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Actions

Q1:What is an action?
A1: Actions are automated mini-programs for processing Photoshop functions quickly and easily. Much like a macro in Word, you record a series of operations as an action that can be played back to automate your most commonly used functions, saving you precious time.
Q2:How do I create my own action?
A2: In the bottom of the Actions palette, click on the Create New Action icon. Give the action a name in the resulting dialog and, if you like, an F-key shortcut, then click Record. Now, work through all the steps you'd like to be included in the action. When you've completed the steps, click the Stop Recording button at the bottom of the Actions palette, or choose Stop Recording from the Actions palette's flyout menu. You can click on the down-facing arrow to the left of your action's name to view all the steps contained in the action. Note: Only menu, palette, or keyboard shortcut operations can be recorded. You cannot record most mouse movements.
Q3:How do I change (delete) a step in an action? I have recorded an action, but one of the steps is not working right. Can I change or delete a step?
A3: Yes, in the Actions palette you can click on a step to select it and then re-record or delete it. Click on the right-facing arrow to the left of your action's name to view all the steps contained in the action. Click-and-drag the step you want to delete to the Trash icon at the bottom of the Actions palette. Click on the step (to select it) that will precede your new step, then click the Start Recording button. Perform the step you want to add, and then click the Stop Recording button once you've completed it. Your new step will appear directly below the one you selected. (Here I added a step to copy a layer.)

Q4:Is it possible to copy my Photoshop actions from one PC to another, or do they have to be re-recorded on each PC?
A4: There is a set of default actions in Photoshop—don't put your actions there. From the Actions palette's flyout menu, choose New Set and drag-and-drop your actions into this new action set. Now you can save the actions as a separate file. With your action set selected, go to the palette's flyout menu and choose Save Actions. The actions are saved as an ATN file, which is a very small text file. You can then load that into another PC (even from Mac to Windows or vice versa) by selecting Load Actions from the Actions palette's flyout menu.
Q5:Is it possible to use actions made in earlier versions of Photoshop?
A5: That depends on what the action contains. Many actions created in version CS may work fine, while others might not. You'll have to try the action and see if it works (see the previous question on how to access actions).
Q6:Is it possible to set up my F-keys to access my scanner? I want to create a keyboard shortcut using the F-keys so that I don't have to select the scanner from a menu.
A6: You can create an action to run any command, including one to access your scanner. In the Actions palette, click on the Create New Action icon. Name the action in the resulting dialog and give it a keyboard shortcut. Then click the Start Recording button to begin recording your action. Go back to the Actions palette's flyout menu and choose Insert Menu Item. With the resulting dialog open, go to the File menu and choose Import>TWAIN Acquire or WIA Support (assuming that's how you would normally get to your scanner). Then click on the Stop Recording button. From now on, whatever F-key you chose will open the scanning software.
Q7:Why can't I get some steps to record in an action? I'm trying to create an action but some of the steps aren't recording properly. What am I doing wrong?
A7: Chances are you're not doing anything wrong, you're just trying to perform an operation than cannot be recorded. (In the world of actions, this is referred to as a step that is not “actionable.”) An example would be painting with the Brush tool (B). If you are recording an action and attempt to paint with this tool, the action will record that you've selected the Brush tool, what brush size you have chosen, and the Foreground color you've selected, but it cannot record the actual paint stroke. As you perform operations, look in the Actions palette—each step should appear immediately. If it doesn't, that suggests the step is not actionable.
Q8:How do I make an action not refer to a specific layer? I recorded an action, but now it keeps asking for “treehouse” (the name of the layer when I recorded the action). Now when I try to run the action on other documents, Photoshop gives me an error that says “treehouse” is not available. How do I work around that?
A8: When you record an action that includes selecting a layer, it records “select the layer called 'X'” then it only looks for layer X. So rather than clicking on the layer, use a keyboard shortcut. For example, press Option-] (Right Bracket) (PC: Alt-]) to select the next layer above, or press Option-[ (Left Bracket) (PC: Alt-[) to select the next layer below. That should fix the problem.
Q9:How do I record an action that will work on different-sized images? I'm trying to make an action that will add canvas size, but all of my images are different sizes. When I try to record the action, I have to record the canvas size for one image, but that won't work on other images if they are different sizes. Is there a way around this?

