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Eliminate time spent on repetitive tasks automate them with actions

Added on Saturday 13th of May 2006 02:21 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows



If you repeat the same tasks frequently in Photoshop, you’re wasting your valuable time if you do everything manually. One way to automate those mundane repetitions is to formulate an action and get the job done quicker for you.


To increase your productivity with actions, we’ll:

     Introduce you to the not-so-intimidating Actions palette, so you’re ready to roll.

     Show you how to record an action, so you can save time with repetitive tasks.

     Describe different ways to edit the action for greater flexibility and control.

     Explain how to insert modal controls and stops for better interaction between the action and the user.


You can’t go wrong if you’re constantly seeking out ways to increase your productivity. One command in Photoshop that’s built for the job is Actions. This powerful feature allows you to customize and record a series of steps, making it easy to perform the same identical tasks on another image with the click of a button. We’ll show you how to quickly set up an action, as well as how to modify an existing one.


Get into the action

The heart of the Actions feature is the Actions palette. Using this palette, you can record, play, edit, and delete actions. In addition, the Actions palette lets you assign a keyboard shortcut to an action or modify your action to ask for user input. Figure A shows the Actions palette in detail.


To open the actions palette:

1.       Launch Photoshop

2.      Choose Window > Actions.

You can display the actions in list mode as shown in Figure A, or to display the palette in Button Mode, as shown in Figure B, select Button Mode from the Actions palette pop-up menu. However, to follow along with our example, you’ll need to be in List Mode.




B : Button Mode”


Why list mode is better than button mode

When in Button mode, the actions appear as buttons that you simply click on to perform the action. However, when recording actions, we suggest keeping the palette displayed in list mode for the following reasons:

        You can easily identify the steps taken to create the effect, since each command is located on its own separate line.

        You can skip steps or pause the action in order to change its settings.

        You can play only one step of the action instead of the whole thing.

        You can rearrange steps that an action performs by dragging them within the palette.

        You can expand or collapse Action Sets, Actions, and Recorded Commands by clicking on the triangle to the left of each one.


Create an action

For our example we’re going to create an action that will reduce the size of an image. This type of action is useful for both print and web production. When preparing files for print, designers often have to resize images. Likewise, web designers often need thumbnails of images for use on a web gallery. We’ll create thumbnail images for the purpose of this exercise. To follow along, launch Photoshop, and then open an image to work with.  


To set up the action:

1.       Click the Create New Set button create_newset at the base of the Actions Palette to display the New Set dialog box.

2.      Enter My Set in the Name text box, as shown in Figure C; click OK.


3.      Click the Create New Action button create_newaction at the base of the Actions palette to display the New Action dialog box.

4.      Enter Thumbnail in the Name text box, choose My Set from the Set pop-up menu, as shown in Figure D, and click Record.



Note: Once you click Record you’ll notice the Record button at the base of the Actions palette turns red to indicate it’s in record mode Record_on.


To record the steps:

1.       Choose Image > Image Size to display the Image Size dialog box.

2.      Enter 50 in the Pixel Dimensions Width text box.

3.      Select Constrain Proportions, Scale Styles, Resample Image, and choose Bicubic Sharper from the Resample Image pop-up menu. (In Photoshop 7, choose Bicubic.) Click OK.



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