a great feature and a great tip. What a time saver. Thanks Matt.

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  33. I use it, love it. It should be a default for sure.

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  34. Unbelievable. First time reading the site and I discover a tremendously helpful tip. What else do you have around here??!

    Thank you!

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  35. Matt: You showed me the “light” on Solo Mode at your Lightroom seminar earlier this year. I’ve mentioned it to a couple of my friends as well. Great tip! Two things, though….this should be on by default and the top panels should not be hidden by the histogram while they are collapsed. I find myself having to close the histogram when I am using the lower panels and I need to go back to one of the top panels (I know, I know, I should be working from top to bottom!). Maybe it’s because of the screen size of my laptop (15.4″). I never noticed this issue on my 24″ monitor on my desktop.

    –John

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  36. Couple related tips:

    – Enable/disable Solo mode by Alt/Option-clicking panel header

    – Collapse/Expand all panels (even in Solo Mode) by Ctrl/CMD-clicking panel header

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  37. Matt:

    This question is not related to the topic, but I could not find a topic that was?..

    I have a LR3 question please?..

    I have several external USB drives that I use interchangeably. Problem is, when you unplug one drive, and plug in another and do this a few times, windows does not always name the drive the same as it did before, therefore LR can no longer find the files it expects on the new drive ?cause the drive letter is not the same?.and now you have a bunch of missing photos in your catalog.

    Is there a way around this problem?

    I would like your permission to share the answer on the Nikonians website.

    Thanks,
    Rich

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    • Rich, depending on which version of Win you are using the steps vary, but you can assign a drive letter to a drive manually. Google assign drive letter for your Win version to find the steps.

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  38. I use it all the time.

    In fact, I spent last night working on my son’s football photos in “duo mode”. If you have the basic panel open and the Shift-Click on the disclosure triangle for the Details panel, you can have just the two of them stay open.

    Those were all the controls I needed for 90% of my corrections for their game from last Friday night.

    Thanks Matt!

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  39. Solo Mode is also a very helpful tool in the Slideshow and Print modules. Anything that makes post faster is better.

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  40. Ah, I think I learned it from one of your training bideos on Kelby training awhile back. Saves a lot of grief. The only place I hadn’t had it set was library mode – guess I liked a little bit of grief after all. Thanks for the reminder Matt.

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  41. Woooohaaaa, now I have to kiss you!! =) Where do you want it? =)

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  42. you sir, are the BEST MAN ON EARTH TODAY. Thank you. And some one kiss him!

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  43. One word. WOW!!!

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  44. Not a news for me, but only ’cause I stay tuned with all of Kelby Training stuff! :P

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  45. Ok so it’s admission time…”I never knew about Solo Mode…until now”

    No worry about a kiss coming your way mate but I’d certainly shake your hand :)

    Cheers for the tip Matt…exactly what the doctor ordered!!

    Cheers,
    Glyn

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  46. Why not go “Duo” instead of “Solo”?

    Want to keep two panels open (e.g. if you like to jump from the Basic panel right away to the Tone Curve panel)?

    Choose Solo Mode, then enable a second panel to stay open by Alt + Clicking (Option + Click on the Mac) on the second panel name (not the disclosure triangle).

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    • That’s why I love this blog. I had no idea that Alt/Option-clicking did that. I learn something new all the time :)

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    • Didn’t really like using solo, but now I do like this additional tip!!!

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    • Thanks “bruno” – nice of you to share it.

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  47. Wow, not using Solo Mode on a laptop would slow down the workflow tremendously! Solo Mode….Don’t leave home without it!

    Hope to see you in Seattle in a couple of weeks.

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  48. Right on and learning the keyboard shorts like Javier above gave really make things speedy (crl + 1 =basic and so on) I’ve been using the solo mode since you talked about it a few years ago but I just started using the short cuts for the panels in the last few months, DUH!! they are so easy and you can get to or go back to a specific panel in the blink an eye. Thanks for reminding us about this, Matt. Cheers

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  49. Yes, solo mode is the only way to function. I’m sure your aware that this tip appears on page 106 of Scott Kelbys book. Not a plug for his book, but it is worth buying and reading for these small treasures.

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  50. Scott Kelby is the one that introduced this tip to me on one of his post several months ago.
    since, I actually made the change not only on my computer, but on few of my friends’ as well without telling them, they probably are still wondering how they got to improve their workflow like that :0)

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  51. Sweet info! Love this. Saw this link over in Flickr Lightroom forum.

    The effect is most notable however in larger screens eg large panel monitors eg 17inch and above, or larger paneled laptops eg 15inch and above.

    I use a 14inch laptop screen which is ok with mouse scroll wheel but definitely more work if using the mouse pad (have to click scroll, click again to access, then click to move sliders)

    If screen estate is not enough, then using “F”, and “Shift+Tab” on top of this helps tremendously. (both f and shift tab learnt over at Dtown/lr killer tips vids)

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  52. I have been reading your blog for about two years now!.. My hat off for this tip… A real time saver and a huge difference on my workflow. Thanks.

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  53. Great tip and time saver. Didn’t realize it was specific to modules, thought I kept turning it off somehow :) Be nice to have a ‘master switch’ for it on a configuration panel.