A9: One way to work around that is to record the canvas size using percentage instead of inches or pixels. When you go to record that step, change the unit of measurement in Image>Canvas Size to Percent, and then type the appropriate number, such as 120. That will add 20% more canvas to all images, regardless of their original size. Experiment with the percentage to get the result you want.
Q10:What is the Conditional Mode Change function used for?
A10: The most common use for this command is in a batch action that you will apply to a variety of images. For example, if you want to record an action to add a special effect to a folder of images, you might need to ensure that all the images are in RGB mode. To do this, the first step you would record in the action would be File>Automate>Conditional Mode Change. In the resulting dialog you indicate all the modes you would like to change, and then choose RGB mode as the target. When you run the Batch function (File>Automate>Batch), every image in your target folder will be converted to RGB mode—if necessary.
Q11:Is it possible to include some instructions in an action I'm recording? I am creating an action that I plan to share with my co-workers. Is there a way to give them some hints or instructions as part of the action?

A11: Yes, and it's pretty cool. As you are recording an action, choose Insert Stop from the Actions palette's flyout menu. Type your message (such as “in the next step you will be asked how much feathering you want”) and click the Allow Continue checkbox. When you play back the action, a dialog will appear with your message along with a Stop and a Continue button. Note: It is also possible (and sometimes easier) to add the stop after you've finished recording the action. Just click where you want the message to appear, and then follow the same steps outlined above.
Q12:What is the maximum number of steps in an action? Is there a limit to how many operations you can record?
A12: Not really. There is some theoretical limit, but you can also record an action that performs a series of actions as steps. Therefore, you are not really limited because you could create an action that plays a long series of multi-stepped actions.
Q13:Is it possible to always have new documents default to a standard size? I'm working on a project where I need every new image to be the same size, resolution, and mode. Can I change my default settings so every new document is created with these settings?
A13: You could record an action that creates a new document in a set size, then you could run that action whenever you need a file that size. At the bottom of the Actions palette, click on the Create New Action icon and give it a descriptive name in the resulting dialog (e.g., “8x6in”), then click the Start Recording button. Now, go to File>New and enter the setting you'd like your default document to have. Click OK in the New dialog, and then click the Stop Recording button in the Actions palette. Or, you can create standard presets that you can use whenever you create a new document—just click on the Save Preset button in the New dialog.
Q14:Can I create an action that performs certain steps only if necessary? For example, I'd like to be able to rotate images only if they are wide, but not if they're tall. Is that possible?
A14: Not with actions in Photoshop, but strangely enough, it is possible in ImageReady. Image-Ready actions include the possibility of inserting a conditional step, where the next step will run only if certain conditions are met. So in your case, you can record an action that will only rotate an image if it is wide. You'd run the action on a folder and then jump back to Photoshop. Here's how: Go to ImageReady, open an image that is wide (panoramic), and then at the bottom of the Actions palette click on the Create New Action icon. From the bottom of the Actions palette, click on the Insert a Step pop-up menu and choose Insert Conditional. In the resulting dialog, choose Image Aspect Ratio from the top pop-up menu in the first section, and select Landscape from the second pop-up menu that appears. In the second section, set the first pop-up menu to Include, choose 1 for “the following step,” and click OK. In the Image menu, choose Rotate Canvas>Rotate 90° CCW.

When you've completed the steps, click the Stop Recording button. Now click on the name of the action and from the Actions palette's flyout menu choose Batch Options. In the resulting dialog, check Save Original (Same Name and Folder) and click OK. Go back to the Actions palette's flyout menu and choose Create Droplet. Name your droplet in the resulting dialog and save it somewhere accessible, such as the desktop. Now drag the folder full of images onto the droplet, and any images that are wide will be rotated. If the original documents are not PSD files, you'll end up with two versions of each file: the original JPEG and a PSD version (that has been rotated if necessary).


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