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Track the progress of your work without bogging down your computer

Added on Tuesday 2nd of August 2011 05:59 am EST

Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


As you edit an image, Photoshop automatically records your actions as states in the History panel. This is a useful feature, but it comes with a price as history states eat up memory and are only temporary. With a little ingenuity, however, you can take advantage of all the History panel has to offer without sacrificing Photoshop’s performance.


We’ll show you how to use the History panel to:

  • Set history options to prevent Photoshop from performing unnecessary tasks.
  • Reset a preferences default setting to free up memory for more important things.
  • Reduce the number of states in your working file by saving them as external files.
  • Create a history log to create a permanent record of your Photoshop sessions.


The moment you open or create a Photoshop document, a snapshot of its current state is recorded. Then, as you edit the document with a tool or a command, Photoshop records the action as a new state. You can access snapshots and states in the History panel and use them for a variety of reasons, such as reverting all or part of a document to a previous snapshot or state. This sounds good in theory, but the more snapshots and states you record, the more memory Photoshop requires. There are, however, several ways you can use the History panel to your advantage without slowing Photoshop’s performance.


Let’s make history
As shown in Figure A, snapshots display in the top half of the History panel. And, as mentioned earlier, the initial state of an image is saved as a snapshot by default. You can then create an unlimited number of additional snapshots by simply clicking the Create New Snapshot button in the History panel.
History states display in the bottom half of the History panel. They list from the top down, with the oldest change at the top, and are named from the tool or command that was used. Whereas snapshots remain in the History panel until you end the session, Photoshop records 20 history states at a time by default. After that, Photoshop deletes older states to make room for new ones. This helps free up RAM (random access memory) for Photoshop, but you can do even more to help your system run smoother.



Save states externally

One option you have is to save states as external files. As mentioned, states are deleted when you reach the maximum number set in preferences and when you close the document. In addition, when you select a state in the History panel, Photoshop deletes the states that follow it (except for the one you have set as the source for the History brush). This becomes a permanent deletion if you make any changes to the image. Saving states enables you to create a permanent record of your work.


To save a state as an external file:

  • Click the Create New Document From Current State button in the History panel. Photoshop automatically creates a copy of your document in its current state.
  • Choose File > Save As or press [command][shift]S ([Ctrl]Shift]S in Windows) to open the Save As dialog box.
  • Name the new document and specify where you want to save the file. Make sure the Layers check box is selected if your document contains layers you may need to access in the future. Then, click Save.

Tip: You can drag and drop the initial snapshot in the original file into the new file to add it to the History panel and vice versa.

Edit history

You can also change preferences settings and history options to make the History panel more efficient. Just remember to close any Photoshop documents that are open if you want to reset Photoshop’s default settings. Otherwise, your changes only apply to the active document.

To specify the number of states Photoshop records:

  • Choose Photoshop > Preferences > Performance (Photoshop > Preferences > General in CS2) (Edit > Preferences > Performance in Windows and Edit > Preferences > General in Windows CS2)
  • Enter the number of states you want Photoshop to record in the History States text box. Twenty states are probably more than you need, so you might try decreasing this number to 10.
  • Click OK.

To set history options:

  1. Choose History Options from the History panel’s pop-up menu.
  2. Select f...

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