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Import them as a comp? AE should retain the order if imported this way, but of course only inside the comp. They will still be sorted based on your active column in the project window, there's no way around that.
Okay... I suppose that works.
I ran into another problem though. The selection boxes around all of the layers are all the size of the composition, and not the size of the words. This makes it really difficult to move the words around by hand, because they're all stacked on top of each other.
When I imported the Illustrator file I chose "Import as Composition - Cropped Layers" thinking that would do the trick. Is there any way to make the selection boxes the size of the words and not the whole composition?
This should work without problems. Just make sure each text is its own top-level layer in the AI document - that's all that gets used. AE does not recognize sub-layers or nested groups.
Well, inside Illustrator is all of the layers on the top-level that have the name of the word they represent. But all of these layers also have a "Group1" within them, and inside each group is the shape of each individual letter used. Is that still okay? Because the selection boxes in AE are still the size of the comp when I have this.
I'm not sure what I did, but now the selection boxes work fine.
Thanks again for the help!