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Actions > Top Ten Action Tips

Top Ten Action Tips

  1. When you record an Action, Photoshop records what happened—not what you did. For instance, when you record the Select All command, you see “Set Selection” listed in the Action commands list. In other words, you need to learn to speak “Actionese.” It is often helpful to click the triangle next to each command in the Action list to see the contents of an Action for it to make sense. In the previous Set Selection example, if you turn down the arrow, you see that it says, “To: All.”

  2. Actions are literal! That means if you select a layer by clicking its layer name in the Layers palette, the name of the layer is recorded as well. This can cause problems on playback. For instance, if you record clicking a layer named bob and the file you play the Action back in does not have a layer in it named bob, your Action will not work like you wanted it to. Most of the time, it is better to record layers by their relative, or ordinal, position and not their name, so use the keyboard shortcuts to select and move layers. (See the “Layers” chapter if you need a reminder.)

  3. To save your Actions so that they can be shared across platforms, make sure they are named with the .atn file extension.

  4. If your Actions require a specific start state to work correctly, such as the image must be in the RGB mode, be sure to make a note of this some way. The easiest way to do this is to include a comment in the Action's name. For more complex situations, insert a Stop command, and enter a comment. When the Action is played, a dialog box appears with the text you entered.

  5. You can record image adjustments (from the Image > Adjust menu) that rely on saved settings, such as Curves or Levels saved settings. In those instances, the Action records the pathname to the file you saved or loaded while you were recording. However, if you want to distribute the Action without those accompanying saved files, you have to trick Photoshop into embedding the saved settings.

    To do this—say, for the example of a Curves setting loaded from disk—double-click the Curves command in the Action. Add a point to the curve, and then click OK. Repeat this process, except delete the curve point you added previously; the Action now contains a complete description of the loaded curve. Similar workarounds work for other adjustments.

  6. To re-record an Action step, just double-click it.

  7. If you just want to have a particular dialog box appear (such as Gaussian Blur) so that you can enter your own values, don't record opening the dialog box from its menu. Instead, use Insert Menu Command. This opens a dialog box for you to type the menu command you want. You can also just choose the menu command you want from the actual menu, and it inserts the command for you.

  8. To play a single step of an Action, hold down the (Cmd) [Ctrl] key, and double-click it.

  9. To make the Batch command work faster, change the Cache Levels setting to 1 in the Image Cache Preferences, and turn off the History palette's automatic snapshot feature. (Note: Special thanks to Deke McClelland for that tip.) In 6.0, you can even record the setting of preferences, including this one.

  10. The Move tool looks like it doesn't get recorded because you don't see any Action listed in the command list after you've moved something. To make the Move command appear in the command list, you have to do something else first. This is because Photoshop is waiting to see if you are going to move the layer or selection somewhere else before moving on to your next step, so it will only record a single move command and not all the smaller moves you made.



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