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  54. I thought I knew how to go around in Lightroom. Don’t know why I missed this essential feature. Thank you for sharing this tip with us Matt!

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  55. Have used Solo Mode ever since reading Scott’s LR2 book (great resource). Think I saw a tip for it long ago from you as well. Can’t imagine not having it!

    Used to run it on both sides of all modules, but lately have turned it off in a couple of situations. The above suggestions for future enhancement are interesting.

    Thanks for all you do, Matt!

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  56. Thanks, Matt. I actually did have the “Solo Mode” going a while ago, not by choice though. It was an accident and I managed to lose the “accident”. Now I know why and how.

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  57. Shocked that so many people hadn’t heard of that feature before. It was on the very time I used LR and has been ever since.

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  58. Hi Matt,

    I’ve been using Solo Mode for a long time (after all one can find out about it by reading the PDF help file) but noticed that one panel is not enough. When doing tonal changes to an image, I like to have both the “basic” panel (for Blacks, etc) open and the “tone curve” panel open at the same time.

    I know you can do the “duo panel” trick but I just changed my approach to not worry which panels are open and just jump straight to them with Ctrl-1-8. This is faster than Solo mode for me and allows me to work on multiple panels at the same time.

    BTW, most of the time I have the histogram closed (Ctrl-0). Just takes away space. I do my adjustment visually and only very rarely want to check where things are in the histogram.

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  59. Hi Matt,

    I’ve been using Solo Mode for a long time (after all one can find out about it by reading the PDF help file) but noticed that one panel is not enough. When doing tonal changes to an image, I like to have both the “basic” panel (for Blacks, etc) open and the “tone curve” panel open at the same time.

    I know you can do the “duo panel” trick but I just changed my approach to not worry which panels are open and just jump straight to them with Ctrl-1-8. This is faster than Solo mode for me and allows me to work on multiple panels at the same time.

    BTW, most of the time I have the histogram closed (Ctrl-0). Just takes away space. I do my adjustment visually and only very rarely want to check where things are in the histogram.

    P.S.: If this is a double post, please delete it. Tried to post before but it didn’t seem to work.

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  60. This is such a great tip. I heard about the automatically collapsing panel areas, but I didn’t know how to turn it on. Thanks for sharing!

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  61. WOW – tried it out last night, Just awesome, I will never look back.
    killer tip. thanks

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  62. And there I was wishing I could get Lightroom to exhibit just this kind of behaviour.

    Thank you!

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  63. I learned that tip when I did all 13+ hours of LR3 training at lynda.com – gave it a try as it was free for a month with my CS5 purchase.

    So much good stuff in LR3!

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  64. I have LR 2.7 and the feature does not appear when I right click over the grey area in develop mode?

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  65. I think I read about this on Kelby training…: ) I know I did…!!! in development module …

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  66. Thanks Solo Mode juist improved my work flow

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  67. Matt,
    Solo-Mode is one of your great tips I’ve never forgot.
    Been using Lightroom since Beta 1.0

    Sometimes I will back and review your past tips and videos.
    Lightroom is such a large program, it’s easy to forget, “how did Matt
    do that?”

    HOPE YOU NEVER RETIRE, Matt

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  68. Hi Matt,

    I accidentally got into solo mode and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it for ages. I hate it. With flick scrolling on the magic mouse I can get to any module with a single action. With Solo mode I am constantly clicking just to open modules.

    You know whats missing from the modules? The ability to customize their order. That would make solo mode even less relevant.

    All the best,
    Miro

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  69. Been using it since I found it in the Lynda.com tutorials.

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  70. Hi Matt,

    you saved my day! Really, that’s one of the greatest things about Lightroom I’ve learned in the past. Saves so much of clicking work ;)

    Cheers,
    Juergen

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  71. Never heard of it, but agree with Miro. Solo mode seems much less efficient than just using the two-finger scroll on my macbook pro to get to the panel I want. Clicking all over the place is really annoying. To each their own I guess.

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  72. heyy Matt, thanks for the “Solo Mode” Tip, very nice and effective. This site is helping me alot, Thanks for your effort. Cheers

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  73. Ok, I’ll add another “wow” to the list. Thanks that will eliminate a lot of frustration I had with scrolling through the development module panels while I was editing photographs.

    Thanks!

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  74. But seriously, why is this not on by default? Why is this not more widely discussed.

    Not a SINGLE of my photographer friends (and that includes some heavy hitters in my region) knew of this.

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  75. Wow – that’s extremely helpful! I had not heard of this before and I’ve been a user since the BETA!

    Thanks, Matt! and thank you everyone else for the other handy quick keys!

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  76. I’m another one of those who thought they knew enough to get through, but this simple tip has opened up a whole new world for me. Simple things like this can greatly improve the way we work…

    Sincere thanks, Matt!

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  77. It ain’t easy finding a dark gray area that does what you said it would but I eventually found a spot that worked. That’s the “non-intuitive” problem with all software. Solo mode means it is flying by itself, but it should be Develop Module Declutter. At least then I would have tried it.

