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Chapter Fourteen. Automation > Actions Palette

Actions Palette

Q1:What is Button Mode?
A1: In the Actions palette's flyout menu is an option called Button Mode. This changes the view of the palette from a list to simple buttons with names (and F-keys). You cannot see (or alter) the steps in the palette—you can only click the button to run the action. To return to the list view, simply deselect Button Mode in the flyout menu.
Q2:What is Insert Menu Item?

A2: When recording an action, you may wish to include an operation from the menus. Often the easiest way is to use the Action palette's Insert Menu Item command. The Insert Menu Item dialog will appear saying you don't have a menu item selected. That's just your cue to select the menu action you want to record. After you've selected the menu item, click OK. In the dialog you will notice the menu item is recorded as a step in your action. This method saves time because you are not actually running the step, just recording the use of the menu item.
Q3:What is Insert Stop?
A3: When you are creating an action, you may wish to include instructions for the user. Select Insert Stop from the Actions palette's flyout menu to create a dialog that will open when the action is played. For example, if a step involves choosing filter settings, you could insert a Stop just before that would say “in the next step choose the amount of blur you want.” The user would then be required to click Continue to go to the next step.
Q4:Is there a quick way to re-record a step in an action?
A4: Click on a step to select it; then go to the Actions palette's flyout menu and select Record Again. (Note: Simple steps such as selecting a specific tool cannot be re-recorded. Those steps must be dragged to the Trash icon to be deleted.) Then click the Start Recording button at the bottom of the palette and run through the step the way you'd like it to be. When you're done, just click the Stop Recording button.
Q5:How do I get an action to stop so I can change the settings in a filter? I have recorded an action that includes a couple of filters. It recorded the settings that I used for those filters. Is there a way I can change the settings for those steps as the action runs?
A5: Yes, click just to the left of the step, in what looks like an empty box. This will toggle on and off the option for pausing, allowing you to change settings (this is known as a modal control). This option is available for any step that includes settings, not just filters. Note: Don't use this option in batch processing unless you intend to view and enter settings for each image.
Q6:Is it possible to print the steps that I recorded in an action?
A6: Well, sort of…. Although you cannot print the steps directly, there is a way to save the action as a text file, and then print that file. Click on the appropriate action set, then press-and-hold Command-Option (PC: Control-Alt) and choose Save Actions from the Actions palette's flyout menu. When you are prompted to save, the name will have the TXT file extension. Open that file in any text editor to view and print it.
Q7:Is it possible to run only one step in an action?
A7: Yes, hold down Command (PC: Control) as you double-click on the step. Only that step will run.
Q8:Is it possible to rearrange the order of steps in my action?
A8: Just click-and-drag the step up or down within your action to change the order of the recorded steps. You can even drag a step from one action to another (also by clicking-and-dragging it) or you can copy it by pressing Option (PC: Alt) as you click-and-drag.
Q9:How can I slow down an action to watch and learn? I have downloaded an action and I'd like to follow along to see how it works, but it moves too fast. Is there a way to temporarily slow it down?

A9: Yes, there are a couple of ways. First, click on the step(s) you want to slow to down. Then, go to the Actions palette's flyout menu and choose Playback Options. There you can choose from three Performance methods, including Accelerated, Step by Step, and Pause For “x number of seconds.” (Note: Whatever option you choose will become the default setting for all actions—so enter 1 in the Seconds field to return to the default delay.)

Another method is to click on the first step of the action (not the action's name) to highlight it and hold down Command (PC: Control) while clicking the Play button. The entire action willplay at a decelerated rate. If you instead click on a step name to select it, press-and-hold Command (PC: Control) and click Play, only that one step will play. Continue holding down Command (PC: Control) and clicking the Play button to move through each step individually (you do not have to highlight the next name; it will move to the next step automatically as you continue to click Play).

Q10:Why do some actions have words in brackets? Some of the actions that come with Photoshop have something in brackets beside the name of the action—“Vignette (selection)” for example. What does that mean?
A10: Imagine it says “Start with…” before the brackets. In this case it means start by making a selection, then run this action. If it says “Type” in brackets, it means you first need to make a Type layer, and then run this action. Note: If you're recording a new action that has a requirement, such as being in RGB mode or starting with a selection, consider naming your action to reflect this condition.
Q11:What is the function of the checkmark in the Actions palette? To the left of each step in my action, there is a checkmark. What are those checkmarks for?
A11: The checkmarks simply mean that step will be included as part of an action. So if you record an action, and then later decide you want to leave out a step, just deselect the checkmark beside the step.
Q12:What is the function of the dialog-like symbol in the Actions palette? I see there is a box (sometimes empty, sometimes containing a dialog symbol) beside each step. What does that mean?
A12: Those dialog-looking icons are called modal controls. If a step in an action has a dialog—for example a filter, Image Size, Fill, Layer Style—you have the option of interacting with that dialog (or not). You can click in the empty box next to the step (or action), and the action will pause at that point, open the appropriate dialog, and wait for your input. If the box beside a step remains empty, the action will run without pausing at that step. Note: If you are trying to create a fully automatic action (one that doesn't require your input), make sure none of the steps has the modal control icon.
Q13:Why are some of the symbols in my Actions palette red? I see that some of the symbols beside the name of an action are red, while others are black. What do the red symbols mean?

A13: The symbols (or icons) are defined as follows:
  • A red checkmark beside the name of an action means one or more steps have been turned off (unchecked).

  • A black checkmark means all steps are active.

  • A red dialog icon (modal control, see previous question) means there is at least one step that requires input from a dialog.

  • A black dialog icon means that particular step requires input.

Q14:How do I turn off a step in an action? I've recorded an action but would like to run it leaving out one step. Can I do that?
A14: Yes, simply click on the checkmark beside that step to omit it. As the action runs, it will exclude that step from its processing. To include the step again, just click in the far-left empty box so the checkmark appears.



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