Front Panel Express Newsletter
Front Panel Express  
Using the Align and Distribute Tool
Front Panel Designer

This month, we will go over how to use the Align & Distribute tool in Front Panel Designer. There are numerous uses for this tool and many ways to use it. We will cover the most common uses and methods in this newsletter.

The Align portion of the tool does just what it says: aligns. Whether you need to align a series of objects, or just one; or align objects based on their centerpoints or their edges; whether vertical or horizontal, the Align tool is the tool to do it.

Please note, when using the horizontal align option to align multiple objects, objects will be placed in a vertical line, as they are aligned to a point on the horizontal axis, and vice versa.

Aligning a Single Object
Aligning a single object places an object in relation to the edges or the centerlines of the front panel. One might use this option to place an object directly in the center of a panel, or in the very corner of a front panel.

To align a single object, select the object, then right click on it, selecting "Align / Distribute". You can also press "Shift + A". To place the object in the direct center of the panel, check the box for "Center" under both the "Horizontal" and "Vertical" options. Then select "Front panel" under the "Align on" list (the other two options do not apply for single objects). Click "OK" and the object will be moved to the center of the panel.

Aligning a Single Object to the Center of the Panel

To place an object in the bottom left corner, select the object on the panel, press "Shift +A", then select the "Left" and "Bottom" options under "Horizontal" and "Vertical" respectively. Again, select "Front panel" under "Align on" and hit "OK". Note, doing this will position the object so that its edges are touching the left and bottom edges of the panel. If this is not your intended effect, you might want to move it up and over using the "dx" and "dy" fields in the Move menu.

Aligning a Single Object to the Corner of the Panel

Aligning Multiple Objects
The process for aligning multiple objects is a bit different. First, you will need to identify which existing object you want to use as an "anchor". The remaining objects will be aligned in relation to the anchor object's origin. Once the anchor has been identified, begin selecting all of the objects to be aligned. You will need to select the anchor object either first or last.

With the objects selected, press "Shift + A" to bring up the Align / Distribute menu. For the purposes of this newsletter, we will align a series of round holes in a vertical line (along the horizontal axis).

Aligning Multiple Objects Along the Horizontal Axis

With the anchor selected last, for this example, check the box for "Reference points" under "Horizontal", and uncheck any boxes under "Vertical". Finally, select "Last selected object" under "Align on", then hit "OK". This aligns all of our selected objects with a point on the horizontal axis.

Multiple Objects Aligned Horizontally

We will return to this example when we discuss the Distribute tool.

Another use for the Align tool is when you need to have one object directly on top of another. For example, if you want a rectangular engraving object surrounding a round hole.

To accomplish this, create the round hole and rectangular engraving object. Select the object that is in the correct position first, then select the other. Press "Shift + A" to bring up the Align / Distribute menu. Next, check the boxes for "Reference points" under both "Horizontal" and "Vertical". Finally, select "First selected object" under "Align on", then hit "OK". The hole will now be centered in the middle of the rectangular engraving object.

Two Objects Aligned Together

While the align tool allows you to line objects up in reference to a location on the panel or the location of a single object, the Distribute tool allows you to place multiple objects equidistantly apart, or to spread a pattern of objects across an entire panel.

Going back to the example used above, where the series of holes are aligned to a point on the horizontal axis, we will now distribute the holes evenly between the upper and lower holes. Begin by selecting all of the holes in the series, then press "Shift + A" to bring up the Align / Distribute tool. Next, check the boxes for "Reference points" under the "Horizontal" and "vertical" option lists in the Distribute section.Lastly select "area selected" under "Distribute across" and hit "OK". This will distribute all holes evenly between the bottom and uppermost holes in the series. This is the same process you would use to distribute objects evenly along a point in the vertical axis.

Distribute Multiple Ojects Along a Point on the Horizontal Axis

Distribute Multiple Ojects Along a Point on the Horizontal Axis

The align and distribute functions can be done in a single step as well. To do this, select all the objects you wish to align and distibute, selecting the anchor object either first or last, then press "Shift + A". Under Align, check the "Reference points" box under "Horizontal" and select "Last selected object" under "Align on" (for this example). Under Distribute, check the "Reference points" box under "Vertical" and select "Area selected" under "Distribute across".

Align and Distribute in a Single Step

If you have any further questions or have any trouble with the above tools or functions, call us toll-free at (800) FPE-9060 or e-mail

June Announcements

New Toll-Free Number
We now have a toll-free number! Call us at (800) FPE-9060. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Requests and Suggestions
Do you have a suggestion for a future newsletter topic, a project you'd like us to consider for Project of the Month, or want to share about your experience with Front Panel Express? E-mail it to us at


Front Panel Express

Project of the month:
Space Simulation Chamber
courtesy of Mike East of Ball Aerospace

Space Simulation Chamber
June's Project of the Month is out of this world! Well, kinda...Ball Aerospace's Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) Space Simulation Chamber simulates an out of this world environment for several products tested inside the chamber. In between product tests, the chamber is used for cleaning to eliminate outgassing.
A TVAC Space Simulation Chamber is an air-tight vessel. Air is pumped out of the chamber until it is a complete vacuum – just like space. Spacecraft and spacecraft components are placed in this chamber to prove that they will work in a vacuum. There are three features that need to be verified by this vacuum test:

  • That there is no trapped air. As air pressure goes down, vents in the spacecraft are supposed to keep the spacecraft from "ballooning" and bursting.

  • That the materials used in the fabrication of the test article do not outgas or become damaged from the vacuum. Many materials can not tolerate being in a vacuum, as they will either balloon or dry out, becoming so brittle that they break.

  • That electronics do not overheat. Without air to provide convective cooling, electronics in a vacuum can easily burn out if not properly designed.
A TVAC Space Simulation Chamber is also a Thermal Simulation Chamber. Spacecraft and spacecraft components are placed in this chamber to prove that they will work when subjected to the intense heat and cold of space. The black shroud lining the inside of the chamber can be driven from -190°C to +250°C. For an accurate space simulation, this has to be done at vacuum pressure to eliminate any air cooling.

FPE Patch Panels
Front Panel Express' part in the Space Simulation Chamber was to provide “patch panels”, Patch panels are used both inside and outside of the chamber, and assist in the process of monitoring temperatures during these thermal tests. Outside the chamber, a temperature sensing computer is plugged into the patch panel. On the inside of the chamber, temperature sensors, or thermocouples, are connected to the test article. Those thermocouples are then plugged into the interior patch panel. Click here for more information and images.

Mike East of Ball Aerospace, who also uses Front Panel Express for custom control panels on his restored boat, says of his experiences with Front Panel Express:

I liked the ability to design the panel myself and then submit it electronically. I also liked the price and quality.
To learn more about the Space Simulation Chamber and Ball Aerospace, please visit

Front Panel Express - 5959 Corson Avenue South, Suite I - Seattle, WA 98108
Phone (800) FPE-9060 - Fax (206) 768-0679 - -