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  78. Hey there,

    i didnt use the Solomode before – just recently now trying to use it! Even when its much easier somehow i really need to get used to it :) best thing is that it works on both sides and in every mode :D

    Thx a lot for the great hint!
    Greets from Germany
    Marc

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  79. I used it on LR2 for a long time after I saw it either here on your site or on Scott Kelby’s blog. After upgrading to LR3 I forgot where to set it up and it kept frustrating me. Thank God you mentioned it once more!!!!

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  80. Wasn’t aware of Solo Mode, but have definitely been frustrated with scrolling up and down the panel bar. You can bet I’ll be turning Solo Mode on and leaving it on from now on! Thanks for the tip!

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  81. Yes, I use Solo Mode. I read about it somewhere and love it. I believe it should be the default setting.

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  82. Once I learned about Solo Mode, I’d never switch back. It should be the default.

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  83. I won’t kiss him ’cause he’s a guy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Great tip. Wasn’t aware of the Solo Mode. Comes in handy on this 13″ MacBook Air, which obviously has limited screen real estate.

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  84. I agree: solo mode makes processing simpler.

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  85. Solo Mode is great. I’m not sure if it should be the default mode or not. I use it sometimes and other times i prefer to leave a few panels open at once.

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  86. For the record, a different voice perhaps….
    Hate it and won’t use it. :-)

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  87. I would call it “Han Solo Mode” because it is that great!
    Thanks for letting us know.

    Cheers!

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  88. LOVE IT~ Thanks for this great tip. I don?t care if it?s default but I love that it?s an option! Perhaps the option should be more obvious somehow.

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  89. Yes, I use “Solo” mode exclusively. I agree that setting it as a deafult is better, but please leave-in the option to turn off Solo mode.

    Also, I find that I have to keep the Histogram turned “off,” or the detail zoom window minimized so that the adjust panels stay somewhat centered when I switch between them. Is there some way that the selected panel (Basic, Detail, Effects, etc) can be fixed to center itself within the panels window, when it is selected? …Even if the Histogram is enabled? This would eliminate having to scroll for the adjustment slider that’s just out of view. Thanks. – Joe

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  90. Not for me. I think it is useful, maybe in the Library mode but not in Developer’s mode. While developing I like having both my presets and my Adjustments panel opened. Real Estate is not a problem since I work with two monitors, and it would distract me a bit if panels are opening and closing all the time. A bit chaotic for me.
    Nice as an add-on, maybe, but not as the default mode.

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  91. I just have Lr3.2 trial version installed on my laptop. Myself as a web developer, I know what solo mode is and I have read that this feature exists in Lr3, but I couldn?t figure it out how to activate it till I read your article. No kisses but thanks : )

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  92. solo mode s nice to use and much simpler and faster

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  93. I have a question about ratings and flags. I used to be able to see the flags and stars on the borders of the photos in Lightroom. Recently, they have disappeared and I cannot get them back! I can rate them using the number keys and they drop down menu but they do not appear anywhere. Please Help!
    Thanks,
    Gayna

    Post a Reply
  94. I was in Solo mode from the beginning, but since I started using “PADDY”, I have to say that Solo makes no difference.

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  95. There are two other useful tricks with Solo Mode :
    – Shift key allows you to bypass temporarly the Solo mode : keep it pressed and click on 2, 3, 4 (whatever) panel headers to open them.
    – Ctrl/Cmd key let you open all the panels.

    Rgds, Gilles.

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  96. Solo mode everytime, makes for a simpler workflow.

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  97. OMG Thank you Matt! 10 seconds into Solo Mode and Lightroom is five times better. Why isn’t this mode standard?!?

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  98. Yup, make Solo Mode a default, saves cluttering up the screen deffo!
    But the best thing since sliced bread? Oh, per-leese! It’s useful, nothing more, although I have to admit I’ll be leaving Solo mode on from this point forward!

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  99. I had never heard of solo mode before. I gave it a try and I don’t like it.
    The fact that you have to open a panel to do something slows me down. I don’t understand that people like it and say it saves them time because for me it definitely doesn’t. I regularly move up and down through the panels and having only one panel open at a time is frustrating. It doesn’t give me any overview.
    I guess everyone is different.

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  100. Yep, its worth a million bucks all right. Thanks!

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  101. I could not get this to work. When I right click the only options I have are for the background color (grey, black, ect.) What am I doing wrong?

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  102. Just found this thread…. LOVE SOLO MODE…that is all. Thank you.

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  103. I followed your tips and turned Solo Mode on in both the left and right panels in Develop mode however I don’t know how to get it to do anything.

    Apart from the option now being ticked when I right-click on the grey area, nothing has changed – I still see all panels…..what am I missing???

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  104. I’ve been a lightroom user since the original Beta, and haven’t ever used this. I do now. Thank you.

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  105. Killer tip!! Thanks Matt. GReetings.

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  106. I am glad this mode is optional.
    The Solo mode makes it very inefficient if you have a scroll-wheel mouse or scroll-rocker on the touchpad. Click-and-click is annoying.
    I see that several other people have the same opinion (Miro, and a few people after him).

    (I know this thread is old, but what the heck!)

    Post a Reply

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