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The server also recognizes layers but it doesn't have windows, so there is no 'activeWindow' property on the app object in the server. Unfortunately, there is no other way to change the active layer but through the window. An 'activeLayer' property does not exist on the document object. You can, however, scan through the layers on a document using the 'document.layers' property to unlock any of them.
It happens that I found a completely different way of addressing the problem that caused me to post this message. I was thinking, had I stayed with plan A, that the way to go was to cycle through the layers noting their current setings, then unlocking them all, doing my thing, and then restoring the locks.
var Layer activeLayer = myTextFrame.itemLayer;
At some later point then you can use activeLayer.
You know, Michael, that is so obvious that I'm left wondering where the heck my mind was earlier today.